Friday, March 23, 2018

National Security Advisor shuffle - McMaster out, Bolton in

The reporting on this latest cabinet-level shift shows that Trump replaced one hard-liner with another. What it comes down to, your Scriber thinks, is that this is less a fundamental shift in national security policy and more likely Trump finally got fed up with getting advice he did not like. Trump continues to pack the cabinet with yes-men (and women).

The NY Times broke the story in McMaster to Resign as National Security Adviser, and Will Be Replaced by John Bolton.

WASHINGTON — Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the battle-tested Army officer tapped as President Trump’s national security adviser last year to stabilize a turbulent foreign policy operation, will resign and be replaced by John R. Bolton, a hard-line former United States ambassador to the United Nations, White House officials said Thursday.

General McMaster will retire from the military, the officials said. He has been discussing his departure with President Trump for several weeks, they said, but decided to speed up his departure, in part because questions about his status were casting a shadow over his conversations with foreign officials.

The officials also said that Mr. Trump wanted to fill out his national security team before his meeting with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un. He replaced Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson with the C.I.A. director, Mike Pompeo, last week.

Mr. Bolton, who will take office April 9, has met regularly with Mr. Trump to discuss foreign policy, and was on a list of candidates for national security adviser. …

General McMaster’s serious, somber style and preference for order made him an uncomfortable fit with a president whose style is looser, and who has little patience for the detail and nuance of complex national security issues. They had differed on policy, with General McMaster cautioning against ripping up the nuclear deal with Iran without a strategy for what would come next, and tangling with Mr. Trump over the strategy for American forces in Afghanistan.

Their tensions seeped into public view in February, when General McMaster said at a security conference in Munich that the evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was beyond dispute. The statement drew a swift rebuke from the president, who vented his anger on Twitter.

“General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians and that the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems,” Mr. Trump wrote, using his campaign nickname for Hillary Clinton. “Remember the Dirty Dossier, Uranium, Speeches, Emails and the Podesta Company!”

General McMaster carried out a slow-rolling purge of hard-liners at the National Security Council who had been installed by Mr. Flynn and were allied ideologically with Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s former chief strategist, earning the ire of conservatives who complained that his moves represented the foreign policy establishment reasserting itself over a president who had promised a different approach.

General McMaster’s position at the White House had been seen as precarious for months, and he had become the target of a concerted campaign by hard-line activists outside the administration who accused him of undermining the president’s agenda and pushed for his ouster, even creating a social media effort branded with a #FireMcMaster hashtag.

The case against John Bolton, in one Trump tweet, was made at

People who’ve been intently watching the comings and goings of people from the White House might have expected the change. But it would have come as a shock to 2013-era Donald Trump.

Bolton stood out for his hawkishness even in the hawkish Bush administration. He was a leading cheerleader for the war in Iraq. And he spent his post-White House career arguing for more military intervention, specifically in Iran (over its nuclear weapons program) and to calm the civil war in Syria.

Trump, on the other hand, used to be a pretty staunch opponent of military adventurism in general and the war in Iraq in particular. (He claimed on the campaign trail that he had opposed the war before it started; that doesn’t appear to be the case, but he was certainly criticizing it as early as 2004.)

He tweeted, over and over again, that “we should never have gone into Iraq” (though, he often added, after going in America should have at least “taken the oil”). And on at least one occasion, in 2013, he declared that “all former Bush administration officials should have zero standing” on the foreign policy question of the time:

Donald J. Trump
All former Bush administration officials should have zero standing on Syria. Iraq was a waste of blood & treasure.
12:41 PM - Sep 5, 2013

Now, a former Bush administration official will be the president’s top policymaker on national security. He will have all sorts of standing on Syria, as well as Iran, North Korea, and any other place you care to name.

According to CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, Bolton “promised Trump ‘he wouldn’t start any wars’” on the job. But as Trump himself knows very well, just because you say — or tweet — something doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stand by it.

But this opens the question: Did Trump promise Bolton not to start any wars?

Democrats and Republicans differ in educational attainment

A recent report from the Pew Research Center supports the conclusion that “Americans are pursuing higher education at growing rates, but those without a college education are increasingly finding a home in the GOP.” The data are summarized in this report by the New York Times: As Americans become more educated, the GOP is moving in the opposite direction. (h/t Jana Eaton)

There are two basic facts to know.

Fact #1: More Americans are earning college degrees

According to Census Bureau data, more Americans have a college degree now than they did a year ago — the highest number ever measured by the Census.

More than a third of American adults have a four-year college degree or higher, the highest level ever measured by the Census Bureau. In 2010, fewer than 3 in 10 Americans age 25 and older had a bachelor’s degree or higher.

“The percentage rose to 33.4 percent in 2016, a significant milestone since the Current Population Survey began collecting educational attainment in 1940,” said Kurt Bauman, chief of the bureau’s education and social stratification branch. “In 1940, only 4.6 percent had reached that level of education.”

Fact #2: More than ever, those with college degrees are Democrats, those without are Republicans

"In 1994, 39% of those with a four-year college degree (no postgraduate experience) identified with or leaned toward the Democratic Party and 54% associated with the Republican Party. In 2017, those figures were exactly reversed.”

More than half of registered voters who identify as Democrat have a bachelor’s degree, while fewer than 4 in 10 registered voters who identify as Republican have a bachelor’s degree.

Those with graduate degrees are even more likely to find their political home in the Democratic Party, according to the survey:

“In 1994, those with at least some postgraduate experience were evenly split between the Democratic and Republican parties. Today, the Democratic Party enjoys a roughly two-to-one advantage in leaned partisan identification. While some of this shift took place a decade ago, postgraduate voters’ affiliation with and leaning to the Democratic Party have grown substantially just over the past few years, from 55% in 2015 to 63% in 2017.”

The Times report draws another conclusion. “[All] This may not bode well for the GOP long-term as the American public becomes increasingly educated.”

… this could be bad news for the GOP long-term as the demographics of the country and the electorate will increasingly look less like their party. It could be increasingly difficult to win sizable numbers of support — and thus elections — from more educated Americans in the future. In recent elections in Virginia, Alabama and elsewhere, the GOP won the white, working-class vote — but, ultimately, the party lost.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Stormy clouds on Trump's horizon

Consider some political stormy clouds that now loom on the near horizon. Suppose that Trump manages to avoid an interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller (perhaps by firing him - a very real possibility). But then Stephanie Clifford (aka Stormy Daniels) gets her day in court and compels Trump to publicly testify. Below are snippets from two articles extending my line of thought.

New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Bruni muses about The Calm Before the Stormy. How come Trump is tweeting whacks at Mueller but is silent on lawsuits over his alleged extramarital affair with an adult film star?

Apart from his own kin, there’s no category of person exempt from Donald Trump’s attacks. He has gone after past presidents of the United States, current leaders of our closest allies, stewards of his own party, senior officials in his own administration, the Latina mayor of a city freshly devastated by a hurricane, the Muslim mayor of a city just struck by terrorists and the families of American soldiers killed in combat.

But not Stormy Daniels. Where are the tantrums and tweets for her? It’s a glaring and fascinating omission.

Bruni considered and discounted a couple of possibilities.

Maybe the explanation is straightforward: He doesn’t want to give her any extra motivation to speak out and describe whatever happened between them in a negative light. But when has Trump ever played the tempered pacifist before?

Lawyers are no doubt urging him not to amplify her importance — and spotlight a payment to her that may have violated campaign-finance laws — by personally battling her. But he has repeatedly ignored their counsel not to rail against Robert Mueller and others who are looking into his campaign’s ties to Russia, and that’s a matter of presumably greater threat to his presidency.

Meanwhile he stays mum about a porn star who is peddling steamy secrets about him — and who is doing what he hates most, which is using him as a stepping stone to saturation fame. The interview that she gave to “60 Minutes” is scheduled to be broadcast this coming weekend without a peep from the president (though with frantic efforts by his lawyers to quash it). His silence speaks volumes.

… What if the enigma of what Daniels is about to say really rattles him, and his turning away from it is the telltale sign of that? The assumption has long been that his Twitter account gives us his psychic vital signs and that we can chart his distress by his diatribes. But diatribes are his norm. Deviations from them may hold more meaning.

Trump maybe rattled by how Daniels described him in a previous interview.

"Textbook generic” was how she described the sex that she said she had with him … he comes across as somewhat pitiable. And she has reportedly given new details and documents to “60 Minutes.” [The CBS program airs this coming Sunday.]

Then there’s Melania. By all evidence the distance between the Trumps has widened since the surfacing of Daniels’s allegations that he had sex with her shortly after Melania gave birth to Barron in 2006 and that he told Daniels to pay his wife no heed. Every mention of Daniels must mortify Melania, and the president can’t afford that. There’s more than enough strain in their marriage and turbulence in the White House already.

… it’s worse still if a series of recent elections — in Virginia, in Alabama, in Pennsylvania — suggest that you repel women in the suburbs and they’re acting on their disgust. They won’t be soothed by an illicit romance that could be titled “Filthy Shades of Orange.”

So the take-away here is that Trump’s silence may indicate that he is more disturbed at a deep personal level by the lawsuits coming his way from Stormy Daniels (and other women like Karen McDougal) than by Mueller’s investigation. Perhaps he is aware of his vulnerability when it comes to civil suits. In exploring this latter possibility Washington Post opinion writer Richard Cohen thinks Stormy Daniels — not Robert Mueller — might spell Trump’s doom.

The saga of the adult-film star and the juvenile president has become a rollicking affair. Each step of the way, Daniels has out-Trumped Trump. She is as shameless as he, a publicity hound who adheres to the secular American religion that, to be famous, even for nothing much, is to be rich. By and large, that’s not true, but then there is Kim Kardashian to prove otherwise.

Daniels alleges she and Trump had an affair beginning in 2006. The president’s lawyer and his press secretary allege that the allegations are not true. The lawyer, Michael Cohen, does admit to paying Daniels $130,000, apparently to keep her silent about an affair that, according to Cohen, did not happen. To do this, Cohen set up a private Delaware company and concocted false names for everyone involved — the allegation-maker and the allegation-denier. Only the name Delaware is legit.

The payment of $130,000 over an affair that did not happen did not deter Daniels. For one thing, no one could possibly believe Cohen paid a woman not to talk about a sexual interlude that did not happen. (What’s the price for one that did happen?) I, for one, am understandably mortified that any lawyer named Cohen could be that stupid. Second, the various deniers, both at the Trump Organization and at the White House, keep confirming that Trump and Daniels were fighting it out in court. For instance, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders recently said that Trump’s lawyers had won an arbitration case “in the president’s favor.” Bingo!

Sometimes … it is hard to take sides. … Daniels, after all, is a porn actress. She directs and writes screenplays as well, but she is best known for having sex in the movies — turning what used to be called a romp in the hay into a payday. But, with the inadvertent cooperation of Trump and his band of merry incompetents, she now comes across as the victim. Cohen says he can demand as much as $20 million from her for breaching a nondisclosure agreement. In other words, they’re out to crush her.

But they are on shaky legal ground, as Jennifer Taub reported in

[This scandal has become] about a woman up against a bully and it makes other things explicable: This is what Trump did to Andrew McCabe, fired from the FBI hours before he qualified for his pension. Crushed.

In pre-Trump days, it might have been possible to destroy Daniels by calling her a slut or whatever. But Trump himself is a slut. He is a liar and a moral harlot who revels in irresponsibility and bad-boy behavior. He has no moral edge over his accuser. We have all been instructed by Trump himself to disregard schoolhouse virtues of honesty, dignity and rectitude. Trump himself travels light.

It was the little thing that killed Harry on safari [in The Snows of Kilimanjaro]. It was the unattended cut, the disabled truck, the tardy rescue plane. As he died, he dreamed of Kilimanjaro, “unbelievably white in the sun” but the hyena that had been stalking him made “a strange, human, almost crying sound,” and he knew what the hyena already knew. It is what Trump is learning.

P. S.
Hyenas are scavengers and will often drive off lions from their kills. I invite you to complete the analogy.

Republicans in Congress Fail to Act "against all enemies, foreign and domestic"

The oath of office administered to each member of Congress contains those words.

The Constitution (Article VI, clause 3) requires that Senators and Representatives take an oath of office to support the Constitution. The specific language of the oath has changed several times since it was first administered in 1789. It is set by statute (5 U.S.C. 3331), enacted by Congress. It now reads:

I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

U.S. law requires that Members must be sworn before they can take their seats (2 U.S.C. 21, 25). The rules of the House of Representatives prohibit a Member from voting or introducing a bill until he/she has taken the oath.

The oath is administered to Members-elect on the opening day of each new Congress. In the House, the Speaker administers the oath to the Members present in the chamber all at once, as a group. Members absent on opening day due to illness or other reasons, take the oath later from the Speaker, or another House officer. If they cannot make it to the House, a local justice in their area is usually designated by the Speaker of the House to administer the oath.

In the Senate, the oath is administered by the President of the Senate (the Vice-President of the U.S.), or a Senator is designated to give the oath in his stead. Senators come forward to take the oath in alphabetical order in groups of four on the opening day of a new Congress. They are escorted to the front of the chamber by the sitting Senator from their state.

In my opinion, Trump’s pre-election apologists were dead wrong and that list includes sitting members of Congress. If the Trump campaign colluded with a foreign power, and if Trump knew of it or participated in it, then inaction by members of Congress would violate their oath of office.

Here’s A reminder of just how wrong Trump apologists were from Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post.

President Trump is reportedly “more confident” in his job — what results provide him with such confidence is unknown — and hence we see an undiluted Trump. The promise that one day he would pivot, or become presidential, was ludicrous. In fact, he has gotten worse with time. [Scriber: It’s all coming out in Trump’s Terrible Twos.]

We now see unrestrained Trump — the one who hates criticism; who must continually pummel his opponents; who never bothers to learn about subjects on which he expounds; who thinks everyone in government owes their personal loyalty to him; who means what he says for only a fleeting instant; who confounds allies with policy zigzags; who bullies and blusters; who lies continually; and who, despite his bravado, cannot take on those to whom he apparently owes his presidency (e.g., the National Rifle Association, the Kremlin).

What were Trump’s apologists thinking?

We vividly remember when Republican sycophants assured us that all would be fine because Trump assembled a dazzling Cabinet and the greatest national security team ever. … On the contrary, Trump surrounded himself with people like him (rich, ethically-clueless, allergic to facts, etc.), and he has eschewed people who either tell him no or tell him he is wrong. … The promise that he would be saved by advisers with more intellect, temperament and experience also ignored Trump’s unwillingness to hire critics who voiced their qualms during the campaign. …

But, but … Congress will constrain him! That’s what Trump apologists (including congressional Republicans) assured us. Really. As a matter of policy, they have either been inert or have encouraged his worst tendencies (e.g., demagoguery on the “dreamers”). On appointments, they have rubber-stamped a cast of characters that is distinguished mostly by ethical slip-ups and antagonism toward the missions of the departments and agencies they lead. As for checking Trump’s personal failures, they have turned a blind eye toward his conflicts, his foreign earnings and his refusal to release his tax returns. They have no stomach for confronting Trump. (Even on tariffs, they’ve talked a good game, but no legislation has been forthcoming.)

More specifically, these same apologists in Congress are not likely to mount any serious defense of Robert Mueller and the Russian investigation. Greg Sargent (Washington Post/Plum Line) reports on A GOP senator’s remarkable admission about Trump and Mueller, that Senator being Bob Corker.

President Trump just uncorked a new round of Twitter attacks this morning on special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and on the English language, quoting one of his staunchest legal allies as follows: “I think President Trump was right when he said there never should have been a Special Council appointed because there was no probable cause for believing that there was any crime, collusion or otherwise, or obstruction of justice!”

Yet Republicans appear increasingly dug into their position. Their stance is that of course Mueller should be allowed to finish his investigation, but they will not act legislatively to protect the probe, because this is not at all necessary, as Trump would never dream of taking action against it, since he would face severe consequences that Republicans will not enunciate in advance.

But a Republican lawmaker has just given away the real game behind this carefully crafted straddle. Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.) was pressed by the Washington Examiner on why Republicans are hesitant to protect Mueller, and this is what happened:

Republicans in Congress are hesitant to antagonize President Trump ahead of ahead of difficult midterm elections, wary of sparking a backlash from a committed grassroots base more loyal to the White House.

Amid sky-high Democratic enthusiasm and a developing “blue wave,” Republicans can’t afford a war with Trump that depresses GOP turnout. Republicans might be worried about Trump’s attacks on special counsel Robert Mueller, but they are reluctant to push back, much less support legislation to curtail the president’s ability to fire Mueller and sideline the federal probe …

“The president is, as you know — you’ve seen his numbers among the Republican base — it’s very strong. It’s more than strong, it’s tribal in nature,” said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who decided to retire when his second term concludes at year’s end, after periodically sparring with Trump.*

“People who tell me, who are out on trail, say, look, people don’t ask about issues anymore. They don’t care about issues. They want to know if you’re with Trump or not,” Corker added.

This is a candid glimpse from a leading GOP lawmaker into what’s really driving the Republican straddle on Mueller. …

… Trump’s attacks probably rally GOP base voters, large percentages of whom see the Mueller probe as a witch hunt, making it harder for GOP lawmakers to protect that investigation.

Corker just conceded that this is the driving motive. He suggested that GOP voters equate being “with Trump” in a “tribal” sense with not acting to protect Mueller. Republicans are mindful of this as they craft their position toward Mueller, which includes rhetorical support for the probe but no new substantive limits on Trump’s power to do what they say they don’t want him to do.

At bottom, the GOP position is basically to beg Trump not to bring the issue to a head, without taking any action to prevent it — and without signaling what Republicans will do in response if he does. …

Corker has basically conceded that Republicans believe it would alienate the GOP base to signal that removing Mueller would meet with specific consequences. But if this is the case, and Trump does try to shut down or hamstring the probe, that would only further rally Republican voters behind him. Why would it be any easier to inflict consequences at that point? If, as Corker says, what matters most in this calculus is what GOP voters think of lawmakers’ tribal loyalty to Trump, it would only get harder. And really, why would Trump take any other lesson from what he’s seeing right now?

All that is more evidence for why we cannot count on Republicans in Congress to do anything to protect Robert Mueller. And, I add, Corker’s analysis is evidence for why we cannot count on Republicans to defend our nation.

Here, from Mark Sumner writing at Daily Kos, is a specific example. Part three of Cambridge Analytica report makes a liar out of everyone on the Trump campaign. Select snippets follow.

UK Channel 4 has released the third part of their undercover investigation of Cambridge Analytica, and what it shows absolutely destroys the narrative that has been sold by the Trump campaign, by CA, and by congressional Republicans.

Despite desperate attempts from both sides to downplay CA’s role in the Trump campaign, Cambridge CEO Alexander Nix left no doubt about the scope of the company’s work when he thought the cameras weren’t watching.

“We did all the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting, we ran all the digital campaign, the television campaign and our data informed all the strategy.”

The company bragged about this ability to create stories that spread through the internet while leaving no fingerprints.

“We just put information into the bloodstream to the internet and then watch it grow, give it a little push every now and again over time to watch it take shape. And so this stuff infiltrates the online community and expands but with no branding – so it’s unattributable, untrackable.”

And Nix leaves absolutely no doubt that, as far as he is concerned, it was Cambridge Analytica’s weaponized disinformation tools that put Trump over the top—while deceiving Americans by the millions by feeding them false stories from disguised sources.

In addition to bragging about their ability to make people believe any lie, and their ability to spread those lies in ways that make them look like actual news, Cambridge Analytica’s leaders were also anxious to share how they violated US campaign funding laws by coordinating between the Trump campaign and supposedly independent PACs.

… Mr Turnbull described how the company created the “Defeat Crooked Hilary” brand of attack ads, that were funded by the Make America Number 1 super-PAC and watched more than 30 million times during the campaign.

Nix was also happy to confirm reports that Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee really had no interest in finding any sort of problem.

Mr Nix also belittled representatives on the House Intelligence Committee to whom he gave evidence in 2017. He claims Republican members asked just three questions. “After five minutes – done.”

The report reveals that Cambridge Analytica was behind everything on the Trump campaign, from the research to the ad campaigns.

It shows that Cambridge Analytica was actively planting false stories and using false fronts to disguise the source of information.

It confirms what Republican Representative Mike Conaway already let slip—that Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee actively avoided finding any issues.

With respect to those Republicans, Jennifer Rubin closed with this advice, in essence, Vote ’em out!

In sum, Trump could neither hire nor heed the advice of “very best people” on his staff or Cabinet. The pusillanimous Congress was never going to challenge him. But here’s the thing: By removing the GOP majority in Congress, the country can mitigate — not eliminate — Trump’s increasingly unhinged conduct. To get the institutional check that Republicans such as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) promised, it seems, they need to be stripped of that majority.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

McSally posts fake FB comments about herself

Hey SkyIslandScriber readers - take note! Larry Bodine at Blog for Arizona has a great post this morning reporting McSally Caught Posting Fake Comments Saying How Great She Is. His post and the follow-on comments from the usual BfA commenters are hilarious. You need to go read the short post for a good laugh. Apparently she’s close enough to Donald Trump to pick up some of his fake news techniques. One more reason to vote against McSally this is.

Trump's Terrible Twos

Pediatricians and other behavioral scientists have long characterized a stage of development as Toddlers and the Terrible Twos.

Although parents don’t usually expect the terrible twos to begin until the child is at least two, it can often happen well before then. In fact, some children with start before their first birthday with behaviors ranging from frequent mood changes to outright temper tantrums.

So it is that Donald Trump continues to remind us that he often behaves as if he were a selfish child passing through the Terrible Twos. In fact, Trump’s behavioral problems started well before his first year in office and persist into his second year. Let’s consider just part of what’s happening during Trump’s Terrible Twos.

Trump’s war against the FBI

Just a few days ago, Trump got AG Jeff Sessions to fire FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. Getting to the essence of Trump’s firing of McCabe, Jeffrey Toobin (New Yorker) sums it up in two tweets in Donald Trump and the Craven Firing of Andrew McCabe.

If you wanted to tell the story of an entire Presidency in a single tweet, you could try the one that President Trump posted after Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired Andrew McCabe, the deputy director of the F.B.I., on Friday night.

Donald J. Trump
Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI - A great day for Democracy. Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!
9:08 PM - Mar 16, 2018

Every sentence is a lie. Every sentence violates norms established by Presidents of both parties. Every sentence displays the pettiness and the vindictiveness of a man unsuited to the job he holds.

Andrew McCabe, who turns fifty on Sunday, will be fine as he moves to the next stop in his career. The demeaning and unfair act that ended his law-enforcement career will be seen, properly, as a badge of honor. Still, this is far from a great day for the men and women of the F.B.I., who now know that they serve at the sufferance of unethical men who think that telling the truth amounts to “sanctimony.” The lies in this story are about the F.B.I., not from the F.B.I. The firing of McCabe, and Trump’s reaction to it, has moved even such ordinarily restrained figures as John O. Brennan, the former director of Central Intelligence, to remarkable heights of outrage. Brennan tweeted on Saturday:

John O. Brennan
When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America…America will triumph over you.
5:00 AM - Mar 17, 2018

The haunting question, still very much unresolved, is whether Brennan’s confidence in America’s ultimate triumph is justified.

If he hasn’t already, McCabe is likely to be a cooperating witness in the Russia probe being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and that brings us to the thread that runs through most of what Trump does and says.

Will Trump try to fire Robert Mueller?

Depending on who and what you read, the answer is “no” (White House lawyers) or “yes” (journalists split on “probably yes” or “possible yes”).

John Cassidy at the New Yorker, for example, is a “probably yes”. He thinks that Mueller is at risk because as Mueller gets closer to Trump’s business dealings with foreign countries, Trump is acting more and more erratic. He lists the reasons for worry in Why Congress Must Act Now to Protect Robert Mueller. KIN summary, “The issue isn’t whether President Trump is thinking about firing Robert Mueller: we can take that as a given. The issue is whether he thinks he would get away with it.”

The United States may be on the brink of a constitutional crisis. After three days of Presidential attacks on the investigation being carried out by the special counsel Robert Mueller, it seems clear—despite a public assurance from one of Donald Trump’s lawyers that the President isn’t currently considering firing Mueller—that the Trump-Russia story has entered a more volatile and dangerous phase. As the tension mounts, it’s essential that Congress step in to protect Mueller before it’s too late.

It has been no secret that Trump would dearly love to fire the special counsel, and that he has little or no regard for the legal and constitutional consequences of such an action. It has been reported that, last summer, behind the scenes, he ordered Don McGahn, the White House counsel, to get rid of Mueller, and only backed down after McGahn threatened to resign.

Before this weekend, however, Trump had never explicitly attacked Mueller and his team in public, or called for the Justice Department to shut down the investigation. …

But now another barrage of tweets attacking Mueller suggests that Trump may be considering terminating the Russia probe by firing Mueller and thinking he can get away with it. That prospect has even (some) Republicans worried. as the NY Times reports in Trump Assails Mueller, Drawing Rebukes From Republicans.

… Republican senator Lindsey Graham said on Sunday, that such a move “would be the beginning of the end of his Presidency.” As the special counsel’s investigation approaches its first anniversary and closes in on what may well be Trump’s biggest vulnerability—his business dealings with foreign entities—Trump’s calculus appears to be changing.

But Trump’s attacks triggered pushback from Republicans as the NY Times reports in Trump Assails Mueller, Drawing Rebukes From Republicans.

Graham went further as reported by the Daily Caller:

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said Tuesday that President Donald Trump should be impeached if he fires Robert Mueller as special counsel.

“I can’t think of a more upsetting moment in the rule of law to have an investigator looking at a president’s campaign as to whether or not they colluded with a foreign government, what kind of crimes may have been committed. I’ve seen no evidence of collusion, but to stop investigation without cause, I think, would be a Constitutional crisis,” Graham told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.

Hewitt had asked Graham, a Republican, whether Trump firing Mueller would be an impeachable offense.

“Probably so, if he did it without cause, yeah,” Graham told the host.

And, to add to the concern, Cassidy observes that legislation to protect Mueller and his investigation is hung up in the Republican controlled Congress.

If Trump does not fire Mueller, …

Will Mueller interview Trump?

Trump’s legal team has a couple of thousand reasons to keep Trump from an interview, those reasons being Trump’s willingness to lie about anything and everything. To that end, Trump’s lawyers have turned over documents to Mueller with hopes of limiting interview scope, the rationale being that Mueller would accept their say-so about Trump’s innocence.

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) sees some comedy in all that, writing that Trump lawyers get creative, try to ‘minimize his exposure’ to Mueller.

[Trump’s lawyers want] to provide the special counsel with “a narrative of the White House view” of key events that are currently under investigation, in order to “eliminate the need to ask the president” about the incidents.

You’ve got to be kidding me.

The decision, the Post added, is part of “an effort by Trump’s lawyers to minimize his exposure to the special counsel.” … This dovetails nicely with a New York Times report from early February, which noted the president’s defense team is “concerned” that Trump, “who has a history of making false statements and contradicting himself, could be charged with lying to investigators.”

Not to put too fine a point on this, but the moral of the story isn’t subtle. The president’s attorneys are aware of the problem the public already recognizes: Donald Trump, just as a matter of course, says things that aren’t true. The president lies, habitually, about matters large and small, sometimes to get himself out of a jam, and sometimes for no apparent reason at all.

Having him sit down with Robert Mueller is therefore profoundly dangerous, leaving Trump’s lawyers in an impossible position. If they refuse to cooperate, the president will look guilty. If they agree to an interview, the president is likely to lie to federal investigators, which is a crime.

And so Trump’s defense team appears to searching for a solution that might accommodate the president’s strained relationship with the truth. At this point, given what we know of their offers, the search continues.

Will Trump be forced into court because of extramarital affairs?

OK - alleged extramarital affairs, the most prominent being those with adult movie star Stephanie Clifford (aka Stormy Daniels) and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Each has now filed a lawsuit that threatens to have Trump take the stand in open court. These might not be even a trivial notice on page 5 were it not for the fact that Trump and his lawyers are fighting so hard.

New Yorker writer Amy Davidson Sorkin explains What Went Wrong in the Stormy Daniels Case.
Last week, the story might have amounted to just a few sordid tabloid flashes, were it not a likely harbinger of major troubles ahead.

There wouldn’t even be a lawsuit were it not for the fact that, last month, a company that Cohen set up to make the payment to Clifford obtained from an arbitrator a temporary restraining order directing Clifford to remain silent, or risk a million-dollar penalty. This effort was futile: weeks earlier, InTouch had pulled from its archives an unpublished 2011 interview in which Clifford had described her encounter with Trump, in terms that leave little to the imagination. (“He was like, ‘Come here.’ And I was like, ‘Ugh, here we go.’ ”) More than that, the President’s lawyers seem not to have considered what Clifford’s next move would be: challenging the arbitration. They had, in effect, engineered something of a win-win situation for her. Practically speaking, in order for Trump to hold Clifford to the agreement, he has to fight her in court—a process he began Friday—and come out and admit to the deal publicly.

Daniels’ suit claims that Trump never signed a nondisclosure agreement that Trump is now trying to enforce.

… why didn’t the President sign the agreement? Did he never intend to, or could he just not be bothered? With Trump, it can be hard to tell bad will from bad lawyering. He regularly demands that his subordinates operate in accordance with what he thinks the law ought to be, rather than what it is. This has been the case in his berating of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, for failing to make problems go away, and, last week, in reports that Trump’s lawyers were considering trying to block the broadcast, now scheduled for March 25th, of an interview that Anderson Cooper conducted with Clifford for “60 Minutes.” There is no legal rationale for such prior restraint. But it wouldn’t be the first time that the President has indicated that he believes he has, or should have, the power to silence the press.

Then again, Trump’s circle might be trying to enforce Clifford’s confidentiality agreement not for its own sake but in order to send a message to other people, who may have signed similar agreements, about the cost of breaking them. (“In my experience, bullies have one speed and one speed only,” [Daniels attorney] Avenatti told The New Yorker. “They don’t just bully one person. They bully many people.”) A hearing in the case is set for July 12th, in Los Angeles; Clifford has set up an online crowdfunding page to defray her legal costs, which may be considerable. She won’t be the only one with bills like that. In Washington these days, many people find themselves in sudden need of a good lawyer—above all, the President.

In the second case, Former Playboy Model Karen McDougal Sues to Break Silence on Trump.

A former Playboy model who claimed she had an affair with Donald J. Trump sued on Tuesday to be released from a 2016 legal agreement requiring her silence, becoming the second woman this month to challenge Trump allies’ efforts during the presidential campaign to bury stories about extramarital relationships.

Both women, who argue that their contracts are invalid, are trying to get around clauses requiring them to resolve disputes in secretive arbitration proceedings rather than in open court. Mr. Trump has denied the affairs, which both women have described as consensual.

Ms. Clifford and Ms. McDougal tell strikingly similar stories about their experiences with Mr. Trump, which included alleged trysts at the same Lake Tahoe golf tournament in 2006, dates at the same Beverly Hills hotel and promises of apartments as gifts. Their stories first surfaced in the The Wall Street Journal four days before the election, but got little traction in the swirl of news that followed Mr. Trump’s victory. …

Ms. McDougal, in a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, claims that [Trump lawyer] Mr. Cohen was secretly involved in her talks with A.M.I., and that the media company and her lawyer at the time misled her about the deal. She also asserts that after she spoke with The New Yorker last month after it obtained notes she kept on Mr. Trump, A.M.I. warned that “any further disclosures would breach Karen’s contract” and “cause considerable monetary damages.”

This strikes me as typical Trump bullying. The Trump team is doing the same thing to Clifford.

Ms. McDougal filed her suit just days before Ms. Clifford was to appear on “60 Minutes” to discuss her relationship with Mr. Trump and the efforts Mr. Cohen undertook on his client’s behalf to pay for her silence.

Mr. Trump joined a legal effort last week seeking some $20 million in penalties tied to Ms. Clifford’s agreement.

Jennifer Taub at explains Why Trump Likely Won’t Collect the $20 Million He Claims Stormy Daniels Owes Him. Taub says:

… will the court or an arbitrator make Stormy pay? This seems unlikely. While an agreement can set out in advance what a breaching party might owe, such “liquidated damages” provisions are not always enforced. Generally, they are honored only if they are viewed as reasonable in light of the anticipated or actual losses caused by the breach. Something that looks like a penalty will be rejected.

She reports opinions from five law professors that basically concur with her assessment. If they are correct, Trump’s legal maneuvering will not succeed.

AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona publishes more commentary on Trump’s attempt to silence Daniels in Playboy president seeks to profit from porn star – and more!

… Trump has denied (1) that he had an affair with Daniels and (2) that he has an NDA with her, so what is the basis for him to sue to enforce this NDA and to profit off this porn star to the tune of $20 million? This is quite literally insane.

The Blue Meanie also opines on the Trump attempt to block the airing on CBS of the Anderson Cooper interview with Daniels.

Any litigation aimed at stopping 60 Minutes from airing Anderson Cooper’s interview of Stormy Daniels this Sunday likely would fail, given protections for press freedom against prior restraints — most famously laid out in the Pentagon Papers case in which the Supreme Court ruled that the New York Times and the Washington Post could publish, over the objections of the Nixon administration, classified documents that detailed the history of US decision-making on Vietnam.

Pop some popcorn and tune in Sunday night.

See? Trump’s Twos are truly Terrible.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Hey Ducey: 19% of what is already owed, isn't "new" money

When I went to bed last night, I intended to write a post in the morning about Governor Ducey’s unveiling of his school safety plan yesterday. Now, as I sit down to write, I learn of yet another school shooting, this one in Maryland. As of March 8th according to CNN, there had already been 14 school shootings in 2018 which averaged out to 1.5 per week. Delving into the numbers, only 2 of those are what I would call “mass shootings”. The rest of them, although they all occurred on school grounds, (grades K through university level), were either a result of gang violence, fights and domestic violence or accidental discharge where someone besides the shooter was shot.

I present this information not to minimize the other shootings but because yesterday someone shared with me that they heard some gun violence statistics that turned out to be misleading. Let’s face it, numbers can be sliced and diced to prove just about any narrative. In the end though, I say what does it matter and why focus on that? America’s school children feel unsafe in their schools…what are we doing about it?

Yesterday, Governor Ducey unveiled his school safety plan. My fellow blogger on Blog for AZ, “AZBlueMeanie”, again scooped me to the story and as usual, his writing is much better than mine. Basically, he writes, Ducey’s plan is to ’“harden” schools with more people armed with guns on campus – exactly the opposite of what student activists are calling for – and to throw a little bit more money at school counselors.’

What money will be allocated to all this is unclear. Ducey’s plan commits “$1.8 million over three years to modernize the reporting system law enforcement uses for criminal records and to populate the state’s background check system.” This, because law enforcement in the state has called the background system “ineffective” and only 63.6% complete according to a 2015 review by the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission. The hope is that a shift from the current paper-based model to computerized, will enable law enforcement to enter new records into the database within 24 hours versus the current standard of 40 days. This, says Ducey’s staff, could become a “model for other states to follow”.

The plan also includes $8 million from AHCCCS for increased mental health resources in schools. This funding will be available to schools for students whose families fall below 200% of the federal poverty level or, are covered by AHCCS or KidsCare. Schools that don’t qualify for this funding can use “new district additional assistance funding.”

I love this last line. You see…there is no “new” district additional funding (or really, much of any new funding). There is only district additional funding (or capital funding as it used to be called), that has been sucked out of our district schools. Over $2 billion since 2009 to be exact, leaving these schools with only 15% to maintain and repair their facilities and buy new busses, technology and other high cost items. The “new” district additional funding Governor Ducey refers to, is just his proposal to return some of that funding, $371 million (split between districts and charters) over five years. Please let this soak in. Governor Ducey is proposing that part of the solution to make our schools more safe, is to take some “new” proposed funding, (only 19% of what our schools need just to get back to where we were in 2009), and use this to help provide more mental health help for our students versus fix our crumbling facilities and unsafe busses. Although gun violence in our schools is deservedly getting the most attention right now, it isn’t the only critical safety issue our schools are facing.

I do want though, to give credit to Governor Ducey in two areas. First of all, he says he does not want to arm teachers. Hallelujah!! In my opinion, arming teachers is the stupidest idea I’ve heard in a very long time. I spoke recently with a teacher who was a Marine security policeman. He said if teachers are armed in the school where his children are enrolled, he will pull them out of that school. If I had kids, I would too. Arming teachers will not make our schools more safe.

Secondly, Ducey evidently also wants our state to be able to seize guns from those who are a danger to themselves and others. His plan includes “an emergency STOP (Severe Threat Order of Protection) order, in which law enforcement can petition the court to seize firearms”, an ex parte STOP order, allowing family members, guardians, school workers and others to do the same, and an extension providision for up to six months.

Governor Ducey’s plan does not however, address the “gun show loophole” allowing person-to-person sales of firearms to evade background checks. His failure to do so could negate the value of STOP orders, and it calls into question the ability to pass his legislation in a bi-partisan manner with House Dems calling his current plan a “missed opportunity”.

For their part, the Arizona School Boards Association recently released a school safety resolution to the state’s 1,200 school board members recommending each governing board considering passing such to call on our Legislature to take action to make our schools safer. The resolution calls upon “local, county and state public safety agencies to prioritize collaborative threat assessment and crisis planning with school districts and for Congress and state legislatures to pass legislation that: more effectively regulates access to firearms, provides funds above those needed for basic building maintenance and improvement for capital improvements shown to increase safety and security, funds public health research on issues related to gun violence, and advances mental health supports.” Association leadership was also in discussions with Governor Ducey prior to his releasing his plan.

I don’t know which of these ideas will eventually see the light of day and which ones will make a real difference. What I do know is that if we cannot begin to talk to each other about this problem (and it is a problem no matter how much of an ostrich anyone wants to be), and look for common ground, our children will continue to die violent deaths in our schools. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want our schools to become fortresses, just safe places where our children can learn. Maybe that is the starting point.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Why we cannot count on the GOP to restrain King Trump

Greg Sargent (Washington Post/Plum Line) explains why This new report on Trump’s state of mind should alarm you.

From the very outset of his presidency, Trump has been testing what he can get away with in terms of hamstringing or derailing the [Russia-Trump campaign] probe. He has done this repeatedly.

Right after the election Sally Yates brought bad news to the White House and was fired for it. Trump tried to stop Sessions from recusing himself. FBI director James Comey was fired after Trump’s failed attempt at controlling Comey. The Russia probe probably figured into Trump’s firing of deputy director Andrew McCabe. Trump used the Nunes memo to try to go after deputy AG Rod Rosenstein. Last June Trump tried to get the White House Counsel to fire Mueller.

Now Trump is at it again and there are no assurances that he will be restrained by his own advisors or Congress. Sargent cites a NY Times article which reports that Trump ‘decided to attack Mueller over the advice of his advisers because he “ultimately trusts only his own instincts,” with the result that Trump is “newly emboldened” to “ignore the cautions of those around him.” ’ The thing is that “Warnings of dire consequences from his critics have failed to materialize.”

This helps explain why Trump unleashed his fury on Mueller over the weekend. In a tweet storm that was full of lies — see Glenn Kessler’s takedown of the specifics — Trump claimed that law enforcement is riddled with corruption and that the Mueller probe itself is illegitimate. To make this latter claim, Trump floated the intertwined falsehoods that the Democratic-funded Steele dossier triggered the probe (a lie) and that there was no legit basis for its genesis (also a lie).

This has renewed pressure on Republicans to sound the alarm that they would view any effort to remove Mueller as intolerable. With a few exceptions, most of them did nothing of the kind. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s (R-Wis.) declaration that Mueller should be left alone was conspicuously tepid. Senate GOP leaders and many top Republicans on the committees investigating the Russia affair remained silent.

To be sure, Sen. Lindsey Graham has told Trump that any attempt to fire Mueller would fail “catastrophically”.

But Trump has apparently concluded that those issuing warnings of such dire consequences are wrong and that his instincts are right. (As Jonathan Chait notes, those instincts are all pulling Trump toward an effort to try to remove Mueller.) And Republicans are saying little to nothing to disabuse him of that notion.

Sargent says “Don’t take my word for it. The White House has now basically affirmed this to be the case.” Sargent cites two reports from the White House: WHITE HOUSE ISN’T HEARING ‘OUTCRY’ OVER MUELLER, and TRUMP ‘DOESN’T NEED’ THE ADULTS IN THE ROOM. Cohn quit. Tillerson resigned. Chief of Staff Kelly’s tenure seems on-again, off-again as does that of National Security advisor McMaster. And the Republicans in Congress seem loathe to resist Trump.

And all that is why we cannot count on the GOP to restrain Trump. There is no light at the end of this tunnel and if there were, it would be a constitutional crisis the resolution of which may not favor our democracy.

Sessions is Royal Executioner for Mad King. Trump takes aim at Mueller.

Now with Sally Yates, James Comey and Andrew McCabe gone, and AG Jeff Sessions doing the King’s business, the next people in Trump’s crosshairs appear to be Rod Rosenstein and Robert Mueller. The Daily Kos reports tweets showing that Trump takes direct aim at Robert Mueller, using same tactic as he used on Comey and McCabe. (By Mark Sumner, 2018/03/18 · 08:20). Snippets follow.

Until this week, Donald Trump’s comments on the Trump–Russia investigation showed constraint on a single point. Trump has blamed the Obama administration for starting an investigation without evidence.

And he’s attacked both the FBI and Department of Justice as being instruments of the Democratic Party.

But he stopped short of directly attacking Special Counsel Robert Mueller, insisting that he was fully cooperating with the investigation. That time is over.

Donald J. Trump
Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans? Another Dem recently added…does anyone think this is fair? And yet, there is NO COLLUSION!
5:35 AM - Mar 18, 2018
109K people are talking about this

That’s just part of the barrage Trump launched this weekend, signaling that — having cleared Sally Yates, James Comey, and Andrew McCabe — Trump has a new target.

The absolute lie that Republican Robert Mueller’s team — which has over 40 members — is composed entirely of Democrats may seem ridiculous. But so was Trump’s contention that Republican James Comey and the heavily Republican leadership of the FBI was all in for Hillary.

A section of the book How Democracies Die addresses what Trump is doing directly. In increasing their power, autocrats look for something that an opponent has done wrong — even if what that person has done was beneficial to the autocrat — and then use it to define that person as a crook and a liar. Repetition of “crooked Hillary” or “leaking Comey” or “lying McCabe” is meant to not just demean an opponent, but make anything they say in response easy to dismiss. If all your opposition is fixed in the mind of the public, or even part of the public, as criminal liars, then they’re crippled in their ability to impact the autocrat.

And if the autocrat can’t find any point on which to directly attack an opponent, they can always attack them for associating with criminal liars. For example, why would Robert Mueller staff his investigation with “big crooked Hillary supporters” and “hardened Democrats?” That the accusations are untrue doesn’t matter. All of Trump’s accusations are untrue.

But the direct attack on Robert Mueller’s investigation shows that Trump has cleared away one target and is ready to move on to the big prize. Equipped with the Republican memo drafted by Devin Nunes and blessed by Paul Ryan, Trump has the assurance that he can take any actions without reprisals on the part of Congress.

At this point, he appears to be looking at two outcomes, he can fire Mueller and face whatever results from that action, or he can wait for Mueller to submit his report and then face the results. If Mueller submits his report, Trump can likely count on Jefferson Sessions to sit on it as hard as possible, and he can count on Paul Ryan to ignore anything that leaks through. But there’s always the chance that a massive list of serious charges might actually encourage a few Republicans to pull their heads from the orange ass.

At the very least, Trump wants to position himself to fire Mueller. Just in case. And he’s not being very subtle about lining up the crosshairs.

However, Trump cannot fire Mueller directly. He would have to go through Mueller’s boss, Rod Rosenstein, and likely to get Sessions to fire Rosenstein. It’s beginning to sound positively Shakespearean.

AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona takes note of an irony in The March Madness of King Donald. Sessions can lie to Congress about Russian contacts, but McCabe gets hit for “lack of candor”. Citing a NY Times report, “Lack of candor is a fireable offense at the F.B.I., but Mr. McCabe’s last-minute dismissal was carried out against a highly politicized backdrop.”

The irony here is clear: Jeff Sessions has repeatedly demonstrated a lack of candor (lied) in sworn testimony to Congress about his contacts with the Russians – the very reason for his recusal – and as of March 1, 2018, President Trump had made 2,436 false or misleading claims according to a running tally being kept by the Washington Post. Trump averages more than 5.6 false or misleading claims a day, so you can add at least another 100 lies to that tally as of today.

So why would anyone believe the Mad King about anything - at all - ever?

If we are not now in a constitutional crisis, I fear we soon will be. And what will Congress do then?

Correction to SkyIslandScriber post

Yesterday, March 19, I attributed the following quote to AZ Blue Meanie. Actually, one of his frequent commenters, For Sure Not Tom, wrote it.

Going to head over to Stormy Daniels crowdsourced legal fund now and donate 100 clams.

Trump has gotten away with criminal behavior for years because he has the resources to hire lawyers. Time to fight back against him and his kind.

Facebook data harvested private information from millions that was used to develop voter profiles

Those who want another special counsel should forget investigating the FBI and instead focus on How Trump Consultants Exploited the Facebook Data of Millions that arguably played a role in Trump’s election. That’s the report in the New York Times.

LONDON — As the upstart voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica prepared to wade into the 2014 American midterm elections, it had a problem.

The firm had secured a $15 million investment from Robert Mercer, the wealthy Republican donor, and wooed his political adviser, Stephen K. Bannon, with the promise of tools that could identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behavior. But it did not have the data to make its new products work.

So the firm harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission, according to former Cambridge employees, associates and documents, making it one of the largest data leaks in the social network’s history. The breach allowed the company to exploit the private social media activity of a huge swath of the American electorate, developing techniques that underpinned its work on President Trump’s campaign in 2016.

What did Cambridge do with the data? Here’s a sample.

Under the guidance of Brad Parscale, Mr. Trump’s digital director in 2016 and now the campaign manager for his 2020 re-election effort, Cambridge performed a variety of services, former campaign officials said. That included designing target audiences for digital ads and fund-raising appeals, modeling voter turnout, buying $5 million in television ads and determining where Mr. Trump should travel to best drum up support.

Lots more technical details are in the Times’ report. Beware Facebook.

Trump fires McCabe. Does Trump get McCabe's pension? That and more illustrated news.

Trump misses backchannel
You mean the one between Alfa Bank and Trump Tower?

Never ask a question if you don’t want the answer. In case you’ve forgotten it, I posted quite a bit on the backchannel.

Other good stuff in the Mournday Mourning illustrated news: Trump goes full bore ridiculous on the PA election abandoning Saccone and embracing Lamb. Is the NRA worried, finally, about the kids out to protect themselves from NRA policies? Andrew McCabe fired by non-recusionist (made up that word) AG Sessions. Tillerson fired by tweet. McCabe issues long rebuttal, Tillerson not so much. You thought McCabe was fired because of Russia probe? Naw. That was Trump in a snit waiting until 48 hours before McCabe’s pension kicks in. No class that. Speaking of no class - Stormy Daniels was heard channeling Marilyn Monroe in singing “Happy lawsuit, Mr. President …”

Help wanted
Help wanted - Trump uses McCabe as an example of
White House employment benefits

The illustrated news is courtesy of AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona. Speaking of Stormy, in another post the Blue Meanie writes:

Going to head over to Stormy Daniels crowdsourced legal fund now and donate 100 clams.

Trump has gotten away with criminal behavior for years because he has the resources to hire lawyers. Time to fight back against him and his kind.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

News Now - McCabe firing shows vindictive nature of Trump and his AG Sessions

Here is a pair of Daily Kos posts on the firing of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe (h/t Miriam Lindmeier). It sure does appear that the firing was timed to damage McCabe’s pension. And it’s believed that Trump pushed Sessions to fire McCabe - a plausible interpretation of the events given Trump’s public twitter war on the FBI. McCabe is but the most recent casualty of the Terrible Trump Tirades. There will be more.

Vindictive Trump fires FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe just two days before his retirement, reported by Jessica Sutherland at Daily Kos. 2018/03/16 · 19:18

Just Read FBI Deputy Director McCabe’s Statement Regarding His Firing By Trump… Just Read It. reported by Dartagnan ay Daily Kos. 2018/03/16 · 19:56

Will the NRA push for more guns in schools?

Disclosure: Of course, you, my readers know two things. First, if I cite “Scriber’s usually unreliable sources”, it’s satire. Second, if I cite the New Yorker’s Andy Borowitz, it’s even better satire. So here goes.


Based on reporting from Scriber’s usually unreliable sources, I thought that the next step in NRA’s suspected push to sell more guns to K–12 school districts would be supplying a hand gun to every student. But now, from the Borowitz Report in the New Yorker, we learn that the NRA backed off that proposal and instead Proposes Having Second Armed Teacher in Every Classroom to Stop First Armed Teacher from Misfiring.

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Hours after an armed teacher in a Northern California classroom fired a gun and injured a student, the head of the National Rifle Association proposed placing a second armed teacher in every classroom, to shoot the first armed teacher before he or she can do harm.

“Had there been a second armed teacher in the classroom to shoot the first armed teacher, this regrettable incident would never have occurred,” Wayne LaPierre said. “The only thing that stops a bad teacher with a gun is a good teacher with a gun.”

The N.R.A. executive vice-president said, “In a perfect world, you would have a third armed teacher, in case the second one messes up, but right now I’d settle for two.”

He blamed anti-gun activists for blocking measures that would allow multiple teachers with guns to shoot at one another and thus keep the nation’s classrooms safe. “It’s time to stop the madness,” he said.


It’s hard to keep up with the breaking news in this Time of Trump, but Andy Borowitz manages - better than your Scriber does. You can find more archived episodes from Andy at the New Yorker, Satire from the Borowitz Report. Not the news.

Friday, March 16, 2018

639 ways America has failed its children - again

Yesterday the Associated Press reported on their survey of state legislatures with respect to gun-related activity. What the AP found was depressing although not surprising given America’s preference for unlimited access to firearms over the lives of American children. Widespread action on gun control in the states unlikely (reprinted in the Daily Star, Mar. 16).

The campaign for tighter gun laws that inspired unprecedented student walkouts across the country faces an uphill climb in a majority of states, an Associated Press review of gun legislation found.

The AP survey of bill activity in state legislatures before and after the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, provides a reality check on the ambitions of the “Enough is Enough” movement. It suggests votes like the one in Florida, where Republican lawmakers defied the National Rifle Association to pass new gun regulations, are unlikely to be repeated in many other states, at least not this year.

The student-led activism might yet lead to reforms in the future. But for now, the gun debate among most lawmakers still falls along predictable and largely partisan lines, with few exceptions, according to the analysis.

Because Congress shows no sign of acting, state legislatures dominate the national debate over guns. And major changes won’t be easy to achieve in statehouses that are mostly controlled by the gun-friendly GOP.

Republicans have sponsored more than 80 percent of bills that would expand gun rights, while Democrats have introduced more than 90 percent of bills to limit them. The total number of gun-rights and gun-control bills identified by AP statehouse reporters is roughly equal — about 300 in each category.

Many of the Democratic gun-control bills have been introduced in legislatures dominated by Republicans, meaning they have little or no chance of passing.

Republicans have sponsored more than 80 percent of bills that would expand gun rights, while Democrats have introduced more than 90 percent of bills to limit them. The total number of gun-rights and gun-control bills identified by AP statehouse reporters is roughly equal — about 300 in each category.

Take Iowa for example.

Iowa’s GOP-controlled Legislature, which last year approved a historic expansion of gun rights, has not held hearings on Democratic proposals to ban assault-style weapons, prohibit high-capacity magazines or expand background checks. Instead, lawmakers have considered more pro-gun initiatives, including a bill to allow residents to carry handguns without obtaining permits and a resolution to enshrine the right to bear arms in the Iowa Constitution.

Iowa Gun Owners, a “no-compromise gun lobby,” has mobilized its members to pressure Republican lawmakers to hold firm.

“We’re not going to back off any advocacy of expanding gun rights,” Executive Director Aaron Dorr said.

Scriber’s usually unreliable sources say that the Iowa legislature is considering a bill that would provide a handgun to every student in every school. (END SATIRE) But I do wonder if Iowa would favor such a draconian “solution” to mass shootings..

Suppose that, back in the early 1900s, the American Automobile Association (AAA) took a political bounce similar to what the National Rifle Association (NRA) did. Suppose that the AAA vehemently opposed any attempts to regulate, register, and license automobiles and their drivers. What would America look like? The following letter to the editor was published in the _Daily Star_: If the NRA was about cars instead of guns…. I’ve edited it to conform to my AAA scenario.

If the AAA dealt with cars just as the NRA deals with firearms …

… there would be no requirement to have a driver’s license to operate a car; no requirement for cars to be registered; no requirement to have (or use) seat belts or car seats for children; no requirement for brake lights; there would be no speed limits; no laws about drinking and driving. Automobile deaths have been reduced by over 80 percent since the 1960, while homicides have increase by 10 percent since 1960. As a nation we are deluding ourselves if we think we are “civilized.” When it comes to guns, we are in the dark ages.

Dennis Widman (LTE Daily Star, March 14th, 2018)

Oh, yes. What’s with that 639? That would be 538 members of Congress, 50 state legislatures, 50 governors, and one president.

Certainly in Iowa, but in the United States generally, the de facto firearms policy is that children shot in schools is an acceptable cost of unlimited access to assault weapons.

Russia hacks into critical infrastructure - Is America asleep at the wheel?

Here’s my nomination for the scariest new report of today (published yesterday, March 15th).

The NY Times, among other sources, reports that Cyberattacks Put Russian Fingers on the Switch at Power Plants, U.S. Says

The Trump administration accused Russia on Thursday of engineering a series of cyberattacks that targeted American and European nuclear power plants and water and electric systems, and could have sabotaged or shut power plants off at will.

… new computer screenshots released by the Department of Homeland Security on Thursday made clear that Russian state hackers had the foothold they would have needed to manipulate or shut down power plants.

“We now have evidence they’re sitting on the machines, connected to industrial control infrastructure, that allow them to effectively turn the power off or effect sabotage,” said Eric Chien, a security technology director at Symantec, a digital security firm.

“From what we can see, they were there. They have the ability to shut the power off. All that’s missing is some political motivation,” Mr. Chien said.

More broadly, during the 2016 election and after:

… at least three separate Russian cyberoperations were underway simultaneously. One focused on stealing documents from the Democratic National Committee and other political groups. Another, by a St. Petersburg “troll farm” known as the Internet Research Agency, used social media to sow discord and division. A third effort sought to burrow into the infrastructure of American and European nations.

This is not hypothetical. The hacks by Russia present a clear and present danger to our critical infrastructure. Russian attacks in the Ukraine were real and devastating.

In an updated warning to utility companies on Thursday, Homeland Security officials included a screenshot taken by Russian operatives that proved they could now gain access to their victims’ critical controls.

American officials and security firms, including Symantec and CrowdStrike, believe that Russian attacks on the Ukrainian power grid in 2015 and 2016 that left more than 200,000 citizens there in the dark are an ominous sign of what the Russian cyberstrikes may portend in the United States and Europe in the event of escalating hostilities.

What is not included in the Times’ report is the state of readiness (or absence thereof) by America’s power plants and other utilities. A complicating factor, noted yesterday evening on the Rachel Maddow show, is that our critical infrastructure is largely private and held by thousands of independent companies. What defensive response, if any, at the federal level was not clear in the Time’s report. My sense is that so far Trump has not made such a response a national priority. Protecting against a cyber attack, no matter how necessary in the long run, does not add to shareholders’ dividends.

Maybe the best we can hope for is a standoff between super-powers - that we have powerful offensive cyber weapons too thus creating a new version of mutually assured destruction.

The Texas swing band Asleep at the Wheel recorded an album titled Comin’ Right at Ya. Thats’s a succinct way of thinking about what’s in our future.

Trump lies about trade deficit and brags about his truthiness

If you are not surprised by my headline then that says something awful about what Donald Trump has done to our nation - and continues to do every single day. Here’s an example cued by 538’s Significant Digits email.

$12.5 billion
The U.S. trade surplus with Canada in 2016 — as in, we export $320.1 billion worth of goods and services up north and they send $307.6 billion worth of goods and services down south, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. It’s not like anyone is winning or losing here anyway; both nations are better off for having the traded items. It’s called trade, and we’re partners, but despite all that, President Trump in a call apparently attempted to hassle Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over a trade deficit that did not in fact exist. [ABC News]

ABC News reports that Canada disputes Trump on trade, White House insists he’s right. Snippets follow.

Trump was at a fundraiser and claimed that the US has a trade deficit with Canada - a claim disputed by Canada and one disproved by the US’s own trade data. But Trump, characteristically, tweeted his defense and doubled down on his ignorance by citing truthiness.

Donald J. Trump
We do have a Trade Deficit with Canada, as we do with almost all countries (some of them massive). P.M. Justin Trudeau of Canada, a very good guy, doesn’t like saying that Canada has a Surplus vs. the U.S.(negotiating), but they do…they almost all do…and that’s how I know!
6:29 AM - Mar 15, 2018

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, which is a part of the Executive Office of the President, does not support the president’s claim, according to its own website.

“U.S. goods and services trade with Canada totaled an estimated $627.8 billion in 2016,” the USTR’s website says. “Exports were $320.1 billion; imports were $307.6 billion. The U.S. goods and services trade surplus with Canada was $12.5 billion in 2016.”

But White House press secretary Sarah Sanders stood by the president’s claim during Thursday’s briefing, explaining the president was actually referring to the U.S. trade deficit with Canada on goods, omitting the large U.S. trade surplus on services.

But even there the Suckabee was wrong.

In the February 2018 Economic Report of the President, the White House argued specifically it would be misleading to characterize the U.S. trade relationship with a foreign country based only on trade in good.

“Focusing only on the trade in goods alone ignores the United States’comparative advantage in services, which rose as a share of U.S. exports to 33.5 percent through 2017:Q3,” the economic report says.

The bottom line here is that once again Trump displays his ignorance and his PR person defends his right to not know sh!t about anything. The new thing in this report is that Trump brags about making sh!it up.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Cowardly Republicans, including Trump, cave to the NRA and block gun safety legislation

Today’s word: REPUBLICANS. That one word is why nothing, nothing at all, that would decrease the number of school children killed by firearms stands a chance of getting through Congress.

538’s Significant Digits email is the short version. For more craven cowardice, more congressional and presidential abasement at the feet of the NRA, see the referenced New York Times article, Conceding to N.R.A., Trump Abandons Brief Gun Control Promise.

62 co-sponsors
A piece of legislation in the U.S. Senate that would improve data reporting to the national gun background check database has 62 co-sponsors but is still being held up by Republicans. It’s one of the only bills addressing gun deaths that has even a remote chance of becoming a law in the current Congress. On Monday, President Trump walked back his televised declaration that he would push for near-universal background checks and raising the age limit to purchase rifles. [The New York Times]

Monday, March 12, 2018

Why America is getting dumb and dumber - we are susceptible to novelty and emotion and false news spreads faster than truth.

If we live in a post-truth society it is because social media put us there.

Here’s a note from 538’s Significant Digits email.

70 percent
A new study of how news spreads on the Internet found that false claims were far more likely to spread far and wide than true ones. Lies were 70 percent more likely than the truth to get shared on Twitter, while true stories took about six times as long to reach 1,500 people as fake ones. [The New York Times]

The Times’ headline signals the essence of the story: “It’s True: False News Spreads Faster and Wider. And Humans Are to Blame.”

Science magazine is the weekly journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. This last week it published a report titled The spread of true and false news online by Soroush Vosoughi, Deb Roy, and Sinan Aral2. Here are snippets from the publication.

Lies spread faster than the truth (summary from Science magazine).

There is worldwide concern over false news and the possibility that it can influence political, economic, and social well-being. To understand how false news spreads, Vosoughi et al. used a data set of rumor cascades on Twitter from 2006 to 2017. About 126,000 rumors were spread by ∼3 million people. False news reached more people than the truth; the top 1% of false news cascades diffused to between 1000 and 100,000 people, whereas the truth rarely diffused to more than 1000 people. Falsehood also diffused faster than the truth. The degree of novelty and the emotional reactions of recipients may be responsible for the differences observed.

Author Abstract

We investigated the differential diffusion of all of the verified true and false news stories distributed on Twitter from 2006 to 2017. The data comprise ~126,000 stories tweeted by ~3 million people more than 4.5 million times. We classified news as true or false using information from six independent fact-checking organizations that exhibited 95 to 98% agreement on the classifications. Falsehood diffused significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information, and the effects were more pronounced for false political news than for false news about terrorism, natural disasters, science, urban legends, or financial information. We found that false news was more novel than true news, which suggests that people were more likely to share novel information. Whereas false stories inspired fear, disgust, and surprise in replies, true stories inspired anticipation, sadness, joy, and trust. Contrary to conventional wisdom, robots accelerated the spread of true and false news at the same rate, implying that false news spreads more than the truth because humans, not robots, are more likely to spread it.

We have met the enemy and he is us.

For more, here is a link to the full text of the report and here is reporting on it from AZBlueMeanie: Social media killed the truth.

'Twas a blonde and Stormy presidency - and other illustrated news defining the reign of king Trump

Kids are all right
Kids rule!

After four bankruptcies Trump is going to do a deal with Kim? With evidence of Russian hacking our election, Congress does nothing? What else will Evangelicals cede to Trump – in addition to their soul? Who, other than Stormy Daniels, is a White House blonde bimbo in the news? Who will be next to leave the cabinet? Can Trump hire someone less qualified than DeVos? (Trick question - of course he can.) Trump tells Canada and Mexico that his trade policies are tariffic. Will Stormy Daniels replace Hope Hicks? Will she land a seat on the cabinet? Will Trump call out the national guard to suppress “never again”? Will our kids prevail once again against tanks and guns? All this and more in the Mournday Mourning Illustrated News from AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Preventing mass shootings - What America must do and models for doing it

Let me start with a road map for what follows in this post. The general theme is what we as a nation must do to prevent more mass shootings, especially those in schools and those using assault weapons. The first two following sections offer models for how we might accomplish that goal. Australia implemented a ban and a buy-back program. New Zealand has very stringent procedures designed to greatly restrict who can own handguns and semi-automatic rifles. Comparing these two countries makes it difficult to argue that the idiosyncrasies of any one country invalidates it as a model for the USA. The third section reports on the logical case for banning assault weapons in which elements from both Australia and New Zealand politicies and practices are included. In the fourth, last section, I give voice to some of my thoughts about what should be done and how.

AUSTRALIA stopped mass shootings with national gun control legislation

Pacific Standard Magazine has a summary of Australia’s strict gun laws noting that the number of mass shootings has gone from many to none. However, Australia’s Ambassador Says His Country’s Gun Laws Can’t Save America. Gun control advocates point to Australia for inspiration in ending gun violence. Australian Ambassador to the United States Joe Hockey thinks they should stop. Here are snippets.

After each mass shooting in the United States, many gun control advocates point to Australia, where a bipartisan coalition passed sweeping gun legislation that effectively ended mass shootings and dramatically reduced gun violence nationwide.

More than 20 years ago, Australia had its own mass shooting, a devastating massacre in which a man with a semi-automatic rifle opened fire at a tourist destination on the Tasmanian peninsula, killing 35 and injuring 23. Twelve days later, a conservative prime minister introduced the National Firearms Act, which banned the sale and importation of all automatic and semi-automatic rifles and shotguns, forced people to produce a legitimate reason for wanting to buy a weapon, and installed a 28-day waiting period. Perhaps most controversially, the law called for a massive mandatory gun buyback during which the government confiscated and destroyed 700,000 firearms, effectively reducing gun-owning households by half. The bill required bipartisan support, passed within six weeks, and is still reviewed every six months for any updates, to which all parties must agree before any changes can be made.

In the 20 years since the law was passed, there have been zero mass shootings in Australia.

In September of 2017, the Australian government held another gun amnesty program, its first in 20 years, and collected 26,000 unregistered firearms. Under the amnesty program, Australians surrendering unregistered firearms were able to drop them off without providing any personal information.

It’s almost unfathomable from an American viewpoint, which is perhaps why it’s become such a popular talking point for politicians, advocates, and late-night show hosts alike. Even President Barack Obama referenced Australia’s laws during a memorial following a mass shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C.

Since 1996, U.S. has experienced a series of mass shootings: There was Las Vegas, which saw 59 killed and more than 500 injured; Orlando, where 49 people were killed and 58 were injured; Columbine, which left 13 dead and 24 injured. There was Virginia Tech; there was Sandy Hook. There were so many more. After each, gun control advocates in the U.S. inevitably point to Australia’s success in curbing mass shootings as something that could be replicated here.

The Ambassador disagrees with the last point. Here’s why - in excerpts from the PSmag interview.

Australia and the United States are completely different situations, and it goes back to each of our foundings. America was born from a culture of self-defense. Australia was born from a culture of “the government will protect me.” Australia wasn’t born as a result of a brutal war. We weren’t invaded. We weren’t attacked. We weren’t occupied. That makes an incredible difference, even today.

… our histories are completely different. The U.S. had a horrendous civil war, with more casualties than every other war combined. We didn’t have that history. It really went to the core of what it means to defend your people. And so you have a second amendment based on an antiquated view of what it means to be occupied.

But the gun culture is so ingrained in America. I can’t wrap my brain around impulsive buys, no cooling off period, no mental-health checks. I’m stunned there’s not more road rage here given the number of guns.

The Ambassador listed challenges in implementing the National Firearms Act.

I was a fierce critic of existing gun laws in 1996, but I represented an urban district that’s 32 square miles, and I couldn’t understand why anyone would have guns in their homes. To this day I don’t know why anyone would have semi-automatic or automatic weapons in the middle of the city. My colleagues in rural areas had a different perspective.

Being center-right, we had to stand against our base. But there was such collective grief after Tasmania that we were able to put aside our differences.

The right wing had previously lobbied fairly hard against changes to the gun laws. The National Rifle Association sent people and money to campaign in Australia.

… There’s really no NRA equivalent in Australia, not like you have here. And it backfired. People saw it as American intervention in our elections. They haven’t tried it again.

One might even think that the NRA is an intervention in our own elections - and to wish that they would not try it again.

What was in the law and what was the result?

Gun and ammunition must be locked separately. Cooling off periods, not pick up right away, gun lockers at gun clubs, spot checks for enforcement. The amnesty buyback program was the most controversial.

Fifteen years before the laws, we had 13 mass shootings. In two decades since, none. Gun homicides decreased by 60 percent. Where it hurts the most are unreported suicides, and threats against women.

So what do we make of this argument, that the two countries are so culturally different that we here in America can learn nothing from the Australian experience?

NEW ZEALAND - A frontier culture with strict gun control laws …

… and their bipartisan support. The Kiwi experience is relevant and informative especially because what they are doing works, is supported by both major political parties, and has support inspite of New Zealand’s national character: “the country has a similar frontier mentality and outdoorsy culture to the US.”

A few years back the Seattle Globalist published a report on gun laws in New Zealand written by an ex-Washingtonian who moved there titled Getting strapped in New Zealand, Americans learn ropes of gun control. Here are some excerpts.

You might be surprised to find out that New Zealand is not unfamiliar with gun violence. In 1990, a 33 year old mentally unstable man in Aramoana, NZ shot and killed thirteen people including a police officer using a semi-automatic rifle. (The events have been dramatized in the New Zealand film Out of the Blue)

But unlike shootings in the US, the incident directly resulted in changes to New Zealand firearms laws. A special category of “Military Style Semi-Automatic” weapons was created; the sales and ownership of which are now severely restricted. Purchase or import of military style semi-automatics and all handguns must be individually approved by, and registered with, the New Zealand police.

Without a valid and current firearms license, you cannot legally purchase any firearm other than a pellet gun anywhere in New Zealand. There is probably a black market or some other means of acquiring a firearm illegally, but firearms recovered from drug busts or other organised criminal activities typically amount to hunting rifles or pump action shot guns. Handguns and military style semi-automatics are rare, difficult to obtain, and very expensive.

So how do Kiwis go about getting their hands on guns?

That’s a very long story with details that I leave to you to read about in the Globalist article. Here’s the essence.

The process for obtaining a basic firearms license is long, complicated and expensive. In other words, designed to weed out a broad portion of the population that the law deems unsuitable to possess a firearm.

If you wanted a pistol, for example, you would have to apply for a license, take a firearms safety course, submit to an in-home interview, recruit a character witness who has known you for 2 years (and who also is interviewed). The Arms Officer doing the interview “also asked what we intended to use firearms for. Hint: personal or home protection is not an accepted rationale and would likely get you rejected – acceptable reasons are limited to hunting and/or target shooting.” You need to demonstrate that you have separate lockers for the gun and ammunition. And you have to be affiliated with shooting club and be an active, regular participant.

So a firearms license in New Zealand is difficult to obtain. It’s also easy to lose: “Violation of any gun laws, including those relating to storage, transport or sales can easily result in a loss of your endorsement, your full license or even criminal conviction.”

Does it work? It appears so.

NZ has a firearm-related death rate of 2.66 per 100,000 people, per year. The rate in the US is almost 5 times that.

And unlike in the States, gun legislation rarely becomes mired in the political fog, despite the fact that the country has a similar frontier mentality and outdoorsy culture to the US.

The two main political parties, Labour and National (there are 8 active parties in NZ parliament) both treat gun control as a bi-partisan issue.

Some could argue that the sheer number of firearms available in the US (almost one for every person) render effective control of those firearms impossible. By comparison, New Zealand is estimated to have just over 1 million firearms in a country of 4.4 million. By and large, the level of scrutiny and control on possession and transfer of firearms, especially the types of weapons capable of mass killings, seems like an alternate universe when compared to the United States.

Between the application fees, membership dues, club activities and special safes required, the financial obligations alone could be a barrier to anyone looking to obtain a firearm for frivolous or reactionary reasons. To get a gun in New Zealand you have to plan ahead, have a clean record, and have the money to spend on it.

In other words, it’s a tremendous pain in the ass. But it’s a pain in the ass that appears to be saving lives.

The fact that New Zealand has “a similar frontier mentality and outdoorsy culture to the US” counters the cultural difference cited by the Australian Ambassador to the US. Regardless of history and current norms, both New Zealand and Australia have reduced the rates of mass shootings to zero and greatly reduced firearms deaths. As an interim conclusion, consider that if we want to reduce the number of firearm deaths we should reduce the number of firearms. Reinstating a stronger version of the assault weapons ban would be a good place to start. That case is made next.

AMERICA - the case for ban-and-buy assault weapons

We could start by asking why anyone would have a need for an AR–15 and high-capacity magazines. And then we could - and will here - feature an op-ed with the answer.

This Saturday (March 10) the Daily Star published an article by Michael T. Hertz, retired lawyer and law professor, titled Ban assault weapons altogether. Here it is.

Twelve days before the Parkland school massacre, my friend and I were driving near Orlando, Florida, and saw a sign. It pictured a woman shooting a machine gun and said, “Live Life Full Auto” above the words “Machine Gun America.” A few miles later, we passed the store, which sold semi-automatic guns and ammunition.

In the aftermath of the Parkland school shooting, Florida Gov. Rick Scott proposed a number of measures to improve safety, and on March 7 the state’s Republican-controlled legislature passed a bill to toughen gun laws. This included banning “bump stock” devices that turn semi-automatic weapons into fully automatic ones, raising the buying age for rifles to 21, and requiring a three-day waiting period for all firearm purchases. Scott signed the bill Friday.

These are all good ideas. But why not go further and restore the ban on assault weapons? This was the type of weapon used to kill 17 people in Parkland. It was the kind used in Las Vegas, where a shooter was able to “live life full auto” and fire 1,100 rounds of ammunition in 10 minutes, killing 58 people and wounding 851.

Yes, getting rid of these weapons would take real political effort. The people who make money off businesses like Machine Gun America, backed by the NRA, would fight this tooth and nail. But at this moment in our history, our country is ready for this.

The federal assault weapons ban was passed September 1994, following a close 52–48 vote in the Senate. President Clinton signed it into law the same day. The ban didn’t apply to guns in existence at the time it was enacted, and it contained a sunset provision allowed it to expire after 10 years, in 2004, which is what happened.

We need to revive this ban today. It should apply to all semi-automatic assault weapons, including the AR–15. It should also remove ammunition for such weapons from the market. It should apply to all persons in the United States except members of the military and police forces while they are on the job. There should be no sunset provision.

The government should offer to buy all such weapons in the year after the ban is enacted, given that the weapons could no longer be used.

The U.S. Supreme Court has already expressly affirmed the ability of government to ban certain weapons.

“Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose,” declared conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority in a 2008 case, District of Columbia v. Heller. He noted prohibitions against concealed weapons, firearm possession by felons and the mentally ill, bringing firearms into schools and government buildings and “the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons.”

An absolute ban on these weapons, coupled with an offer by the government to buy them, would be completely congruent with this decision. Putting a heavy punishment on possession would give police forces good reason to look for such weapons and get rid of any in illegal possession.

If we really want to end large-scale massacres, we cannot flinch at banning the means by which they are accomplished.

SCRIBER- Time for a change

There you have it. We can reduce the number of deaths, notably those in schools. We have evidence from other countries that assault weapons bans, buy-backs, strict licensing, safety training, and rigorous background and character checks are components of an effective gun control program. We’re not talking hunting rifles or shotguns; in no way would such a program infringe on legitimate gun ownership by responsible individuals. Such folks do not go around shooting school children and thus have little to fear from the actions advocated by Michael Hertz.

This will not be easy. You have a vocal minority consisting of mainly white males led by the NRA opposing any attempts at gun control. Having a gun is a symbol reinforcing their identity, we are told. Some of them, at least, fear a government gone amok and so a citizen militia armed with AR–15s would protect us against government control. That’s silly, argues a writer of a letter to the editor in this morning’s Green Valley News titled “frontier thinking.” The author, a retired military type, observes “Unfortunately, there is a frontier mentality among many who truly believe that assault weapons are insurance against our government somehow going awry. If you have ever watched a Marine Corps exercise you readily appreciate how ludicrous this idea is. If all the able-bodied males in Green Valley and Sahuarita were armed with these weapons, they wouldn’t hold off one Marine platoon for 10 minutes.” Moreover, contributing to our collective inaction, there is the cowardice of our elected officials exhibited in their groveling subservience to the NRA.

So what to do? Recognize that most Americans favor the program advocated by Hertz and its components in place in Australia and New Zealand. We are in the majority. We have a voice and should use it. Call out, publicly, our legislators and demand a public commitment to gun control. Demand that they choose between unlimited access to assault weapons and dead school kids. And if they complain about gun control being a heavy lift, as one ex-congressman expressed it to me, use our vote and vote them out of office. Finally, be prepared for a long struggle. When it comes to societal change nothing comes easy or early. The civil rights movement is a case study. It took decades to arm America with a gun for every single person. We should be prepared for a struggle just as long to come to grips with America as a post-frontier country that values right to life for the many more than a phallic symbol for the few.

At the end of all arguments about gun control, it comes down to a single question. Is it the de facto policy of the United States of America that the murder of our children is an acceptable price to pay for unlimited access to assault weapons? How you answer that question defines your humanity - or lack of it.