Tag Archives: Parkland

Trump Proves Yet Again His Incompetence and Corruption

A few days back Donald Trump put on another display for public consumption regarding the massacre of students and teachers at Parkland School in Florida. In a meeting at the White House he said he was ready to do something about the curse of easy access to high-powered assault rifles and other military grade firearms that were typically used to kill large numbers of people in a few minutes. From the White House website: “It’s not going to be talk like it has been in the past. It’s been going on too long; too many instances. And we’re going to get it done. The press was giddy with excitement at the thought, the “fact,” that Trump was going against the National Rifle Association, was in favor of enhanced background checks, confiscation of certain weapons when necessary and limiting the age at which “rifles” could be purchased.

As if usually the case when Trump speaks extemporaneously, unscripted, this appeared to be a change of course, induced, at least in part, by the aggressive public pressure by the surviving Parkland students, still grieving even as they declared “Never Again.”

Trump loves being the center of attention. Indeed, the evidence is overwhelming that he will say and do almost anything to assure that in any situation, he is the dominant personality, the critical actor, the driving force for whatever agenda he has at the moment.

Of course, skeptics were …. skeptical. Those how have learned from experience, one of the hallmarks of intelligence and education, were concerned that Trump’s conversion was no more authentic than the hundreds of other times when he had either lied outright or quickly reversed himself only minutes or hours after some attention-grabbing maneuver. They were right.

It took almost no time for Trump’s newfound moral compass to gyrate itself into a hole leading straight to Hell. Trump has now disavowed virtually everything he said just days before. Now the White House website displays a four-point “master plan” for protecting students in schools:

First, “Hardening our schools: The Administration will make sure our schools are safe and secure—just like our airports, stadiums, and government buildings—with better training and preparedness.” [Italics mine]

Think about that for a second. Is the President proposing to create a School Security Administration like the Transportation Security Administration that inspects luggage and performs body scans on every airline passenger and compels visitors to the U.S. Capitol and other federal agencies to remove belts and shoes and pass through metal detectors? Will children attending schools be treated that way every day? What is that going to accomplish when, courtesy of the National Rifle Association, the next shooter appears with an AR-15 and immediately guns down the inspectors before entering the school to kill students and teachers?

 Or, is the President proposing to set up military-style gun emplacements around every school entrance so that anyone entering the area can be challenged and, if necessary, shot before doing damage? Bear in mind there are about 90,000 public and private elementary schools in the United States with more than 33 million students attending. That’s just elementary schools. Compare that with 5,145 public use airports.

“Hardening” schools as a protective measure seems like a ridiculous idea.

 Two, “Strengthening background checks and prevention: President Trump is supporting legislation and reforms to strengthen the background checks system and law enforcement operations.”

Grand. Other than the NRA, who would oppose such a plan? In fact, we understand that most members of the NRA support improvements in the background check system, though exactly what that support really looks like has not been tested because the NRA continues to use its cash and lobbying force to cower the Republicans who control the Congress. And, as is usually the case in this Keystone Kops administration, there are no details and this one, of all the ideas, should have been easy to flesh out with specifics. And, spoiler alert, the NRA isn’t about to roll over for any changes that could interfere even slightly with what they claim is their God-given right to free and immediate access to the firearms of their choice.

Three: “Reforming mental health programs: The President is proposing an expansion and reform of mental health programs, including those that help identify and treat individuals who may be a threat to themselves or others.”

This is the well-disguised ruse that says that the United States, a country of about 324 million people spread over 3,800,000 square miles, is going to establish a comprehensive and effective program for detecting individuals with mental conditions that might lead them to violent acts against school children (and presumably, present and former co-workers and employers, neighbors, etc.). This program will then, with or without compliance with constitutional guarantees related to due process and personal liberty, remove such persons for “evaluation and when necessary treatment” even if against their will or the will of their parents, guardians, etc.

Again, the plan based on pouring more money into mental health programs as a solution to gun violence, while it may be well-intentioned, is utterly useless as a real-world practical solution even in the long run.

Finally, Four, the capstone: Keeping the conversation going: In addition to these immediate actions, President Trump is establishing a Federal Commission on School Safety, chaired by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, to recommend policy and funding proposals for school violence prevention.” [italics mine]

Of course! Why didn’t we all think of this? Keep the conversation going. Start a commission to study the problem and issue a report. In a year, or two or three. No rush. How many will die in the meantime?  No matter. In the Republican calculation, those are what the military calls “acceptable losses.” Of course, the military was organized and staffed to fight and win battles and they understood there would be casualties as the necessary price of winning. That was an inescapable, if grisly, feature of the activity in which they were forced by history to engage.

So, do we just accept the President’s side-door escape from the harsh truth of gun violence and go with a study commission so we can defer the hard questions to another day. Doesn’t that play right into the hands of the NRA-funded chorus that always says “this isn’t the right time to address the issue.”

And of all people in the United States to put in charge of such a commission: Betsy Devos? She has repeatedly shown she knows little or nothing about education policy, is ignorant of the state of public education in her own state of Michigan, is solely devoted to promoting charter schools for white well-to-do kids at the expenses of the public-school system she appears to loathe.

What the Hell does Betsy Devos know about gun violence or security? How can she possibly chair an effective committee on the subject of protecting schools, students and faculty from armed violence? This “commission” is going to be like the so-called Voter Fraud Commission that Trump appointed, with the real purpose of imposing obstacles to people voting, especially in Democratic-leaning districts. The Devos commission (I choke on the idea) is simply a scheme to put off dealing with the issues indefinitely. The NRA bought and paid for this outcome. They met with Trump and everything changed.

We don’t have to accept this. The Parkland students are not going to accept it and everyone of good will should support them. Support their right to 17 minutes of silence on March 14 to honor the Parkland victims. March with and for them on March 24 wherever you are on that day. Relentlessly demand an end to the gun violence.

There is only one common denominator in all this and we don’t need a national commission to figure it out. The common denominator, one we can quickly do something about, is the ready access to assault-style military grade weapons, high-capacity magazines and any devices, however, described or operated, that convert those weapons into automatic-fire mode.

Surely, many gun “experts” will jump up and down like burned rabbits, complaining that people like me don’t know what an “assault” rifle is. Sorry, but you can’t win with the argument that this is about technicalities. This is not that hard, despite persistent efforts to make it seem like rocket science only a few elite gun experts can truly understand. And, in any case, we should err on the side of public safety. If we err and inadvertently bring a few non-assault weapons into a ban, we can fix that later. Right now, the emphasis should be on human safety, not about which precise weapons can fire at what rate of speed.

So, if you possibly can, on March 14 at 10 am, stop what you are doing for 17 minutes to honor the fallen students and teachers. Then, join me and hundreds of thousands of others on March 24 to March in the streets and tell the Trump administration that the time to act is NOW. No more excuses. We will wait no longer for our government to put an end to this curse.

The 2018 election season is underway. Prepare to vote. If you know someone who is not registered, offer to help them. Drive them to the polls if necessary or contact the local Democratic Party to get that done. Nothing is more important than reversing the descent into Hell that was started when Donald Trump was elected president.

Remove Security for US Capitol & White House

I am going to venture into sensitive territory here so if anyone is offended, you have my advance apology. But after watching the Broward County Sheriff and the usual collection of dignitaries (Governor, School Board members, etc.) at a press briefing after the Parkland school massacre, I have to say this.

The common theme now is “it’s those mentally unstable people who are the real problem.” So, “If you see someone whose behavior has changed or is acting peculiarly, call the police so they can take that person in for questioning and a mental health evaluation.” At the same time the gun crowd recites and repeats their mantra: “if you can’t fix everything, don’t fix anything.” And “I got my rights so if you want my guns, come and take them.”

So, the new theme is that we are to turn ourselves into a totalitarian country of spies, a dystopian nightmare of reporting our neighbors and anyone else whose behavior does not fit our personal norms.  Let’s have everyone report somebody they don’t like and then let the authorities take care of them. Round up the usual suspects, while we cover for those who are really guilty. Yes, you see, if we can just get those mentally unstable people under control, everything will be fine and we can all keep our semi-automatic military grade weapons in case the government comes after us.

This is the usual playbook for post-catastrophe posturing while actually doing nothing of substance. The President added this gem in purporting to speak “directly to America’s children:”

“I want you to know that you are never alone and you never will be. Answer hate with love; answer cruelty with kindness. We must also work together to create a culture in our country that embraces the dignity of life, that creates deep and meaningful human connections, and that turns classmates and colleagues into friends and neighbors.”

You can’t make this stuff up. Changing culture isn’t something that can be willed; it takes decades and even centuries. This is just another deflection. Meanwhile, the putative leader of the Free World ordered flags to half-mast. Wow. That took real guts. The NRA was ok with it because it adds to the impression that someone actually cares about these kids, and the ones who will be killed next, while actually doing nothing at all to help them.

The “round up the usual suspects” approach to the gun problem has the same facile attractiveness of the other pro-gun arguments. But if you want to see a real-life example of how this might play out in practice, have a look at the story reported in Bloomberg News: “This Short Seller Pressed ‘Tweet.’ Then the FBI Showed Up” https://bloom.bg/2GnX5uL

In a war of words between two businessmen on Twitter, threatening statements were made. The FBI showed up and warned the author of those statements to stop sending such messages. There were intimations of political influence, as the target of the threatening messages was apparently a “top Republican fundraiser in Georgia” and “Georgia finance chairman for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.” The request to send agents was issued from the FBI’s Atlanta office which, along with the Justice Department is, of course, not talking.

True enough, no one was taken in for questioning and mental evaluation, but you surely get the picture. In this case it was a well-placed corporate executive apparently using his influence to induce the government to act against a rival. Under the “see something, report something” approach to stopping mass murders of children, you can just imagine how the complaints will fly as conflicted neighbors, romantic rivals, resentful former employees, etc. decide to get even by reporting the sources of their angst to the police who will be under new expectancies to act. “My neighbor has been bringing home long packages at night; I think he’s stocking up guns.”

And, of course, even when the report is legitimate, as it sometimes may be, it won’t necessarily resolve the threat. The FBI botched the reports it had on the Florida shooter. The Republicans, of course, jumped on this new excuse to undermine the FBI while continuing to whine about politicizing the Florida murders.

In my view, the FBI mistakes in this case, while tragic, simply illustrate that we cannot rely on a government agency, not matter how dedicated, to get everything right.

We are also faced with the usual argument that if you can’t solve everything, you don’t solve anything. That is just plain stupid. The inability to fix the entirety of a problem should not stand in the way of partial solutions that could save lives, such as removing semi-automatic military style weapons from circulation. There is no other area of life in which such a moronic idea would be accepted.

So how do we get semi-automatic military style weapons off the streets and out of the hands of those who would use them for slaughtering children? Right now, the Republican Party, complicit as it is in the Russian fixing of the 2016 election and fully committed to doing whatever is necessary to keep Donald Trump in power, is not going to move without an additional incentive. I propose to give them one. Two actually.

First, remove all the security from the Capitol, the White House and the Cabinet. Crazy, right? It would, of course, expose the legislators and the elite members of the Cabinet, etc. to the same risk that our children face every day at school, or at the mall or at a concert, the risk that some “mentally unstable” individual or group of individuals would attack them with a legally-acquired weapon. Well, of course, it would. That is precisely the point. If the legislators and administration officials who, after every mass shooting, say “it is too soon to talk about controlling weapons of rapid destruction,” were exposed to the same vulnerabilities as school children, they might soon change their tune.

Of course, this approach would also endanger the staff and administrative people who do most of the actual work in these places.  Some of them support reasonable restraints on ownership of semi-automatic weapons. They are the good guys. As the Republicans, funded to the hilt with NRA money, would say: necessary losses. It would not, in any case, take too long for the Republicans to come around. Set a deadline: enact a weapons control system within 30 days or lose your security. Faced with the choice of losing NRA cash or losing their lives, I’m betting they quickly come to their senses.

That proposal is, of course, just a fantasy. The same complicit individuals that control the government control the security for themselves.

So, here’s another, perhaps more realistic, solution. The Resistance must now engage in all-out mass movement of the same nature as occurred during the Vietnam War by making it difficult or impossible for pro-NRA and pro-gun politicians to conduct business as usual. Protesters will have to show up every day with bullhorns and noisemakers and make it difficult or impossible for the Congress to function. Do sit-ins. Even if they couldn’t get close enough to stop the government from operating, the Resistance could disrupt the local offices of the recalcitrant politicians. And they can turn these politicians’ rallies and other public appearances into spectacles of resistance centered around their support for the NRA and the gun lobby. Make their support for the merchants of death a constant topic on all social media. Name the names. Fill their inboxes, mail boxes, comment sites and phone mail with protest messages.

The same treatment should be meted out to the NRA at its offices and anywhere else it appears at conferences and meetings. For the unspeakable misery they have caused, their lives should be made miserable in return.

To be clear, I am not advocating violence against the government or anyone else. I am suggesting that if the American people truly want to stop the killing of children and others with semi-automatic weapons, they are going to have to resort to extraordinary measures. The NRA has the money, the politician enablers can’t get enough of it, and so it’s time to simply stop them from doing business as usual. A non-violent mass movement consistently and relentlessly applied is the only apparent way to force the hand of those supporting, and financed by, the gun lobby.

There will be no quick outcome to this struggle. Many “responsible” people will say this goes too far, that what we need is responsible advocacy, more “honest debate,” etc. Let’s not rush into this. It’s complicated. Let’s take a few years to study it and then, after more children have died at the hands of unhappy people with semi-automatic weapons and multiple high-capacity magazines, maybe we can come up with a solution.

To quote the kids speaking out at Parkland, I call BS. Enough is enough. Read this: https://agingmillennialengineer.wordpress.com/2018/02/15/fuck-you-i-like-guns-2/ The gun people will never yield until they are forced, so they should be forced. Starting now. The will of the majority of Americans on this issue must be presented to the lawmakers in a way they cannot ignore as they have for so long. Enough.