Tag Archives: Trump

Most important Book You’re Not Going to Read This Year

I have just finished reading Can It Happen Here? Authoritarianism in America, edited by Cass Sunstein. Sunstein is the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard University where he founded its Program on Behavioral Economics. He is the author of, among many others, Impeachment, A Citizen’s Guide, which you are also not going to read, but should.

The contributors of the essays in this stunning book are mostly distinguished law professors from Harvard, Yale, Chicago, Columbia, NYU and Duke. These people know whereof they speak.

And speak they do, sometimes a bit turgidly as law professors are wont to do, but also brilliantly and incisively addressing the sources of risk that the United States could lose its hold on democracy. It’s important to understand that this is not an anti-Trump screed, although, as you might expect, Trump’s conduct as president figures prominently in many of the essays. The reason is that his behavior is in the classical line of actions taken by political strong men who have undermined democracy in their countries. It’s also important to remember the United States has some blood on its own hands from past episodes of authoritarian behavior induced by crises such as the attack on Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

The threats to American democratic institutions, free press, elections and other features of a free and open society in which we have grown up are real and immediate. While some of the essays are guardedly optimistic about the resiliency of our Constitution and institutions to resist the imposition of an authoritarian regime, you will find cold comfort in most of the essays. They are, along with other recent works like Elaine May’s Fortress America – How We Embraced Fear & Abandoned Democracy, compelling, history- and fact-based accounts of how democracy can fail, and may actually be failing, under the relentless pressures of an autocratic president supported by a single-party Congress. These are conditions not contemplated by the Founding Fathers whose Constitution, as brilliant as it is, may lack sufficient safeguards against one-party rule that does not respect the values on which that document was based.

If you are serious about understanding what is happening in American politics today, this book is a must-read.

To give you a taste, the chapter entitled “Constitutional Rot” observes that “These four horsemen — polarization, loss of trust, economic inequality, and policy disaster — mutually reinforce each other.” Further, “In an oligarchical system, regardless of its formal legal characteristics, a relative small number of backers effective decide who stays in power.”

In the chapter entitled “Beyond Elections: Foreign Interference with American Democracy,” Samantha Power discusses how non-mediated social media opened the door to Russian influence in U.S. elections. The chapter “Paradoxes of the Deep State” addresses little-known history of the so-called “Deep State” with surprising observations about the “leaks” in the Trump administration. Then, the chapter “How We Lost Constitutional Democracy” sets out grave and chilling warnings about the erosion of democratic norms and the limits of the Constitution as an obstacle to the destruction of democracy as we know it.

As I said earlier, this book is serious stuff and not an easy read. Yet the issues analyzed in it are critical to a deep understanding of what is happening and the extent to which we can “count on the Constitution” as a defense against loss of freedom and democratic process.

When you are finished being frightened to death, I continue to urge everyone to read On Tyranny-Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, by Timothy Snyder, a measly 126 pages. Finally, if you want to dig deeply into some of the mysteries of the behaviors of voters whose conduct you consider self-defeating and borderline insane. I commend to you two tomes that I guarantee will open your eyes to ideas you never dreamed of: Thinking, Fast & Slow, by Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, and Behave – the Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst, by Robert Sapolsky [skip the details on endocrinology, unless you really dig that sort of stuff].

To conclude, for now, I believe the following to be more likely true than not:

1. Trump’s election was unlawfully procured through interference by, and his collusion with one or more foreign powers; the more he fumes and fulminates against this idea, the more likely it seems to be true;

2. Trump has violated Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution by failing to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed;”

3. Trump has violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution, Article I, Section 9;

4. Trump is guilty of obstruction of justice, which qualifies as a “high crime” or “misdemeanor” under the Constitution, Article 2, Section 4, and, in the specific circumstances, is guilty of treason as well;

5. Trump and members of his family and officials appointed by him, along with Republican members of Congress, have engaged in a conspiracy to conceal evidence of crimes by them and others and to prevent the full investigation and prosecution of such crimes by appropriate government authorities.

I also believe the following truths are now indisputable:

1. Democratic norms are under active siege by a president who neither understands nor cares about such norms;

2. While the prospect of indictment of the president as a result of Special Prosecutor Mueller’s investigation is highly appealing, there is little chance that such a move is going to occur soon and it will, in any case, provoke a lengthy constitutional crisis that will end up in the Supreme Court and therefore not afford a near-term solution to the governance crisis that confronts the nation;

3. The most immediate and most important defense against the oligarchical theocracy, or the theocratic oligarchy, if you prefer, that the president, vice president and Republican Congress want to establish, and to some degree have already established, is for the Democratic Party to take control of Congress in the 2018 elections;

4. Democratic control of both houses of Congress would immediately create an insurmountable bulwark against further destruction of democracy by the administration and lay the framework for removal and prosecution of the Trump gang and its enablers;

5. Trump’s sycophantic supporters are preparing to defend him with aggressive voter turnout and contributions of huge amounts of money. Nonetheless, Democrats must overwhelm them at the polls if we are to turn the tide against the fascist practices of this administration. If we fail, we will face two more years of entrenchment, destruction of the independence of the judiciary and undermining of the free press. The loss of those two elements of the Constitution’s system of checks and balances will make it very difficult, perhaps impossible, to turn back the tide. It’s 2018 or nothing.

6. Every American should view this situation as a grave threat to their well-being and the well-being of their families present and future. It is time for the Democratic Party leadership to start leading politically and for the personal ambitions and agendas of the old guard to yield the floor to the generations that will have the most to lose if the foundations of democracy are not restored. Remember that those who fail to heed the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it.

7. It is time for a game plan that does not repeat the same mistakes that led to the disastrous defeat in 2016. The Republicans know the same things we know about what happened. They have a keen understanding of their political base and how to stimulate it to action on behalf of their agenda. Trump’s base is uninterested in the truth about him or his policies; they have created their own truths in which they choose to believe and nothing is going to change most of them. It is therefore absolutely essential that every potential Democratic vote be cast in every district. There have been a few interim wins in replacement contests, but these are no laurels on which to rest. Democrats cannot afford to give up any seat that is potentially winnable. It’s now or never.

Scott Pruitt – Destroyer of Worlds

Do you know how many soldiers make up a platoon in the U.S. Army? While answers vary by source, there appears to be consensus around a size of 16 to 60 soldiers. Thus, the security detail demanded by Scott Pruitt, Donald Trump’s appointee as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, numbering at least 20 is the equivalent of having a full-time platoon of American soldiers for “protection.” Exactly what Pruitt is so afraid of remains an open question.

On the one hand, we have Pruitt stealing, in effect, from the public through a multitude of unjustifiable first-class trips, installation of a “secure phone booth” costing more than $40,000, and other over-the-top charges for his office rework. On the other hand (or is it the same hand?), we have a man who, before his appointment by Trump was firmly entrenched as a public official in Oklahoma with the industries seeking to exploit the environment for private gain, now using his federal office to further reward those same industries and companies.

Thinking of Pruitt’s tenure as EPA head brings to mind Robert Oppenheimer, a famous physicist who led the Los Alamos Laboratory and is credited, with others, as being the “father of the atomic bomb” for his role in the World War II Manhattan Project that created the first such bomb. After observing the test firing in New Mexico, Oppenheimer later said it drew to his mind the words from the ancient Hindu text, Bhagavad Gita, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

Pruitt, of course, appears to know little of science and to care nothing about it in any event. His worldview appears to be that Earth is here for one reason, the unlimited exploitation of its resources by mankind, through the vehicles of mining, logging, drilling, whatever it takes and wherever is desired. Thus, in the space of a little more than a year, Pruitt has:

  • spent millions on his personal around-the-clock security, including salaries ranging from $103,000 to nearly $162,000
  • slashed the working budget of EPA by about 30 percent;
  • claimed that threats against him have sky-rocketed, but there are no public reports of arrests or prosecutions;
  • flown on charter flights and first-class flights that included putting his security detail in first-class, with the excuse that being in first-class means they can exit the plane faster; when paying for his own travel, Pruitt flew coach;
  • rolled back auto fuel-efficiency rules;
  • promoted Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord;
  • directed payment of extraordinary bonuses of 30 & 52 percent to two close aides who joined him from Oklahoma;
  • taken adverse job actions against professional agency staff who questioned his spending/travel practices;
  • insisted that vehicles in his entourage use lights & sirens when moving through Washington streets to attend dinners;
  • rented a room from the wife of a lobbyist with business before the EPA;
  • denied, contrary to the evidence, that he authorized the excessive raises or that he approved the $43,000 installation of a sound-proof booth in his office, including biometric door locks and other security features more appropriate for a banana-republic dictator;
  • incurred frequent high-cost luxury accommodation charges, seeking approval after-the-fact;
  • accepted expense reimbursements from groups with business before the EPA;
  • rescinded, often with limited process, rules protecting the water, air and national parks, allowing uncontrolled exploitation of unique national resources without regard to the consequences.

In light of those and other legal/ethical lapses, the Washington Post has called for Pruitt’s firing, but Trump continues to support him because he is executing Trump’s plan to undo every environmental protection he can find. If there’s one thing Trump hates as much as exposure of his own corruption, it’s Obama-era environmental regulations. He wants them all gone and Pruitt is just the man to do his, and the exploitative industries’, bidding.

Pruitt is on par with the likes of Ben Carson, Trump’s appointed head of the Housing & Urban Development agency, for which Carson had zero qualifications, and Ryan Zinke, Trump’s appointed Secretary of the Interior, who repeatedly calls himself a “geologist,” based solely on having a college major in geology 34 years ago, and whose principal goal appears to be reducing the size of national parks so they can be exploited for minerals, oil and gas. Scott Pruitt sees his charge as clearing the way for unregulated commercial exploitation by private firms of the nation’s precious natural resources, including its clean water and air.

It is extremely unlikely that such a person would have been allowed to continue in office overseeing an agency whose legally established purpose is the exact opposite of Trump’s and Pruitt’s agenda. The Republican controlled Congress, however, continues to tolerate this situation and is thus complicit in the crimes against nature and humanity that this administration is perpetrating in the interest of enriching already wealthy corporations and individuals.

You have read it here before, but it bears repeating. We are facing a grave threat to our well-being as a people and as a country. Absent the bringing of criminal indictments and impeachment against Trump, the 2018 mid-term elections are the next real opportunity to regain the upper hand before it is too late. You should tell everyone you know that is capable of independent thought and reason why they must vote in November for Democrats, and why they must help others in need of assistance in getting to the polls and fulfilling their citizen responsibilities. This is not a drill.

Sources for this post: https://cnn.it/2vlJVOb; https://bit.ly/2J5LRwm; https://politi.co/2qD1hBg; https://wapo.st/2qFXBho; https://nyti.ms/2Eoc7iC;https://bit.ly/2JVc1De; https://bit.ly/2qfdACU; https://bzfd.it/2J6g0LZ; https://nyti.ms/2H40tiY; https://politi.co/2viE7F0.

 

Addendum to “Trump’s Lawyers Speak for … Trump, Themselves, Somebody, Nobody”

It is widely reported that Michael Cohen, who allegedly represents himself in connection with the Non-Disclosure Agreement enter into by Stormy Daniels in exchange for $130,000 paid by Cohen personally (Cohen says), is claiming that he is entitled to damages from Stormy Daniels of $20 million for her multiple violations of the agreement.

Given the “looseness” of the factual setting in this situation, we have to make some assumptions in order to say anything rational about it. So, let’s go along, hypothetically, with Cohen’s claim that he paid the hush money from his own pocket with no knowledge of, or expectation of reimbursement by, Trump. Let’s also go along for now with the assertion that Ms. Daniels violated the agreement by publicly declaring an affair with Trump.

Now, let’s assume that either through arbitration enforceable by a court order, or by a direct lawsuit, Cohen gets a verdict that Ms. Daniels violated the “hush agreement.”

Who was damaged by the violation of the NDA?  Cohen? He was not the real party in interest. The NDA was designed to protect Donald Trump, not Michael Cohen. Whatever Ms. Daniels may have said about her claimed affair with Trump is about Trump and, if there is an argument to be made, the argument is that Trump sustained the damages, not Cohen.

But, Cohen may argue, the $1 million was “liquidated damages” under the NDA and thus no proof of damages is required. Maybe so, but the law generally does not permit the use of fixed damage amounts in contracts if the damage amounts are considered a “penalty” rather than a substitute for having to go to the expense of proving actual damages in court. If Cohen is claiming he is the real party in interest in the NDA with Daniels and thus is entitled to damages, Most courts would likely invalidate the liquidated damages clause as a prohibited penalty because its provision has no relation to the actual damages Michael Cohen would have sustained from Daniel’s breach.

If, on the other hand, Trump is the real party in interest, the damages would belong to Trump who is not a party to the litigation claiming the NDA was violated. I cannot imagine, even in the Trumpian Universe, that a court is going to award damages to a non-party based on an agreement the non-party did not sign and about which the non-party claims to have had no knowledge.

In the end, the courts may decide. One interesting potential maneuver in the litigation would be a motion by Daniels to add Trump as a party. If that were successful, Trump would be subject to having his deposition taken under oath about the affair, the entering of the NDA and much else. Wouldn’t that be interesting?

 

 

 

 

Trump’s Lawyers Speak for … Trump, Themselves, Somebody, Nobody

Multiple sources have reported that Donald Trump’s “personal attorney” called for the Justice Department to fire Robert Mueller and terminate his investigation into, among other things, collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and Russian government interests intending to support his candidacy and damage Hillary Clinton’s chances. See, e.g., http://wapo.st/2plSJhp. The demand by John Dowd followed immediately the firing of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe which, according to Dowd, was fatally influenced by political bias. Repeating claims made directly by Trump, Dowd said “I pray” that the investigation is ended.

Dowd’s “prayer” will have the same effect as the “thoughts and prayers” that are the sole national Republican response to the Parkland Florida school massacre.

Curiously, Dowd told the Daily Beast that he was speaking on behalf of the president in his capacity as Trump’s attorney. When the Daily Beast published that statement, Dowd immediately retracted it and said he was not speaking for the president.

If Dowd was truth-telling in his retraction, it means that while serving as Trump’s personal attorney, he has made public statements on his own initiative about a matter of the greatest importance to his client without his client’s knowledge or approval. If indeed Dowd were not speaking for Trump, one would expect Trump, the client whose interests are being affected, to discharge his attorney for acting without permission in a way that could damage the client. On the other hand, if Trump liked what Dowd said, he (Trump) would not fire the attorney and would align himself with the attorney’s statements. That is, in fact, what Trump did via the usual Saturday tweet storm, denying yet again that he colluded with Russians and yet again attacking federal law enforcement agencies and the State Department that he has criticized repeatedly during the campaign and after becoming president.

This dance brings to mind that other Trump attorney who claims to have acted in another matter of vital importance to Trump but without Trump’s knowledge or approval. This, of course, is Michael Cohen who has represented Trump for years and who admits he paid $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels to secure her agreement to remain silent about her claimed affair with Trump, an affair that Trump has denied.

So, once again, we have an attorney for Trump claiming to act on behalf of Trump without Trump’s knowledge or consent, using the attorney’s own funds and without expectation of reimbursement.

While the standards of attorney conduct have apparently loosened dramatically over recent decades, it is still considered risky for an attorney to invest in a client’s business. The potential for conflicts of interest to arise when at attorney has a financial stake in a client’s business is serious. One supposes, however, that even when it occurs, the attorney’s investment in the client’s affairs is disclosed to the client. Indeed, I believe it would be a clear ethics violation for an attorney to invest in a client’s business without disclosure to the client.

So, if I am correct, Dowd either is lying about Trump’s knowledge of the payoff to Daniels and the signing of the Nondisclosure Agreement by Dowd on Trump’s behalf or Dowd acted on Trump’s behalf without disclosing that he was, in effect, investing in Trump’s business (in this case, the business being the presidential campaign) by making the secret payment to Daniels with no expectation of repayment. Trump himself did not sign the NDA, but standing alone, that fact does not prove that he was ignorant of the arrangements. Even if it’s true that Cohen did not expect repayment (he reportedly complained to friends that Trump had stiffed him, but this is not substantiated), the payment still represents an investment that would, if successful in silencing Daniels, help get Trump elected, with longer term rewards to Dowd from his alliance with President Trump.

If there is a middle ground here, I don’t see it. We have two different attorneys acting on behalf of a client they claim was ignorant of their actions on the client’s behalf, in matters of the utmost importance to the client’s future. Perhaps someone more steeped in the nuances of attorney ethics than I can explain how such actions are not ethics violations. And, of course, if Trump did know what was being done on his behalf in either or both cases, then the lying is compounded and becomes further dishonesty and corruption on the part of the president.

Time will tell how all this shakes out. Ms. Daniels is represented by Michael Avenatti who is very measured in his public statements and, by relying on his client to speak about Trump, seems to know what he is about. Her interview with 60 Minutes is scheduled to be broadcast next Sunday and, if it happens, will shed new and dramatic light on the situation. And then there is James Comey’s book which is about to publish. Buckle your seat belts. The ride is about to get wilder.

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.

Don’t Be Fooled by NRA Sweet Talk

If you watched the CNN Town Hall from Florida last night, I want to believe you were all deeply moved by the strength and courage of those young people, just one week after their lives were ripped apart, standing up to powerful people in a public televised forum and not backing down. They pummeled Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Dana Loesch, the spokesperson for the National Rifle Association, with hard questions and were met with the usual double-talk and deflection. I am a bit surprised Loesch didn’t bring up Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Loesch did her level best to portray herself personally as empathetic (“I am a mother too.” etc.) and maybe she is. But she is also paid by the NRA to rep their causes and she did her job in constantly deflecting the conversation back to her one major talking point: it’s all about the “system” and its failure to identify the crazy people who should have no access to any guns ever. Round them up. No problem for the NRA. The same was true, Loesch argued, regarding bump stocks. She implied the NRA was fine with restricting them but failed to mention that they tied their proposal to a “universal open carry” law covering all 50 states. The NRA wants to turn the country into a free-fire zone.

Unfortunately, as I wrote in a previous post [http://bit.ly/2GChj3U], Loesch was supported by the Broward County Sheriff who wants authority to round people up and taken them in for psychiatric evaluations. I understand why the sheriff would think that is a good idea, but in my opinion, it is as bad an idea as allowing the continued sale to and possession of semi-automatic weapons by civilians. I won’t repeat what I said earlier.

Loesch’s message, hammered repeatedly, was all about getting more data and then having authorities act on the data against the people identified as a danger to themselves and others. Right out of 1984. And utterly futile. There are a huge number of cases of murderers, small scale and large, who showed no signs of mental problems, no “red flags,” as Loesch liked to say, before killing. The idea that a society can police the mental state of tens or hundreds of thousands of people going through depression, divorce, job loss and other life disturbances is preposterous on its face.

In that reality, however, is a telling message about the NRA. The digital ink wasn’t dry on the CNN Town Hall when Loesch, speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, had this to say: “

“Many in legacy media love mass shootings. You guys love it,” Dana Loesch said Thursday. “Now I’m not saying that you love the tragedy. But I am saying that you love the ratings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold to you and many in the legacy media in the back (of the room).” [http://cnn.it/2EVLENL]

She then turned her attack into a racial and immigration issue, saying the media didn’t hold town halls for the grieving black mother in Chicago or the “sanctuary cities” where, by inference illegal aliens are massacring black kids every weekend.

These remarks perfectly capture the NRA game – deflection through race baiting.

They also reveal the darker truth about the NRA. It is in reality the group that loves the school massacres. Why? Because each new slaughter provides fresh ammunition for its claim that the problem is not guns but crazy people. So, from the NRA’s agenda perspective, the more dead kids the better. You think that’s harsh? Listen to the NRA president, Wayne LaPierre sometime.

As for the NRA’s reasoning, think about it as a mathematical problem. If one individual armed with an AR-15 and multiple high-capacity magazines can kill or wound, say, 20 people in a fixed amount of time without having to reload, how many people could that person kill if he had to reload after firing, say, three shots? Well, some no doubt, but the possibility of a successful challenge to such a person is obviously greater if he cannot simply stand there and rapid-fire as fast as he can pull the trigger for 30 rounds in a row, pop in a new magazine and continue firing at will. I suggest that this thought experiment is compelling proof that, while incomplete, it is the gun that matters. Take the gun out of the picture and everything about it changes. Nothing the NRA has to say about this can overcome that logic.

That is why the NRA resorts to race-baiting and other fear-mongering, similar to the President’s own approach when seeking and holding office.

Trump now appears to be saying he’s open to some changes in U.S. gun laws, though exactly what changes is very far from clear. He has, for example, proposed increasing the minimum age for owning a rifle. Yawn. Even if perfectly enforced, which is highly unlikely, this will do nothing to stop someone over 21 from buying and using AR-15s to massacre students and teachers.

Trump says maybe we should arm teachers, or some teachers. This is so stupid it defies comprehension. Think about the teachers you had in school. Imagine them armed to the teeth in from the class every day. What impression will that make on young children?

The answer is not to arm teachers, but to disarm those who would harm them and their students. We cannot claim to be a civilized society when we turn our educational institutions into fortified bunkers.

Of course, if history is any guide, and it usually is, Trump will change positions on these issues every day or every hour as it waits for the problem to blow over as it always has in the past. The NRA is not going away, that’s clear. Is Trump who is financially and ideologically aligned with the NRA going to go against it in any meaningful way? Don’t hold your breath. Trump tweeted this earlier today:

What many people don’t understand, or don’t want to understand, is that Wayne [LaPierre], Chris and the folks who work so hard at the @NRA are Great People and Great American Patriots. They love our Country and will do the right thing. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”

Continuing to hew to the NRA line, Trump has also tweeted the following in the past 24 hours:

….If a potential “sicko shooter” knows that a school has a large number of very weapons talented teachers (and others) who will be instantly shooting, the sicko will NEVER attack that school. Cowards won’t go there…problem solved. Must be offensive, defense alone won’t work!

….History shows that a school shooting lasts, on average, 3 minutes. It takes police & first responders approximately 5 to 8 minutes to get to site of crime. Highly trained, gun adept, teachers/coaches would solve the problem instantly, before police arrive. GREAT DETERRENT!

….immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions. Highly trained teachers would also serve as a deterrent to the cowards that do this. Far more assets at much less cost than guards. A “gun free” school is a magnet for bad people. ATTACKS WOULD END!

Our deep thinker President has this all figured out. He sees no problem with calling the shooters “sickos” and simultaneously labelling them “cowards.” Name calling is a classic Trump solution to complex problems. Trump has clarified that he only proposes to arm 20 percent of teachers, the “gun adept teachers with military or special training experience.”

This moron of a president has not apparently thought about the scenario in which swat teams arrive at a chaotic school shooting that they believe is still going on and confront teachers holding weapons. Nor has he considered that some of the “sickos” have no intention of surviving their attacks and thus would not be deterred by fear of meeting armed teachers. Indeed, it is not implausible to believe that the prospect of a gun battle with armed teachers would actually be an attraction for such people.

In any case, while the President is trying to act like an intelligent and empathetic person, the sale of semi-automatic weapons continues apace. See this: http://bit.ly/2F0TBRJ, where 793 semi-automatic weapons are currently for sale.

Back to the CNN Town Hall, pardon me if I am unmoved by Sen. Rubio’s new-found “willingness to reconsider” his positions on guns. Rubio choose his words very carefully as he usually does. “Open to reconsidering” is a far cry from “I am with you — let’s ban semi-automatic weapons.” That phrase rolls of the tongue as smooth as silk, but Rubio couldn’t say it.

At critical moments, Rubio faltered like a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar, especially when pressed to say he would stop taking NRA money. In a fraught phrase, he kept saying “they buy into my agenda, I don’t buy into theirs.” Great choice of words: buy in.

But, it’s not really about taking or not taking NRA’s money. It’s about what the money represents. It’s a political signifier of great importance and his refusal to reject NRA money speaks volumes.

I have a proposal to test Sen. Rubio’s authenticity on this issue:  announce, Senator, that you are going to take all contributions to you from NRA sources and give them to Everytown for Gun Safety or another similar organization. See how long the NRA keeps giving you money in the wake of that announcement. Then we’ll know who is buying what from whom.

The kids and their grieving parents and friends were having none of the Republican blather. They want definitive action now and there is no reason to think they will just wander back to school and carry on life as usual. They are leading a movement now, comparable potentially to the Women’s March. The students were refused access to many state legislators when they visited Tallahassee and it will be interesting to see how they are received on Capitol Hill by the federal legislators who hold the key to getting a nationwide assault-weapons ban in place.

By the way, Senator Rubio placed his name down behind the argument that assault-weapons bans are ineffective because it’s too easy to evade them, citing some stuff about replacing stocks with plastic to escape the definitions. Sen. Nelson claims his legislation solves that problem by naming the precise weapons covered. I’m no expert on this but that seems to invite precisely the type of evasion Rubio was describing.

So, here’s an offer they can’t refuse:  I will personally come to Washington, without asking the NRA or anyone else for a dime, to help those seemingly inept legislators draft an ironclad ban on semi-automatic weapons and high capacity magazines. I do not believe this is a particularly complicated challenge of legislative drafting. I also believe that the failure to do it before was the likely product of NRA lobbying that produced language calculated to be ineffective and full of loopholes. So, there’s my offer. I and a small band of exceptional attorneys I happen to know could fix the drafting problems in a day, two at the most. Standing by for your call.

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.