Do all of us older folks need to die before things get better?

A few days ago, in response to a post that I’d written about the young leaders emerging from the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, there was an interesting exchange between two of our favorite commenters, Jean [the first comment above] and Lynn [the second comment above], about, among other things, the idea that sometimes, for true change to happen, older generations need to either step aside or die off. And, as I’m tired of writing about Trump, I thought that this might be an interesting idea for us to discuss as a group.

While there’s certainly value in the wisdom that comes with age, at what point are we better off just breaking the ties with the past and moving on?

Having just turned 50, I’m not terribly keen on the idea that older people need to die in order for there to be positive change on issues like climate change and guns, but I can see the logic in it. As people become older, at least from what I’ve seen, they tend to become more set in their ways, and less receptive to new ideas. Sure, some folks become more contemplative, and begin thinking more about the big picture, and the world that they’re leaving the next generation, but I suspect, statistically speaking, we’re talking about a very small minority. For the most part, I think, people, by a certain age, feel as though it’s their right, after a lifetime of busting their asses, to just slow down a bit, and enjoy what they’ve built. And I suspect, in times of uncertainty and political turmoil, like we’re living through now, that can’t be easy. I suspect quite a few older people just want all the shit to stop… all the protests, all the talk of rising sea levels, all the kids asking why people of there generation didn’t step up and do something, etc.

If there’s going to be change, it’s likely going to come from the young, as we’re seeing now in the gun control movement. Sure, older people are involved, and groups like Moms Demand Action have been instrumental, but it’s the kids who have the fearless energy and the ability to imagine a different kind of world. Sure, they’ll make mistakes. They always do. But, in the end, they’ll nudge us a little further in the right direction along the moral arc of the universe that Theodore Parker, Martin Luther King and Barack Obama talked about.

As a person who is starting to confront his own mortality a little more seriously, all of this gives me some comfort… I mean, sure, I’d love it if science were to progress to the point where I might get another decade or two with my family, but at some point it’s probably a good thing that we all leave these earthly vehicles of ours behind, and allow others to take up the fight.

Linette’s grandmother, who lived to be 100, once told me that, like a very large tree, she’d eventually have to die, so that the the other smaller trees around her could finally see the sun, and grow to the fullest of their potential. And I’ve always loved that idea. Of course, it runs contrary to every self-preservation impulse that evolution has given us, but I find it really lovely, and I hope that, with age, I’m able to see life the same way… appreciating the fact that I’m not just me, the individual, but part of something bigger, a kind of multi-generational narrative that, in spite of all the bad stuff, is still moving forward in the right direction. I mean, we moved on from slavery, women got the vote, and gay people can get married. Sure, it took over 200 years, and there’s still a lot to be done, but, when you think about the amount of time that humans have been on the earth, it’s just the blink of an eye. And, who knows, maybe in another generation or two, we’ll get money out of politics, guns off the streets, and true equality in our schools.

[note: Before anyone writes in to accuse me of being ageist, I’d like to point out that I now have my AARP card.]

Posted in Mark's Life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 248 Comments

Instead of taking action to stop Russian election interference, the White House is suggesting that it’s a “past problem” that was Obama’s fault

Continuing our conversation about the serious, ongoing threat to our nation posed by Russia and our President’s unwillingness to take meaningful action, I wanted to note two interesting things that happened this afternoon. First, National Security Agency (NSA) Director Mike Rogers today told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that we can expect further cyber attacks from Russia, as “Putin has clearly come to the conclusion there’s little price to pay here.” And, second, White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders seemingly contradicted Rogers this afternoon, refering to Russian election interference as a “past problem.”

[In related news, we also learned the names of the seven U.S. states that had their voter registration rolls hacked into by the Russians prior to our last election this afternoon. They were Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Texas and Wisconsin.]

Here, in case you missed it, is video of NSA Director Rogers telling members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that Putin, having yet to pay a price for his meddling in 2016, will most assuredly continue his cyber warfare efforts against the United States in 2018. It should also be noted that, a little while later in his testimony this afternoon, Rogers would inform the members of the committee that, to date, he has not been granted the authority by either the President of Secretary of Defense to “disrupt Russian cyber threats where they originate”.

And here’s the White House response from Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who, after referring to Russian election interference as a “past problem,” suggested that any blame to be had should not fall on Trump, but on Obama. “Let’s not forget,” Sanders told the White House press corps, “that this happened under Obama. It didn’t happen under President Trump.”

For what it’s worth, our president apparently had bigger, more important things on his mind today than the ongoing threat posed by Russia… Instead of acting on the sanctions passed by Congress, or calling a meeting of his cabinet to discuss the possibility of a comprehensive, coordinated, government-wide response to safeguard our upcoming election, Trump was busy announcing that Brad Parscale would be running his 2020 re-election campaign.

As for why Trump would choose Parscale, who is currently under investigation by Robert Mueller, I suspect it has to do with the very real possibility that Parascale may be the next American citizen named in a federal indictment… As you’ll recall, a little over a week ago, a grand jury indicted 13 Russians for their involvement through the Moscow-based Internet Research Agency to conduct “interference operations targeting the United States” in the run up to the 2016 election, leaving many to think that the next indictments might involve the Americans helping to coordinate their sophisticated social media attacks. And Parscale, who was the head of digital operations for the Trump campaign in 2016, is at the top of the list of those who might get charged, along with those who he worked with at the conservative data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, for telling the Russians where to focus their efforts on American social media in order to swing the election away from Clinton.

With Parascale being the head of the 2020 campaign, Trump, when the indictment comes down, can now yell, “This proves that the FBI is biased against me,” suggesting that they’d charged his campaign manager in order to keep him from winning re-election. [I can already hear him saying, “They’re indicting my campaign manager because they know I’d win reelection in 2020 in a landslide and they don’t want that to happen.”] Plus, it’s just Trump’s modus operandi to keep people close who might have incriminating evidence against him. Most importantly, though, Parscale, who ghost-wrote many of Trump’s tweets during the campaign, knows the game. He fights dirty, and he knows how to both stoke the paranoid fears of the Trump base and shift blame. And, with the end of this novel fast approaching, I suspect he’s exactly the kind of man that Trump would like at his side, helping con the rubes out of their hard-earned campaign donations, while, at the same time, constructing a wall of bullshit and lies to obfuscate the truth and impede the investigation.

Posted in Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Democratic response the Nunes memo proves what a farce the whole thing was and lays the groundwork for an obstruction charge

Remember the so-called Nunes memo, and how it was supposed to expose a deep state conspiracy that, according Sebastian Gorka, the former deputy assistant to Donald Trump, was “100 times bigger” than what caused the American revolution? Do you remember how Trump had it released over the warnings of the intelligence community, who said that it was constructed from cherry-picked data, absent any context, with the intention of giving the false impression that a FISA warrant was granted against Trump advisor Carter Page for strictly political reasons? And do you remember how the Democrats had wanted to respond immediately, but were blocked at the time by members of the Trump administration and their supporters in Congress? Well, the Democratic response to the Nunes memo finally saw the light of day yesterday, and it’s clear to see why Trump and his allies fought so hard to keep that from happening. You can read the whole thing on the website of the House Intelligence Committee, but here’s the first page.

Put simply, the Democratic memo, which was written by Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff, proves, as we knew that it would, that Nunes was was lying when he suggested in his memo that the entire Russia investigation had its roots in a smear campaign orchestrated by Clinton and Obama… As you’ll recall, Nunes, in his memo, made the case that the investigation began when an opposition research report, written by former MI6 officer Christopher Steele, and paid for the Clinton campaign, that had been handed over to Obama’s Justice Department… Well, thanks to the well-sourced and corroborated Democratic memo, we know that was all bullshit. We know that the Russia investigation started well before the Steel dossier was given to the FBI, and for very good reason. And we know that Nunes, by issuing his false and misleading memo at the behest of the administration, has engaged in obstruction of justice… Here, with more detail on the timing of the investigation, is a clip from toay’s Washington Post.

…The investigation into whether Trump’s campaign was aiding Russian interference began July 31, 2016. We’ve known for months that the investigation into interactions between Trump’s campaign team and Russia’s interference effort began in July. The Democratic memo affixes a specific date: July 31, 2016.

That counterintelligence investigation began, both sides agree, after a Trump campaign adviser named George Papadopoulos was told by a Russia-connected contact that the country had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of emails. Papadopoulos conveyed that to a diplomat from Australia during a meeting in London in May 2016. Once the emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee began being released by WikiLeaks and others in June and July, the Australians informed U.S. intelligence officials about what Papadopoulos had said.

This also means that the investigation began four days after Trump publicly asked Russian hackers during a news conference to release emails stolen from Clinton’s private server if they had them.

By September 2016, the FBI had opened investigations into four members of Trump’s campaign team. The Democratic memo says the information compiled by Steele into his infamous “dossier” of 17 raw intelligence reports didn’t get to the FBI’s counterintelligence team until the middle of September. By that point, we can conclude thanks to a sloppy redaction (noted by former intelligence officer Matt Tait) and an unredacted footnote that Page, Papadopoulos, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn, who would go on to be Trump’s national security adviser, were all already under investigation.

While Steele’s research began in June and he reached out to the FBI shortly after beginning it, the Democratic memo argues that it was only after an FBI team was checking into Page that the dossier came to their attention. Why? For one thing, we can assume, Page had visited Russia during July to give a speech. For another, he’d been interviewed by the FBI in 2013 after Russian intelligence agents were observed mentioning him as a potential target for recruitment…

So, no, the whole “Russia thing,” as Trump likes to call it, was not a setup by Obama and Clinton. The investigation began well before the Steele dossier came to light, based on a tip from the Australian government that George Papadopoulos, while drunk at a bar in London, had mentioned that the Russians would soon be releasing hacked Democratic emails. [Plus, as we know now, the FISA warrant against Carter Page was issued by a Republican judge, and renewed on two separate occasions, by other Republican appointees, indicating that FBI surveillance was actually turning up enough solid, actionable evidence to justify the continuation of surveillance.]

Trump, for what it’s worth, is apparently pissed that the Democratic memo was released.

For what it’s worth, the above tweet, sent out this morning by our President, was incorrect. Fox News apparently didn’t say anything of the sort… According to Brian Stelter, the host of CNN’s Reliable Sources, what the Fox News host actually said was, “Congressman Schiff, he ARGUES the REPUBLICAN memo omitted and distorted key facts.” I know it’s a subtle difference, but there is kind of a difference between saying that the Fox News host said “Schiff omitted and distorted key facts” and saying that Schiff argued that the Nunes memo “omitted and distorted key facts.”

I’d like to think that people would be up in arms about this, but, given our history, I’m not expecting much. Fortunately, though, it doesn’t matter what people think. The important thing is that Mueller knows what’s happening, and he can now prove a pattern of obstruction, with Trump not only releasing this deceptive memo intended to convince the American people of bias within the intelligence community, but also authoring that letter for his son, stating falsely that a Russian delegation had come to Trump Tower during the campaign to discuss adoption policy, and not to offer “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, as we’ve since come to learn.

Oh, and one last thing… Former DNC Chairman Howard Dean predicted today that Congressman Devin Nunes will eventually be going to prison for his role in all of this.

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Despite what Marco Rubio and his fellow NRA shills may say, gun bans are both popular and effective

One of the biggest applause lines at last night’s CNN town hall on American gun policy came from Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Attempting to make the case that an assault weapon ban wouldn’t be effective, the Senator said “you would literally have to ban every semi-automatic rifle.” He, of course, thought that members of the audience would recoil at the idea of a broad ban on all semi-automatic rifles, but, to his great surprise, the entire auditorium erupted in applause. Here, if you haven’t seen it, is the video.

After the event, the Senator, who, by the way, is among the Senate’s top 10 beneficiaries of the NRA, said that, just because the line got applause, doesn’t mean that the American people would support a ban on semi-automatic weapons. “Banning all semi-auto weapons may have been popular with the audience at #CNNTownHall,” Rubio said on Twitter, “but it is a position well outside the mainstream.”

[Rubio, as some of you may know, was also instrumental in stopping Obama’s attempt to pass bipartisan universal background check legislation in the wake of the Sandy Hook murders – legislation that had the approval of 90% of Americans at the time.]

The thing is, it may not really be so far outside the mainstream. In fact, according to a 2016 poll conducted by Morning Consult and the New York Times, 63% of Americans said that they would support “banning the sale and ownership of all semi-automatic and automatic firearms” to reduce gun homicides. [62% said they would support a ban if it would reduce mass shootings.] And, just this past Tuesday, Quinnipiac released a poll showing that 67% of Americans, including 53% of gun owners, favored a ban on assault weapons. [Assault weapons, it should be noted, are a subset of the semi-automatic/automatic weapons referenced in the Morning Consult and New York Times poll.]

For those of you who might not recall, we had a ten year ban on so-called assault weapons in this country, beginning in 1994, when Bill Clinton signed the Federal Assault Weapons Ban into law, essentially making the ownership of certain semi-automatic weapons, as well as certain high-capacity ammunition magazines, illegal. While the Republicans, who overturned the ban on the behalf of the NRA in 2004, claimed the ban was ineffective, most researchers of gun violence seem to think that it greatly reduced the incidence of mass shootings. The following excerpt comes by way of the Washington Post.

…Critics of bans on assault weapons, however, say they do little to save lives. The NRA correctly points out that assault weapons are used only in a tiny fraction of gun crimes. The gun rights group also notes that a federally funded study of the previous assault weapons ban, which was in place from 1994 to 2004, concluded that “the ban’s impact on gun violence is likely to be small at best, and perhaps too small for reliable measurement.” Similar points have been made in arguments against a new ban in publications running the ideological gamut from Breitbart to the New York Times to HuffPost.

But the 1994 assault weapons ban was never intended to be a comprehensive fix for “gun violence” writ large. Its purpose, according to gun violence experts and the lawmakers who wrote the bill, was to reduce the frequency and lethality of mass shootings like the ones in Parkland, Sandy Hook and elsewhere. And on that front, the data shows it had a significant impact…

And here’s the evidence of that impact.

The bottom line is that a ban, whether it be for assault weapons, or all semi-automatic/automatic weapons, is popular in the United States, and gun violence experts are in agreement that it’s one of the most effective things that we can do to prevent mass shootings. [From the Washington Post: “Those experts ranked a ban on semiautomatic guns as one of the most effective tools for mitigating gun violence, putting it well above a more narrow assault weapons ban on that measure. And when it came to preventing mass shootings specifically, both the broad ban on semiautomatic guns and the assault weapons ban fared even better, tied for first place with a high-capacity magazine ban and a ban on all sales to violent criminals.”]

Oh, and I almost left out the best part. According to the federal appeals court, a ban on these weapons would be perfectly permissible under the Second Amendment.

But the question is how do we get past a very powerful gun industry lobby that’s churning out propaganda like the following, and paying off politicians like Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who helped make it possible for 18 to 24 year olds, like the young many who kill 17 people last week, to purchase firearms and ammunition in Florida.

[If you’re interested, I’d encourage you to read up on the Australian experience, and how they, after a mass shooting in 1996 that left 35 dead, did the impossible and stopped mass shootings in their country by banning assault weapons and implementing an aggressive buy-back program.]

Posted in Civil Liberties, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 132 Comments

Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t remember Obama having to take a note with him when he met the parents of those who died at Sandy Hook, reminding him to have empathy

Yes, the above photo is real. Those are Donald Trump’s hands holding a note reminding him to be a decent human being. The photo was taken by an Associated Press photographer this afternoon, during his “listening session” with the survivors of last week’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida, and the relatives of the dead. Point number five, in case you can’t read it, is a reminder to the President to say, “I hear you,” when confronted by the tearful pleas of those who were selected to participate. [My guess is that we’re looking at the handwriting of Hope Hicks, but I could be wrong.]

I’d like to think that most people wouldn’t need to take a cheat sheet with them into a meeting with people who had just lost their children, reminding them to show empathy, but, then again, most people don’t suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

While the White House only invited four students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to participate in today’s event, and made sure not to extend invitations to those students who have been actively organizing against the NRA, some of those who attended today’s “listening session” did take Trump to task, like 18 year old Sam Zeif, who demanded to know why Americans can still walk into a gun shop and purchase a “weapon of war” without so much as a background check… Here’s video.

So, as kids in Florida and DC walked out of class today, and descended on the offices of their elected officials in enormous numbers, Donald Trump sat with a small, hand-selected group of people, clutching a cheat sheet intended to help hide his empathy deficit, and talking about how, instead of banning assault weapons, we could arm our teachers.

Here, with more on Trump’s idea about arming teachers, is a little something from CNN.

President Donald Trump, after listening to a series of emotional stories and pleas to enhance school safety at the White House Wednesday, floated the idea of arming teachers and school staff, an idea that was met with support from many of the attendees.

“If you had a teacher who was adept with the firearm, they could end the attack very quickly,” he said, stating that schools could arm up to 20% of their teachers to stop “maniacs” who may try and attack them.

“This would be obviously only for people who were very adept at handling a gun, and it would be, it’s called concealed carry, where a teacher would have a concealed gun on them. They’d go for special training and they would be there and you would no longer have a gun-free zone,” Trump said. “Gun-free zone to a maniac — because they’re all cowards — a gun-free zone is ‘let’s go in and let’s attack because bullets aren’t coming back at us.'”

This is the world we live in now, folks. We no longer inhabit the same world where a tearful President Obama spent hours privately grieving with those who lost loved ones at Sandy Hook, and encouraged legislators to enact common sense gun reforms, like those that have proven successful around the world. We are now living in Hell World, where a leader with neither empathy or vision is seriously suggesting that we ask our elementary school lunch ladies to double as snipers, and our art teachers to carry automatic weapons.

Oh, and, speaking of arming teachers, here’s a nice, little blast from the past, for those of you who still care about things like truth and hypocrisy.

The good news is, these kids aren’t going away. Trump and the NRA can talk all they want about putting more guns in school and training teachers to use deadly force, but these kids who are rising up in protest aren’t going to accept it. And they’re stronger, smarter and more motivated than any gun industry lobbyist. Just look at this photo taken earlier today outside the Capitol in Tallahassee… These kids aren’t just passively accepting Hell World. And they’ll be voting soon.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments


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