Friday, March 9, 2018

Responses to the Parkland Fl School Shooting - The Good, The Bad, and the Just Plain Stupid

Yes, whether we like it or not, the return to the blog can't go forward without addressing the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Fl three weeks and two days ago where Nikolas Cruz managed to carry an AR-15 to school and kill 17 people (14 of his former fellow students [he was expelled the year before] and three teachers) and managed to escape for 45 minutes before being arrested.  While naming him was necessary for this paragraph, he will be referred to as the Parkland shooter for the rest of this post so we can avoid giving him anymore publicity or coverage than we have to.

In the past few weeks there have been a number of reactions from both the surviving students to people who watched this unfold in horror on the news.  As such, there have been a variety of reactions to the horrific tragedy.  Since much of this has been gone over on the news, I will keep this brief and look at the good, the bad, and the truly stupid responses to what went down on Valentines Day 2018 in this Florida town.


The good response is from the survivors of the shooting, who went from being frightened to being hurt over the loss of their classmates to being pissed and wanting action to make sure kids in school don't have to worry about getting (to quote one survivor) "shot in the fucking face."  Their demands for some sort of action on how damn easy it was for the shooter to get a gun has ignited the debate on gun control, in part due to what they went through and part due to the students having a privilege that helps them get their points across to middle America in a way that might not have been available to those who were protesting in Ferguson a few years back would (to name one example).

It's not an easy path. Already these kids are facing a smear campaign on social media that seems to mesh part school bullying mixed in with the anonymous hatred the worldwide waste of time we call the Internet is known for.  Add to that the rumor that these kids were crisis actors and it's apparent that they have a struggle ahead.  However, their apparent refusal to give up and follow the advice of grown ups who seem to act more like middle school kids (have you seen our government these days) is a sign of hope.  Also find it interesting that some of them apparently plan to work with activists and teens in Chicago on the issue of gun violence, thereby taking down one of right's classic arguments on violence in this country (NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch even brought up Chicago in her speech at this year's CPAC conference just one day after a town hall appearance in Florida where she was confronted by one of the shooting survivors).

Yes, these kids have a long road ahead but never doubt adolescent anger as a fuel to push things forward in a society gone mad.


The bad response involves the reaction from those who seem to want to blame the actions of the shooter on everything but the guns and his ability to get them so damn easily.  I'll focus on a few examples here since this can be very far reaching.

The first bad reaction (though the one that appears understandable on the surface) is to blame this on mental illness.  While there are reports of police making numerous calls to the shooter's home over the years (including some reportedly for mental health reasons)  this overlooks that many people have diagnoses of mental illness that don't commit violent crimes (some have suggested that they may be more likely to be victims of violent crime than perpetrate it). While I understand why some people may want to use this as the main reason it is a strawperson that, while it may have some role, is fairly far down on the list.

Then there's the idea that it's the culture's fault.  By this I don't mean a society where semi automatic weapons are plentiful and be purchased with few, if any, restrictions on them.  I'm talking about people blaming violent movies and video games for the shooting.  Some even extend this blame to music and songs.  While I know some parents may be concerned about violent media making them numb to the effects of violence, blaming the culture overlooks the fact that many other countries have many of the same violent movies, music, and video games yet don't have the shootings.  While the shooting happened just after the new print issue was for the most part completed (though before it got printed due to a combination of weather, the paying job,and illness), I plan on tackling why people like to blame culture for shootings and what their true goals may be by blaming something linked to the First Amendment rather then the Second Amendment in issue 154 (hopefully out in April).

The most ignorant response in reaction to the shooting is one I came across in a meme a relative shared on a social netowrking site (I won't name them since they don't need the publicity) that tried to blame lack of discipline from parents for what happened in Florida.  While it mentioned that parents both have to work, it also tried to smear the fact that discipline methods have changed in schools and tried to claim the removal of God from schools led to this.  People who believe this may sincerely think this to be the case they overlook a few things.  One, we don't know how the Parkland shooter was raised.  From news reports we learned he as adopted and lost his dad at a young age and began to unravel last year after his mom died.  However, we don't know exactly how he was raised by them and what happened along the way.  As for the removal of God from schools, parents who want their kids to learn about religion have a place to send them - it's called the place of worship of their choice.  Memes like this appear for several reasons.  First, some people actually believe them.  Also, sharing them online is also a great way to piss people off who disagree with you (I later came across a meme from the same source (though I don't know if it was posted before or after the one mentioned earlier in this paragraph) claiming those offended were "too narcissistic to consider views other than their own."   Either way it overlooks what we don't know about the shooter and tries to pin easy blame on things or beliefs they're against (further continuing the unfrtunate habit in this society that every adult generation likes to believe they're living in the fall of Rome and that the youth of today are at fault somehow) rather than seek actual solutions


The just plain stupid reaction is the response that arming school personnel would guarantee things like this wouldn't happen in the future.  Putting aside the fact that there was an armed officer on school grounds who stayed outside while it was going down (for reasons we don't really know yet), the plan sometimes focuses on arming teachers.  This plan is widely unpopular.  Teachers hate it because they have enough to deal with without trying to make sure they're a good shot.  Students are likely not big fans of this response because of the simple reasons that sometimes teachers have bad days.  Can you imagine a teacher on a bad day with access to a fully loaded weapon?  The mind boggles at what could go wrong there. 

An honorable mention in stupid reactions is the claim that the school shooting happened because God wasn't allowed in school.  As I mentioned earlier those wanting their children to learn about religion can go to the place of worship of their choice for that.  This reaction is stupid for two reasons.  First, if their creator is all powerful and all knowing that how can he/ be stopped at the school door?  Also, it overlooks the church shooting in Texas a couple months back where people were killed while praying.  Nobody would claim God isn't allowed in a church so, while that wasn't a school shooting, it is a mass shooting with a body count - and that's where this line of reasoning falls apart.  While not as stupid as the idea of arming teachers and hoping they don't snap and take out some kids they're trying to teach, it's still pretty ridiculous.


The truth is there are a  number of reasons why this tragedy happened.,  Some have suggested bullying played a role but we'll learn down the road whether that's true or not.  Other have pointed out the shooter's alleged racism and misogyny, factors that lead him to fight and got him expelled a year before (the most extreme thing a public school can do).  While early reports he was actively part of a white supremacist group (in this case, the Republic of Florida) is murky at best, reports that the shooter had carved a swastika in his magazine and had plenty of ammo makes this one of many likely reasons (especially since the school was reportedly 40% Jewish).  Still, since initial reports of tragedies like this tend to be error filled, time will tell as we learn what is true and what is misinformation.

Having said that, we must realize that the good, the bad, and the truly stupid must be looked at and explored in kind.  To do otherwise is shoddy aat best and confirmation bias at worst.

EDITOR'S NOTE: For the time being I have decided to allow comments for this.  However, I am willing to delete racist, mispgynistic, anti LGBTQ, and anti-semetic comments and will shut down commenting altogether if necessary.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Catching Up

Hey!  Sorry for the lack of action on the blog post front.  A combination of being called into work, technical issues, and getting sick delayed things somewhat.  I'm going to try to play catch up in the next few posts.  Bear with us and again, sorry for the delay.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Elections, Taxes and the Years End: The Good, The Bad, and the WTF?

It's been a busy week in a lot of ways.  Sorry for the radio silence but between the paying job, projects, and just trying to survive I'd been distracted from keeping things up to date.  So here's what went down the past week.  The Good, The Bad, and the WTF!

Let's start with the good.  In this case, Roy Moore losing the special election against Doug Jones in Alabama to replace now attorney general Jeffy Sessions.  It's scary that it took allegations of child molestation to show Moore in all his scariness when many of his views (his disregard for the Constitution when it clashed with his interpretation of Christianity, his birtherism towards Barack Obama, believing the country';s best time was during slavery -to name just a few) should've shown him to be unelectable but in a climate like ours it's seen as "fake news" (a term that's a far cry from when Jon Stewart would call the Daily Show that as a way to point out that it was a comedy show , albeit one that dealt with real news and events).  People with even a slight bit of sanity owe African Americans, especially African American women, in Alabama thanks for their turnout - in spite of voter suppression attempts (it must be said that, while sheer numbers overcame that last week, the Repubs will continue to push this shit and try to make it even harder to vote).

The bad is the passage of electoral vote inner Donny's tax reform bill.  Pushed through when most people in either the House or Senate didn't read it, it's clear from what we know that it's going to benefit the one percent at the expense of the rest of us.  While Donny and the Repubs claim this will help the middle class, it's really going to help rich people in Congress more than anyone else - and their donors.  Ironically they keep having to re-vote due to having accidentally took out the decuctions corporations wanted and, today, because it violated three senate rules for bills.  While Donny will gloat that it's a win fo rhim.  It's his only win.

In the WTF - what the hell's up with Donny and his minions claiming the FBI is doing a coup against him via the Mueller probe?  It's ironic that, while the FBI has abused its power in the past (remember COINTELPRO?) the Intercept reports that apparently this probe is by the book.  So why now?  Part of it is cover to get the right wing base riled up and allow cover for Donny to try and fire asst atty General Rod Rosenstein, if not Mueller, to get someone who would shitcan the head of the probe towards Donny and Russia.  Donny thinks he'll be exonerated but as we learn more it appears Russia did play a role in influencing the election (though we should be just as concerned about shit like Operation Crosscheck and other attempts to disenfranchise people). 

Where does that leave us now.  It looks like our tax structure will trickle down from the poor and working people to the one percent.  Meanwhile the AL Atty General is reportedly investigating voter fraud in last week's election (you don't suppose this is an attempt to steal the election for Creeper Judge Roy Boy).  And the holidays are coming up. Meanwhile Doug Jones has said he's looking to reach across the aisle (even though the GOP has no desire for any bipartianship that doesn't include Democrats giving the right everything they want)

One thing is certain.  While 2018 is an election year, that means that the battles we see now will be in the public view as the new year emerges.

Friday, December 1, 2017

In (Custody) Like Flynn.....

Like many of you I got up this morning and went online for whatever reason (for me, it was to make another call to the Senate regarding the BS tax plan the Repubs are forcing down our throats) and got some news that, while it shouldn't be a surprise, did become one nonetheless.

Yep, the rumors from the past week turned out to be true.  Electoral vote winner Donny's former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn turned himself in and is charged in the probe of special prosecutor Robert Mueller.  Flynn is expected to plead guilty to one count of making false statements to federal authorities. Now there was suspicion that something would be up when Flynn's legal team stopped working to the legal team of electoral vote winner Donny about a week or so ago.  While this was floated as a possibility so was a hint that he might have agreed to work with them without charges. 

Now we know a plea deal was made.  As part of the plea Flynn has agreed to cooperate with the ongoing investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 election.  That is a big deal in the probe since, even though Flynn's time working in the White House was brief.  Flynn did play a fairly big role in the election campaign and, ironically, helped lead a chant of "Lock Her Up" towards Donny's opponent in the election, former Sen. Hillary Clinton during the GOP Convention last year.

The irony here is palpable but the fact that Flynn agreed to a plea deal means that there's a lot more underneath the surface.  I've read a suggestion or two that Flynn is doing this to protect his son, Michael Flynn Jr. [who gained attention in the probe over a reported plot to kidnap a Turkish dissident living in Pennsylvania and fly him somewhere to be detained for Turkey]).  However, while there's still a bit to unpack one thing has emerged.  As part of the plea deal Flynn is reportedly willing to testify that he was authorized by the Trump campaign and then candidate Donald Trump (now electoral vote winner Donny) to make contact with the Russians during the 2016 Presidential campaign

Yes, you read that right.  Flynn apparently is now admitting that he was cleared by Donny and his minions to speak with Russia during the campaign.  In addition, ABC News reports that this decision was made within the last 24 hours. It also states that Flynn felt abandoned by his former boss.  Whether this decision was made by expensive legal bills, a (rumored) decision to protect his kin, or actual need to help this country  it does drop a bomb of sorts into the mix.

For now, the usual round of denials and whatboutism from the right will likely be ramped up a bit.  One White House lawyer (TY Cobb) has even referred to Flynn as "a former Obama administration official."  What can't be denied is that Flynn's plea deal is a big deal in this probe since, as attorney and writer Seth Abramson has pointed out on a twitter thread a deal like the one Flynn was given is offered "only when it can incriminate someone "higher up in the food chain" than them.

So who'd be higher up than Flyns that a deal would be offered?.  Well, Atty. General Jeffy Session is at the similar, if not same, level in the hierarchy (at least in terms of national security).  But he's not higher up enough for this (though Jeffy might get caught in the net somehow).  This leaves what Keith Olbermann said in his final political commentary that Nixon counsel turned Watergate whistleblower John Dean told him.  Mueller wouldn't get a deal with Flynn to get Manafort or Don Jr.  Mueller would offer the deal with Michael Flynn "to get Donald Trump."

As I said before this is far from the end of the story.  Flynn's deal with the probe is a big deal given his role in the campaign opens up a door that intensifies a journey that could lead to taking down electoral vote winner Donny, co-electoral vote winner Mikey Pence, or both, 

This is unlikely to happen right away and a lot of things could happen on the road until then (including a possibility that the GOP forces out Donny after getting the tax cuts they want so damn bad).  What this deal does mean is that, while the right wing media and Donny's minions and talking heads say otherwise, that Mueller's probe is far from over.  This also means that, if Mueller is fired in some sort of Saturday night massacre similar to what Nixon pulled (and what ultimately did him in), enough tension would erupt that the blowback would taint Donny enough that, even if he managed to get pardoned, he would be considered toxic to the Americna political landscape. 

For now, Donny has the white nationalists/white supremacists and white conservative christians (i.e.: "evangelicals/fundamentalists/charismatics) on his side.  However, if the snowball rolls far enough and picks up enough to become an avalanche even they may be less willing to stay on the Good Ship Donny as leaks sink it all around them.

Regardless of what goes down it's far from over.  Stay on the lookout.

UPDATE:  Technically Flynn ended up pleading guilty to four false statements (two response he gave regarding the Russians, one on sanctions, and one on Israel.)  While the latter two have some importance on their own, the Russia ones remain the focus of the probe - and the most pertinent as of this time.

Monday, November 27, 2017

November 2017 in a Nutshell - Elections to Electoral Winner's Tweetstorms

Hey!  Sorry for the silence on the blog front.  I've been busy getting the 25th anniversary issue ready and out to the public.  Add to that scheduling at my paying job, car issues, general obligations I have to deal with, and the specter of possible jury duty (lucked out and didn't have to go but still) updating this blog has been a bit far down on my list of things to deal with.  However, it has been on my mind.  Because of that we'll bring up some things that t went down over the past month. So here's November 2017 in a nutshell.

Let's start with the elections, in particular Virginia.  I have to admit I was actually expecting Ed Gillespie (R) to win; not because he was the best guy for the job but due to Repub dirty tricks and a campaign that did everything electoral vote winner Donny did except literally embrace him on camera.  The discovery that he was trounced by the Democratic challenger (Ed Northam) so soundly was a surprise.  Add to this a slate of Democratic victories in the state legislature and it appeared to be a rebuke to how things have gone down in the past year,  This is in addition to the Democrats winning the governor's seat in New Jersey and a number of other election victories after several special elections in blood red districts that saw the Repubs maintain their power as even further right candidates won seats vacated by those who took seats to be amongst Donny's minions.  Whether this recharged and angry electorate remains as we head towards the 2018 midterms is uncertain (and given plans by the Repubs to make it harder and harder for many to vote it looks even scarier out there) but it was a good break from the far right onslaught.

We will be looking at some of the slate of celebrity deaths in the upcoming print issue so all I have to say about this is, in some cases I'm as surprised as you are.  Seems to be bringing one of the sadder trends of 2016 back into the spotlight.

Then there's Roy Moore's scandals.  IN the past month nine women have claimed that the former Alabama chief justice now running for Jeffy Sessions' Senate seat either tried to hit on them when they were under 18 or outright tried to assault them.  Moore's supporters are claiming its a witch hunt, though it's strange that a man who refuses to even debate his opponent (Doug Jones, a former U.S. attorney who prosecuted the two Klansmen who bombed a church in Birmingham, AL killing four girls in 1963) would be so smug about his chances.  Still, he's got the white conservative christian support so who knows how nauseating this will get next month at the polls.

Finally there's electoral vote winner Donny's overseas trip to Asia and his Thanksgiving break to Mar-A-Lago.  At a time when everything from the possible loss of Net Neutrality (which affects everyone, even hardcore supporters of Donny) to the possible fear of nuclear war as Donny gets into a twitter spat with North Korea that makes you wonder if he's possessed by a bullying 11 year old, he chooses to focus on appeasing the religious fanatics and white supremacists that make up his base rather than doing his job.  In his mind it may be a good idea to keep calling CNN 'fake news" or complain about athletes taking a knee to protest police brutality (ironically a compromise move Colin Kaepernick came to after a conversation with a former Green Beret) but there's shit that needs to be done.

This leaves us at the end of the year.  With one month to go, we're now in the holiday season so I expect Donny to boast how we'll as=ll say "merry Christmas" rather than "Happy Holidays" (how the hell is he going to enforce that, much less think there won't be people who normally wouldn't care one way or another say "happy Holidays" as a middle finger to him seems to elude his base).  As 2018 and the midterm elections near this country continues to head down a scary turn it's up to us to keep fighting and make this better for everyone , not just one small group of people. 

And that's November 2017 in a nutshell.

Monday, October 30, 2017

You Three are the first contestants on The Indictments Are Right..

Did anyone else take a step back sometime today, look at the big news story and say to themselves, "Whoa!"  Maybe it's just me.

Obviously I'm talking about the indictment of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his assistant Rick Price and multiple charges of money laundering and conspiracy against the US.  Now, many people thought when news trickled out over the weekend that the first charges would be filed that Manafort would be in the cross hairs.  Some thought it would be related to collusion, some thought it was financial, but he was an easy guess to anyone who paid a slight bit of attention. 

Rick Gates' indictment was only slightly less of a shock.  Given that he worked closely with Manafort, that can be an easily understandable choice upon thinking about it.  However, the big shock was campaign advisor George Papadopoulos.  Papadopoulos surprised everyone on multiple counts.  One, almost nobody knew who he was.  Also, as we found out more it turned out he not only was indicted but plead guilty to charges of lying to the FBI in a plea deal...three weeks ago.  Yes, the Mueller probe not only had a guilty plea from someone but kept it under wraps for three weeks, which is almost a miracle in electoral vote winner Donny's Washington.

Now, Papadopoulos is admittedly a smaller player than Manafort or Michael Flynn or any of the family members (Jared Kushner, Don Jr).  However, it turned out he  brought up the possibility of meetings with a professor with ties to the Kremlin in search of dirt on Hillary Clinton.  This alone is a new hit to the side of the good ship Donny and his allies.

Electoral vote winner Donny and his minions, of course, who tried to downplay this, claiming Papadopoulos an unpaid advisor who didn't have a real role with the campaign.  The problem with that is who else was at the soon to be infamous meeting where he brought up meeting Russia.  It wasn't just small campaign types, but his current attorney general Jeffy Sessions and Donny himself.  Yup, both somehow were there.  This adds fuel to the fire that there just maybe might have kinda sorta been collusion between the campaign/administration of now electoral vote winer Donny and Russia.

Admittedly Papadopoulos is a low level player but his plea deal had him cooperating right under everyone's smug noses.  I have a feeling that pressure will be put on Manafort and Price to flip and turn over information.  Whether that's successful or not remains to be seen since many believe Manafort could just as likely stay silent, get convicted, and then get pardoned by Donny.  However, things are up in the air right now on that front.

There's still a lot to be discovered as the indictment is examined and poured over by everyone from legal experts to your average newshound.  What I do know is that any suggestion that the Mueller probe is over and that nothing will come from it is shattered.  There's still a lot to know and we're a long way from done in this long and twisted journey.

I expect we'll be commenting more ont his and news develops.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

St. Louis, The Protests, and What Should Alarm People regardless of Politics (The Story So Far)

By now, many of you have been exposed somewhat to the footage of protests that have emerged in St. Louis over the past few days following the acquittal of former police officer Jason Stockley in a bench trial last Friday.  If all you know is from the mainstream media, it appears the focus is on damage to property and the emphasis on things turning violent.  However, like many things with the mainstream media, things aren't that simple.

For the purposes of keeping things direct and to the point, we'll focus on things about the past few days.  For those wanting background on what Stockley was on trial for, this blog post gives some insight regarding why some people may be upset .  In addition, this analysis of the court ruling may also provide some insight.

While the media has been focusing on broken windows and vandalism, what I have been hearing from friends in St. Louis is that while there have been some incidents of the violence and damage, the majority of the protests have actually been non violent, if not actually peaceful (I assume that peaceful is being used as a synonym for polite in this instance but I can't be certain).  Other reports I've heard give the appearance that a heavily armed  (militarized) police presence added unnecessary tension to the situation. There are also reports that claims of chemical agents being found on protestors may be apple cider vinegar, which can be used to counteract the effects of tear gas, In the midst of this also comes  reports on social media of street medics being tear gassed (one of the reasons why the ACLU is reportedly filing a lawsuit over police tactics.)

 Then there's reports of undercover cops among the protestors and whether any of them may be stirring things up (conjecture at this point but history shows this has happened in the past so it's possible) to whether or not a cop broke a window of a restaurant in St. Louis (some report it was already broken but video shows there was a breaking sound so things are in the air on this one).  As with any evolving story, there are things that are subject to change so that needs to be taken into account.

Which leaves us to the thing that should piss everyone off, regardless of politics.  I'm talking about the arrest of between 80 to over 100 people around Sunday night/very early Monday morning.  Media reports claim over 80 but I've also heard numbers up to 120 so there's some variance there.  Here the police reportedly used a tactic of telling protesters to disperse but blocking them off so they couldn't disperse (more often referred to as kettling).  While questions actually remain about whether the protestors were actually told to disperse, the technique did arrest a lot of people.  However, whom they picked up once things got settled didn't help matters. 

While there were some protestors that were arrested, there were also a number of people swept up in the arrest kettle who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.  These were people who lived on the block, heard the commotion and went to see what was up, some people merely walking to their cars after dinner, a reported tourist or two, a stagehand in town for the cancelled U-2 concert who left a bar not knowing about the lockdown, undercover cop. 

Yes,. an undercover cop who's job was the infiltrate the protests ended up getting handcuffed and, by some reports, bloodied by the police in these raids.  This leads to an interesting conundrum - don't the police have some sort of signal so they know who the undercover cops are?  You see mentions of that on occasion on crime procedural shows so you'd think a city like St. Louis would have that.  Instead, this brought to light an issue of undercover cops infiltrating protests.  To paraphrase what one friend on facebook who lives in the St Louis area posted after this became news, "If the St. Louis police can't tell undercover cops from protestors, how can the rest of us."

The revelation of an undercover cop being arrested (a fact that was revealed to the SWAT team the next day) also puts into question whether other acts of violence that went down during the protests may have been the work of undercover cops.  One friend of mine in St. Louis noted that the protesters were diverted down a street that led to the home of the city's new mayor (who's home had some damage in the aftermath) when the original intention was to disrupt the Forest Park balloon glow event.  While it remains conjecture to say the cops may be causing the property damage, anyone who knows the history of social justice movements knows of law enforcement infiltration and how, in a number of instances, said infiltrators were the ones pushed for more extreme acts, if not outright violence.  The fact that this question is now open to ask about and debate means a can of worms has been opened that may not have been intended by the powers that be in St. Louis.

Meanwhile protests continue in the St. Louis area and the police continue to act on cue by either overreacting (as in the case of the arrests of protestors at the St. Louis Galleria) opr try to shut down areas now even before protests start (as in Belleville, IL where an activist  bringing up the possibility of a protest fro Black Lives Matter in the town square found the city shutting down the town square beforehand (which, ironically, led the local activists to be able to reportedly protest throughout the city as the police qwere awaiting the worst at the town square).  News of reporters being arrested an assaulted by police have made the police reactions open to criticism in regards to freedom of the press to exercise their First Amendment Rights while city officials are slowly having to criticize how the people they hire to protect and serve have acted towards protestors (ost of whom have, in face, been non violent). 

And that's the story so far.  It may be a smaller story in light of Puerto Rico or the possibility of nuclear war but it still continues and likely won't be going away any time soon.

In light of the controversial nature of the topic we have decided to tentatively allow comments.  However, we reserve the right to moderate and remove extremely hateful and problematic ones and may decide to not allow comments on this post in the future.