May 30, 2018

Wondering on Wednesday (v134)

What are you wondering about tonight?

Maybe you're wondering why president Trump just doesn't fire his Attorney General, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III?  You know, deal with the problem, rather than letting it fester or whatever it is he's doing?  And rather than letting Lame Duck South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy do his dirty work for him?

Or, maybe you're wondering why the president was so happy to tweet Gowdy's comments about Sessions, on the same day that Gowdy said the FBI did exactly what Americans would have wanted them to do  when they got information they got? And that there was no 'spy' and, by extension, no 'gate' either?

You might be wondering why people who are appalled by football players kneeling during the National Anthem can so quickly defend Rosanne for her racist comments, while simultaneously forgetting that they should be appalled that she was even on TV in the first place, given her performance of the anthem? 

Perhaps you're wondering why so many people could have actually thought that Whoopi Goldberg wore a shirt with a picture of the president being shot in the head? Believed, without question, that it must be so because there was a picture of it on social media?

If you're wondering that, are you also wondering how it's possible that so many people believed, without a shadow of a doubt, that a bunch of people at a Trump rally were wearing Make America White Again t-shirts?

Both of these are believable, because we are that polarized, and because what we know has been said is not really all that far removed from what we believe people might have said. And because we know there are people out there in the world who would say these things, or wear these shirts. Heck, some of these folks are family, friends, coworkers -- so why would we even wonder if the pictures are real?

And does that make you wonder if you've ever fallen for any of those Russian bot campaigns on social media?

And, have you wondered which is worse - falling for a Russian bot, or falling for an American politician, comedian, actor, media star -- or an American anything else?

May 28, 2018

Happy (Look at ME!) Memorial Day!

Are you flipping kidding me? "Happy Memorial Day!"

First of all, the exclamation point? Yeah, that's just asinine. Memorial Day is not a day for exclamation points. I mean, do you think somehow that this is "Yippee!  Let's Celebrate Deceased Soldiers Day!" or something? Well, it's not. It's nothing like that at all, even if that's what your Fox and Friends people were talking about this morning.

The approximately 1.3M Americans of every race, color, creed, socio-economic background, education level and strength of patriotism who died in combat defending your right to be a total ass would more likely be appalled than happy about your entirely self-serving remarks above, if they were fortunate enough to be alive.. 

Many - no, I'd guess many more than many - would be shocked, not "very happy." 
  • They'd be shocked at the way you treat Americans, singling them out for special bullying based on their names. 
  • They'd be shocked at the way you treat a hero like John McCain, and at the way you treated a Gold Star family. 
  • They'd be shocked to hear you say there are good people on both sides of a white supremacist rally. 
  • They'd be shocked at the way you treat everything they fought for.
  • They'd be shocked at the way you treat our allies, the people with whom Americans fought,  and died. 
They'd probably be worried about what on earth happened here in America that led to a man like you getting elected. 

And they'd probably wish you had as much class as this guy.

May 27, 2018

Sunday School 5/27/18

I decided to give Chuck Todd and NBC's Meet the Press a visit today - the only classroom I visited on Memorial Day.

You may recall I ignored him last week because they had the non-Democrat from Vermont on the show, so I thought it would be in the spirit of fair play to drop in this week. The main guest today was Lame Duck Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake.

Flake talked a little about North Korea (denuclearization may not happen), and a little more about Chinese company ZTE (Flake is against a deal with them), but mostly about the president.

Todd played a portion of Flake's commencement speech to grads of the Harvard Law School - take a look:
How did we arrive at a moment of such peril - wherein a president of the United States publicly threatens - on Fox & Friends, historians will note - to interfere in the administration of justice, and seems to think that the office confers on him the ability to decide who and what gets investigated, and who and what does not? Obviously, ordering investigations is not a legitimate use of presidential power.
The questions to Flake were whether he believed that president Trump was abusing his power, if Congress would get to the point of doing something, and would that lead to an impeachment proceeding.
Well, let me just compliment the Congress in the last couple of days. The president had this diversion tactic, obviously, with so-called Spygate. I don't think any of us were referring to it in that way. But Congress said no. To have a briefing like the president wanted with just one party was not right. And so, it wasn't just some of the Democrats saying that was not proper, a lot of Republicans were saying that as well. So I, i saw the kind of pushback that we need to have. But it needs to happen more often. When the president says things that are totally wrong, it's the responsibility of members of Congress, particularly those in the president's party, to stand up and say "That is not right. Truth is not relative. And there are no alternative facts here. And I have seen instances where we haven't done that well. And we've got to to it better.
Flake also expressed some feeling behind the scenes that Trump might be "laying the groundwork  to move on" Robert Mueller or perhaps Rod Rosenstein, but that there was hesitance on some people's part to address his actions publicly. When asked where the hesitance might come from, Flake's answer was not really all that surprising.
This the president's party. And if you're running in a primary right now, and you stand up to the president, to stand up in some cases for empirical truth, then you have a -- you have trouble in the primaries. And that's no doubt. So i, I I do think that, you know, as we get through the primary season - perhaps, then many of my colleagues will find a voice. But right now, it's difficulty politically.
I don't know about you, but I think the commencement address, the comments on the Rs not pushing back hard enough on the president's lies, and that until the primaries are over, there shouldn't be any high expectations re: the Republicans are all spot on.

There was one last question; Todd wanted to know if Flake had completely ruled out running for president.
It's not in my plans. But I've not ruled anything out. I do hope that somebody runs on the Republican side other than the president, if nothing else, simply to remind Republicans what conservatism is. And what Republicans have traditionally stood for.
I'm going to leave it there. See you around campus.

May 24, 2018

Trump in Transition (v29)

I don't think people should be staying in locker rooms 
but I still think it's good, 
you have to stand proudly for the national anthem.
 Or you shouldn't be playing, you shouldn't be there

What the everloving hell is that? Maybe you shouldn't be in the country if you don't want to "stand proudly" for the national anthem?  

If that's the case, probably at least 10% of the people at every NFL game shouldn't be in the country, because they're already bombed by the time the anthem starts, and unable to execute any kind of stand, much less a respectful one. 

If that's the case, 99% of the people who watch NFL games in bars shouldn't be in the country, because you and I both know that they are not standing respectfully - or at all - during the national anthem.

The people who ignore the national anthem while watching games at home, racing to the bathroom before the game starts, yelling for more wings and beer? Yeah, they too don't belong in the country.

If that's the case, probably 75% of the people working at any stadium -- ticket takers, food vendors, housekeeping staff and the like, probably should be in the country - because they're not stopping doing their jobs during the national anthem. 

And let's define proudly, shall we?  Does that preclude gum chewing? Hacking and spitting? Scratching? Talking? Nervous footwork? Shoulder-pad slamming?  Hopping up and down in the cold? Those folks don't belong in the country, either, I wouldn't think. 

Rich white guys hanging around the 19th hole - do you think they take of their little golf caps and stand at attention?  Let's get them out of here, too -- no white privilege for them, no sirree.

And don't even get me started on anthem singers.

So, let's recap. Protesting, talking, eating, making money, being in the loo, flirting in a bar, yelling at your kids in your man cave, chewing gum, trying to stay warm, pouring beer, cleaning urinals, emptying trash, rich white country club guys-- all of those people don't belong in the country.


What the president failed to mention was, do we have to leave for good? Or do we only leave on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays? Or is it only when when our favorite team is playing? 

What the everloving hell is that?

The Update Desk: Random Thoughts

Earlier this week, I posted some Random Thoughts on how we convolute logic when it comes to who (or what) gets blamed when things go wrong. The solution I proposed was extreme, to say the least, but it seemed to make sense in context..

The driver of the random thoughts was the most recent school shooting, the one at Santa Fe High School in Texas, and the reactions from both sides on a 'solution' to the problem. I realized, as I wandered through my most recent Sunday School post, that generally when we have a choice between blaming people or blaming inanimate objects, our logic is based on how much we like or dislike the inanimate object.

You know, guns don't kill people, people do. Plastic bags don't pollute, people do. In those examples, we like the inanimate object, its usefulness, its convenience, its  je ne sais quoi  - and so we'll blame the people.

In other examples in the post, such as solar panels or 'smart' assistants  and 'smart' appliances, we are more apt to blame the objects than we are to blame the people who use them. I could have included Facebook as another inanimate object we're more than happy to blame, rather than blaming the people who don't understand how (or refuse) to take control of their own privacy settings. Where we are to blame, it seems, we blame the object.

Yesterday, another example reared its ugly head, one that confirms the logic: seat belts on school buses.

As you probably heard, there was a horrible, tragic accident in New Jersey last week involving a school bus and a dump truck; a ten-year-old child and a 51-year-old teacher were killed, and it's simply heartbreaking, as it is anytime anyone loses a child or any family member under such totally random circumstances.

This is not the first tragic school bus accident, and it will likely not be the last - we know that. As the investigation into the recent crash continues, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released some recommendations stemming from their investigation of two previous accidents.
The investigative panel issued the recommendations at a Washington hearing during which staff presented the findings of their probes of two school bus crashes that occurred in 2016, killing 12 and injuring 37. One was in Baltimore and the other in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The NTSB's recommendations certainly won't prevent accidents like the one that happened last week. And we're learning more about the bus driver, as noted below:
The bus driver, Hudy Muldrow, 77, of Paterson, has had his license suspended 14 times since he began driving in 1975, said Mairin Bellack, a (NJ Motor Vehicle) Commission spokeswoman. Muldrow has eight speeding tickets on his record, as well as one careless driving ticket and a summons for unsafe operation of a motor vehicle, from 2003 Bellack said. 
Six license suspensions were due to unpaid parking tickets, including Muldrow's most recent which lasted from December 20, 2017 to January 3, 2018. The state also once suspended his license for administrative reasons, Bellack said.
So, did the NTSB recommend that people who have sketchy driving records over a forty year period not be allowed to drive school buses? That 77-year-olds shouldn't be driving school buses? Nope - instead of addressing their recommendations to the person, they addressed the inanimate object.
  • all new school buses in the US should be equipped with lap and shoulder belts
  • automatic emergency braking systems should be mandated, to help prevent or mitigate frontal collisions if the driver doesn't apply the brakes.
  • NY, FL, LA, and NY should upgrade their requirements to lap and shoulder belts from the current lap belt requirement.
Now, these are just recommendations, meaning that absent legislation at the local, state or federal level, school districts are going to have to decide whether to follow the recommendations when they put new bus proposals up for discussion. And, district voters or school boards will have to decide whether they're willing to pay the extra $10,000 per bus cost, or if they're willing to play the odds.

After all, from 2007 - 2016, only 58 school-age occupants of buses and other 'school transportation vehicles' were killed - so the odds are pretty good that it's not going to happen to anyone from their school, right?

Yeah. Just like another school shooting isn't going to happen.

May 23, 2018

Wondering on Wednesday (v133)

Whoa Nellie, as the late sportscaster Keith Jackson used to say -- there's a lot of wondering going on here tonight!

I wonder what, exactly, Jared Kushner did to get his full and permanent security clearance?  Did he:
  • stop filing amendments to his financial statements? 
  • Stop remembering meetings and discussions and how much money he made and squirreled away under which mattresses? 
  • Stop seeking financial help from foreign governments to bail out his troubled real estate company? 
  • Promise to take the fall for his father-in-law should the need arise? 
I'm sure there's no correlation between his lengthy interview with the Special Counsel's office and his getting the security clearance. I mean, that would be some kind of crazy conspiratorial dark red state infowar-ish false flag kind of thing, and we all know that's just crazy talk. Right? That's just crazy talk?

And I wonder what exactly is the cause of the falling attendance and falling ratings for NASCAR and why isn't anyone on talking about it? Well, let me rephrase that -- no one other than the fake news is talking about it. But the truth seems to be that attendance is down, ratings are down, and the family business that is NASCAR might be put up for sale.  Now, I'm literally 0% interested in car racing, but when racetracks go so far as to remove tens of thousands of seats to improve their attendance numbers, or to make it look better on TV, we're in the bigly manipulation game, don't you think?

Now, you may be wondering why NASCAR attendance matters to a person like me; let me explain.  You all remember the NFL 'anthem protests' and how the Interferer in Chief thought that anyone who protested should be fired, and how he encouraged everyone to boycott, and how ratings and attendance were down? And how everyone said, boy, those NASCAR fans sure as shootin' would NEVER stand for anyone not standing for the flag...

Well, the truth is, NASCAR attendance is dropping, NFL attendance is dropping, MLB attendance is down, all at the same time. So, it kind of begs the question, were the anthem protests and the resulting bluster from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue the cause of the drop off, as the president likes to claim, or is there a general trend here that maybe he's not wanting to tweet about?

Speaking of the NFL, the owners and the commissioner did their darnedest to come up with a plan that would please? appease? the president and get him to stop yelling at them.  The plan? Any player who is on the field at the time the national anthem is played must stand and be respectful. Players are not required to be on the field during the anthem, but if they are, they must toe the line (while assuming a respectful position of course). Now, don't go yelling at me: I love my country, I know the words to the national anthem, and I stand -- I've pointed all of that out before, and it is still true today.

I wonder, though, what they'll blame for this year's attendance? Or, will the rules changes made in the offseason  (a hit is just a hit, a catch is but a catch...) be enough to get fans back? And what, I wonder, will all the fans who became experts on the NFL's rule book and operations manual do with all their free time going forward?

A couple quick notes: the NFL has been in existence since the 1920's. I think it's safe to say that the world did not come to an end in years between the start of the league and the start of players on the field for the anthem, which began in 2009. And similarly, if unrelated, the world didn't come to an end in all the years between the adoption of the Second Amendment and the Heller decision in 2008 - but I digress.

And now to the last wonderings of the night. Wondering so painful, I must say, that my head Joe Biden Literally exploded (which means, of course, that my head is still intact, and attached). Wondering so exhausting, I'm -- well, I'm exhausted. And sick. And sick tired of this stuff.

How, I wonder - how can it be possible that a person who is parked across two handicapped spaces in an empty drug store parking lot at 2AM ends up Tased, screamed at, put on the ground, arrested for being physically aggressive, scratched and bruised by four police officers and two police sergeants? In 2018? In an American city?

Well, it happens, you and I both know, because the guy who chose to park badly is black. He's black, he's young, he's wearing a chain, and did I mention he's black? It's ridiculous. It's embarrassing. It's shameful.

And so I have to ask, does anyone really wonder why athletes protest during the national anthem?

May 21, 2018

Quick Takes (v24): The Erosion of Science

Quick Takes
We had another rocket science moment in Congress recently - there should be as little surprise about that as there was about another school shooting, right?

Republican Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama tutored a scientist from the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) about rising oceans.

The gentleman from Alabama wanted to know, at a meeting of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology (which, under the current state of things, is kind of a science denying committee),  if there were things other than climate change, which is melting ice, causing the oceans to rise.
What about erosion! Every single year that we're on Earth, you have huge tons of silt deposited by the Mississippi River, by the Amazon river, by the Nile, by every major river system - and for that matter, creek, all the way down to the smallest systems. And every time you have that soil or rock whatever it is that is deposited into the seas, that forces the sea levels to rise. Because now you've got less space in those oceans because the bottom is moving up.
What about the White Cliffs of Dover? California, where you have the waves crashing against the shorelines and time and time again you have the cliffs crashing into the sea. All of that displaces the water which causes it to rise, correct?
Um, well, from a scientific perspective, that's ridiculous. Philip Duffy, president of WHRC, noted.
I'm pretty sure that on human time scales, those are minuscule effects.
In fact, according to folks who did the math using long-accepted theories on measuring the displacement of water, it would require the top five inches of the 9.1 million squares miles of the US land mass  - about 6.6 quadrillion pounds worth - to be dropped into the ocean to create the same change in all of the world's oceans as we currently see.

Not just one time dropping that 6.6Q pounds of dirt, and rocks, and and asphalt, of plastic bags and Styrofoam cups and disposable diapers and cat litter and manure and tires and cans and bottles and whatever else we have in the first five inches of the earth -- all of that, every year - to equal what we're seeing in ocean level rise. All of that and more, actually, since the level of ocean rise is increasing each year.

There was a scathing editorial on, which said, in part, about the rocks falling into the ocean comment,
It would have been comical if it had come from a middle school science fair, but it didn't. It came from a guy on a committee making decisions for the most powerful country on earth about the future of the planet. 
In his response, Brooks used additional logic about increasing ice in one part of the earth but not mentioning decreasing ice somewhere else, logic that one person described along the lines of figuring out how much money you have in the bank by only counting deposits and not withdrawals.

About that particular bit of logic Politifacts waves a 'mostly false' flag.

May 20, 2018

Sunday School 5/20/18

Not surprisingly, they were talking guns in the classrooms this morning. Oh sure, there was other stuff too, but for the most part everyone but Meet The Press focused on this issue, in the aftermath of the shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas. Here's how the conversations went. 

On CNN's State of the Union, Jake Tapper had a conversation with Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who mentioned that while all of Texas was hurting, they were going to be OK. He spoke of laws addressing culpability in a crime if a person's gun was used in a crime, even if not used by the owner.
But, without question, Jake, several things need to happen. One, we have to start at home. Gun ownership -- and I'm a proud gun owner - that comes with responsibility of gun control in your home. Be sure that your kids and grandkids or anyone who might have access to your home cannot get your guns.
Tapper wondered if that should be the law that a person has to lock up their guns. It seemed a simple question: should it be the law in Texas that guns had to be locked up?
In Texas, again, we hold you very responsible if you are a gun owner. For example, I'm a concealed carry, as are almost one million Texans. If I use my gun to stop a crime or to defend myself, and a stray bullet - if I fire a bullet that goes astray and strikes someone else, I can be held not only civilly, but criminally liable...
He explained that law in more detail, leading Tapper to ask again about a law requiring safe storage in Texas.
Jake, Jake, I didn't come on with you to go through the entire penal code of the federal government or the state.
Wouldn't you have thought that the Lt. Governor would know what the current laws were in his own state?  He talked about armed teachers; he did know that in the state of Texas, teachers can be armed. I got the sense he thought we needed more of them to take on this added responsibility.

Another solution? Fewer doors - keep the fire exits, but only one or two entry doors.
So, I am proposing that our new school designs are built that way, and we retrofit our schools. The average age of schools in Texas -- in America, Jake, are 44 years old. Schools weren't designed and built 40, 50 years ago to deal with today's issues.
Patrick also was a guest on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos. This time, he brought in another cause of the problem.
George, should we be surprised in this nation? We have devalued life, whether it's through abortion, whether it's the breakup of families, through violent movies and particularly violent video games which now outsell movies and music. Psychologists and psychiatrists will tell you that students are desensitized to violence, may have lost empathy for their victims by watching hours and hours of violent video games. 97% of teenagers, according to psychiatrists and psychologists watch video games, 85% of those are violent games...Are we desensitized, are these children, are these teenagers?
Stephanopoulos noticed Patrick had not mentioned guns as being part of the issue, and pointed out that some believe too many guns, not too many doors on schools, is a problem.
...It's not any one issue. But we, again, we have to look at our culture of violence, just our violent society, our Facebook, our Twitter, the bullying of adults on adults and children on children. We have to look at ourselves, George - it's not about the guns, it's about us.
He showed more familiarity with Texas gun laws this time, noting that it's against the law to let a loaded gun get into the hands of a child, but focused again on the part about allowing teachers to carry. Stephanopoulos offered up a question.
GS: ...we also have violent video games in other developed countries. We have Twitter and Facebook in other developed countries, so how do you explain another stunning statistic? Americans of high school age are 82 times more likely to die of gun homicide than their peers in the rest of the developed world. That has to be connected to the availability of guns, doesn't it?
DP: No, it doesn't have to be, George, and I can't compare one country with another country because there are many variables in all these countries. Here's what I know: we live in a violent country where we've devalued life. 
Echoing his visit on CNN, Patrick talked about gun control starting at home, needing the best background checks, about being sensible.
But remember, we cannot sit back and say it's the gun. It's us as a nation, George. On this Sunday morning when we all go to church and pray or go to the synagogue or the mosque or wherever we go, let's look inward at our self as a nation.
On it went, the well regulated militia including teachers, the good guy with a gun thing, taking guns out of society will not make us safer, it will make it easier for the evil people... and then, after talking about funerals he and the governor had attended, there was resolve.
And no one, George, no one with a gun is going to walk into a school or anywhere else and bring our state to our knees. 
For counterpoint, Stephanopoulos had Fred Guttenberg, who lost his daughter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Nicole Hockley, founder of Sandy Hook Promise, follow the Lt. Governor. They had some good discussion, including an 'all of the above' solution. But before that, George asked Guttenberg for his comments on the interview with Lt. Governor Patrick.
I think those are the most idiotic comments I've ever heard regarding gun safety. Let me be clear, he should be removed from office for his failure to want to protect the citizens of Texas.
He also pointed out that, at the NRA convention (where he protested), the hot new item was a foldable gun that looks like a cell phone. And how that was very far removed from what the framers must have contemplated. I'm sure Guttenberg's right on that point. 

Face the Nation, on CBS, invited Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, who echoed the comments about criminal liability for gun owners who don't keep adequate control over their weapons, at the same time as he lamented 'inaction' on the part of elected officials.
And I think the American people, gun owners, the vast majority of which are pragmatic and actually support gun sense and gun reform in terms of keeping guns in the right hands - we need to start using the ballot box and ballot initiatives to take the matters out of the hands of people that are doing nothing, that are elected, into the hands of the people, to see that the will of the people in this country is actually carried out.
I think that's a good place to end things today; I know it's a lot to chew on.

If you're interested, you can check out the unimpressive visit by new NRA president Ollie North on Fox News Sunday; Mark Kelly also dropped by.

See you around campus.

Random Thoughts: The Time is Now

Random thoughts, sitting on the porch listening to a gentle rain falling, watching the dust wash away from the garden, smiling at reflections in the puddles on the street (until a car comes through and ripples the heck out of everything):

We had another school shooting a couple of days ago. Ho hum, right? We sent out compassion, our "we're with you forever" messages right on schedule. And while our "thoughts and prayers" are floating over a small Texas town, just like they've floated over a small Florida town, a small Connecticut town, a small Colorado town, a small Pennsylvania Amish town, and more, our real thoughts and prayers focus on what to do about it, or what not to do about it.

Because guns don't kill people, people kill people. Guns don't bully people, people bully people. And guns don't wear black trench coats in the heat of a spring Texas day, people wear trench coats in the heat of a spring Texas day. Guns don't get overly upset when someone shuns their advances, people do...  You know the drill.

Similar vein, different subject: plastic bags.

There's a movement to ban the plastic bags we get when we pick up groceries, or clothes, or plant food or convenience items, or prescriptions - they're ubiquitous, the darn things. (And without them, we'd not have a convenient way to get our cat litter into the trash - unless of course we start leaving it on the yards of people who don't pick up after their dogs on our yard, maybe?)

The big blue states of California (which saw a 72% drop in plastic bag waste on a cleanup day the year after the bill was passed) and New York, where the governor is being forced to the left by an actress, are in the thick of it.

Retailers say it's unnecessary, expensive, paper bags aren't viable replacements, yadda yadda yadda...
And this morning on a news report, I heard the ultimate shutdown of these attempts at protecting the environment: plastic bags don't cause pollution, people do.

Another story I heard talked about a requirement, also in California, that soon new home construction will have to include solar panels.  Locally, builders are not excited about that, concerned that the added costs of installing the panels could price people out of the new home market.

So, builders don't price people out of the market, solar panels do?  That doesn't make any sense: solar panels, which are inanimate objects, cannot price anyone out of the housing market, that would have to be the builders, right?

I'm sure I could find many more examples of this stuff, where no 'things' are bad, only people are bad.
Except - -think about it:
  • autonomous cars, where there's a driver who fails to take control of the car and allows it to crash? We don't blame the person, we still blame the car...
  • technological assistants that spy on us, track us, all that stuff:  we don't blame the person who bought the darn things, we blame the devices... 
  • failing airbags? They're supposed to protect us if we get into a crash, but we don't blame the driver who has the accident...
  • costs of prescriptions, costs of  air ambulance trips, other health care costs? Blame the companies who make the items, operate the items, sell the insurance, but not the people who are getting sick...
So, then, what is the logic?  Are we supposed to blame the thing when it costs people money, but we blame the people when it takes the lives of others?  Well, no, that's inconsistent - because guns. 

Do we blame the thing when it harms people in some way, outside their control? That works on air ambulance and health care stuff, but it doesn't work on guns when children get shot in schools, people get shot in churches, and movie theaters or medical offices or on Army bases or college campuses or in Walmart parking lots... 

Do we blame people when they're stupid, such as with pollution?  Well, that doesn't work either - because isn't a person who blindly trusts an electronic spy in their homes and then is shocked when something goes wrong also stupid? Or when the autonomous car fails to do what it's supposed to, and so does the person?

I think it's clear. No matter what, there's a person behind everything that's either good, bad or indifferent. And the stuff that we think is good or indifferent can turn out to be bad when put in the hands of the wrong person. And of course, something that can be bad, if used differently, can turn into something good.

But that relies on people to identify the options, understand the implications, and make good decisions, with the best of intentions. And we've seen how that goes, right?

I think we have to protect ourselves from all of those people, and there's really only one solution.

We're stuck with the people we have, kind of like we're stuck with school shootings and environmental issues and science deniers and sexual harassers and religious zealots of any faith who can not just Joe Biden literally but actually literally justify anything and everything by finding a verse in their religious book of choice, and terrorists of any stripe and unethical politicians and and and...

So we have to ban more people.

And we have to start right now. 

May 18, 2018

TGIF? Not Tonight

I had ideas for tonight's TGIF post -- thoughts I had scribbled yesterday, last night, this morning. And then, of course, the news came of yet another mass shooting, more people murdered at a school, by  someone known to those who died, or at least known to the school community.

The shooter is alive, his supposed dreams of shooting up the school and then committing suicide, dashed. Whether it was a lack of courage, or strong convincing by law enforcement or pure luck, he's alive, and ten others are dead.

And we add another name to the list, we add the name Santa Fe High School to the list, just above or just below the name Marjory Stoneman Douglas, depending on how you track these horrific incidents - chronological order? Most recent to longest ago? Updating the list, again, already, less than 100 days after the last name was added. 

I'm not going to argue guns, or mental health, or how many doors a school should have, or whether a law enforcement officer doing his or her job is a hero, or whether a bully made him do it.

I'm not going to worry about whether he wore a trench coat when it was 90 degrees out, or whether he really thought he was Born to Kill like the t-shirt he posted on social media.

Do we want to understand why people do this? Sure, I guess. Maybe the insight will be helpful.

Do we want to know if anyone missed any red flags? Sure, I guess. Maybe it will make people feel better to blame someone for not stopping it, like they blamed everyone and their brother for not finding the shooter, for not reading the signs, for not entering the building, for for for whatever was or wasn't done in Parkland to prevent that one from happening.

Do we want to know how he got hold of the guns, his father's legally purchased guns?  Sure, I guess that would be helpful too, and maybe we'd learn something about... something (treading lightly here, about parents and kids and stuff).

Do we want to know what it feels like to be a student or teacher or school employee at Santa Fe, or to be the parent of one of the above? No, not really - not that I'm unfeeling or uncaring, but that the last thing I want for them is the media in their face, in their anguish, in their sorrow, in the grief, and yes, in their quiet joy if they are among the fortunate ones, loved ones still whole, still hugs to give and get, still I love yous to be spoken, to be heard.
We grieve for the terrible loss of life, and send our support and love to everyone affected by this horrible attack in Texas. To the students, families and personnel at Santa Fe High School - we are with you in this tragic hour, and we will be with you forever.
Four hours later the Griever in Chief had moved on to America being a nation of redemption and believing in second chances and that the best is yet to come (ironic for this town, this school, these families), and then to Making the United Nations Great Again (I kid you not), yet another insult to our friends, allies, the world - but then it was California's governor and 250 years of clean coal and energy dominance and we are officially -  just like that - very far removed from grieving or thoughts and prayers. The flags are at half staff already.  Did that, moving on.

Forever seems like such a short time, doesn't it?

May 16, 2018

A Good Guy With Bare Hands Gets A Phone Call


The president, so quick to tweet 'recognition' to terrorists, law enforcement officers, good guys with guns, bad guys, and assorted other notables, FINALLY made a courtesy call to James Shaw Jr. on Monday.

Shaw, in case you don't remember, was the guy who grabbed the AR-15 Travis Reinking used to kill four people and injure others at a restaurant. Last month. You know, in April.

We learned about the phone call not from one of the president's tweets, but rather from Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah, at Monday's daily press briefing.
This morning, the President had a call with James Shaw Jr. to commend his heroic actions and quick thinking last month at a Waffle House in Tennessee. Mr. Shaw saved lives when he wrestled a gun from an active shooter who had opened fire. 
I find it interesting how the president has plenty of time to tweet about himself, but so little time to tweet about a regular American doing remarkable things for others. A paid law enforcement officer responding to a call is a 'hero' for doing their job, but a guy like Shaw? No comment, for days which turned into weeks.

For example, the day the president went off to Dallas for his campaign rally at the NRA meeting, he was able to tweet as soon as he made it back to the White House.

Or, how he did find time to tweet about himself and #winning - because talking about a favorable article is better than thanking someone else for their courage and for saving lives of other regular Americans. 

I guess this being president of all Americans stuff is hard...

At any time since the shooting back on April 22nd, the president could have acknowledged and sent sympathies to the families of the victims, but he didn't.  At any time since the shooting, Shaw could have been recognized for visiting the other victims of the shooting in the hospital, or for starting a GoFundMe page to raise money to help pay their bills, in addition to being a "quick thinker." 

He could have been recognized for his incredible honesty, too, at any point over the past few weeks. For saying things like this:
It feels selfish (the recognition). I was just trying to get myself out. I saw the opportunity and pretty much took it.
I chose to react because I didn't want to die. I just wanted to live. I didn't really fight that man to save everyone else. That might not be a popular thing to say. 
Or this:
There's four families that are grieving right now. So much life was lost for no reason. I feel like it could be very selfish of me if I didn't point it out. And I apologize.
I get the sense that Shaw was not holding his breath waiting for the president to call, and that's OK too. The fact that he did have to wait this long is a darn shame.

We all (including the president) could learn something from Mr. Shaw, about humility, and kindness, and honesty, and what it means to be a good guy - even if all you have to defend yourself, and others, is your bare hands.

May 15, 2018

About the New US Embassy

Random thoughts on the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem:

The president's daughter and son-in-law officially represented the United States, with Jared Kushner giving a long speech (one that, like many delivered around this time of year, had at least three or four endings) and Ivanka Trump 'helping' Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin pull the tarp off the dedication plaque. Here's a photo, in case you hadn't seen one (from JTA).

Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90

Noteworthy in the picture? The size of Trump's hands name, equal in significance to the name of the country to whom the embassy belongs. Noteworthy in Kushner's speech? The fact that he either ad-libbed or the White House edited the press copy of the speech to leave out the part about Palestinian protesters being part of the problem. I lean more towards the WH editing it (more on that in another post).

The embassy that was dedicated yesterday is in part of the US Consulate General; a permanent site will be chosen and then the real embassy will be built, so while the US Ambassador will be there part time (the rest of his time at the old embassy in Tel Aviv) and a few dozen staffers will also be assigned there, it's not really going to be a typical US embassy.

While the dedication was going on, nearly 60 protesters were killed and over 1300 were injured in Gaza. Pictures of protesters burning tires and hurling rocks towards the Israeli border fence were contrasted with video of people being tear gassed, and shot, by the Israeli soldiers. I can literally only imagine the sentiments on both sides, but the disproportion in weaponry seemed clear in what I saw on television.  (Reports today are that pipe bombs were thrown towards the fence, and that some of those injured or killed were Hamas terrorists, not 'just' protesters).  But still...

In the aftermath of the dedication, and the protests, these headlines were reported, again in JTA:
  • NY Governor Andrew Cuomo postpones solidarity trip to Israel
  • Turkey expels Israeli ambassador over Gaza violence
  • Palestinian protests as Gaza border delayed as funerals take place for at least 58 dead
  • Reform leader 'alarmed, concerned and profoundly saddened' by Gaza deaths
  • Turkey recalls ambassadors to US and Israel amid Gaza Violence 
Meanwhile, the US blamed Hamas for the violence and resulting injuries and deaths; the United Nations held a moment of silence

Ireland and Belgium summoned Israeli envoys, while Germany, while Germany joined those two countries in calling for an investigation; even China called for restraint.

And finally, back to who was representing the US - and us - at the ceremony, we have this:
A Dallas evangelical pastor who once said that Jewish people are going to hell and a mega church televangelist who claimed Hitler was part of God's plan to return Jews to Israel both played prominent roles on Monday in the opening ceremony of the new American Embassy in Jerusalem.
Robert Jeffress, who spoke at President Trump's private inaugural prayer service and is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, delivered a prayer at the opening ceremony on Monday, while the Rev. John C. Hagee, a televangelist who founded Christians United for Israel and leads a San Antonio mega church, gave the closing benediction. 
Comically, the White House expressed a lack of knowledge of how Jeffress and Hagee were chosen. Here's an exchange between Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah and an unidentified reporter:
Q: Thank you, Raj. I wanted to ask you about the embassy opening today. The person who delivered the invocation, Robert Jeffress, he's made some statements in the past that he believes Muslims are going to hell, Jews are going to hell, Hindus are going to hell. Do you think that, considering especially his remarks about Jews, that he's one of the right people to speak at the opening of our embassy in Israel? And can you give us a little more information on how that came to be?
A.  Well, I honestly don't know how that came to be. And I know that Pastor Jeffress has had a strong relationship with many people in the faith community, as well as folks in the administration, and Republicans on the Hill, and others, and I believe Democrats as well. So I think that he has a longstanding involvement with public officials. You know, beyond that, I don't really have a whole lot to add.
To make things worse, another reporter noted that Jared & Ivanka met with a controversial rabbi.
Q. Separate from that, on Sunday Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump met with Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, the Chief Sephardic rabbi in Israel. And he once compared black people to monkeys. So I'm wondering, in all three of these instances can you tell us anything about how these people were brought into the ceremonies? And do you think it's regrettable that people with these views were involved with the American government?
A.  I don't have any readout on how they became involved with these events. All I'll say is that those specific views that you outlined, if they're accurate reflections of what was said, wouldn't be embraced by this White House. Beyond that, I don't have anything else. 
Nor do I.

May 13, 2018

Sunday School 5/13/18

Trying to get back into the swing of things after a couple of weeks of spring break here.

Today, I checked in on a couple of classrooms, starting with Fox News Sunday, where host Chris Wallace talked with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Pompeo, as you know, just returned from his second trip (but first as SecState) to North Korea, and brought with him three former prisoners - NOT hostages, as Wallace called them, repeating the error made by the president and others. 

For clarification, let's see what our friends at Merriam-Webster have to say about these two words, starting with the wrong one.

And, here is the correct term to describe the three folks who were released by North Korea.


Pompeo also spent time doing groundwork on the upcoming one-day summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un on June 12th. There was quite a bit of talk about the summit, relations between Trump and Kim, and related topics - no surprise there.  Wallace noted, that, other than Dennis Rodman, Pompeo had probably spent more time with Kim than any other American; Pompeo noted Rodman has way more rebounds.

They also talked about the Iran nuclear deal, discussions with our European allies, and trying to get something fixed there. Pompeo noted that Trump's withdrawal from the deal was not aimed at the Europeans, and that he had "worked hard over the short time" he's been SecState to fix things, and he will continue doing that.
My mission that I've been given by president Trump is to work to strike a deal that achieves the outcomes that protect America. That's what we are going to do and I'll be hard at it with the Europeans in the next several days.
Similarly, regarding peace in the Middle East, now that we're moving the shell of our embassy to Jerusalem on Monday,
So, the peace process is most decidedly not dead. We're hard at work on it. We hope we can achieve a successful outcome there as well.
Perhaps the most noteworthy comments came in response to Wallace asking what the vision for the State Department is under Pompeo. After noting hopes that he hadn't peaked in the first two weeks, he continued (with emphasis added)
But it's pretty clear, we've got to go put the diplomatic team on the playing field. It should be the United States State Department that is at the front of American foreign policy, delivering solutions to solve America's problems without resorting to military force. And so, I'm going to build the team, we're going to get our swagger back, and the State Department will be out front in every corner of the world leading America's diplomatic policy, achieving great outcomes on behalf of president Trump and America.
Is it just me, or did that statement take a whole bunch of air out of the Jared Kushner sails? 

Why no, it's not just me. Here's a headline from

Perhaps the president will be going to Jared less often now? 

Where to next? CNN's State of the Union with Jake Tapper, who spoke with Trump's National Security Advisor John Bolton, who also talked about our leaving the Iran nuclear deal. Tapper asked him whether we were going to sanction European companies doing business with Iran. 

Bolton suggested that Europe would come along, while Tapper pointed out that was not consistent with what he was hearing from diplomats; they are planning on staying in the deal, rather than joining us. Here's Bolton's take on that.
And - they may try to do so, in - in part because, I think, despite the complete consistency of president Trump in his opposition to the deal, opposed to is as candidate Trump, opposed to it as president-elect Trump, opposed to it as president Trump, many people, including apparently former Secretary of State John Kerry thought that we would never get out of it.  Now, I don't know how to explain why people could miss what the president was saying. So I think, at the moment, there's some feeling in Europe that they're really surprised we got out of it, really surprised at the reimposition of strict sanctions. 
I think that will sink in. 
On North Korea, Bolton seemed willing to give more details than Pompeo did in the Fox classroom; here are some of his comments.
So, on the denuclearizing side itself, that means all aspects of their nuclear program. Clearly, the ballistic missile program, as with Iran, with the intention of being a delivery system for nuclear weapons, that has got to go. I think we need to look at their chemical and biological weapons programs as well. The president is going to raise other issues, the Japanese abductees, the South Korean citizens who were kidnapped. There are a lot of issues to discuss...
Tapper's next guest was Vermont's Bernie Sanders, to talk about what the Democrats are facing in the midterm elections and 2020. And, since Bernie Sanders is not a Democrat, I decided to weed my garden instead of listening to him.

See you around campus.

May 9, 2018

Wondering on Wednesday (v132)

What's on the "hmmm...." list tonight?

Three Americans were brought home from North Korea tonight, and the president deserves credit for making it happen. He may or may not have said anything directly to anyone to make it happen, but it was Mike Pompeo, Trump's Secretary of State, who brought them home. I wonder, will he get any credit for this from the left, or will Fox News be alone in their adulation of the president for this accomplishment?

Staying in the same vein, I had seen it suggested a couple of weeks ago that Trump was deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize, and that some Republican Congressman was kicking off the process to get his name into the mix. Now, I agree that progress has been made with North Korea, and that if there is an agreement to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, that would be a significant achievement. Trump showed us just this week, a negotiated agreement is only, well, it's only an agreement until someone decides to tear it up, so the talk of the Nobel Prize may very well be premature - no wondering there.

But what I am wondering is, who was the reporter today who asked the president if he thought he deserved the Nobel Prize? And what possible answer was expected? I wonder if it was the one Trump gave?
Everyone thinks so, but I would never say it... The prize I want is victory for the world. Not even for here -- I want victory for the world, 'cuz that's what we're talking about. So that's the only prize I want.
Ah, yes. The only prize he wants. Well, that and Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA director, since Ronny Jackson didn't make it to the finish line as head of the VA.

Haspel will probably happen, even though Rand Paul is a no, and John McCain is urging others to be  no votes too.  Joe Manchin, the West Virginia senator who has said he's a yes, is hardly a surprise - he votes with the Rs quite a bit, it seems.

And speaking of West Virginia, I kinda wonder how the state - and the country - dodged the bullet when the delightful Don Blankenship (China people, Cocaine Mitch, etc. etc. etc.) finished last in the Republican primary to take on Manchin in the fall?

Even more than that, I wonder who made the Mitch McConnell 'Narcos' meme, and what more they'll have to offer?

May 8, 2018

A New York Thing?

I've tried off an on all day to try and wrap my arms around the Schneiderman debacle, and I've not been very successful. I guess that's not a bad thing, because I don't know how successful many others are being, either.

For example, do you think New York is a breeding ground for sex offending Democratic politicians? Eliot Spitzer. Anthony Weiner. And now Eric Schneiderman. I heard that several times today, the punditry getting all giddy trying to fill time waiting until the president's announcement about the Iran nuclear deal. There was a lot of time and a lot of chances for stupid to occur.

So, are there similarities between Spitzer, Weiner and Schneiderman? Well, sure, I guess.
  • All three were Democrats.
  • All three were politicians representing some group of New Yorkers.
  • All three were driven out of office for reasons related to sexual misbehavior.
However, the similarities seem to end there. 
  • Weiner sexted young women; the other two did not. He probably thought, at one point, that he wouldn't be caught - or, maybe, he wanted to be caught. Mostly, though, he sexted young women while he was married to one of Hillary Clinton's closest aides. Had he not been married to Huma Abedin, he would have been much less notorious, don't you think? He'd still be a slime ball, but he'd be much more of a footnote than a headline outside of New York.
  • Spitzer patronized prostitutes, while he was married. And, not only while he was governor, but while he was the Attorney General, too. He probably thought he wouldn't get caught; men cheat on their wives all the time, some with prostitutes, some with coworkers or underlings or people they meet in bars. Paying for it just seems all that much more icky (as does keeping on his socks), but it's not a New York thing. 
  • And Schneiderman? What he described - role-playing, consensual sex - is not what the women he dated described. His was not a 50 Shades kind of thing. His was a drunken, abusive while not having sex type of thing, as well as a drunken, abusive while having sex kind of thing. His was a power thing, a control thing, a threatening thing. It was not a Weiner thing, nor a Spitzer thing, not a Democrat thing, not even a New York thing.
What's worse, of course, is Schneiderman's history of being a strong supporter of women, of the #MeToo movement. His office was involved in trying to make sure that victims were compensated when Harvey Weinstein's company was sold. His office was investigating the Manhattan District Attorney for failing to do anything about Weinstein back in 2015 when victims first filed reports.

And now, that District Attorney's office will be investigating the assault allegations against Schneiderman.

Now, that seems like a New York thing right there.

May 7, 2018

Playing Catch-up

One week. I go on vacation for one week, and all heck breaks loose.  Here are just a few examples, in no particular order.

Kanye West, who once famously declared that George W. Bush didn't like black people suggested that slavery could be a choice, which is of course consistent with a theme in certain quarters in this day and age.You know what I'm talking about, right? That "Democratic politicians have 'enslaved' blacks, by providing cradle-to-grave programs which discourage the recipients from ever doing anything/becoming anything/earning anything on their own" and in return these folks will always and forever vote for Dems.

Many people were appalled at his comments, but Donald Trump ran off to the NRA leadership meeting in Dallas to let them know that, as a result of West's comments, Trump's numbers with African Americans had doubled -- doubled! -- in one week. I'm trying to picture the NRA crowd giving a rat's patoot about Kanye West and what he thinks, but I'm not having any luck with that, even though they did cheer the news about the rising poll numbers, almost as loudly as they did when Trump read the Dallas phone book. (OK, I made that part up. but the crown loudly embraced or disparaged on cue along with the president's wishes.)

John McCain has apparently suggested that President Trump would not be welcome at his funeral. I'm sure other losers (those who were captured, among others) don't want Trump at their funerals, either. In fact, the number of people who wouldn't want Trump to attend their funerals is probably a much bigger number than the number who would want him to attend. I have specific instructions to make sure a certain person doesn't attend my Mom's funeral, so I get why McCain can not only feel this way, but make sure that his wishes were well known. I think, though, that I'd have Melania attend, instead of Mike Pence. She'd almost have to be a better guest, and she seemed to have a genuinely nice time (in the best possible way, I mean) representing the White House at Barbara Bush's service last month. 

Someone thought it was a good idea for Rudy Giuliani to join Trump's ever-changing legal team. I'm not sure whether that person is an idiot or a genius, given Rudy's comments that seem to have made things worse for Trump instead of better, whether it was about the Stormy Daniels thing, or the Russia thing or the James Comey thing. Or any of the things which he said in a subsequent interview.  I don't know who's paying Rudy - could be Michael Cohen, the 'fixer' who takes care of problems for the president. It could be the president himself, or his company, or his campaign committee, but I wonder how long whoever it is would be willing to continue the payments.

There was more -- I'm still going through my news feeds -- but it was crazy week indeed.