Lazy Saturday Reads: A Brief Respite From Bad News

Good Afternoon!!

I slept too late to see any of the royal wedding live, but it sounds like it was wonderful. I don’t follow the royals, but it’s difficult not to be inspired by this wedding of a prince and a mixed-race American woman. Maybe Sam Cooke was right:

There have been times that I thought I couldn’t last for long
But now I think I’m able to carry on
It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will

And it’s so satisfying to me that so many A-list Americans were invited to the ceremony, and the Trumps were excluded. The royal couple decided not to include any political leaders on the guest list, but I wonder if that decision was mostly about keeping Trump away.

This morning the BBC trolled Trump with a comparison photo.

The sermon at the wedding was an African American minister Michael Curry. The Guardian:

The US minister chosen by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle who told royals and celebrities that “love is the way” at their wedding on Saturday has previously spoken out on racial justice, LGBT equality and sexual harassment and exploitation.

In a powerful and entertaining address that left some members of the royal family looking bemused even as others laughed and nodded, Bishop Michael Curry told the service: “There’s power in love. Love can help and heal when nothing else can. There’s power in love to lift up and liberate when nothing else will.”

Curry, the most senior figure in the American Episcopal church, part of the global Anglican communion, was one of three clergyman at the wedding. The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, took the couple through their marriage vows and the dean of Windsor, David Conner, conducted the service.

Curry is the first African-American to serve as presiding bishop of the predominantly white US Episcopal church, and has recounted his family history as slaves and sharecroppers in North Carolina and Alabama in his autobiography Songs My Grandma Sang.

He told the New York Times in 2016 that when he was training for the priesthood, “the expectation at the time was that if you were a black priest or seminarian, you were going to be serving in black churches. There was a black church world and a white church world. That was the given-ness of racism, not that anybody said anything.”

A gospel choir performed Ben E. King’s iconic tune “Stand By Me.”

ABC News:

Performed by Karen Gibson and The Kingdom Choir, 20 singers stood Saturday at the west end of Windsor Castle, wearing different shades of pale pink….

The lyrics to “Stand by Me” read:

“When the night has come/And the land is dark/And the moon is the only light we see/No, I won’t be afraid,” the song begins. “Oh, I won’t be afraid/Just as long as you stand, stand by me/So darling, darling, stand by me/Oh, stand by me/Oh stand, stand by me. Stand by me.”

It’s not the first time The Kingdom Choir has performed for British royalty. In fact, they were tapped to perform at the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, celebrating her 50 years on the throne, in 2002.

The multi-denominational choir originates from the South East area of England, according to the group’s Facebook page.

Previously, they’ve performed for other notables, including former President Bill Clinton, Bishop Desmond Tutu and the late Nelson Mandela. They’ve also performed alongside American Gospel artists such as Fred Hammond and Donnie McClurkin along with British acts, including Elton John and The Spice Girls.

The spectacle of the royal wedding was for many Americans a welcome respite from the horrors happening here at home.

The New York Times: In Texas School Shooting, 10 Dead, 10 Hurt and Many Unsurprised.

SANTA FE, Tex. — A nation plagued by a wrenching loop of mass school shootings watched the latest horror play out in this small Southeast Texas town Friday morning, as a young man armed with a shotgun and a .38 revolver smuggled under his coat opened fire on his high school campus, killing 10 people, many of them his fellow students, and wounding 10 more, the authorities said….

It was the worst school shooting since the February assault on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where a young man with an AR-15 rifle left 17 people dead and prompted a wave of nationwide, student-led protests calling on lawmakers to tighten gun laws.

It was barely after 7:30 a.m. at Santa Fe High School, about 35 miles southeast of Houston, when gunfire first resounded through the halls, the opening volley of yet another massacre at an American high school that would leave students, teachers and staff members shocked, and in some cases bloodied. But they were not necessarily surprised.

A video interview with one student, Paige Curry, spread across social media, an artifact of a moment when children have come to expect violence in their schools.

“Was there a part of you that was like, ‘This isn’t real, this is — this would not happen in my school?’” the reporter asked.

The young girl shook her head: “No, there wasn’t.”

“Why so?” the reporter asked.

“It’s been happening everywhere,” she said. “I felt — I’ve always kind of felt like eventually it was going to happen here, too.”

Buried way down in the story was something that should have been in the lead:

Kole Dixon, 16, a sophomore, said he was standing outside history class when the fire alarm suddenly went off. He sprinted out a side door, and heard gunshots in rapid succession over the sound of the fire alarm.

When the shooting stopped, Mr. Dixon said that friends told him that the gunman first entered an art classroom, said “Surprise!” and started shooting. The suspect’s ex-girlfriend was among the people shot in that classroom, he said.

Dakinikat predicted this, and she was right.

The Washington Post: 2018 has been deadlier for schoolchildren than service members.

The school shooting near Houston on Friday bolstered a stunning statistic: More people have been killed at schools this year than have been killed while serving in the military.

Initial estimates put the number killed at Santa Fe High School at eight. (The death toll has since risen to 10.) We can compare that to figures for the military compiled from Defense Department news releases, including both combat and noncombat deaths. Even excluding non-students who died in school shootings (for example, teachers) the total still exceeds military casualties.

The article notes that the military statistics are complex.

The figures for 2018 do not suggest schools are more dangerous than combat zones. After all, there are more than 50 million students in public elementary and high schools and only about 1.3 million members of the armed forces. So far in 2018, a member of the military has been about 40 times as likely to be killed as someone is to die in a school shooting, including Keller’s revised figures.

That said, it is still the case that 2018 is shaping up to be unusually deadly at schools. Comparing the number of deaths and the number of shooting incidents this year directly with those through May 18 of 2017, that difference is stark.

The number of deaths and school shooting incidents through May 18 are each higher this year than at any point since 2000. There have been three times as many deaths in school shootings so far this year than in the second-most deadly year through May 18, 2005.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

Republicans can never again claim to be patriots after they outed a confidential intelligence source in an effort to protect Trump from the Russia investigation.

The Washington Post Editorial Board: The GOP’s campaign against the FBI makes the nation less safe.

IN THEIR paranoid partisan war on the Justice Department’s Russia probe, President Trump’s allies have been pushing for the dangerous disclosure of national security information, including information about a top-secret FBI and CIA informant. If Mr. Trump took his responsibility to protect the nation seriously, he would tell his allies to be quiet. Instead, he joined them Thursday. “Word seems to be coming out that the Obama FBI ‘SPIED ON THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN WITH AN EMBEDDED INFORMANT,’ ” Mr. Trump tweeted, in an apparent reference to the confidential source. “If so, this is bigger than Watergate!”

Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s lawyer and a former Justice Department official who should know better than to spread such slander, told The Post that the president thinks that there is a law-enforcement conspiracy against him. “The prior government did it, but the present government, for some reason I can’t figure out, is covering it up,” he said. He also said: “I don’t know why the current attorney general and the current director of the FBI want to protect a bunch of renegades that might amount to 20 people at most within the FBI.” Yet Mr. Giuliani admitted Friday that the president does not really know whether the FBI planted anyone in his campaign. CNN also reportedFriday that U.S. officials insist that no informant was embedded.

The GOP’s escalating campaign against the FBI is extremely dangerous. Protecting the country is not just about having the biggest weapons. Trust is a key national security asset. Vast networks of informants relay information to the U.S. government daily. Sometimes their tips prove faulty. Sometimes they prevent terrorist attacks or provide the key piece of information necessary to bring down major criminals. If confidential informants conclude that they cannot rely on the assurances of the U.S. government, they will think twice about sending in tips, wearing wires or approaching malicious actors. That is why intelligence and law enforcement agencies spend vast amounts of time and money protecting the identity of sources and informants.

Click on the link to read the rest.

Politico: Warner: Identifying FBI source to undermine Russia probe could be a crime.

The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee warned Friday that his colleagues could be committing a crime if they obtain the identity of a secret FBI source and use it to undermine the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) raised the alarm in a Friday evening statement, as Republican allies of President Donald Trump have pressed the Justice Department for details about a source believed to have aided the FBI and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Trump campaign contacts with Russians.

“It would be at best irresponsible, and at worst potentially illegal, for members of Congress to use their positions to learn the identity of an FBI source for the purpose of undermining the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in our election,” Warner said. “Anyone who is entrusted with our nation’s highest secrets should act with the gravity and seriousness of purpose that knowledge deserves.”

Actually, the source was outed by right-wing media sources several days ago, as I learned by Googling his name.

Asha Rangappa at The Washington Post: The FBI didn’t use an informant to go after Trump. They used one to protect him.

President Trump and his allies are outraged at reports that the FBI used an “informant” to spy on Trump’s 2016 campaign. “Really bad stuff!” the president tweeted early Friday. Supporters of the White House claim the FBI’s reported tactics were illegal. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) has even subpoenaed the Justice Department for information on who the informant might have been; department and FBI officials say public disclosures of this kind could put sources in danger.

But Trump and his backers are wrong about what it means that the FBI reportedly was using a confidential source to gather information early in its investigation of possible campaign ties to Russia. The investigation started out as a counterintelligence probe, not a criminal one. And relying on a covert source rather than a more intrusive method of gathering information suggests that the FBI may have been acting cautiously — perhaps too cautiously — to protect the campaign, not undermine it.

As a former FBI counterintelligence agent, I know what Trump apparently does not: Counterintelligence investigations have a different purpose than their criminal counterparts. Rather than trying to find evidence of a crime, the FBI’s counterintelligence goal is to identify, monitor and neutralize foreign intelligence activity in the United States. In short, this entails identifying foreign intelligence officers and their network of agents; uncovering their motives and methods; and ultimately rendering their operations ineffective — either by clandestinely thwarting them (say, by feeding back misinformation or “flipping” their sources into double agents) or by exposing them.

The Intelligence community didn’t understand at first that Trump himself was a Russian asset who welcomed interference from a hostile foreign government.

That’s where we are today, and we can only hope that somehow our constitutional form of government will survive.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of the news. What stories are you following today?