Busting-the-Filibuster Friday

It’s been 2 Fridays since our Last Mueller Friday (March 22nd).

Where’s the damned report?

Every day we don’t see the report represents an obstruction of justice.  But then, that’s what Bill Barr was hired to do, right?   From The Guardian: Barr invited to meet DoJ officials on day he submitted memo critical of Mueller. Revealed: The attorney general, then a private lawyer, called the special counsel’s obstruction of justice inquiry into Trump ‘fatally misconceived’”

William Barr was invited to meet justice department officials last summer, on the same day he submitted an “unsolicited” memo that heavily criticized special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into obstruction of justice by Donald Trump.

Barr, who was a private attorney at the time, met the officials for lunch three weeks later and was then nominated to serve as Trump’s attorney general about six months later.

The revelation about the meeting, which was arranged by Steve Engel, the head of the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice, and which has not previously been publicly disclosed, raises new questions about whether the White House’s decision to hire Barr was influenced by private discussions he had about his legal views on Mueller’s investigation.

None of this surprises me. I’m sure the right. chair of the right committee–most likely oversight and Rep. Elijah Cummings–will get to the bottom of this.  Every appointment Trump makes to anything just drips of cronyism.

Today, a Federal Court of Appeals court shortened the time that a decision will be made by the judiciary.  This is via Politico and Josh Gerstein:  “Appeals court narrows path for disclosure of grand jury info in Mueller report. Court splits, 2-1, in a closely watched case that could affect the release of the special counsel’s review.”

A Federal appeals court on Friday tossed an obstacle in the way of grand jury information in special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report being released directly to the public, but the decision may not slow disclosure of that material to Congress.

The decision from a divided three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals did not directly address Mueller’s report, but involved a grand jury investigation more than six decades ago into the disappearance of a Columbia University professor and political activist, Jesús Galíndez.

In the new ruling, the panel majority concluded that federal district court judges lack the authority to order the release of typically secret grand jury material except in situations specially authorized in a federal court rule.

While there is no exception that covers cases of intense political or historical interest, courts have repeatedly held that they have “inherent authority” to make such disclosures in unusual cases.

However, the D.C. Circuit decision Friday sided with a long-standing Justice Department position that those rulings were mistaken and a formal change to the grand jury secrecy rule would be needed to give judges that power.

“We agree with the Government’s understanding of the Rule,” Judge Douglas Ginsburg wrote, joined by Judge Greg Katsas. “The contrary reading … which would allow the district court to create such new exceptions as it thinks make good public policy — would render the detailed list of exceptions merely precatory and impermissibly enable the court to ‘circumvent’ or ‘disregard’ a Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure.”

The impact of the new decision in the current battle over disclosure of the Mueller report could be limited, however, because the Democrat-controlled House is already demanding the special counsel’s full submission including grand jury information.

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee passed a resolution authorizing Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) to subpoena the full report and all supporting materials. Such a subpoena may be sufficient to give the House access to grand jury information under an existing exception covering material sought in connection with “judicial proceedings.”

I wanted to make sure we had a good look and discussion about the various ways that Mitch McConnell is changing the SOP of the Senate. To no one’s real surprise, the Senate did go Nuclear somewhat quietly on Wednesday on a 51-48 vote.  ABC and other media outlets covered it but not to the extent that it deserved.

The Senate has gone “nuclear,” voting 51-48 Wednesday afternoon to change its own rules and slash debate time for some nominees from 30 hours to two hours, paving the way to fast-track certain Trump picks. Republicans — led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — have long lamented what they have termed Democratic obstruction of the president’s nominations, particularly judicial nominations.

All Republicans vote for the rule change except Sen. Mike Lee and Sen. Susan Collins, who voted with Democrats, and no Democrats voted with Republicans.

This is what Senator Elizabeth Warren has to say about that even though she her last vote did not reflect this discussion.  It’s something to thing on.  I really appreciate Warren’s bringing the beef to the hamburger.  It’s the women that are discussing actual policy and it’s time they all get some air time and ink.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is expected to issue the strongest indictment of the Senate filibuster of her campaign for president thus far during a speech at the National Action Network convention on Friday morning.

“Last year the Senate passed a bill that would make lynching a federal crime,” Warren will say, according to prepared remarks viewed by The Daily Beast. “Last year. In 2018. Do you know when the first bill to make lynching a federal crime was introduced? 1918. One hundred years ago. And it nearly became the law back then. It passed the House in 1922. But it got killed in the Senate—by a filibuster. And then it got killed again. And again. And again. More than 200 times. An entire century of obstruction because a small group of racists stopped the entire nation from doing what was right.”
Warren goes on to say that the filibuster has been used in recent years “by the far right as a tool to block progress on everything.”

“I’ve only served one term in the Senate—but I’ve seen what’s happening,” she says, according to the remarks. “We all saw what they did to President Obama. I’ve watched Republicans abuse the rules when they’re out of power, then turn around and blow off the rules when they’re in power.”

Democrats running for president in 2020 have been debating Senate rules for months, as activists push for a change that would not necessitate a 60-vote supermajority to pass sought-after legislation like Medicare for All or the Green New Deal, both of which have been endorsed by a large share of the Democratic candidates currently running. But many of the same candidates, including the senators in the race, have been resistant to institutional changes. The one candidate who has affirmatively campaigned on its elimination in order to address climate change is Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. Many others, like Warren before Friday, had said they’d consider it, and she previously said “all the options are on the table.”

Schumer believes other wise. This is from CSPAN. “Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell debate the GOP’s decision to make a change to rules reducing the length of post-Cloture debate time of federal district court judges and sub-Cabinet nominations from 30 hours to two hours. ” It happened on April 3rd, the day of the vote.

From Vox and Li Zhou: “Senate Republicans have officially gone “nuclear” in order to confirm more Trump judges.
It’s a win for Republicans in the short term, but Democrats could also capitalize on the change in the future.”

Senate Republicans have officially gone nuclear again this week.

Once more, they’ve changed Senate rules so they can confirm President Donald Trump’s nominees more expeditiously — a string of actions first kicked off by Democratic leader Harry Reid in 2013. It marks the third time in less than a decade that the Senate majority has used the so-called “nuclear option” — a term used for parliamentary procedure that sets a new precedent with only a simple majority of lawmaker votes.

This time, Republicans have amended Senate rules in order to further limit the amount of time lower-level nominees could be debated on the floor. Previously, if lawmakers voted to limit debate on a nominee, that back-and-forth would still be able to continue for 30 hours. Practically speaking, because there is only so much time the Senate is in session, this meant that there were a finite number of nominees that Republicans could get through — and that’s something they wanted to change.

Republicans argued that this rules change is necessary because Democrats have gone out of their way to slow-walk consideration of Trump’s nominees. Democrats, meanwhile, say that Republicans have gutted other processes, like “blue slips,” that would enable them to otherwise vocalize their concern with different nominees.

“Senate Democrats spent the first two years of the Trump administration dragging out the confirmation process to not only deny the president his team, but also to waste hours of floor time that should have been spent focusing on the American people’s priorities,” Republican Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) said in a statement. “This has been nothing more than obstruction for the sake of obstruction and it is outrageous.”

That assertion, however, is laughable to many Democrats, who have noted that Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s supposed outrage over the way Democrats have blocked Republican nominees is hypocritical, given the lengths he went to in order to prevent President Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland from even getting considered for a Supreme Court seat.

Nancy Pelosi threw some serious shade at a reporter who evidently wasn’t aware that there is a law that says the IRS will hand over tax returns of whoever certain chairs of congress request.

Donald Trump is doing his usual hold it up routine. “All the way to the Supreme Court, Alice!!!”

And, I’m giving the last word today to my “I’m just a country lawyer” Senator who just can’t seem to keep the folksy routine sounding sane.

With that, what’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Friday Reads: The 1/4 Year of Living Dangerously (and surrounded by total chaos)

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

Or what’s left of the morning and good in the world.

Drinking my morning coffee and reading the newspaper–now PC screen–is a habit I come by naturally. It’s a ritual my family followed for years.  Then, there was the follow-up ritual of turning on the evening news and reading the evening paper after my dad and others depending on who we were staying with in Kansas City that weekend. It could also include a grandfather or an uncle. It was something my mother did too.  I loved sitting on my Grandfather’s lap, smelling his cigar, and listening to him read the funnies to me in between pointing out all kinds of happenings. He was a Vice President of the Federal Reserve and ran the War Bond programs for a few states for both Wars.  He was a huge news hound.

For many years, it’s been a comforting ritual even though much of what I saw on black and white, then color, news programs and read on newsprint now followed by the bytes of light on my computer has not been all good. There have been scary times like the Cuban Missile Crisis or watching Civil Rights Demonstrators being badly beaten and seeing Southern Sheriffs turn dogs and hoses on children my age. That was horrifying to me. I was profoundly impacted by the war porn of Vietnam with the ghastly body count numbers that came out nightly. There was Watergate, Shock and Awe, assassinations, and planes crashing into the Twin Towers.  There were also men walking on the moon. All of these happened over decades.  It did not happen over the span of just a few months.  We have a 30 second news cycle. It’s full of awful, plentiful stories. You have to search to find the good.

Those of us in our twilight years can attest to being the generation that watched it all unfurl nearly live and then very live.  Until the last two months, I thought that I’d seen enough chaos, corruption, cruelty, and stupidity that I was inured to just about anything. I watched the Nixon Watergate hearings and rantings in High School. I saw the McCarthy hearings on film in my 8th grade American History class.  I’ve witnessed crazy Republicans, believe me. But, at the time, my nice staid Republican family–of which I was one for many years–felt that the few odds and sods that showed up ever so often were odd men out.  They’re not odd men out any more. They’re very much in and it seems like the doors of bedlam were opened so they could all run for office.

Media was also part of school. We watched “Biography” frequently or any number of documentaries on the school’s collection of TVs, VCRS, films and projectors, and the early broadcasts of PBS.  We had at least one day a week where we had to bring a newspaper article to discuss. Growing up in educated, upper middle class WASP America meant being educated and informed in my household. It meant voting and volunteering.  It meant making sure that we did things that represented the basic value of “to whom much is given, much is asked”.

I may have learned the lessons of Jesus with a Presbyterian minister who drove an orange convertible fiat, spent a hell of a lot of time on the golf course at the local, very expensive and exclusive country club, and had the most jaunty outfits you could imagine to include leather driving gloves and tweed caps, but I was sent on summers to do all kinds of work in Rural New Mexico.  I was taught the Beatitudes were the basis of my beliefs even though the Sunday sermons were usually illustrated by the pronouncement to think about these things when you’re in the locker room or the bridge room of the Country Club. Of course, that was the country club with no Jewish members, a rare number of Catholics, and black Americans only as employees.

I breathed rarefied air most of my life. But, I was not raised to be ignorant, cruel, or uniformed.  Now, I have found myself in a country where ignorance, cruelty, and propaganda rule the day and it has just about turned me into something I barely recognize. I’m drained. I’m exhausted. I don’t want to be around people I don’t know extremely well.

There are a lot of headlines today. I can barely deal with one of them.  After spending the entire year dehumanizing the Syrian people and showing abject loathing of suffering Syrian families that include “beautiful babies”, the  U.S. Launches Missiles at Syrian Base After Chemical Weapons Attack.

The United States fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Syria overnight in response to what it believes was a chemical weapons attack that killed more than 100 people.

At least six people were killed, Syria claimed, but the Pentagon said civilians were not targeted and the strike was aimed at a military airfield in Homs.

All but one of the missiles hit their intended target, one U.S. military official told NBC News. The other missile failed.

The strike completed a policy reversal for President Donald Trump — who once warned America to stay out of the conflict — and drew angry responses from Damascus and its main ally, Russia.

Yes. Kremlin Caligulia–most likely compensating for his tiny little fingers–pulled the US’s stockpile of phallic symbols out and blew up the maintenance crews and buildings of a Syrian Military Airbase. There’s evidence that the Russians were alerted and the Syrians knew beforehand.

Syrian military officials appeared to anticipate Thursday night’s raid on Syria‘s Shayrat air base, evacuating personnel and moving equipment ahead of the strike, according to an eyewitness.

Dozens of Tomahawk missiles struck the air base near Homs, damaging runways, towers and traffic control buildings, a local resident and human rights activist living near the air base told ABC News via an interpreter.

U.S. officials believe the plane that dropped chemical weapons on civilians in Idlib Province on Tuesday, which according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights killed 86 people, took off from the Shayrat airbase.

The attack lasted approximately 35 minutes and its impact was felt across the city, shaking houses and sending those inside them fleeing from their windows. Both of the air base’s major runways were struck by missiles, and some of its 40 fortified bunkers were also damaged.

Local residents say the Russian military had used the air base in early 2016 but have since withdrawn their officers, so the base is now mainly operated by Syrian and Iranian military officers. There is also a hotel nearby where Iranian officers have been staying, though it was not clear whether it was damaged.

The eyewitness believes human casualties, at least within the civilian population, were minimal, as there was no traffic heading toward the local hospital.

So, it was mostly an empty gesture.  It was more likely another display of the decimation of Obama policy.  It was more Branding of Kremlin Caligula as tough asshole. You will notice that no Syrian children are on their way to our hospitals and the safety of our communities after that costly gesture.  There were a few crocodiles tears last night at Orange-Lago central where the Presidential announcement sounded like it came from a NAZI bunker at the end of the that long war.

The events of the past week, culminating in the decision by President Obama’s successor to launch a punitive strike on a Syrian air base in retaliation for Assad’s continued use of chemical weapons against civilians, prove a number of points, some that reflect well on Obama, and some that do not. The first is that the 2013 Obama-Putin deal to disarm Assad of his chemical weapons was a failure. It was not a complete failure, in that stockpiles were indeed removed, but Assad kept enough of these weapons to allow him to continue murdering civilians with sarin gas. The argument that Obama achieved comprehensive WMD disarmament without going to war is no longer, as they say in Washington, operative.

The events of the past week also prove that a core principle of the Obama Doctrine is dead. President Trump’s governing foreign policy doctrine is not easily discernible, of course. His recent statements about Syria—kaleidoscopic in their diversity—combined with his decision to order an attack, have half-convinced me that he is something wholly unique in the history of the presidency: an isolationist interventionist.

The Constitutionality of the action is in question since it’s an attack on the military of a foreign nation which is basically an act of war.

The first part asks whether the President has presumptive authority to use force unilaterally.  For OLC, this authority turns on whether the “national interest” vindicated by the use of force sufficiently important?  That sounds vague and easy to satisfy, but as we’ll see in a moment, OLC has (at least until the Syria strike) pointed to some objective limits.  If the president perceives that “national interest” would be vindicated by a use of force,  OLC says that he can presumptively use force abroad under his powers as “Commander in Chief and Chief Executive, for foreign and military affairs, as well as national security.”

However, OLC acknowledged “one possible constitutionally-based limit on this presidential authority to employ military force in defense of important national interests—a planned military engagement that constitutes a ‘war’ within the meaning of the Declaration of War Clause may require prior congressional authorization.”  This second part of the test turns on the “anticipated nature, scope, and duration of the planned military operations.”  The idea is that relatively short-term and small-scale operations abroad are not “war” and thus do not implicate the Declare War clause, but larger-scale, longer-term operations might be “war” and thus might implicate the clause.

Applying this test to Syria, consider the “scale of operations” prong first.  The U.S. military last night fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Al Shayrat airfield in Syria.  We don’t know whether or when it might strike again, and for now, at least, there appears to be no prospect of directing U.S. boots on the ground toward Syrian forces.  From the perspective of Executive branch precedent, air campaigns—especially short-term ones, and especially ones (like those involving cruise missiles or drones) that present practically no chance of American casualties—easily satisfy the “anticipated nature, scope and duration” test for not impinging on congressional prerogatives.  (As Matt Waxman and I explained, the Obama administration’s clarification of the president’s unilateral power to engaged in “limited” war from a distance was one of its central legal legacy’s related to war powers.)  As long as the military intervention in Syria is short term and limited and does not involve ground troops against Assad forces, it breaks no new legal ground.

The same cannot be said of the other prong of the test, which asks whether the President has authority to strike in the first place.  What is the important national interest in intervening in Syria?  No U.S. persons or property are at stake.  That fact alone distinguishes most executive branch precedents.  In the Libya opinion, OLC argued that “at least two national interests that the President reasonably determined were at stake here—preserving regional stability and supporting the UNSC’s credibility and effectiveness.”  The second interest—the “credibility and effectiveness” of a Security Council Resolution—is a controversial basis for justifying presidential unilateralism because it seems to substitute international institutional approval for congressional approval.  This line of reasoning  began with Truman’s unilateral initiation of the Korean war in response to North Korea’s international aggression.  In that instance, in 1950, the State Department argued (among other things) that the President as Commander in Chief could deploy U.S. armed forces, consistent with the Constitution, for the purpose of upholding the “paramount United States interest” in the “continued existence of the United Nations as an effective international organization.”  Moreover, the Kosovo precedent arguably extends this reasoning from the Security Council to NATO, which supported (and indeed conducted) the Kosovo strikes.

The administration continues to be unpredictable, contrarian of its own spoken or twittered words, and chaotic. How can a great country be ruled under these circumstances?

Just as chaos and treason ruled the Trump campaign, the Trump Administration is already jettisoning its bad personnel choices. Most of the real work is not being done by any one because no one has appointed those ‘any ones’ yet.  But, we already have more firings of people on the horizon with in the West Wing if you believe sources at Axios.

President Trump is considering a broad shakeup of his White House that could include the replacement of White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and the departure of chief strategist Steve Bannon, aides and advisers tell us.

A top aide to Trump said he’s contemplating major changes, but that the situation is very fluid and the timing uncertain: “Things are happening, but it’s very unclear the president’s willing to pull that trigger.”

 Insiders tell me that the possibilities for chief of staff include:

  • House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who developed a bond with Trump as one of the earlier congressional leaders to support him, and remains a confidant.
  • Wayne Berman of Blackstone Group, a Washington heavy-hitter who was an Assistant Secretary of Commerce under President George H.W. Bush, and a key adviser on eight presidential campaigns.
  • David Urban of the Washington advisory firm American Continental Group, and a former chief of staff to the late Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.). Urban helped Trump win an upset victory in Pennsylvania, and was in constant cellphone contact with the candidate throughout the campaign.
  • Gary Cohn, Trump’s economic adviser and the former #2 at Goldman Sachs, who has built a formidable team and internal clout.

The West Wing “Game of Thrones” has been raging ever since Trump took office. But the war between the nationalists and the moderates, led by Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, burst into the open this week after Bannon was taken off the National Security Council, setting off a torrent of leaks against him.

Bannon called reports that he was ready to quit “100 percent nonsense.”

Just like no one bombed the Governor of Michigan for poisoning the children of Flint, no one will care as this President poisons the children of the Gulf for no particular reason than the greed of Tillerson and the like.  No one will likely mention that job growth is slowing.   Businesses hate uncertainty and any thing in the planning stage that can be halted likely will.

Meanwhile, Trump Princeling Jared has the highest security clearance while commiting acts of omission that would tank any one else’s credentials and clearance.

Trump isn’t keen on the first amendment as he’s gone after anonymous tweet accounts that find him disgusting.  Trump is well known for trolling then President Obama with some of the worst lies and slurs one can imagine.  He can dish it out but cannot take it.  Plus, he doesn’t realize he’s now subject to free speech rules.

Twitter Inc on Thursday filed a federal lawsuit to block an order by the U.S. government demanding that it reveal who is behind an account opposed to President Donald Trump’s tough immigration policies.

Twitter cited freedom of speech as a basis for not turning over records about the account, @ALT_uscis. The account is claimed to be the work of at least one federal immigration employee, according to the lawsuit filed in San Francisco federal court.

The acronym U.S. CIS refers to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the account describes itself as “immigration resistance.” Trump has vowed to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico and has promised to deport millions of illegal immigrants.

Following Trump’s inauguration in January, anonymous Twitter feeds that borrowed the names and logos of more than a dozen U.S. government agencies appeared to challenge the president’s views on climate change and other issues. They called themselves “alt” accounts.

Twitter spokesman Nick Pacilio declined to comment on whether the government had demanded information about other accounts critical of Trump.

Twitter, which counts Trump among its active users, has a record of litigating in favor of user privacy.

I ran across an interesting article at Fusion that I’d like to share. It suggests that the current mess we’re in is due to an industry that makes a pot lying to white men.

If you want to understand intra-GOP warfare, the decision-making process of our president, the implosion of the Republican healthcare plan, and the rest of the politics of the Trump era, you don’t need to know about Russian espionage tactics, the state of the white working class, or even the beliefs of the “alt-right.” You pretty much just need to be in semi-regular contact with a white, reasonably comfortable, male retiree. We are now ruled by men who think and act very much like that ordinary man you might know, and if you want to know why they believe so many strange and terrible things, you can basically blame the fact that a large and lucrative industry is dedicated to lying to them.

It’s the basic explanation that old school Republicans thought they could radicalize their base and not expect the base to eventually turn on them.

But the complete and inarguable disaster of the Bush administration—a failure of the conservative movement itself, one undeniable even to many consumers of the parallel conservative media—and his abrupt replacement by a black man, caused a national nervous breakdown among the people who’d been told, for many years, that conservatism could not fail, and that all Real Americans agreed with them.

Rather rapidly, two things happened: First, Republicans realized they’d radicalized their base to a point where nothing they did in power could satisfy their most fervent constituents. Then—in a much more consequential development—a large portion of the Republican Congressional caucus became people who themselves consume garbage conservative media, and nothing else.

That, broadly, explains the dysfunction of the Obama era, post-Tea Party freakout. Congressional Republicans went from people who were able to turn their bullshit-hose on their constituents, in order to rile them up, to people who pointed it directly at themselves, mouths open.

Now, we have a president whose media diet defines his worldview, interests, and priorities. He is not one of the men, like most of those Tea Party members of Congress, whose existing worldview determined his media diet—who sealed himself off from disagreeable media sources. He is, in fact, something far more dangerous: a confused old man who believes what the TV tells him.

My father spent many of his last years swallowing what Fox dished out and it took a lot of time on my part to disabuse of him of the notion that any one on FOX  was worthy of shining the shoes of David Brinkly or Chet Huntley.

 

Please listen to the last words of Chet Huntley on his last night of broadcast in 1970 then let me close with Brian Williams. Ask yourselves when American news and news watchers went down the prime rose path straight into the rabbit hole. This headline suggests more than FOX has gone down the Rabbit Hole: “Brian Williams is ‘guided by the beauty of our weapons’ in Syria strikes”.  WAPO writer Derek Hawkins is none too kind to Williams.

As dozens of cruise missiles laid waste to a Syrian military airfield late Thursday, MSNBC’s Brian Williams took a moment to wax poetic.

All evening, MSNBC and other news networks had been playing a reel of footage of the assault, which President Trump authorized in retaliation for a chemical attack that killed more than 70 civilians this week.

The footage, provided by the Pentagon, showed several Tomahawk missiles launching from U.S. Navy destroyers in the Mediterranean Sea, illuminating the decks of the ships and leaving long trails of smoke in the night sky.

It was a sight that seemed to dazzle Williams, who described the images as “beautiful” in a segment on his show, “The 11th Hour.”

“We see these beautiful pictures at night from the decks of these two U.S. Navy vessels in the eastern Mediterranean,” Williams said. “I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen: ‘I am guided by the beauty of our weapons.’”

“They are beautiful pictures of fearsome armaments making what is for them what is a brief flight over to this airfield,” he added, then asked his guest, “What did they hit?”

The remarks drew backlash on Twitter, where some users seemed disturbed by Williams’s flowery language.

At some point, I feel like I’ve crossed into the zone of the crazy cat lady who screams at the teenagers in the yard every time I close the screen on the latest news.  I rarely venture on to the boob tube news zone at all unless it’s really something breaking. This week I sallied forth and am retreating.

I haven’t even gotten around to elucidating all the bad things about McConnell going nuclear and that Gorsuch–a huge mistake for all of us–has just been confirmed for the benefit of the worst of the religious nuts in our country. I’m at nearly 3500 words and all I can say is

“Good night, David” – “Good night, Chet… and good night” TO(sic) NBC News!


Thursday Reads: The “President” is Mentally Incompetent

Good Morning!!

Breaking stories this morning:’

— First, Rep. Deven Nunes is “temporarily stepping aside” from the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, according to the AP. Details to come. According to MSNBC, Trump himself wanted this to happen because he’s “concerned about his dropping poll numbers.” We’ll learn more as the day goes on, but it seems more likely that this decision probably comes from Prince Jared.

Nunes released a statement saying that left-wing groups had made baseless charges against him to the ethics committee, and he’s made this decision even though the complaints are politically-motivated. Democratic ranking member gave a brief statement in which he said he appreciates Nunes’ decision and looks forward to working with Rep. Conaway (R-Texas) who will now lead the investigation.

— Second, Paul Ryan held a press conference this morning to pretend that Trump-Ryancare is still alive. Supposedly the House is reaching consensus around a high risk pool–something that would never work to lower premiums for everyone. They’re all going home for Easter break soon, so we’ll see what happens when they come back. IMHO, this is just a face-saving effort by Ryan.

The Dallas News has a “developing” story on Conaway taking over: Texas’ Conaway takes over Russia meddling probe, as embattled Intel chairman steps down.

WASHINGTON — Texas Rep. Mike Conaway is taking the helm of the House-led probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, after embattled Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes agreed to step aside Thursday.

Conaway, a Midland Republican, is chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, and a member of the Intelligence Committee. He chaired the Ethics Committee several years ago — considered one of the more thankless tasks in Congress, given its role in policing and occasionally punishing colleagues.

He’s one of the few CPAs in Congress. Before his election in 2004, one of his clients was the oil firm owned by future president George W. Bush.

Also happening today:

President Xi Jinping of China

NBC News: Trump and China President Xi Jinping to Meet, ‘Set a Framework’ for Relations.

As Donald Trump gets set to host Chinese President Xi Jinping for a tête-à-tête at the Mar-a-Lago club in Florida on Thursday, experts say it’s time for the U.S. leader to let his past hostile comments about the Asian powerhouse fade with the Florida sunset.

Trump must start building a solid personal relationship with his counterpart and open a starter dialogue on a number of sensitive issues between the two nations, analysts add.

“Well, it’s going to be very interesting, nobody really knows, we have not been treated fairly on trade, no presidents taken care of that the way they should have, and we have a big problem on North Korea, so we’re going to see what happens,” Trump told Fox News on Thursday about his upcoming meeting with Xi.

“I’ll tell you we’ll be in there pitching, and I think we’re going to do very well” Trump added.

While the Chinese are strategic and conservative in their policy and diplomacy maneuvers, Trump has earned his reputation as brash and somewhat unpredictable, often venting governing frustrations on Twitter in 140 characters or less.

“[The Chinese] know that you cannot conduct foreign policy by Twitter, by tweeting, and brashness,” former Ambassador to China Max Baucus told NBC News.

I’m sure the Chinese know that all they have to do is say nice things about Trump and he’ll give away the store. He’s going to get played. I just hope it won’t be too damaging.

Mitch McConnell is determined to get Neil Gorsuch through the Senate despite a Democratic filibuster, and it looks like  he will exercise the so-called “nuclear option.” The sad fact that Gorsuch is obviously guilty of plagiarism doesn’t seem to matter to Republicans.

Now I want to move on to what I  believe is the most important story for the U.S. and the world right now.

After yesterday, I’m convinced that nothing that happens in the news is more important than the fact that the man who is pretending to be “president” is not only completely unqualified but also mentally unfit. There is something seriously wrong with Trump’s cognitive processes, and whether it’s dementia, drugs, or simple stupidity, we’re all in deep trouble.

New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman

Did you read the transcript of the interview Trump gave to The New York Times yesterday? I want to quote two sections of it here. During a discussion of the Gorsuch nomination, Trump claimed that Democrats have told him privately that they really don’t object that much to the pick, and here is his example:

TRUMP: Elijah Cummings [a Democratic representative from Maryland] was in my office and he said, “You will go down as one of the great presidents in the history of our country.”

HABERMAN: Really.

TRUMP: And then he went out and I watched him on television yesterday and I said, “Was that the same man?”

[Laughter.]

TRUMP: But I said, and I liked him, but I said that was really nice. He said, in a group of people, “You will go down as one of the great presidents in the history of our country.” And then I watched him on television and I said, “Is that the same man that said that to me?”

Did Trump somehow confuse Elijah Cummings with some other black man? WTF is he talking about, why don’t these reporters press him on it? This “interview” could easily pass as an evaluation of a mental patient by two psychiatrists. Here’s another section in which Trump claims that the story of Susan Rice’s unmasking of U.S. persons when she was Obama’s National Security Adviser is “a massive story.”

I think the Susan Rice thing is a massive story. I think it’s a massive, massive story. All over the world, I mean other than The New York Times.

HABERMAN: We’ve written about it twice.

TRUMP: Huh?

HABERMAN: We’ve written about it twice.

TRUMP: Yeah, it’s a bigger story than you know. I think —

HABERMAN: You mean there’s more information that we’re not aware of?

TRUMP: I think that it’s going to be the biggest story.

New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush

THRUSH: Why? What do you think —

TRUMP: Take a look at what’s happening. I mean, first of all her performance was horrible yesterday on television even though she was interviewed by Hillary Clinton’s P.R. person, Andrea Mitchell [the NBC News journalist]. Course you’ve been accused of that also.

HABERMAN: Mostly by you, though.

TRUMP: No, no, no. Mostly by a lot of people. So you know, we’ll see what happens, but it looks like it’s breaking into a massive story.

THRUSH: What do you think are — what other shoes are there to drop on this?

HABERMAN: Yeah, what else could we learn on this?

TRUMP: I think you’re going to see a lot. I think you’ll see a lot.

HABERMAN: In terms of what she did and in terms of [unintelligible]?

TRUMP: I think in terms of what other people have done also.

HABERMAN: Really?

TRUMP: I think it’s one of the biggest stories. The Russia story is a total hoax. There has been absolutely nothing coming out of that. But what, you know, what various things led into it was the story that we’re talking about, the Susan Rice. What’s happened is terrible. I’ve never seen people so indignant, including many Democrats who are friends of mine. I’ve never seen them acting this way. Because that’s really an affront on them, you know, they are talking about civil liberties. It’s such an affront, what took place.

THRUSH: What other people do you think will get ensnared in this? Can you give us a sense? How far this might extend

HABERMAN: From the previous administration.

TRUMP: I think from the previous administration.

THRUSH: How far up do you think this goes? Chief of staff?

TRUMP: I don’t want to say, but —

THRUSH: President?

TRUMP: I don’t want to say, but you know who. You know what was going on. You probably know better than anybody. I mean, I frankly think The Times is missing a big thing by not writing it because you’re missing out on the biggest story there is.

Why are these NYT reporters (Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush) patronizing Trump like this? I guess they are drawing him out to demonstrate that he’s a simpleton, but shouldn’t this be treated as a national emergency? The “president” is not well. No wonder there are always multiple “minders” in the room when he’s speaks publicly. Why are so many people pretending that this is somehow normal? We are facing multiple foreign crises right now and we have an incompetent “president” whose 36-year-old son-in-law appears to be running the government.

Yesterday’s Trump press conference with King Abdullah of Jordan was just as embarrassing. Trump spouted a lot of stream-of-conscientious nonsense about how disturbed he was by the chemical attack in Syria and that he had changed his point of view, and reporters pretended he had actually said something meaningful. Here’s the NYT story, for example. Yet Trump said nothing to explain what his policy was previously or what he had changed it to. He even went through that song-and-dance about how he won’t tell anyone ahead of time about what he’ll do “militarily.” This man is nuts, and the press should start saying so.

As Rachel Maddow pointed out last night, Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is every bit as incompetent as the “president.” Tillerson made a statement a couple of days ago that basically gave Asad permission to do whatever he wanted to the Syrian people. Business Insider reports:

Tillerson told reporters while he was in Turkey last week that the “longer-term status of President [Bashar] Assad will be decided by the Syrian people.”

The remark signaled a shift in the US’s official position toward the Syrian strongman. Though they were criticized for failing to act against Assad, President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State John Kerry had long called for Assad to step down in a monitored transition of power.

The US’s ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, took an even stronger position than Tillerson, telling reporters that the administration’s “priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out.”

Haley’s comments stood in stark contrast to those of the previous UN ambassador, Samantha Power, who directly confronted Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies during a UN Security Council meeting in December with a fierce address.

“Three member states of the UN contributing to a noose around civilians. It should shame you. Instead, by all appearances, it is emboldening you,” Power said at the time. “You are plotting your next assault. Are you truly incapable of shame?”

And of course there’s the growing threat from North Korea, which Tillerson also likely aggravated. The Week: Rex Tillerson says the U.S. has ‘spoken enough about North Korea,’ won’t comment on latest missile launch.

Not long after the news broke that North Korea launched a missile into the Sea of Japan, Tillerson released a brief statement Tuesday night confirming the launch of “yet another intermediate-range ballistic missile,” adding two very terse sentences: “The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment.” If you seek words of comfort in these uncertain times or angry declarations and threats of retaliation, Tillerson made it clear you had better look elsewhere.

If this is the secretary of state’s way of hinting he wants out of the job, Tillerson should know by now that all he needs to do is tag Jared Kushner, say, “You’re it,” and call it a day. Catherine Garcia

Here’s Charles M. Blow: Creeping Toward Crisis.

I am racked with anxiety that our buffoonish “president” — who sounds so internationally unsophisticated and who is still operating under a cloud of illegitimacy — is beginning to face his first real foreign crises.

What worries me most is that he seems to have no coherent plan, at least not one that he is willing or able to communicate. “I don’t show my hand” isn’t a strategy to conceal a plan as much as one to conceal the absence of a plan.

His statements are all bluster and bungling and bosh. Our commander in chief is not in full command of his emotions or facts or geopolitics.

We may sometimes think that the absurdity of Trump’s endless stream of contradictions and lies ends at the nation’s borders, but it doesn’t. The world is watching, and the world is full of dangerous men who see killing as a means of maintaining and exerting power. They see in Trump a novice and know-nothing, and they will surely test his resolve.

Trump has exposed himself to the world as an imbecile and burned through American credibility with his incessant lying. Even many of our allies seem confused and worried about where we stand and how we plan to proceed.

Trump is full of pride, obsessed with strongman personas, and absent of historical and geopolitical perspective. This is the worst possible situation. The man who could bring us into military engagement is woefully deficient in intellectual engagement.

Please go read the rest at the NYT.

It will clearly be another busy and chaotic day in politics. What stories are you following?

More information here: https://www.mddwi.com/


Thursday Reads

morning coffee book

Good Morning!!

Virginia State Sen. Creigh Deeds is apparently recovering from stab wounds inflicted by his son Gus on Tuesday. The young man shot himself after attacking his father. But state officials are investigating why Gus was refused psychiatric care the day before the attack. NBC Washington:

The incident has raised new questions about the capacity of Virginia’s mental health system. Tuesday, it was reported that hours before the attack Gus Deeds was the subject of an emergency custody order — but a bed at a hospital or psychiatric treatment facility was not available, and he was released home.

Now the Washington Post is reporting that  three hospitals within a two-hour drive of Bath County did have beds available, and two of the three say they were never contacted by the Rockbridge County Community Services Board trying to find a placement for Deeds son.

The state inspector general has now launched an investigation to find out what led to Gus Deeds’ release after the custody order was issued.

“Regardless of whether or not there were beds, there was not a system to determine if there were beds available,” Howell said. “It seems to me we should have a clearinghouse of some kind so that when somebody needs a bed, there is a very efficient way to find out where one is available.”

According to NBC Washington,

Dozens of mentally ill patients at risk of doing “serious harm” to themselves or others in Virginia were denied access to some psychiatric treatment in a span of just three months studied by state investigators, according to agency documents reviewed by the News4 I-Team.

An audit of Virginia’s Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, performed over a 3-month span in late 2011, found 72 people “at risk for serious harm” and in need of care received less treatment than necessary, in part because of a shortage of available psychiatric beds in the state.

Internal state investigators call the shortfall “a failure of the system” and a “canary in the coal mine” warning for Virginia leaders.

Agency documents show a decline in the overall number of treatment space for the mentally ill in Virginia. A 2007 report found 1,794 available hospital beds for the mentally ill in Virginia, but the number had dropped to 1,699 beds available in 2011.

Internal investigators reported, “Acute and intensive treatment beds in … state-operated psychiatric hospitals have also decreased, while the population has grown by approximately 13 percent during the last decade.”

Gee, I wonder if this has anything to do with budget cuts in states controlled by Republicans? From Think Progress:

“Many states appear to be effectively terminating a public psychiatric treatment system that has existed for nearly two centuries,” wrote researchers in a 2012 report by the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC), a nonprofit group that examines mental health issues. “The system was originally created to protect both the patients and the public, and its termination is taking place with little regard for the consequences to either group.”

According to the report, Virginia eliminated 15 percent of its public psychiatric beds between 2005 and 2010. The state has just 17.6 such beds per 10,000 people — less than 40 percent of the recommended minimum 50 beds per 10,000 people. That didn’t stop Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) from proposing even more cuts to mental health programs in 2012.

But McDonnell isn’t the only one to embrace such cuts. In fact, state governments across the nation slashed psychiatric funding to the point that, overall, the nation’s hospitals had just 28 percent of the recommended minimum number of hospital beds by 2010. Those reductions continued in the following years as states slashed $4.35 billion in mental health services between 2009 and 2012, forcing State Mental Health Agencies (SMHAs) to shutter mental health hospitals and eliminate nearly 10 percent of total available beds in those three years alone.

This is an issue that was discussed during the recent VA race for governor. From the Oct. 23rd Washington Post: Virginia’s mental health system needs money; candidates differ on how to provide it.

The major-party candidates for governor of Virginia agree that mental health systems need more resources. But their approaches differ greatly, based in part on how they view the Medicaid expansion of the new health-care law in Virginia.

Democrat Terry McAuliffe favors a Medicaid expansion wholeheartedly. He says it would provide new health-care coverage for about 400,000 Virginians and would increase money for mental health treatment.

Republican Ken Cuccinelli II opposes a Medicaid expansion completely and says McAuliffe’s estimates of its effect on Virginia are greatly overstated. Cuccinelli wants to increase state funding for mental health, but he would do so by shifting current Medicaid funds from other health-care areas. He also said he would target waste, fraud and abuse and use the savings to bolster options for the mentally ill and the intellectually disabled.

Fortunately for the people of Virgina, Terry McAuliffe won the election, and corrective measures will likely be taken. But they’ll come too late for Gus Deeds and his family. If a wealthy and connected family has this problem, can you imagine what it’s like for poorer people who need mental health treatment in Republican-controlled states?

teen+police+brutality+2

This story out of Philadelphia is horrible: Mom of Alleged Teen Shoplifter Accuses Police of Brutality. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that the boy is African American.

The mother of the 14-year-old boy, who was arrested for shoplifting, is accusing police of roughing him up.

“The picture speaks a thousand words,” says Marissa Sargeant, who shared several graphic photos with NBC10 that shows her son bruised, cut and swollen.

The teen was arrested by Tullytown Police for retail theft at Walmart on Tuesday night, along with an adult relative.

“What he did was wrong. He was coerced by a 19-year-old. He does know better,” said Sargeant.

“Roughing him up?” I’d say that’s quite an understatement, based on the photo.

Authorities say after the teen’s arrest, and before he was loaded into a police car, he took off running along Route 13 while handcuffed.

Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler tells NBC10 that police officers yelled warnings at the teen and fearing for his safety, they fired a stun gun to subdue him. The D.A. says the Taser struck the boy in the face and with his hands cuffed, the boy had no way to brace himself against falling face-first.

“That doesn’t sound right. There’s no way, if he was running from behind, that he would get hit with a taser in the front of his face,” said Sargeant.

The mom suspects police probably beat up her son as well, and I’d have to agree with her. Heckler is “investigating,” but he doesn’t think police did anything wrong. Sounds like a really unbiased “investigation,” doesn’t it?

Republicans are still blocking President Obama’s judicial nominees right and left, and Democrats are once again threatening to get rid of the filibuster for appointments. {Sigh…} Do you suppose there’s any chance they actually mean it this time? From The Washington Post:

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, is poised to move forward on Thursday with a vote on what is known on Capitol Hill as the “nuclear option,” several Democrats said. Mr. Reid and the senators who have been the most vocal on stopping the Republican blockade of White House nominees are now confident they have the votes to make the change.

“We’re not bluffing,” said one senior aide who has spoken with Mr. Reid directly and expects a vote on Thursday, barring any unforeseen breakthrough on blocked judges.

The threat that Democrats could significantly limit how the filibuster can be used against nominees has rattled Republicans. Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who has brokered last-minute deals that have averted a change to filibuster rules in the past, visited Mr. Reid in his office on Thursday but failed to strike a compromise.

Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa took to the Senate floor and denounced Democrats, saying that if they changed the rules, Republicans would consider them applicable to all judicial nominees, including those for the Supreme Court. Mr. Reid has said he supports keeping intact the minority party’s ability to filibuster controversial Supreme Court nominees.

“Apparently the other side wants to change the rules while still preserving the ability to block a Republican president’s ability to replace a liberal Supreme Court Justice with an originalist,” Mr. Grassley said.

At Politico, William Yeomans, an American University law professor and former Justice Department official says “Nuke ’em Harry!”

Democrats, it’s time to bid farewell to the filibuster as we’ve known it. Your restraint has gone beyond admirable to foolish. The institution for which you have shown extraordinary respect over the past four years, as Republicans flouted its best traditions, is no more. Republicans have overplayed their hand by disregarding prior agreements and turning the Senate into a graveyard—or at least a critical care unit—for obviously qualified presidential nominees. Republican obstruction has left you with nothing to lose by bringing the Senate fully into the 21st century and allowing the majority to rule. It’s time to change the rules….

Worried about blowback? Don’t be. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) helped expose the Republicans’ loss of leverage when he threatened that if the Democrats changed the filibuster rule, Republicans would appoint more justices like Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. Whoa! Is he suggesting that Republicans won’t appoint more radically conservative justices if Democrats keep the filibuster? That might be a deal worth taking, but it wouldn’t be worth the paper it was printed on. If Republicans regain control of the White House, any Supreme Court nominees will very much be in the model of Scalia and Thomas, and their colleagues Roberts and Samuel Alito—if not worse. That means they will disregard any pretense of judicial restraint to eviscerate civil rights laws, restrain congressional authority to enact social legislation, support states over the federal government and big business over labor, oppose the interests of consumers and make sure the executioner stays in business.

In reality, Republicans have nothing left with which to threaten you. Just stop and think about how unimportant the filibuster has been to you. You chose not to use it to stop Thomas and Alito, even though more than enough Democrats to support a filibuster voted against each. You embraced Scalia (by unanimous vote!) and Roberts. When Republican presidents went too far, you mustered the majority vote necessary to stop them without resorting to the filibuster. That’s why we didn’t have a Justice Bork, Carswell or Haynsworth, or a Secretary of Defense Tower, or an Associate Attorney General Reynolds. Sure, Miguel Estrada would be on the D.C. Circuit, but that hardly justifies tying your own hands in perpetuity.

He’s absolutely right, but do the wimpy Dems have the courage to act? I’ll believe it when I see it.

Here’s your stupid right wing corporate media story for today from Media Matters. David Gregory compares Obamacare to the Iraq war.

Not once but twice in recent days Meet The Press host David Gregory announced that the troubled launch of President Obama’s new health care law is roughly the equivalent to President Bush’s badly bungled war with Iraq. The NBC anchor was quick to point out that he didn’t mean the two events were the same with regards to a death toll. (Nobody has died from health care reform.) But Gregory was sure that in terms of how the former president and the current president are viewed, in terms of damage done to their credibility, the men will be forever linked to a costly, bloody war and a poorly functioning website, respectively.

“Everybody looked at Bush through the prism of Iraq,” Gregory explained. “Here, I think people are going to look at Obama through the implementation of Obamacare.”  It’s Obama’s defining event of their two-term presidency. It’s a catastrophic failure that’s tarnished Obama’s second term, and will perhaps “wreck” his entire presidency, according to the media’s “doom-mongering bubble,” as Kevin Drum at Mother Jones described it.

But like the painfully inappropriate comparisons to Hurricane Katrina that have populated the press, Gregory’s attempt to draw a Bush/Obama parallel is equally senseless. Bush’s war morass stretched over five years, so of course it defined his presidency.  Obama’s health care woes are in week number six and could be fixed within the next month.

Media Matters points out that not only is this “the mother lode of false equivalency,” but it’s a sly effort to “downgrade Bush’s historical failures, and to cover the media’s tracks of deception.”

I’ll end with two fascinating science stories to take your mind off politics and other distressing news.

Mars rock

From BBC News: Black Beauty rock ‘is oldest chunk of Mars’

A rock discovered in the Sahara Desert is the oldest Martian meteorite ever found, scientists believe.

Earlier research had suggested it was about two billion years old, but new tests indicate the rock actually dates to 4.4 billion years ago.

The dark and glossy meteorite, nicknamed Black Beauty, would have formed when the Red Planet was in its infancy.

The research is published in the journal Nature.

Lead author Prof Munir Humayan, from Florida State University, US, said: “This [rock] tells us about one of the most important epochs in the history of Mars.”

Read the rest at the link.

And from The Sydney Morning Herald: Siberian DNA link to Native Americans discovered.

The genome of a young boy buried at Mal’ta, near Lake Baikal in eastern Siberia, about 24,000 years ago has turned out to hold two surprises for anthropologists.

The first is that the boy’s DNA matches that of Western Europeans, showing that during the last ice age people from Europe had reached farther east across Eurasia than previously supposed.

The second surprise is that his DNA also matches a large proportion – about 25 per cent – of the DNA of living Native Americans. The first people to arrive in the Americas have long been assumed to have descended from Siberian populations related to East Asians. It now seems that they may be a mixture between the Western Europeans who had reached Siberia and an East Asian population.

Amazing, huh?
Now it’s your turn. What stories are you following today? Please share your links in the coMenusmment thread.

Tuesday Reads: Rachel and Trayvon, Reid Going Nuclear, Spy Stories, and Much More

Dog_getting_the_newspaper

Good Morning!!

I’m not sure if it’s the heat or the depressing news, but I’m having a hard time getting going this morning.

We’re into our third heat wave of the summer, and I’m actually getting acclimated to 90 degree weather; but I suppose it still has an effect on my body and mind.

I’m also somewhat depressed about the Zimmerman verdict and by the often ignorant reactions I see on-line and on TV.

Rachel and Trayvon

One bright spot in the coverage for me was Rachel Jeantel’s interview with Piers Morgan last night. She was real and authentic, and Morgan pretty much stayed out of the way and let her talk. I think she made a real impression on him and the reaction from the live audience was very positive too. It was refreshing. IMO, it says a lot about Travon Martin’s character that he had a friend like Rachel. I’m going to post the whole interview here in case you missed it or you want to watch it again.

From Mediaite:

Asked about what Trayvon Martin was like as a friend, Jeantel described him as a “calm, chill, loving person” and said she never saw him get “aggressive” or “lose his temper.” She said that the defense’s attempts to portray Martin as a “thug” were unfounded and defended his relatively mild drug use. “Weed don’t make him go crazy,” she said, “it just makes him go hungry.”

Jeantel also responded to the massive mockery she received in social media for the way she speaks, explaining that she was born with an under-bite that has made it difficult for her to speak clearly. When Morgan asked if she’d been bullied for her condition, she simply responded, “Look at me,” to laughter from the studio audience.

Morgan attempted to get Jeantel to offer her opinion of defense attorney Don West, who many claimed was condescending towards her when she was on the stand. Jeantel shook her head, declining to say anything bad about the man given her “Christian” upbringing.

In the second part of his interview with Jeantel, Morgan turned to the “creepy-ass cracker” comment she made and the major impact it had on the tenor of the case. She explained that the term is actually spelled “cracka” and defined it as “people who are acting like they’re police.” She said that if Zimmerman had calmly approached Martin and introduced himself, her friend would have politely said what he was doing there and nothing more would have happened.

Unlike the juror, Jeantel did think Zimmerman was racially motivated. “It was racial,” she said. “Let’s be honest, racial. If Trayvon was white and he had a hoodie on, would that happen?”

I’d also like to recommend this piece by Robin D.G. Kelley at Counterpunch:  The US v. Trayvon Martin.

In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, Senator Rand Paul, Florida State Representative Dennis Baxley (also sponsor of his state’s Stand Your Ground law), along with a host of other Republicans, argued that had the teachers and administrators been armed, those twenty little kids whose lives Adam Lanza stole would be alive today.   Of course, they were parroting the National Rifle Association’s talking points.  The NRA and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the conservative lobbying group responsible for drafting and pushing “Stand Your Ground” laws across the country, insist that an armed citizenry is the only effective defense against imminent threats, assailants, and predators.

But when George Zimmerman fatally shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed, teenage pedestrian returning home one rainy February evening from a neighborhood convenience store, the NRA went mute.  Neither NRA officials nor the pro-gun wing of the Republican Party argued that had Trayvon Martin been armed, he would be alive today.  The basic facts are indisputable: Martin was on his way home when Zimmerman began to follow him—first in his SUV, and then on foot.  Zimmerman told the police he had been following this “suspicious-looking” young man.  Martin knew he was being followed and told his friend, Rachel Jeantel, that the man might be some kind of sexual predator.  At some point, Martin and Zimmerman confronted each other, a fight ensued, and in the struggle Zimmerman shot and killed Martin.

Zimmerman pursued Martin.  This is a fact.  Martin could have run, I suppose, but every black man knows that unless you’re on a field, a track, or a basketball court, running is suspicious and could get you a bullet in the back.  The other option was to ask this stranger what he was doing, but confrontations can also be dangerous—especially without witnesses and without a weapon besides a cell phone and his fists.  Florida law did not require Martin to retreat, though it is not clear if he had tried to retreat.  He did know he was in imminent danger.

Why didn’t Trayvon have a right to stand his ground? Why didn’t his fear for his safety matter? We need to answer these questions as a society.  Please read the whole article if you can.
Read the rest of this entry »