Saturday Reads: Today is the 7th Anniversary of the Sandy Hook School Schooting

 

Today is the 7th anniversary of the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Looking back, after all the horrendous school shootings that followed and the lack of any serious response by the federal government, we can see clearly how the NRA, along with Russia, has taken control of the Republican Party. We now know that Russia worked with the NRA to elect an evil wannabe dictator to the U.S. presidency.

From Wikipedia:

Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting

The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occurred on December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, United States, when 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed 26 people, including 20 children between six and seven years old, and six adult staff members. Wikipedia

DateDecember 14, 2012
WeaponsBushmaster XM15-E2S rifle; Glock 20SF handgun;
Total number of deaths28 (27 at the school including the perpetrator, and the perpetrator’s mother at home)

Survivors and supporters are posting remembrances on Twitter. Among them is this story that Senator Chris Murphy about one of the lost children, Daniel Barden.

A reminder that Democrats are trying to make changes to our insane gun laws:

 

From Everytown Research: Gunfire on School Grounds in the United States.

There were at least 100 incidents of gunfire on school grounds in 2019, resulting in:

  • 26 deaths, including 3 suicide deaths (where no one else was harmed) and
  • 63 injuries, including 0 self-harm injuries (where no one else was harmed)

Everytown for Gun Safety started tracking incidents of gunfire on school grounds in 2013 to gain a better understanding of how often children and teens are affected by gun violence at their schools and colleges, and in response to a lack of research and data on the issue.

Students who walked out of their Montgomery County, Maryland, schools protest against gun violence in front of the White House in Washington, U.S., February 21, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY – RC195C982280

Over six years of tracking, this data has shown us that gunfire on school grounds takes many forms and mirrors the problem of gun violence in America. Gunfire on school grounds occurs most often at schools with a high proportion of students of color—disproportionately affecting Black students. For more information, click here to read the analysis of this data and learn about proven solutions that can make schools in America safer.

When it comes to how American children are exposed to gun violence, gunfire at schools is just the tip of the iceberg–every year, nearly 2,900 children and teens are shot and killed and nearly 15,600 more are shot and injured. An estimated 3 million American children are exposed to shootings per year. Witnessing shootings — whether in their schools, their communities or their homes– can have a devastating impact. Children exposed to violence, crime, and abuse are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol; suffer from depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder; fail or have difficulties in school; and engage in criminal activity.

See a map and a list of the incidents at the link. The most recent was on Dec. 2.

ABC News: School shootings are more common than you may think: A look at the incidents that went under the radar in 2019.

Since Columbine permanently etched horrific images into the national consciousness two decades ago, the scene has played out again and again. And school districts around the country have girded themselves against that dreaded scenario, performing drills, hiring armed guards and preparing safety plans.

According to the FBI, there have been 42 “active shooter” incidents at Pre-K through 12 school grounds from 2000-2018, which the bureau defines as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area.” These include the high-profile incidents like Parkland and Sandy Hook.

But this definition obscures many school shootings — more than two dozen in 2019 alone, according to an ABC News analysis of incidents at K-12 schools — many of which pass under the radar, but impact the students, teachers and communities where they occur….

During the third week of November alone, officers responded to crime scenes on the East and West coasts: in Pleasantville, New Jersey, where a 10-year-old child was killed during a football game, and in Santa Clarita, California, where a teen opened fire on his classmates, killing two and wounding several more at Saugus High School.

With no nationally accepted definition, sorting out what constitutes a school shooting is difficult. Everytown, an independent, non-profit group that studies gun violence, reports it has tracked at least 99 incidents of gunfire on school grounds in 2019 alone (through Dec. 11), including three suicides and 63 injuries….

ABC News has reviewed the database from the non-profit Gun Violence Archives, and, for the purposes of this story, defined a school shooting as an incident where an alleged assailant steps onto the property of an educational institution — during school hours or during an extracurricular activity on the property — and fires a gun at another person, in order to present a fuller picture of violence at schools not covered by the FBI “active shooter” rubric.

Based on news reports and data collected by the Gun Violence Archive, ABC News has found 26 such shootings since January — with half occurring on Fridays. The most violent month was in September, where seven shootings were reported at high schools in Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. July was the safest month, according to ABC News’ report.

See a list of the school shootings ABC identified in 2019 at the link.

The New York Times: The Yearbook That Victims of School Shootings Never Collected.

The black, hard-bound book with black lettering is meant to look stark. The harsh cover with only “2018” on its top purposely does not resemble the colorful fronts of normal yearbooks, which “should be about commencement, hopes and dreams and what comes next in life,” its website says.

“Unfortunately,” it adds, “this yearbook is about none of those things.”

It’s a yearbook for people killed in school shootings in 2018.

Yearbook of School Shooting Victims

Created by a group that includes a Parkland survivor and a Sandy Hook mother, as well as several nonprofit organizations, the 2018 yearbook memorializing 37 victims who were fatally shot while under the protective mantle of education has one goal: Stop the violence.

The group is shipping copies of the yearbook to all members of the United States Senate, the governors of every state, each of the 2020 presidential candidates, and President Trump.

“When you lose a child, that pain is with you, every day, all day long,” said Scarlett Lewis, one of the yearbook’s organizers and the mother of Jesse Lewis, 6, who was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, 2012.
This Saturday will be the seventh anniversary of the massacre at Sandy Hook, where Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 first-grade students and six staff members before killing himself as police arrived at the school. Earlier in the day, Mr. Lanza shot and killed his mother.

Before he was shot, Jesse Lewis saved the lives of several classmates after he urged them to flee from the gunfire as Mr. Lanza reloaded, The Hartford Courant reported in October 2013. His mother, who founded the nonprofit Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement, said she tries to embody that courage daily.

“I want this project to spur everyone into action,” she said. “The opposite of anxiety is action.”

The Hartford Courant: After years of planning, ‘The Clearing’ is a memorial that will honor the 26 victims who died at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

From a bird’s-eye view, the memorial renderings show a web of paths swirling inward from an expansive circle. Looping through gardens, tree groves and ponds, they join at a single point: a sycamore tree, surrounded by a reflecting pool.

Years in the making, “The Clearing” is Newtown’s proposed design for a public memorial honoring the 26 victims murdered in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings on Dec. 14, 2012. Its creators envision a place to remember and respect the deep grief that families here have endured.

Aerial rendering of the Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial design. Courtesy of SWA Group.

Budget issues initially halted progress, but the local board of selectmen and the memorial commission are now ready to move forward. If Newtown voters approve funds for the project next year, the memorial could open by December of 2021.

“For me, it’s not so much about the design, but about what it represents,” said Scarlett Lewis, whose son Jesse Lewis was one of the children killed in the tragedy.

Lewis was an early member of The Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission before founding the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation to prevent school shootings. Although she is no longer a part of the commission, she continues to support the memorial.

“It’s incredibly important to honor and remember,” she said. “It takes courage to remember, and it’s a great way to learn from past mistakes.”

Survivor stories from AP: As Newtown students grow up, some turn to activism.

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — They were children themselves when they lost siblings, friends, and schoolmates in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Too young to comprehend the massacre, they spent years in shock and denial.

Seven years later, some young people in Newtown, still struggling with the trauma, are emerging as new voices for school safety and gun violence prevention. The activism, they say, has been a way to turn something horrific into something positive.

Natalie Barden was 10 when her brother, Daniel, 7, was killed. She attended a different school that went into lockdown as word of the shooting spread. She remembers being annoyed that morning as Daniel hugged her while they got ready for school.

Rendering of the Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial reflecting pool. Courtesy of SWA Group.

Her favorite memories are of sleeping on Daniel’s bed with Daniel and their older brother, James, because it was the biggest, and watching television, playing board games and wrestling.

Her father, Mark Barden, became an activist with the Sandy Hook Promise group he helped create after the shooting. Natalie disliked the media attention and interviews in their home because they brought back the pain of losing Daniel.

“When you’re that young, it’s really hard to wrap your mind around it,” said Natalie, now a 17-year-old senior at Newtown High School. “Your sibling is such a big part of your life, and to know your brother for only seven years is gone — I still can’t wrap my mind around it. When I got to high school, it really hit me.”

As she entered school, the shock was wearing off. Then 17 people were killed in the February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. She was inspired by the Parkland teens who demanded action on gun control….

“That just kind of pushed me to become more involved with the whole youth movement,” Natalie said in an interview.

Her sophomore year, Natalie joined the Junior Newtown Action Alliance, the youth arm of the Newtown Action Alliance, a local group dedicated to promoting gun control measures.

In this Dec. 3, 2019, photo, Mark Barden and his daughter Natalie Barden hold a photograph of Natalie’s late brother, Daniel, at their home in Newtown, Conn. (AP Photo/Dave Collins)

She has called the offices of federal lawmakers, urging them to pass gun control bills, including an assault weapons ban. She began going on speaking engagements with her father.

An article she wrote for Teen Vogue last year sparked positive feedback from others affected by mass shootings, she said. She also wrote about her brother, feelings of loss and hope for the future in a chapter of a book published earlier this year, “If I Don’t Make It, I Love You: Survivors in the Aftermath of School Shootings.”

“I lost my brother, so I know how life-shattering a gun can be,” she said. “I think it’s just human nature to want to prevent others from feeling that way. We’ve kind of lost our innocence. We can’t sit back and ignore it.”

Read the other stories at the AP link.

One more from The Washington Post: My son survived Sandy Hook. It’s changed me as a parent, by Sarah Walker Caron.

When the first few chords of Jewel’s “You Were Meant for Me” blasted through the loudspeakers, I smiled. But moments later, tears gathered in my eyes, and I fought the urge to break down.

It was a chilly October Saturday afternoon in Maine, when the leaves were a rustling, vibrant array of oranges, reds and magentas. Thousands of people crowded the area, waiting to cheer on the racers.

My son warmed up with his cross-country teammates, readying themselves for their race. Nearby, girls from dozens of high school teams stood at the starting line, waiting for their race to begin.

As the song swirled around all of us — the runners, the parents, the friends — the girls at the starting line broke into song, singing along with loud, strong voices. Dozens of girls, representing dozens of teams, they were brought together in that moment, vibrant, full of life, energetic.

Tears collected in my eyes and dripped down my cheeks. It was a beautiful moment that left me shaken. The camaraderie, the sweetness, the life inside those girls took my breath away. I didn’t even know them. A few deep breaths helped. But the underlying reason I cried can’t be breathed away.

My son — my vibrant, athletic 14-year-old — is a mass shooting survivor.

His life continued because the gunman chose to enter the classroom across the hall, instead of his. It’s a sobering fact that is never far from my consciousness, though I wish it could be. Seven years ago, on Dec. 14, 2012, Will was a 7-year-old second-grader at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

I know there is plenty of other news today; but after I opened Twitter this morning, I decided to focus on the Sandy Hook Anniversary. Please post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comments. This is an open thread.


Friday Reads: United States of Embarrassment

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

It’s hard to know where to start the day’s news round up because it’s just one big shit show brought to you by KKKremlin Caligula. There was an active school shooter this morning in Sante Fe, Texas where they have been injuries and fatalities reported. While this was going on, the most despised human being on the planet was tweeting about Hillary Clinton and some deep state cover up by the FBI which is tantamount to broadcasting some Alex Jones drug-induced conspiracy theory to the world.

I can only hope that this means that something has his tighty whities in a bunch.  Is it that Manafort’s son-in-law turned state’s evidence and cut a plea deal?  Was it the very idea that some one in his campaign triggered an FBI investigation which may have put an agent inside watching things? Is it just that every times he opens his mouth something completely idiotic and wrong slips out.

This is the same national embarrassment that is now speaking of himself in the third person and has no idea what the difference is between HPV and HIV and had to ask twice about it. But, he has an embarrassing level of detail and interest in the 22 year old daughter of Bill and Melinda Gates.  He keeps admitting that his pastime is “eyeing little girls with bad intent.”

From the Guardian: “Bill Gates: Trump twice asked me the difference between HIV and HPV. Microsoft co-founder tells foundation meeting it was ‘kind of scary’ how much Trump knew about what Gates’ daughter looked like.

Bill Gates, the billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist, has claimed Donald Trump twice asked him the difference between HIV and HPV and knew a “scary” amount about Gates’s daughter’s looks.

The remarks were recorded at a recent Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation meeting, where Gates took questions from staff, according to MSNBC’s All in with Chris Hayes show, which broadcast the footage on Thursday.

Gates told the audience how Trump had encountered his daughter Jennifer, now 22, at a horse show in Florida. “And then about 20 minutes later he flew in on a helicopter to the same place,” the Microsoft co-founder said. “So clearly he had been driven away but he wanted to make a grand entrance in a helicopter.”

Gates himself met Trump for the first time in New York in December 2016, he recalled: “So when I first talked to him it was actually kind of scary how much he knew about my daughter’s appearance. Melinda [Gates’s wife] didn’t like that too well.”

This was the additional creepy thing.

Gates is hardly known for his comic timing but he frequently prompted laughter from the audience at the foundation event. In one anecdote he said: “When I walked in, his first sentence kind of threw me off. He said: ‘Trump hears that you don’t like what Trump is doing.’ And I thought, ‘Wow, but you’re Trump.’ I didn’t know the third-party form was always expected. ‘Gates says that Gates knows that you’re not doing things right.’”

Trump has a now-familiar verbal tic of referring to himself in the third person.

So, the man that does not know the difference between HIV and HPV and likened his personal fight against STDs to serving in Vietnam continues to surrender women’s health to a racist, nationalist religious cult called White Evangelical Christianity.

The Trump administration is preparing to announce on Friday a far-reaching change in how Title X family planning funds are awarded so that clinics that provide or abortion services or referrals will no longer be eligible — a move that would effectively defund Planned Parenthood by millions of dollars.

Under the proposal to be filed by the Department of Health and Human Services, the $260 million program would require a “bright line” of physical and financial separation between Title X services and providers that perform, support, or refer to abortion as a method of family planning.

These requirements are similar to those that were in place, although they were not enforced, during the Reagan era. Unlike the Reagan regulation, the proposal will not prohibit counseling for clients about abortion, meaning that there’s no “gag rule” that critics of the changes had feared, according to an administration official.

The changes, the official said, reflect the view that taxpayer funds should not be used to fund abortion and that Title X funds are for family planning services, and abortion is not family planning. The updates are also designed to establish more transparency about the activities of grantees and their sub-grantees.

Conservatives are confident that the new rules will withstand a legal challenge, because similar Reagan-era requirements overcame a Supreme Court challenge.

David Christensen, vice president of government affairs for the Family Research Council, said in an interview that those standards required operations receiving Title X funds to be physically and financially separate from those performing abortions.

“Under Reagan, they could not be co-located, they couldn’t refer for abortion,” Christensen said.

Why do all bad and evil things find their roots in the Reagan years?  Asking for womankind here.  So, now Faux news has decided that Trump just might be the “second coming” of Reagan.  And while I’m asking questions does any one find all this messianic language creepy?  I swear,the Republican party is a damned cult these days.

Bret Baier, chief political anchor of Fox News, President Trump’s favorite network, insists he isn’t living in some alternate reality. He knows that our current President is louder, cruder, and ruder than Ronald Reagan, “a counterpuncher” from New York far different from his genial Republican predecessor. Baier is not handing Trump the Nobel Prize for a North Korea summit that hasn’t even happened yet, and he footnotes every conversation with a caution that we don’t know how the Trump story turns out. “I’m not saying that Trump is Reagan, or Reagan is Trump,” he said when we met the other day, in his corner office at the Fox bureau in Washington, not long after handing me a signed copy of the new book he wrote with Catherine Whitney, “Three Days in Moscow: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of the Soviet Union.”

Cautions dispensed with, Baier, who has carved out a profitable sideline moonlighting as a Presidential historian, reeled off what he sees as striking parallels between Trump and Reagan, and his book makes much of everything from their “similar rhetoric in big speeches” to tough media coverage and a shared penchant for being “underestimated.” Decades after many of the details about precisely what happened in Reagan’s eight-year Presidency, in the twilight of the Cold War, have faded from public memory, he remains an exalted figure in the Republican pantheon. Most significantly, Baier argues, Reagan met with the Soviets, but only after years of talking tough about the “evil empire.” A generation later, Trump may be poised for his own expectation-scrambling summitry with the North Korean leader, an example Baier and some Trump partisans portray as a modern-day equivalent of Reagan’s policy of “peace through strength.” “Heads were exploding back when Reagan was elected, and heads are exploding now,” Baier said, as we talked about the twin challenges of covering Trump, a President “unlike any we’ve ever seen,” and writing history amid the “fire hose” of Trump-era news.

Right before our conversation, Baier had appeared on the radio with Rush Limbaugh, the conservative talk-show host who reveres Reagan so much he refers to him as Ronaldus Magnus. Limbaugh waxed on to Baier about “the parallels” between two different men, and Baier agreed. “Exactly,” he said. “One thing you can say is, like Reagan, Trump has changed the paradigm. I mean, the jury’s still out on the end result, but the game changed in the way Washington worked.” Baier, who devotes the entire last chapter of his Reagan book to a discussion of Trump, would go on to sell the Reagan-Trump comparison throughout the week, as his book launch continued, chatting amiably about it with the ladies of “The View,” nodding along with his colleagues at “Fox & Friends.” “Bret Baier talks Reagan-Trump parallels,” Fox touted in the video clip from its show, “The Five.”

Soon after our interview on Monday evening, Baier would head over to the Marriott Marquis hotel for his book party. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao showed up, as did White House adviser Kellyanne Conway. It was so crowded with Trump luminaries, it could have been a Cabinet meeting.

Here’s a real doozy of a “me too” story from Foreign Policy. “Sexpat Journalists Are Ruining Asia Coverage. Newsroom predators in foreign bureaus hurt their colleagues — and their stories.”  This is by Joanna Chiu.

Once, a fellow journalist exited our shared taxi outside my apartment. I thought we were sharing a cab to our respective homes, but he had other expectations, and suddenly his tongue was in my face. On another evening, another journalist grabbed my wrist and dragged me out of a nightclub without a word. I was clearly too drunk to consent; it was a caveman approach to get me into bed while I was intoxicated. And on yet another occasion, in a Beijing restaurant, a Western public relations executive reached under my dress and grabbed my crotch.

The incidents aren’t limited by proximity. I have received multiple unsolicited “dick pics” from foreign correspondents — generally on the highly monitored messaging service WeChat. Somewhere deep in the Chinese surveillance apparatus there is a startling collection of images of journalists’ genitalia.

The #MeToo campaign has reminded us of how common these stories are — but the behavior of foreign men working abroad has, in my experience, been far worse than anything I ever experienced at home. Fortunately for me, I’ve experienced this only as part of the wider journalist community, not in my own workplaces – but others haven’t been so lucky. The phenomenon is not a problem unique to the press, but it’s one that’s especially problematic for journalists.

A somber meeting this Tuesday of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China, which represents the interests of foreign journalists in a difficult local environment, provided another painful example of this. As the New York Times reported, former club president Jonathan Kaiman, who had resigned in January after being accused of sexual misconduct by Laura Tucker, a former friend of his, was now accused of sexually assaulting a female journalist, Felicia Sonmez. After the second accusation, the Los Angeles Times quickly suspended him from his role as Beijing bureau chief and has begun an investigation. But as the Hong Kong Free Press noted, the original accusation had prompted many male correspondents to launch misogynistic attacks on Tucker in online conversations.

Such actions, and entitlement, reflect a sense of privilege and a penchant for sexual aggression that threatens to distort the stories told about Asia, and that too often leaves the telling in the hands of the same men preying on their colleagues. I have seen correspondents I know to be serial offenders in private take the lead role in reporting on the sufferings of Asian women, or boast of their bravery in covering human rights. In too many stories, Asian men are treated as the sole meaningful actors, while Asian women are reduced to sex objects or victims. And this bad behavior — and the bad coverage that follows — is a pattern that repeats across Asia, from Tokyo to Phnom Penh.

Meanwhile, it appears Trump has caved to NK’s Kim Jong Un and halted the joint training between the US and SK.  The only person that appears to be capable of maintaining maximum pressure is Michael Avenatti.  This is from Josh Rogin writing for WAPO.

The Trump administration says that if the upcoming summit between the United States and North Korea fails or doesn’t happen at all, the United States and its allies can go right back to the “maximum pressure” campaign that brought Kim Jong Un to the table in the first place. In reality, doing that would be difficult if not impossible. The pressure is already diminishing.

The administration’s claim that it can immediately turn on the pressure again is crucial to its effort to play it cool ahead of the Trump-Kim summit. President Trump often says that if Kim doesn’t want to strike a good deal, he will simply walk away, no harm done. After the North Korean government threatened to scuttle the talks this week in response to comments from national security adviser John Bolton, the White House doubled down on this assertion.

In reality, the dynamics that made a successful maximum-pressure campaign possible have changed fundamentally. The United States and its allies have paused their efforts to increase sanctions on North Korea to give diplomacy a chance to work. The sting of the existing sanctions naturally erodes over time. There are reports that China is already easing up on its sanctions enforcement, allowing more laborers and goods to flow over North Korea’s northern border. The mood in South Korea has changed significantly, making the threat of military action less credible.

Meanwhile, the United Nation is actively slapping US foreign policy on Israel to the ground. I’m actually thinking Trump will pull the US from the body at this point it’s so obviously aimed at him.  The UN has voted to investigate War Crimes in the Gaza Massacre that happened during the Kushner debacle opening an US embassy in Jerusalem. which, once again, panders to religious cultists. This is from The Independent.

The UN has voted to send an international war crimes probe to Gaza after the body’s leading human rights official slammed Israel‘s reaction to protests along the border as “wholly disproportionate.”

Israeli firing into Hamas-ruled Gaza killed nearly 60 Palestinians at mass border protests on Monday.

“There is little evidence of any attempt to minimise casualties on Monday,” Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein told a special session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The council voted through the resolution by 29 in favour and two opposed, while 14 states abstained.

Additionally, Kuwait wants to request a Palestianian protection force. This is likely to be vetoed by the US perThe Jerusalem Post.

The United Nations Security Council will begin talks on Monday on a Kuwait-drafted resolution that condemns Israeli force against Palestinian civilians and calls for an “international protection mission” to be deployed to the occupied territories.

The draft resolution, seen by Reuters on Friday, asks UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to report within 30 days of its adoption on “ways and means for ensuring the safety, protection and well-being of the Palestinian civilian population.”

I’m going to close with the sad news that ‘Multiple Fatalities’ have been reported in that school shooting.

At least eight people are dead following a shooting at Santa Fe High School outside of Houston, Texas, law enforcement officials have told multiple local news sources.

One person, reportedly a male who federal officials believe to be a student, is in custody, and another person has been detained, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez tweeted. At least three people — two adults and one student — are being treated for injuries at a local hospital. One police officer was wounded. The Houston Chronicle is reporting that the officer was “clipped” and is not seriously injured.

November 18 is coming and we all need to vote to end this war on humanity, science, world peace, and civilization.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Thursday Reads: Trump Wants to Arm Teachers, and Other News

President Trump holds a card with talking points during a listening session with high school students and teachers on gun violence on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

Good Morning!!

Yesterday afternoon, Trump held a “listening session” for victims of school shootings. (He was invited to the CNN town hall, but chose not to attend.) The Washington Post: This photo of Trump’s notes captures his empathy deficit better than anything.

President Trump held a worthwhile listening session Wednesday featuring a range of views on how to combat gun violence in schools. And while Trump’s at-times-meandering comments about arming teachers will certainly raise eyebrows, for the most part he did listen.

Thanks in part, it seems, to a helpful little reminder.

Washington Post photographer Ricky Carioti captured [an] image of Trump’s notes [see photo above].

Yep, right there at No. 5 is a talking point about telling those present that he was actually listening to them. After what appear to be four questions he planned to ask those assembled, No. 5 is an apparent reminder for Trump to tell people, “I hear you.”

Even No. 1 is basically a reminder that Trump should empathize. “What would you most want me to know about your experience?” the card reads.

Activists and students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School attended a rally at the state Capitol in Tallahassee, Fl on Wednesday. Don Juan Moore Getty Images

I was surprised that the people at Trump’s White House meeting were permitted to speak honestly about their experiences. But when Trump himself spoke, it was clear he wasn’t really listening to their pain. You know who wouldn’t have needed those notes? Hillary Clinton.

After teenagers cried about losing friends and being terrorized by a person with an AR-15, after angry, heartbroken parents spoke of losing their children to senseless gun violence, Trump’s brilliant solution was to give teachers with handguns and expect them to kill suicidal shooters with semi-automatic weapons.

Trump must have seen some of the media reaction to this insane suggestion, because this morning he was on twitter claiming he never said it–but then he said it again.

And would these armed teachers be paid extra for this dangerous duty? Would the government pay for training them? Wouldn’t all this time spent training take away from their actual job of classroom teaching, which requires plenty of preparation and time spend grading papers? Trump isn’t concerned about all that: “far more assets at much less cost.” Trump sees teachers as slave labor!

Trump must have heard from his supporters at the NRA, because he later tweeted this:

Trump learned absolutely nothing from his “listening session.” Last night Lawrence O’Donnell explain why Trump’s idea is utterly insane. Check it out if you didn’t see it.

More from @Lawrence:

Philip Bump at The Washington Post: The economics of arming America’s schools. Bump begins with Trump’s proposal:

“A lot of people are talking about it — it’s certainly a point that we’ll discuss,” Trump said. “But concealed-carry for teachers and for people of talent — of that type of talent — so let’s say you had 20 percent of your teaching force. Because that’s pretty much the number, and you said it — an attack has lasted, on average, about three minutes. It takes five to eight minutes for responders — for the police to come in. So the attack is over. If you had a teacher with — who was adept at firearms, they could very well end the attack very quickly.”

How would that work and how much would it cost?

Data from the Department of Education indicates that there are an estimated 3.1 million public school and 400,000 private-schoolteachers in the United States. In total, there are about 3.6 million teachers.

One-fifth of that total is 718,000 — a bit fewer than the number of people in the Army and the Navy combined as of last December. We’d essentially be adding 50 percent to the size of the military by mandating that three-quarters of a million people be trained and prepared to take up arms to defend civilians.

The first cost that needs to be considered is training. What sort of training would be required isn’t clear. Do we want to simply teach the teachers how to target an individual and fire a weapon? Or do we want something more expansive?

Let’s say we want the bare minimum, just enough to pass the safety requirement for gun ownership. In Maryland, there’s a company that will charge you $100 for that training. The cost, then, would be about $71.8 million for all of our teachers.

I’ll let you read the rest at the link. I think the proposal is idiotic. Would Trump expect teachers to pay for this training? It’s a good thing teachers have unions.

As an antidote to all this insanity, here’s a Tweet from Barack Obama:

In other news, Bernie Sanders is on the defensive after indictments from Robert Mueller made it clear that the Russians supported Sanders’ primary campaign against Hillary Clinton.

Politico: Bernie blames Hillary for allowing Russian interference.

Bernie Sanders on Wednesday blamed Hillary Clinton for not doing more to stop the Russian attack on the last presidential election. Then his 2016 campaign manager, in an interview with POLITICO, said he’s seen no evidence to support special counsel Robert Mueller’s assertion in an indictment last week that the Russian operation had backed Sanders’ campaign.

The remarks showed Sanders, running for a third term and currently considered a front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, deeply defensive in response to questions posed to him about what was laid out in the indictment. He attempted to thread a response that blasts Donald Trump for refusing to acknowledge that Russians helped his campaign — but then holds himself harmless for a nearly identical denial.

In doing so, Sanders and his former campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, presented a series of self-serving statements that were not accurate, and that track with efforts by Trump and his supporters to undermine the credibility of the Mueller probe.“The real question to be asked is what was the Clinton campaign [doing about Russian interference]? They had more information about this than we did,” Sanders said in the interview with Vermont Public Radio.

Some Twitter reactions:

According to CNN, HR McMaster could be on the way out: McMaster could leave WH after months of tension with Trump.

With tensions flaring between President Donald Trump and national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the Pentagon is considering options that would allow the President to potentially move the three-star general out of his current role and back into the military, according to half a dozen defense and administration officials.

A search is quietly being conducted by the Pentagon to see if there is a four-star military job suited for McMaster, these officials said.

Several sources told CNN that the push for a replacement comes after months of personal tension between McMaster and Trump. The task of easing McMaster out of his role as national security adviser presents a unique challenge for the White House.

While administration officials have privately said the preference is to move McMaster into a position within the Army or Defense Department that qualifies as a promotion, some within the Pentagon feel he has become politicized in the White House and have expressed reservations about him returning to the military in a prominent role. Some defense officials caution that the President could also go as far as not to offer him a fourth star and force him to retire.

Read more at the CNN link.

I’ll end with a bit of positive news from the Dallas Morning News: Fueled by a Democratic surge, Texans turn out in force on first day of early voting.

AUSTIN — Of the 51,249 Texans who cast ballots Tuesday on the first day of early voting, more than half voted in the Democratic primary.

The total number of voters from the 15 counties with the most people registered is high for a midterm year. In 2016, a presidential election year, 55,931 Texans voted on the first day of early voting for the primary. But in the last midterm election in 2014, only 38,441 Texans voted on the first day.

Even more surprising is the turnout among Democrats. Since the last midterm election, the party saw a 51 percent increase in first-day early voting turnout, while Republicans saw a 16 percent increase….

Political experts attribute much of Texas’ increased voter turnout as a reaction to the election of President Donald Trump in 2016, as well as the state’s eight open congressional seats.

“In general, there seems to be more energy, largely stemming from people’s reactions to President Trump and a lot of Democrat-leaning groups trying to get people out and organized,” said Robert Lowry, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Dallas. “It’s maybe more Democrats than Republicans, but people who oppose him and don’t like the results of the election and can’t believe he won, [saying] ‘We obviously can’t vote against him this time but we can try to get more Democrats elected to respond to him.'”

What else is happening? What stories are you following today?

 


Thursday Reads: Another Mass Shooting Followed by Nothing but “Thoughts and Prayers”

Students evacuate Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida on Wednesday.

Good Afternoon, Sky Dancers.

It’s another heartbreaking day in Trump world, in the GOP-controlled USA, where the ability to buy semi-automatic rifles is more important than the health and safety of our children. Why is that? Because the Republican Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of the NRA. And Russia: let’s not forget that Russia is in bed with the NRA too.

CNBC: NRA, Russia and Trump: How ‘dark money’ is poisoning American democracy.

It was recently revealed that the FBI is investigating the National Rifle Association to determine whether a Russian central banker, and Putin ally, illegally funneled money through the organization to help the Trump campaign.

These allegations have now prompted a complaint to the Federal Election Commission and an effort by Sen. Ron Wyden to obtain documents from the Treasury Department and the NRA. As shocking as other Russia-related revelations have been — attempts to hack voting machines, vast Internet propaganda, leaking of stolen campaign information — this allegation illustrates a problem of even broader scope. For legal consultation, contact Maryland birth injury lawyers.

Although much of the reporting on Russia has focused on whether there was “collusion” with the Trump campaign — a genuine concern — the investigation is also revealing another disquieting reality: that American democracy has a money laundering problem. On other law related article about accidents and injuries just visit Call 1800-Car-Wreck in Ft Worth, TX.

Both in their personal finances and in their campaign support, politicians are relying on money hidden to the public, money which threatens to make them answerable to interests beyond those of the citizens they represent. The only way to combat this problem is to start shining a light on the dark corners of our politics….

Moreover, in the case of the NRA, the FBI is now investigating whether illicit funds were spent in support of Trump’s political campaign. Wehave long warned that our broken system of campaign finance disclosure creates opportunities for foreign governments to illegally influence American elections, undetected.

The NRA is among the largest “dark money” organizations, reporting the greatest amount of campaign spending without revealing the source of the funds — over $35 million in the 2016 election cycle alone. Still, this amount was just a fraction of the over $175 million in reportedcampaign-related spending that came from unknown sources.

Could this explain why some Republicans who have spoken out against Trump (e.g., Lindsey Graham and Bob Corker) have suddenly switched to sucking up? Are they being blackmailed by Trump, the NRA, or Russia?

Here’s another article on the NRA and Russia by Tim Dickinson at Rolling Stone: The Trump-Russia-NRA Connection: Here’s What You Need to Know.

The National Rifle Association spent tens of millions of dollars backing Trump’s presidential bid in 2016. The NRA endorsed Trump in May 2016. And the NRA disclosed it spent at least $30 million on Trump’s behalf and attacking Hillary Clinton. That level of support is unprecedented – more than twice what the NRA disclosed it spent on Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential run.

The true sum the NRA spent to install Trump in the White House may be far higher. Campaign finance disclosures do not cover spending on unregulated Internet advertising or voter mobilization; citing two sources close to the gun group, McClatchy suggests the NRA may have spent upwards of $70 million on Trump’s presidential bid.

President Trump is clearly indebted: “You came through for me, and I am going to come through for you,” Trump promised the NRA at its 2017 convention. “I will never, ever let you down.” [….]

In the age of Citizens United and unlimited campaign donations, the NRA has emerged as an important “dark money” hub in Republican politics. Under its tax code designation, the NRA is a “social welfare” organization, largely exempt from disclosing its donors. To skirt disclosure, other big-dollar political players – including a SuperPAC linked to Karl Rove and a “chamber of commerce” controlled by the Koch Brothers – have routinely steered money into the NRA, confident that the gun group’s spending will advance the GOP cause.

It is illegal, however, for foreign money to be used to influence U.S. elections. According to McClatchy, the heart of the FBI investigation is whether the NRA became a conduit for Russian cash, linked to the Kremlin, that bolstered Trump.

Trump was the perfect candidate for Russia and the NRA, because he has no moral values whatsoever. He’s the culmination of the GOP sellout that began with the Southern strategy, grew with the acceptance of evangelical “christian” “values,” and reached peak evil by bowing down to Russia in 2016. There’s no hope for our country as long as Republicans remain in control of the government. We will continue to see mass shootings on an almost daily basis until we can get turn these NRA/Russia-controlled automatons out of office.

How many more times will we have to see scenes of children running for their lives and sobbing in their parents’ arms on our TV and computer screens? Writing about yesterday’s disaster in Parkland, Florida feels nearly unbearable; but I guess I at least have to post some articles about it. So here we go.

The New York Times: Death Toll Is at 17 and Could Rise in Shooting.

PARKLAND, Fla. — A heavily armed young man barged into his former high school about an hour northwest of Miami on Wednesday, opening fire on terrified students and teachers and leaving a death toll of 17 that could rise even higher, the authorities said.

Students huddled in horror in their classrooms, with some of them training their cellphones on the carnage, capturing sprawled bodies, screams and gunfire that began with a few shots and then continued with more and more. The dead included students and adults, some of whom were shot outside the school and others inside the sprawling three-story building.

A father embraced his daughter after being reunited outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Wednesday. Credit Saul Martinez for The New York Times

The gunman, armed with a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle, was identified as Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old who had been expelled from the school, the authorities said. He began his shooting rampage outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in this suburban neighborhood shortly before dismissal time around 2:40 p.m. He then made his way inside and proceeded down hallways he knew well, firing at students and teachers who were scurrying for cover, the authorities said.

By the end of the rampage, Mr. Cruz had killed 12 people inside the school and three outside it, including someone standing on a street corner, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said. Two more victims died of their injuries in local hospitals. The aftermath at the school was an eerie shrine, with chairs upended, a computer screen shattered with bullet holes and floors stained with blood.

On Thursday, the authorities charged Mr. Cruz with 17 counts of premeditated murder.

“This is catastrophic,” said Sheriff Israel, who has three children who graduated from the high school. “There really are no words.”

Here are some words: let’s clean house of the blood-soaked Republicans who care more about their blood money than about democracy or our children’s lives. Then let’s pass some intelligent gun control laws so we don’t have to have any more bloody massacres in our children’s schools.

John Cassidy at The New Yorker: America’s Failure to Protect Its Children from School Shootings Is a National Disgrace. Following a summary of the events of the mass shooting, Cassidy writes:

On Twitter, President Donald Trump offered his “prayers and condolences to the families of the victims,” adding that “no child, teacher, or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school.” Fox News interviewed Marco Rubio, Florida’s junior senator, who has an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association. “I hope people reserve judgment…. The facts of this are important,” Rubio said. As soon as the facts are clear, Rubio went on, “we can have a deeper conversation about why these things happen.” The forty-six-year-old Republican added, “It’s a terrible situation. It’s amazing the amount of carnage that one individual can carry out in such a short period of time.”

Getty Images

Yet some pertinent facts are already known. According to local police, Cruz was armed with an AR-15 assault-style rifle—the same type of gun that Adam Lanza used to kill twenty-six pupils and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in December, 2012. Evidently, Rubio still isn’t aware of the power of such weapons, which fire bullets that can penetrate a steel helmet from a distance of five hundred yards. When fired from close range at civilians who aren’t wearing body armor, the bullets from an AR-15 don’t merely penetrate the human body—they tear it apart. It “looks like a grenade went off in there,” Peter Rhee, a trauma surgeon at the University of Arizona, told Wired.

To spare the families of the victims—and the public at large—additional anguish, these sorts of details are often glossed over in the aftermath of mass shootings. But it’s surely long past time that we acknowledged these facts, and that we begin to more fully discuss the complicity of N.R.A.-backed politicians like Rubio, and Florida’s governor, Rick Scott, in maintaining the environment that allows these tragedies to happen again and again and again.

One of the first duties of any government is to protect its citizens, through collective action, from violent threats they’d otherwise have to fend off themselves. Even most libertarians accept this principle. But when it comes to mass shootings, the Republican Party falls back on constitutional arguments that have no proper basis in history, and it refuses to budge from this stance. Nothing can shift it—not Sandy Hook, not the Orlando night-club shooting, not the Las Vegas massacre, not weekly shootings in schools. (According to the Guardian, Wednesday’s attack in Parkland was the eighth school shooting this year that has resulted in death or injury.) Nothing.

That’s right. And nothing will happen this time. Absolutely nothing.

More reads, links only

The New York Times: After Sandy Hook, More Than 400 People Have Been Shot in Over 200 School Shootings.

The Miami Herald: Amid massacre, a story of courage: Football coach stepped in front of bullets, reports say.

The Miami Herald: Florida school shooting suspect was ex-student who was flagged as threat.

Buzz Feed: The FBI Was Warned About A School Shooting Threat From A YouTube User Named Nikolas Cruz In September.

The Daily Beast: Florida Shooter Made Sick Use of School’s Active-Shooter Drill.

NBC News: Who is Nikolas Cruz? Florida school shooter joked about guns and worried classmates.

Business Insider: A student shared chilling photos trapped inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during the shooting.

That’s all I have for today. Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread below.


Friday Afternoon Baby Animals Open Thread

Good Afternoon!

I just learned that Dakinikat is under the weather today, so I’m going to pull together some reading material for discussion. Here are some of the stories I’ve been reading today.

Of course there are lots of horrible articles about Trump and his efforts to destroy our country. On of the ways he’s doing that is by encouraging people who like to shoot guns. For that reason, and because it’s such an important story, I want to begin with a long piece at The Washington Post about a school shooting and its after-effects. I’ll post the beginning of the story. Please follow the link to read the rest. It’s powerful and important.

Recess had finally started, so Ava Olsen picked up her chocolate cupcake, then headed outside toward the swings. And that’s when the 7-year-old saw the gun.

It was black and in the hand of someone the first-graders on the playground would later describe as a thin, towering figure with wispy blond hair and angry eyes. Dressed in dark clothes and a baseball cap, he had just driven up in a Dodge Ram, jumping out of the pickup as it rolled into the chain-link fence that surrounded the play area. It was 1:41 on a balmy, blue-sky afternoon in late September, and Ava’s class was just emerging from an open door directly in front of him to join the other kids already outside. At first, a few of them assumed he had come to help with something or say hello.

Then he pulled the trigger.

“I hate my life,” the children heard him scream in the same moment he added Townville Elementary to the long list of American schools redefined by a shooting.

A round struck the shoulder of Ava’s teacher, who was standing at the green metal door, before she yanked it shut. But the shooter kept firing, shattering a glass window.

Near the cubbies inside, 6-year-old Collin Edwards felt his foot vibrate, then burn, as if he had stepped in a fire. A bullet had blown through the inside of his right ankle and popped out beneath his big toe, punching a hole in the sole of his Velcro-strapped sneaker. As his teachers pulled him away from the windows, Collin recalled later, he spotted a puddle of blood spreading across the gray wax tile floor in the hallway. Someone else, he realized, had been hurt, too.

Outside, Ava had dropped her cupcake. The Daisy Scout remembered what her mom had said: If something doesn’t feel right, run. She sprinted toward the far side of the building, rounding a corner to safety. Nowhere in sight, though, was Jacob Hall, the tiny boy with oversize, thick-lensed glasses Ava had decided to marry when they grew up. He had been just a few steps behind her at the door, but she never saw him come out. Ava hoped he was okay.

After reading this heartbreaking story, I want to just forget about our Trumpian nightmare for the rest of the day.

Of course the monster tweeted this morning after taking a long break from his social media addiction. He just can’t quit.

So now the pretend president has accused the former Director of the FBI of a felony–lying under oath.

Philip Bump at the Washington Post: There’s no indication Comey violated the law. Trump may be about to.

President Trump’s declaration that the Thursday testimony of former FBI director James B. Comey was a “total and complete vindication” despite “so many false statements and lies” was the sort of brashly triumphant and loosely-grounded-in-reality statement we’ve come to expect from the commander in chief. It was news that came out a bit later, news about plans to file a complaint against Comey for a revelation he made during that Senate Intelligence Committee hearing meeting, that may end up being more damaging to the president.

CNN and Fox first reported that Trump’s outside counsel, Marc Kasowitz, plans to file complaints with the inspector general of the Justice Department and the Senate Judiciary Committee about Comey’s testimony. At issue was Comey’s revelation that he provided a memo documenting a conversation with Trump to a friend to be shared with the New York Times.

As the news broke, I was on the phone with Stephen Kohn, partner at a law firm focused on whistleblower protection. We’d been talking about where the boundaries lay for Comey in what he could and couldn’t do with the information about his conversations with the president. Kohn’s response to the story about Kasowitz, though, was visceral.

“Here is my position on that: Frivolous grandstanding,” he said. “First of all, I don’t believe the inspector general would have jurisdiction over Comey any more, because he’s no longer a federal employee.” The inspector general’s job is to investigate wrongdoing by employees of the Justice Department, which Comey is no longer, thanks to Trump — though the IG would have the ability to investigate an allegation of criminal misconduct.

“But, second,” he continued, “initiating an investigation because you don’t like somebody’s testimony could be considered obstruction. And in the whistleblower context, it’s both evidence of retaliation and, under some laws, could be an adverse retaliatory act itself.”

Vox: Trump’s lawyer: Comey violated executive privilege. 10 legal experts: No, he didn’t.

After the public testimony of former FBI Director James Comey on Thursday, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, released a statement. In addition to being riddled with typos, it contained a curious legal argument.

Kasowitz contended that Comey broke the law by leaking memos about his private conversations with the president — what the statement called an “unauthorized disclosure of private information.”

The not-so-subtle implication here is that any and every conversation with the president is privileged, and therefore protected under the law. That’s a rather broad interpretation of executive privilege, and one that 10 legal experts disputed in interviews with Vox.

Executive privilege exists for a reason: to protect against the forced disclosures of classified or confidential executive branch communications. But here’s the problem: The conversations between Trump and Comey were not classified. Moreover, because the president himself has publicly referred to the conversations in question, he has already waived any claim for executive privilege. That Comey is now a private citizen also weakens the Kasowitz’s claim that he’s bound to secrecy.

There is, however, little settled law on the question of executive privilege. So I reached out to 10 legal experts and asked them if Kasowitz’s interpretation of executive privilege makes any sense. Every one of them said it doesn’t.

Read what the experts said at the Vox link.

The Atlantic: The Incompetence Defense.

During former FBI Director James Comey’s dramatic testimony before the Senate on Thursday, Republican senators settled on a pair of strange arguments for why President Trump hadn’t obstructed justice: He didn’t try very hard, or he was really bad at it.

Comey testified that the president asked Comey to shut down the FBI investigation into former National-Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who was ousted after lying about his contact with Russian officials, saying, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” Comey testified that he took that statement as “direction.” Republicans weren’t convinced.

“Do you know of any case where a person has been charged for obstruction of justice or, for that matter, any other criminal offense, where they said or thought they hoped for an outcome?” Idaho Republican Jim Risch asked. Comey said he did not, but New York Times legal reporter Adam Liptak quickly found one such example.

Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma took a similar tack. “If this seems to be something the president is trying to get you to drop it,” Lankford said, “it seems like a light touch to drop it, to bring it up at that point, the day after he had just fired Flynn, to come back here and say, I hope we can let this go, then it never reappears again.”

Texas Senator John Cornyn, the number two Republican in the Senate, suggested that firing Comey after not shutting down the Flynn investigation proved Trump wasn’t trying to shut it down. “As a general proposition, if you’re trying to make an investigation go away, is firing an FBI director a good way to make that happen?” Cornyn asked Comey, who replied that “It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me but I’m hopelessly biased given that I was the one fired.”

David Gomez, a senior fellow at George Washington University’s Center for Cyber and Homeland Security and a former FBI agent, said he didn’t find that line of argument persuasive. “I failed to follow Cornyn’s logic. Especially given the public reasons for the firing,” Gomez said. “Firing the man in charge of the FBI—and replacing him with your own man—is exactly what I would expect if you were trying to impede an FBI investigation.”

Republican are at great pains to make excuses for Trump’s behavior. Paul Ryan even claimed it should be overlooked because Trump is new to politics. Do Congressional Republicans even give a sh$t about what happens to our democratic system? That was an academic question.

Matthew Yglesias argues that: The most important Comey takeaway is that congressional Republicans don’t care. Here’s a brief excerpt:

Republicans know something is wrong, but they don’t care

Ezra Klein rightly wrote yesterday that Trump’s presidency is an American crisis.

I would only add that it’s a political crisis. Anyone who has had any occasion to speak to Republican members of Congress or other pillars of the Washington conservative establishment knows they are perfectly aware that Trump is unfit to serve as president.

“Washington conservatives know that reporters are not making up these incredible quotes, or relying only on Democratic holdovers, or getting bits of gossip from the janitor,” as Megan McArdle put it in an excellent Bloomberg View column speaking as a member of the beltway right trying to address the grassroots right. “They know that the Trump administration is in fact leaking like a rusty sieve — from the top on down — and that this is a sign of a president who has, in just four short months, completely lost control over his own hand-picked staff.”

Over lunch, a right-of-center think tanker told me that during the transition his colleagues joked that in this administration, you’d rather get a job in a federal agency than a White House job — because that way you’d stay out of jail when the indictments come down.

But Republicans have decided they aren’t going to address this crisis situation. Instead, they are going to try to manage it in pursuit of the shared agenda of tax cuts, welfare state rollback, and deregulation of banks and polluters.

Anyway . . . what else is happening? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread below. 


Wednesday News

news montage

Good Morning!!

I’m still excited by the demise of Eric Cantor’s last night. Suddenly it feels as if there’s hope the GOP will finally give up the ghost and either return to something approaching the political center or else go the way of the dodo bird. I’m going to get you started with some headlines, because I haven’t heard anything from JJ. I hope all is well in Banjoville.

Here are a few headlines on the Eric Cantor loss–many writers are referring to it in earthquake terms.

From CNN: Cantor ‘earthquake’ rattles Capitol Hill

In a year when mainstream Republicans have mostly bested tea party-backed challengers, a little-known and little-funded tea party challenger in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District pulled the upset of the year, defeating House Majority Leader Eric Cantor by 10 percentage points.

The victory by economics professor Dave Brat gives the tea party an instant jolt of energy, sends shock waves through Capitol Hill, shakes up the GOP House hierarchy — as Cantor was seen by many as the next speaker — and effectively kills any chance of immigration reform passing through the House any time soon.

“I think this is a scale eight earthquake. I think it will shock the Washington establishment; it will shock the House Republicans,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said.

In a year when mainstream Republicans have mostly bested tea party-backed challengers, a little-known and little-funded tea party challenger in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District pulled the upset of the year, defeating House Majority Leader Eric Cantor by 10 percentage points.

The victory by economics professor Dave Brat gives the tea party an instant jolt of energy, sends shock waves through Capitol Hill, shakes up the GOP House hierarchy — as Cantor was seen by many as the next speaker — and effectively kills any chance of immigration reform passing through the House any time soon.

“I think this is a scale eight earthquake. I think it will shock the Washington establishment; it will shock the House Republicans,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said.

Chris Cillizza: The seismic political consequences of Eric Cantor’s stunning loss.

The defeat of the second-ranking Republican in the House by an ill-funded, little-known tea party-backed candidate ranks as the biggest congressional upset in modern memory and will immediately generate a series of political and policy-related shock waves in Washington and the Richmond-area 7th District.

“People don’t know how to respond because it’s never been contemplated,” said one Virginia Republican strategist, granted anonymity to speak candidly about Cantor’s loss. (Worth noting: Cantor didn’t just lose. He got walloped; David Brat, his challenger, won 56 percent to 44 percent.)

In conversations with a handful of GOP operatives in the aftermath of Cantor’s loss —  a loss blamed largely on an inept campaign consulting team that misread the level of vitriol directed at the candidate due to his place in Republican leadership and the perception he supported so-called “amnesty” for illegal immigrants — there were several common threads about what it means for politics inside and outside the House.

Read Cillizza’s take on the reasons at the link.

Ben Jacobs at The Daily Beast: How Eric Cantor Sabotaged Himself.

The shock defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor by college professor Dave Brat is the type of upset that audiences wouldn’t believe in a Disney movie. Perhaps the most cinematic twist is that, at least in part, Cantor did this to himself. A toxic mix of ignoring grassroots Republicans in his district and becoming a lightning rod on the controversial issue of immigration reform meant that a future Speaker of the House became a former congressman Tuesday night.

Cantor, the second most senior Republican in the House of Representatives, lost his primary Tuesday night to the largely unknown Tea Party candidate, who ran on an anti-immigration platform by a margin of 56-44.

Despite Cantor’s reputation as a strident partisan conservative nationally, his support for some form of immigration reform and ties to his party’s pro-business wing made him persona non grata among Tea Partiers and immigration hawks. Yet, his race never made it on the radar for most groups. While talk show host Laura Ingraham vocally condemned Cantor and Daily Caller writer Mickey Kaus beat the drum for Brat, few others on the right viewed the race as even potentially winnable.

The Boston Globe called attention to a map of the 74 (that’s right, 74!) school shootings that have taken place since Newtown. The map was designed by Gongloff.

 

Map shootings

That comes to 1.37 school shootings per school week! And that’s not counting the many other mass shootings that we’ve had and who knows how many accidental shootings of children. Isn’t it high time we did something about this bloodbath? More from the Globe:

Your gut feeling is right: School shootings have skyrocketed in recent years. In January 2013, the Ploychart blog tracked the number of American school shootings since 1979, using data from Jessie Klein’s book “The Bully Society.” Starting with three confirmed shootings in 1979, the number of shootings per year slowly swell, jumping to the upper single-digits in the late 80s and through the 90s.

The shootings actually dipped at the start of the new millennium, but skyrocketed in 2006. What was once the high-water mark for shootings in a year–nine–became the floor. In 2009, there were 18 school shootings. There were 16 in 2010 and eight in 2011.

Stein’s data ends in 2011. Everytown tracked 37 for 2013 and 37 so far in 2014. The Everytrown and Stein data sets don’t follow the same methodology, so they should not be viewed as one piece (meaning don’t just add the Everytown data to the end of the Stein data). Still, the trend is undeniably going in the wrong direction.

The way humans act sometimes, it kind of makes you wonder if we are really the smartest animals on Earth. Now check this out from C/NET: Chimps outsmart humans at simple strategy game.

Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have found that chimpanzees at the Kyoto University Primate Research Institute are consistently better at humans when playing simple competitive games.

In one game, called the Inspection Game, chimps and humans played a variation on hide-and-seek. In pairs of their own species (humans and chimps did not directly compete with each other for the study), the players sit back-to-back, each with a computer screen in front of them. After pushing a circle on the screen, they have to choose one of two boxes, right or left. They are then shown their opponent’s selection.

Each player has a different role. The “mismatchers” have to choose the opposite of their opponent’s selection, while the “matchers” have to choose the same as their opponent’s selection. Each game lasted 200 rounds, and players that “won” a round were given a reward. In order to consistently win, players had to be able to anticipate their opponent’s choices.

In game theory, there is a concept known as the Nash equilibrium. This means the balance that can be achieved when each player knows their opponent’s strategies, but has nothing to gain by changing their own strategy. The 16 Japanese students participating in the study performed as expected: slow to learn their opponents’ strategies, and not reaching the Nash equilibrium.

The six chimpanzees, however, learned the game and their opponents’ moves rapidly, very nearly reaching the Nash equilibrium, even when the researchers swapped the chimps’ roles and introduced higher rewards for specific choices. As the game changed, the chimps changed their strategies accordingly.

We’ve had an epidemic of school bus accidents lately, and there was a terrible on in Connecticut yesterday. From The Boston Globe: Crash of 2 School Buses Sends 20 Kids to Hospital.

TORRINGTON, Conn. (AP) — More than two dozen people were taken to hospitals with mostly minor injuries after a five-vehicle chain-reaction crash in Torrington involving two school buses and three other vehicles.

Police said a woman in one of the cars was flown to Hartford Hospital with serious injuries. Her condition wasn’t immediately released.

Police said a pickup truck ran into the back of the woman’s Jeep SUV at about 3:45 p.m. Tuesday, pushing it into the rear of a small school bus. The smaller bus then rear-ended the larger bus, and a third car also was struck.

Tim Lebouthiller, a spokesman for Charlotte Hungerford Hospital in Torrington, said the 20 children on the buses were treated and released. He said seven adults were brought to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, and most had been evaluated and released by mid-evening Tuesday.

What else is happening? I look forward to reading your thoughts and clicking on your links in the comment thread.


Saturday Reads: Newtown Anniversary, Normalizing Gun Violence, and Other News

Henri-Matisse-Painting-011 child reading

Good Morning!!

I spent yesterday preparing for Winter Storm Electra. I stopped by the hardware store to get ice melt crystals and then headed to the grocery store to drop off a prescription and a few things I’ll need in case I can’t get my car out of the driveway for a couple of days.

I had an appointment in the afternoon, and then I made a fruitless attempt to find a parking space in the giant Whole Foods parking lot in Cambridge. Then back to my regular grocery store to pick up my prescription and a few refrigerated items. The store was even more packed this time, so I was glad I had stopped earlier. Finally, I went home, to stash my purchases and scatter ice melt on the all the icy surfaces left over from Winter Storm Dion.

So now I’m in hibernation mode until Monday. I just hope I can handle the shoveling myself. The weather folks are predicting anything from 5 to 12 inches of snow for my area. It was 11 degrees here when I woke up and its only 12 degrees right now. It’s hard to believe it can even snow when it’s so cold. But the weather people say it’s going to snow. If it starts this afternoon, I plan to shovel before it gets dark–then there won’t be so much to do tomorrow. It’s way too early for this. It won’t even be officially winter until next week. Those of you in the Midwest are probably already getting the storm–how is it going there? Is it still cold down South? We can commiserate in the comments.

Now to the news. It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since Newtown, but today is the anniversary of that awful day. It still breaks my heart when I think about it. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain of the families who lost children. From CNN:

Horror struck Newtown, Connecticut, in such a disturbing way that the nation still struggles with its impact a year later.

The legacy of the second-deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history is so profound that it cannot hold just one meaning. It holds several. That’s because the crime itself conveys multiple issues in its summary:

A mentally ill 20-year-old recluse obsessed with school shootings enters Sandy Hook Elementary School after the morning bell and kills six adult women, 12 girls and eight boys in 11 minutes. The children were 6 or 7 years old. The heavily armed Adam Lanza, who first killed his mother before taking her car to the school, also killed himself, in a classroom.

On the anniversary of the December 14 slaughter — under the shadow of another school shooting, this time at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colorado — country and community alike pause and reflect on an event known simply as “Newtown” or “Sandy Hook” and what it says about America on the matters of guns, mental health, healing, and the human spirit.

Henri Matisse-324684

A whole year after the slaughter of 20 first-graders and 6 adults, and our do-nothing Congress has done exactly nothing to control the purchase of weapons of war for everyday use. CBS News reports:

Not a single federal law curbing gun violence has passed in the year since a young man from Newtown, Conn. who’d long exhibited signs of mental instability got a hold of his mother’s AR-15-style Bushmaster rifle and two of her handguns and gunned down 20 first-graders and six of their educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School before taking his own life.

Capping a year that saw the most mass shootings in U.S. history, Newtown seemed to mark a turning point in national conversation about gun control. Within a month of the shooting, President Obama – promising to make the issue a hallmark of his second-term agenda – had signed several executive orders to make schools safer and gun purchases more transparent. But real reform, he said, would require bipartisan backing from lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

Six months after the Dec. 14, 2012 tragedy, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., insisted the push for tougher gun laws and bolstered support for mental health in America was “still on the front burner.” But foundation for that statement was flimsy.

Manchin’s own amendment to strengthen background checks for gun purchases – co-sponsored by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and seen by many in Congress to be the most realistic hope for immediate reform to gun laws – had collapsed in the Senate two months earlier. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had “hit pause” on debate over firearms altogether, pulling the legislation from the floor indefinitely.

The emotions surrounding Newtown, it seemed, were no longer driving the conversation about gun control.

Is anyone really surprised that something a huge majority of Americans support cannot get through Congress? Of course not. We can’t even get them to stop hurting the economy with their obsessive and idiotic push for unnecessary austerity. We should turn every one of them out of office–Democrats and Republicans and start from scratch.

And is anyone shocked that there was another school shooting the day before this horrible anniversary? Why should we be? Our so-called leaders don’t seem to care how many children die so they can keep getting donations from the NRA. A couple of stories on the shooting in Colorado.

matisselike portraits by kids

Denver Post as of last night: Shooting at Arapahoe High School, 1 girl in critical condition, gunman dead.

A student carried a shotgun into Arapahoe High School, asked where to find a specific teacher and then opened fire on Friday, Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said. He shot a fellow student in the head before apparently killing himself.

A 15-year-old girl was reported in critical condition after undergoing surgery. Two other students were treated and released from a hospital for non-gunshot injuries.

The gunman, identified as 18-year-old Karl Pierson, was found dead inside a classroom from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, Robinson said. Authorities believe he acted alone.

Robinson said authorities are investigating reports that Pierson may have been motivated by revenge against the teacher following a disagreement….Fellow classmates described the gunman as a bright student and a gifted debater whose family attended Bible study meetings.

A little more from USA Today:

The shootings — on the eve of the anniversary of the Newtown school massacre, in which 20 students and six staffers were murdered — sent scores of terrified students and staffers at Centennial’s Arapahoe High School scurrying at about 12:30 p.m. Police and other first responders quickly mobilized to surround the 2,220-student school.

A 15-year-old girl suffered a gunshot wound and was reported in critical condition at a Littleton hospital Friday evening.One other student suffered minor gunshot-related injuries and was released from the hospital hours later, authorities said. Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said Friday night that another girl taken to a hospital was covered in blood from the other student, but wasn’t injured….

The gunman also brought two Molotov cocktails inside the school and exploded one, KUSA-TV reported. The other was found and removed by the bomb squad.

The incident unfolded when the armed student entered the west side of the school from a student parking lot. He told other students he was interested in confronting a specific teacher. “Word got around immediately,” Robinson said.

The teacher, informed of the situation, fled the building unharmed, said Robinson, who noted that the teacher’s decision to flee helped limit the potential carnage.

Our children are dying violently in this country, in places in which they should be safe–their schools and their homes. Why aren’t we doing anything to protect them? At an age when they should be concentrating on learning, developing social skills, and just having fun, our children are threatened by gun violence on a daily basis. What kind of nation allows this kind of slaughter to continue in the name of “second amendment rights” and greed? A few more links from around the ‘net:

Reuters: Obama marks Newtown school shooting anniversary with call for gun control

Star-Tribune Nation: In Newtown, a year of wrenching reminders

Mother Jones: Portraits of the Hundreds of Children Killed by Guns Since Newtown

Matthew Lysiak at The Guardian: We can no longer allow sick individuals like Adam Lanza to go on untreated

New York Daily News: Another year of the gun 

Gawker: What Kind of Monster Wants to Shoot Up His School? (highly recommended)

Matisse reading

In other news, 

Here’s a surprising story from Jonthan Turley’s blog: Federal Court Strikes Down Criminalization of Polygamy In Utah

It is with a great pleasure this evening to announce that decision of United States District Court judge Clarke Waddoups striking down key portions of the Utah polygamy law as unconstitutional. The Brown family and counsel have spent years in both the criminal phase of this case and then our challenge to the law itself in federal court. Despite the public statements of professors and experts that we could not prevail in this case, the court has shown that it is the rule of law that governs in this country. As I have previously written, plural families present the same privacy and due process concerns faced by gay and lesbian community over criminalization. With this decision, families like the Browns can now be both plural and legal in the state of Utah.  The Court struck down the provision as violating both the free exercise clause of the first amendment as well as the due process clause.   The court specifically struck down language criminalizing cohabitation — the provision that is used to prosecute polygamists.  The opinion is over 90 pages and constitutes a major constitutional ruling in protection of individual rights.

I just don’t know what to say about this, because I associate polygamy with the abuse of women and children. Am I a bigot? A couple more links:

Salt Lake Tribune: Federal judge declares Utah polygamy law unconstitutional

The Telegraph: ‘Sister Wives’ reality star wins legal fight against Utah anti-polygamy law

I haven’t been following the Robert Levinson story, but I will be from now on. Levinson has been missing in Iran for 7 years and has just been outed as a CIA operative. Links:

NYT: A Disappearing Spy, and a Scandal at the C.I.A.

ABC News: Family of Robert Levinson, American Held In Iran, Says He Was Spying for the CIA

The Register-Guard: White House declines to discuss missing American Robert Levinson’s CIA ties

Gawker: ABC, NYT Repeatedly Lied About CIA Operative Robert Levinson

Liberty Voice: Robert Levinson: Used by CIA, Forgotten by USA, Burned by Media, Left in Iran

WaPo: Sen. Bill Nelson: I told AP not to run Robert Levinson story

Those are my offerings today. What stories are you following? Let us know in the comment thread, and have a great weekend!