Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Shocking New Developments

I want to follow up on a huge story we featured here in 2007. I mean: huge. Ten years ago the world really was going to hell:
A "national underground network" of pink pistol-packing lesbians is terrorizing America. "All across the country," they are raping young girls, attacking heterosexual males at random, and forcibly indoctrinating children as young as 10 into the homosexual lifestyle, according to a shocking June 21 segment on the popular Fox News Channel program, "The O'Reilly Factor."

Titled "Violent Lesbian Gangs a Growing Problem," the segment began with host Bill O'Reilly briefly referencing for his roughly 3 million viewers the case of Wayne Buckle, a DVD bootlegger who was attacked by seven lesbians in New York City last August. Deploying swift, broad strokes, O'Reilly painted a graphic picture of lesbian gangs running amok. The Oh-Really Factor: Fox News' Bill O'Reilly offers up an 'expert' to claim that pink pistol-packing lesbian gangs are terrorizing the nation
On the show, Fox News Crime Analyst Rod Wheeler told the world that a national network of lesbian gangs preys on young girls -- incredibly, a hundred fifty of these gangs, who are identified by their pink pistols, exist in the Washington, D.C. area alone.

Very quietly, the police departments of the nation scoured the streets arresting and jailing these predatory lesbian gangs, carefully arranging to keep it out of the news. Anyone who was attacked by a lesbian gang with pink pistols was sworn to secrecy for, y'know, national security reasons. It was big but very hush-hush.

That's why you never heard about it.

But that was nothing compared to this week's amazing proof that the Clintons have killed, by last count, thirty three people. Or maybe there have been more since that article came out, I can hardly keep track. Fox News has the scoop:
The family of the Democratic National Committee staffer who was gunned down on July 10 on a Washington, D.C., blasted reports that he was a source of emails leaked to WikiLeaks.

Rod Wheeler, a retired Washington homicide detective and Fox News contributor investigating the case on behalf of the Rich family, made the WikiLeaks claim, which was corroborated by a federal investigator who spoke to Fox News. Family of slain DNC staffer Seth Rich blasts detective over report of WikiLeaks link
You gotta love a news story where the story is that somebody is saying the story is untrue, but that gives them an opportunity to tell you what the story was, so you can make up your own mind about it.

... Rod Wheeler ... Rod Wheeler ... why is that name familiar?

I'm sure this will be the top story on page one of The Post tomorrow, I mean "the fake news Washington Post". It's been a slow news week, I bet this blockbuster will go right to the top.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

No Rape Charges in RHS Incident

It's not such a big story. Charges have been dropped, the police freed two prisoners. In fact, I am pretty sure this is not going to get much play on the news, though the initial arrest sure did.

Let's not try to guess what actually happened. I am not going to blame or deny that there is blame, because like you, I just don't know. Maybe something bad happened and maybe not. It appears that some teenagers had a sexual encounter in a high school bathroom. I don't know why the police were called, but the boys were arrested for rape and now the charges are being dropped.

The young men involved in the incident are undocumented immigrants, and the bigots played it up big when this hit the press. Citizens picketed outside the school, social media lit up with hateful rhetoric, it was a big deal. Everybody had an opinion about how horrible it was, what animals these boys are, ICE said they were going to deport them. Here it was, proof that rapists and bad hombres are being sent to our country to commit crimes and destroy our way of life.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer was asked about the case during a daily briefing and said “the idea that this occurred is shocking, disturbing, horrific,” Spicer said.

“Part of the reason that the president has made illegal immigration and crackdown such a big deal is because of tragedies like this … Immigration pays its toll on our people if it’s not done legally, and this is another example,” Spicer said. Rape charges to be dropped against immigrant teens in Md. case
I do not expect Spicer to apologize for his comments or take them back. The damage has been done and he will leave it as it is.

As news this story was engineered to fit the rightwing narrative that immigrants are inferior and dangerous people, a narrative that is not supported by evidence but only by prejudice. And now it turns out that not only was the spin wrong, the facts were wrong, too.
Defense lawyers for both defendants have said for weeks that the sex acts were consensual and that text messages and school surveillance videos did not substantiate the girl’s claims she had been pushed from a hallway into a bathroom at Rockville High School on March 16 where the suspects took turns assaulting her in a stall as she tried to break free.

Prosecutors had signaled in an early court proceeding in the case that they were having challenges corroborating events the girl described to Montgomery County Police detectives and that led to the arrests of Sanchez Milian and Montano.
There also does not need to be any outpouring of rage against the girl if it turns out some of her story was made up. They're teenagers, crazy stuff happens sometimes, if you have either been a teenager or raised one you know what I'm saying. We don't know what happened here, except that it was apparently not what we were initially told.

Actually, there is an outrage. The boys are going to be charged with child pornography.
The child pornography allegations, [defense attorney] Jezic said, involved lewd images on Sanchez Milian’s cellphone, which Jezic said had been sent by the girl to Montano who forwarded them to Sanchez Milian.
You have to agree, that is dumb. The law has not caught up with technology or human behavior.

In sum, this was a case where we learned just how hateful our own community can be, and where our local school provided red meat for the American public to display its prejudice and eagerness to turn a neighbor into an enemy. It is turning out to be nothing, but I am confident no lesson will be learned.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Something Every Decent Person Wants

You have probably seen this video already, Jimmy Kimmel talking about his son being born with a congenital heart disease. He cries through part of the monologue, takes a lot of time to thank doctors and nurses by name, shows pictures of his family. Of course he's got a sense of humor but it was not funny, it was a very emotional talk. Watch it all.



Quoting from NPR's story"
"President Trump last month proposed a $6 billion cut in funding to the National Institute[s] of Health," he said. "And thank God our congressmen made a deal last night not to go along with that. They actually increased funding by $2 billion, and I applaud them for doing that."

He went on to praise the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, for bringing access to health care to people who couldn't afford it.

"We were brought up to believe that we live in the greatest country in the world, but until a few years ago millions and millions of us had no access to health insurance at all," he said. "You know, before 2014 if you were born with congenital heart disease like my son was, there was a good chance you'd never be able to get health insurance because you had a pre-existing condition. You were born with a pre-existing condition and if your parents didn't have medical insurance you might not live long enough to even get denied because of a pre-existing condition. If your baby is going to die and it doesn't have to, it shouldn't matter how much money you make."

He finished with a plea for Americans to get past party lines and think of the greater good.

"Whatever your party, whatever you believe, whoever you support, we need to make sure that the people who are supposed to represent us, people who are meeting about this right now in Washington, understand that very clearly," Kimmel said.

"Let's stop with the nonsense. This isn't football. There are no teams. We are the team. It's the United States. Don't let their partisan squabbles divide us on something every decent person wants. We need to take care of each other."
Right there at the end is the kicker. He uses a word: "decent." Something every decent person wants.

Can you imagine, decency has become political. Republicans have failed to pass a bill repealing health care for Americans because they cannot agree on exactly how harsh to make the law that will replace it. Some are afraid that they will lose votes if they drop the pre-existing conditions requirement, and some are afraid it will appear too "liberal" if they don't cut it. All of them are afraid of voter retailiation if they don't repeal the law, and all of them are afraid of backlash if they do.

Not one of them actually cares if someone is sick and needs a doctor. Here's a former Republican Congressman on Twitter:


Unbelievably, the debate is about economics and politics. What if we brought the concept of decency to the discussion? What if America did the right thing? Everybody knows what's right here. It isn't hard, other countries do it.


Saturday, April 08, 2017

Mediacracy

Both the Post and the Wall Street Journal have articles today about how Trump was motivated to attack Syria after seeing images on television. And in fact we do not usually see video of people dying, twitching in agony and fear, gasping for air, heaps of dead children, after a military event. But this time the Internet and television were flooded with these gruesome images.

I think it's because chemical warfare is so much cleaner than the kind of military attacks that happen every day somewhere in the world. When innocent civilians are killed in normal warfare their buildings get destroyed, limbs are blown off, skulls are crushed, there is blood and body parts everywhere. People don't want to see that on television. Assad's chemical attack generated no such repulsive imagery -- people might have vomited but not on camera -- and consequently their suffering was judged appropriate for American mass media.

The President saw what had happened on TV, and the result was that he and his military advisors decided to call for a military attack on a Syrian airport, a hail of rockets. Nobody knows what will happen next. Maybe this was better than nothing, maybe it was the wrong thing to do. At least we didn't kill any Russians.

He was not alone in his shock, of course, all people were horrified by what they saw. But here's a question: who decides what we see?

If you think about what you know, you will quickly realize that your own personal experience accounts for a tiny fraction of your total knowledge. Most of what you know comes from other people, and almost all of what we know about events outside our immediate circle of friends comes through a formless cluster of institutions we call "the media." If a news show is thirty minutes long, then some people in a corporate office meet and decide what stories they will feature in today's narrow time slot, they will identify an event and decide how to portray it, based on the story's potential for selling advertising time, and that's what we will know. Everything else gets left out, and we won't know about it. This isn't any great insight, everyone understands this: the media shape our knowledge about the world.

The WSJ:
Mr. Trump was in the Oval Office Tuesday morning as images of lifeless children who had been gassed in Syria were displayed on the medium he favors most: television.

He decided to respond, but had no clear plan.

What transpired over the next 57 hours was a series of decisions by a new president with no military or elected-office experience, leading to the first U.S. airstrikes against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since the civil war began six years ago. Trump, Jolted by Images, Forged Decision to Launch Airstrikes in Syria
Politically, this is probably a good way to operate. Say, a terrorist killed a bunch of people in a mosque in Quebec, six dead and another eight injured. Based on its commercial value, the media chose not to feature this story; the President remained essentially unaware of it, did not respond to it, and the American people also remained largely unaware of the incident. Due to public ignorance of the incident his inaction did not hurt him politically, and what else matters?

The media are shared by everyone, so by basing his decisions on media reports Trump is sure to play to the popular opinion of the moment. Whatever he learns in his daily security briefings is secret government stuff, nobody knows about it and so nobody cares if he blows it off.

This means that the media, the corporate committees who meet to discuss what will be on TV, are in fact running the country. They are not voted into power, not held accountable by any elected persons or processes, the corporations want to sell ads and so they want to attract viewers in certain lucrative consumer demographic markets and that is how they decide what will determine the President's decision-making.

This is the first time we have had a leader who worked exclusively with publicly-held information, where the issue is not what he believes or what he decides but how he looks on TV. The President could be informed by the very most knowledgeable people on any topic but chooses to watch Fox. The effect is tough to beat politically, a merger of the commercial media and government that controls public knowledge and official decision-making.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Rape at RHS

By now you know that there was a violent rape last week in the high school a few blocks from where I live, and you know at least one of the rapists was an "illegal immigrant," which is a loaded term used for undocumented foreign residents. It is not clear what the status of the other one is, but both have been in the country less than a year.

The Post has written about the response to the incident:
One caller threatened to burn down Rockville High School. Another vowed to show up to “shoot the illegals.” Hundreds more have weighed in with emails, calls or tweets bashing immigrant students, assailing school policies, demanding the ouster of the superintendent.

The anger and vitriol that flooded a suburban Maryland school system have not let up in the days since a 14-year-old girl was allegedly raped by two classmates who are undocumented immigrants, fueling the contentious national immigration debate. Threats and safety concerns follow Rockville High rape case
Photographs of the police report were circulated online, which I presume is not a fake though it could be -- I found it on the Twitter site @nia_4trump, charmingly titled "Nia RussianBot" -- and the rape as reported was indeed violent.

My kid went to that school, and he and his friends really can't imagine it -- they describe Rockville as being very safe. I remember back-to-school nights, and there were always a lot of Spanish-speaking parents there, they wanted to learn how to support their children's education in their new country; the school was recently rebuilt, it is a big, clean place, well organized and well run.

Montgomery County Police issue an annual report on crime; the latest year covered is 2015. You can read that report HERE. To put the Rockville High School rape in perspective, in 2015 the MoCo Popo received reports of 278 rapes, using a new FBI definition: "penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim." The number jumped from the year before because they changed the definition. There was also a category "sex offense - sex assault," with another 138 incidents reported.

That's about four hundred reported sexual assaults in a population of approximately a million people every year. Every one of those events was traumatic to some person -- a majority or rapes and sexual assaults are never reported, so this obviously underestimates the actual problem. The point, by the way, is not to trivialize or attempt to "justify" any particular incident.

But it leads to a question: assuming there are 400 reported rapes a year in Montgomery County, what is your opinion about the other 399 of them? There were hundreds of "emails, calls, and tweets bashing immigrant students" regarding this one -- where is the outrage when American citizens rape women in our county?

These are not people who are committed to opposing rape -- which, by the way, is a great cause and a very difficult problem to solve.

For these angry people the issue is that the perpetrators are foreign.

I wonder how many of those people tweeting and calling and sending angry emails have ever been to another country. It is a humbling experience to try to buy something when you don't know what it's called, or to try to figure out what to eat when you have no idea what the stuff on the menu is. And paying for something, you look at some strange bills and coins in your hand as the locals become impatient. When you travel you realize it's a big world out there and there are lots of ways for people to be, and our way is just one of them.

It is impossible for us to imagine growing up in a Central American country that is a theater for international violence, with murderous gangs supported and armed by one government or another as the world tries to maintain strategic advantage in the region -- you can't imagine that, random murder, random violence, arbitrary authority. When we use the word "immigrant" we are talking about someone who has decided to leave a culture they know, who has moved to a place where they have to look at the bills, the coins, and learn a new language, a new way to cross the street. Mainly these are people who left a dangerous place to establish a hopeful new life in America.

Our American immigrants cannot be typified as criminals. In fact, a few months ago the New York Times had an interesting story that said:
But several studies, over many years, have concluded that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the United States. And experts say the available evidence does not support the idea that undocumented immigrants commit a disproportionate share of crime. Contrary to Trump’s Claims, Immigrants Are Less Likely to Commit Crimes
The first of those links, a paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, theorizes that "the process of migration selects individuals who either have lower criminal propensities or are more responsive to deterrent effects than the average native." The fact is, immigrants commit fewer crimes per person than native-born American citizens. By far.

Somebody that would rape a woman or girl is a bad hombre, no matter where he's from. It isn't something that happens accidentally, it doesn't come from a lack of judgment; one person decides to overpower another and violate their body in a humiliating and personally devastating way. This is what jails are for, someone who does this should be "taken off the streets." I see that the guy is saying he didn't do it, and okay, that's cool, this is America; bring your evidence, the state will bring theirs, and a jury of ordinary people will decide. I don't think the prison system works very well but there is one argument for it, and that is that some bad people need to be removed from public society because they are a danger to innocent people.

I would love to see a real movement spring up to end rape. Not something to blame people, not something that urges women to dress modestly and hide indoors at night, more than punishment after the fact, a movement that gets to the bottom of the kind of culture that results in thousands of rapes every year. And actually there is no chance of this happening, no chance that the United States is going to dig out the roots of rape when we have a President who brags about molesting women and presents himself in every way as the poster child for rape culture. Rape is a serious problem that requires hard analysis and strategic planning, and we are not very far along in taking it seriously.

It is human nature to prefer your own group. We are more comfortable around people who are similar to us, who share our way of talking, our sense of what's funny, what's interesting -- that's just how people are. And in a state of war people almost certainly demonize and dehumanize their enemy, "they" are at war with "us," and we support "us," so "they" are stupid, ugly, immoral, wrong. Doesn't matter which side you're on, both sides of any war do that.

It is pathological to demonize and dehumanize people just because they are different from you. Mature human beings should have the sense of self and the objectivity to recognize that the world is a big place and there are all kinds of people in it. There can be "us" and "them" without "them" being despicable in every way. This blog has been here now for more than twelve years, and if there is a single theme through it all, it is stated in this paragraph.

To be clear, the issue at RHS is rape, it is not immigration. A crime was committed, suspects were apprehended, and the criminal justice system is on the case. The people who are protesting, sending nasty emails, when Sean Spicer and Fox News talk about this case, they are not sympathizing with the young lady who was violently attacked. They are focusing on this case because an undocumented foreigner committed it. And the issue is not that undocumented foreigners are dangerous, or that they commit more crimes than "us" native-born citizens, because they don't; the issue is that foreigners are different from "us." The reaction to the Rockville rape is not rational, it is racist. People are seizing on this tragedy to reinforce a stereotype that is not accurate.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Sinking of the Titanic



Or, as the Washington Post put it:


Tuesday, March 07, 2017

That Wiretap Story Is Spinning Out of Control


Louise Mensch on being at the center of the wiretap story



Louise Mensch on being at the center of the wiretap story

Mensch: It's legit, it's a court of the United States. Contrary to rumor, people just can't go around wire tapping everybody and etc. What was interesting to me and I think probably many of the other journalists who later corroborated my story or at least reported the same thing, which includes the BBC and the Guardian, is that nobody that reported this warrant ever mentioned so much as a wire tap at all. We just reported the warrant that our sources told us existed and we all reported the same thing. So this, the only people that reported a wire tap at Trump Tower were Breitbart News. Nobody else! And if there's been some leaks, maybe Steve Bannon or some of these other ex-Breitbart staffers have got something to answer to.

FOX: Well, do you think it's that they have more information than you initially had or do you think it's a misunderstanding of what the FISA warrant is?

Mensch: Uh, it could be a little bit of both but after all, tweets came out from the President's own accounts. Now, I don't know, I don't even know for sure if he himself is making those tweets but somebody made those tweets under his name and they said he just found out about a wire tap just before the victory. Well that's fascinating to me 'cause I never reported it. Uh, so either the President has a terrific imagination or the President is receiving some solid information that somebody in his team has been caught up, like your correspondent Catherine Herridge, said in incidental collection and that's not very good for team Trump.

FOX: Well original sourcing and reporting on this you mentioned came from you, from the BBC, and the Guardian all say they've got sources as to these FISA warrants, or FISA warrant, singular. Now the former DNI Director James Clapper appeared on the Sunday shows yesterday. He says if it existed, he would know about it and he categorically denied it. What do you make of that?

Mensch: Well I don't know that he categorically denied what I reported which was a FISA warrant on communications between two Russian banks. He was being asked about the President's accusation that President Obama had targeted a warrant politically at him or at Team Trump and at Trump Tower. There's no such FISA warrant and it would be impossible to get one and indeed, I faithfully reported that the couple of times that Director Comey apparently went to the court and asked for a warrant that named Mr. Trump, he was turned down flat. So I think you heard DNI Clapper, former DNI Clapper denying that there was a politically motivated, targeted FISA warrant at Donald Trump. And I haven't reported that to my knowledge nor has anyone else.

FOX: Yeah, my remembrance of his discussion was that he was asked if there was such an order.

Mensch: Yes.

FOX: So but is it possible that the DNI wouldn't know about it?

Mensch: Um I don't know because I don't, honestly, I don... I try not to bluff when I don't know things.

FOX: Good for journalists, we should stick with what we know

Mensch: I believe he has, but such an order, does that mean no FISA warrant of any kind, which I think would be really hard for a DNI to deny or confirm. I think that would be kind of illegal even. But I think what he was saying is there's no order of a politically targeted FISA court warrant that was aiming directly at Trump Tower and the political campaign.

FOX: And you're confident in your sources and what you've reported and again it was dealing with banks that were communicating with each other and if Trump staffers or Trump campaign officials or people connected to him in any way were caught up in it, that would have been secondary.

Mensch: It gave permission, incidental permission, for people caught up in this secondary communication, incidental communication, it gave permission for the FBI to look at that but they were not the target. Communications between two Russian banks were the target my sources said.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Nobody Knew

"Nobody knew that healthcare could be so complicated," Trump said, at the National Governors Association meeting.



What could that statement possibly mean?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Destroying America

Don Trump is too confused to know what he is doing in Washington, beyond being a cranky old man. But that's okay, as he is not the one running things. Steve Bannon spelled out the plan at CPAC this week. The Post:
Atop Trump’s agenda, Bannon said, was the “deconstruction of the administrative state” — meaning a system of taxes, regulations and trade pacts that the president and his advisers believe stymie economic growth and infringe upon one’s sovereignty.

“If you look at these Cabinet nominees, they were selected for a reason, and that is deconstruction,” Bannon said. He posited that Trump’s announcement withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership was “one of the most pivotal moments in modern American history.” Bannon: Trump administration is in unending battle for ‘deconstruction of the administrative state’
So ... now they have told us exactly why they selected the nightmarishly worst people for every cabinet position. They want to destroy the government.

This is not okay. Good Americans complain because the government is slow, unresponsive, expensive. Politicians are self-centered and vain ... lots to complain about. But you can drink the water in most places, you can eat the food without getting poisoned. You can drive on the highways. You can walk in the park without fear. In America anyone can grow up to be President. You can say what you want, even if you're Milo Yiannopoulos. Some of us actually loved our country, and hoped to work together to make it better.

Do you think this is what the people in flyover land were hoping for, when they voted for Trump? Deconstruction?

RealClearPolitics quoted Bannon further:
Every business leader we've had in is saying not just taxes, but it is -- it is also the regulation. I think the consistent, if you look at these Cabinet appointees, they were selected for a reason and that is the deconstruction, the way the progressive left runs, is if they can't get it passed, they're just gonna put in some sort of regulation in -- in an agency.

That's all gonna be deconstructed and I think that that's why this regulatory thing is so important. Stephen Bannon: Core Of Trump's Platform Is "Deconstruction Of The Administrative State"
Trump signed an executive order requiring that agencies rescind two regulations for every one they initiate. This EO will be declared unconstitutional, but the concept is at the heart of the Bannon/Trump agenda. They want to neutralize the government so that it does not protect the country's resources, medicines, foods. It is easy to understand: regulations cost corporations money. I am not being cynical, that is the whole explanation.

By the way, Bannon doesn't know what "deconstructed" means. It's kind of a fancy word from literary criticism and semiotics. Bannon is using that word because it sounds so much more refined that "destroyed." Voters will cheer you on when you "deconstruct" their country, not so much when you destroy it.

You broke it, America, you bought it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Flynn: "Lock Her Up"

Boy, he really got that crowd fired up.