Monthly Archives: December 2015

What The Tamir Rice Incident Reveals About Open Carry Gun Laws

So much yes from Charles Pierce in Esquire:

There certainly is no point in emphasizing the damn irony that Ohio is an “open carry” state so, even if the cops assumed Rice was 18, and they also assumed his gun was real, they had no cause even to stop him, let alone open fire. Listen to the spiel that Wayne LaPierre unspools every time he’s in a room with more than four people listening: arm yourselves, because the world is a hellscape of violent Others who are coming for you and your children. At its heart, open carry is about open season on the people who scare you. It’s certainly not about an absolute Second Amendment right that applies to black people as well as white. Open carry is about You and the Others, and so is the training of our modern, militarized police forces. If only Tamir Rice had not been born with that congenital ability to become huge and threatening the way he did in the mind of Timothy Loehmann. If only…

The prosecutor — who (half-heartedly, I’m sure) presented the case to the Grand Jury (which failed to hand down any indictments) — said that the officers followed policy.

What scares me is that might just be true.

In which case, we need to change the policy.

Picture Of The Year?

I don’t know, but it should be contender.  The photographer is not a journalist or professional photographer, but I don’t know if that makes any difference.

This is a woman who escaped ISIS territory and was able to wear color again, taken sometime in early December 2015.


The Lyingest Liar Of 2015

Every year, Politifact does their “Lie Of The Year”.  In 2009, it was “death panels”.  Last year, it was Ebola exaggerations.  This year, there were so many from… well, I’ll let them tell it:

It’s the trope on Trump: He’s authentic, a straight-talker, less scripted than traditional politicians. That’s because Donald Trump doesn’t let facts slow him down. Bending the truth or being unhampered by accuracy is a strategy he has followed for years.

“People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That’s why a little hyperbole never hurts,” Trump wrote in his 1987 best-seller The Art of the Deal. “People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration — and a very effective form of promotion.”

That philosophy guided Trump in luxury real estate and reality television. This year he brought it to the world of presidential politics.

Trump has “perfected the outrageous untruth as a campaign tool,” said Michael LaBossiere, a philosophy professor at Florida A&M University who studies theories of knowledge. “He makes a clearly false or even absurdly false claim, which draws the attention of the media. He then rides that wave until it comes time to call up another one.”

PolitiFact has been documenting Trump’s statements on our Truth-O-Meter, where we’ve rated 76 percent of them Mostly False, False or Pants on Fire, out of 77 statements checked. No other politician has as many statements rated so far down on the dial.

In considering our annual Lie of the Year, we found our only real contenders were Trump’s — his various statements also led our Readers’ Poll. But it was hard to single one out from the others. So we have rolled them into one big trophy.

To the candidate who says he’s all about winning, PolitiFact designates the many campaign misstatements of Donald Trump as our 2015 Lie of the Year.

When it comes to inaccurate statements, the Donald was on fire:

  • • “I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down,” he said at a Nov. 21 rally in Birmingham, Ala. “And I watched in Jersey City, N.J., where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering.” Pants on Fire. There is no video of thousands of people in Jersey City cheering. Weeks later, Trump continues to stand by his claim but has not been able to point to evidence to back it up. Public safety officials on the ground in New Jersey say it never happened.
  • • “The Mexican government … they send the bad ones over.” Pants on Fire. There’s no evidence to show the Mexican government encourages criminals to cross the border. Most illegal immigration comes from people seeking work. Recent estimates show illegal immigration from Mexico dropped off dramatically during the recession and has remained low.
  • • “Whites killed by whites — 16%. Whites killed by blacks — 81%,” said an image he shared on Twitter. Pants on Fire. Most people are killed by someone they know, and someone of the same race. The correct number for whites killed by whites was 82 percent in 2014, while the number of whites killed by blacks was 15 percent.

When Bill O’Reilly of Fox News challenged Trump’s tweet of inaccurate murder rates, Trump suggested being accurate wasn’t so important: “Hey, Bill, Bill, am I gonna check every statistic? I get millions and millions of people … @RealDonaldTrump, by the way.”

Trump hasn’t apologized or backtracked on his statements. Instead, when challenged, he offers flimsy explanations and suggests he shouldn’t be held accountable — or simply insists he’s right.

“People maybe call me out, but they turn out to be wrong, also,” he said in an interview Sunday with George Stephanopoulos. “And many of the things I’ve said — and I think just about all of them — they may have been controversial at one point, George, but they’re not controversial in the end, because people start to say, you know, Trump’s actually right.”

My “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Review: We’ve Been Had [Contains Spoilers]

So I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens last night.  In IMAX 3D.

A very fun movie, even if you are not a fan of the series.

BUT here’s the thing: Of COURSE it is a good movie; 90% of it is the same ingredients as the original, right down to the bar/cantata scene with strange music and weird aliens. A villain in a black mask. Father/son conflict. A cute droid carrying an important secret. Mega-death planet destroyer (with one small vulnerable spot that the rebels must get to destroy it). Humorous quips while the battle rages.

The other 10% is nostalgia (revisiting old friends).

It enjoyed it immensely, but boy, they sure made a predictably “safe” moneymaker.  It bordered on plagerism.

That’s what happened to the Star Wars franchise when it went to Disney.  It became formula (like everything Disney does), and the new Star Wars is more than just a blockbuster movie — it’s the anchoring element of a vast commercial program, painstakingly factory-made for maximal audience appeal, which means maximal inoffensiveness. Don’t expect the next two Star Wars movies to be much different.  In fact, Star Wars sequels and prequels are destined to be part of moviemaking into the infinite future. One can envision Hollywood eventually turning out Star Warses well beyond the Lucas-planned nine movies (which I don’t believe to be true anyway), each periodically “rebooted” for a new generation of customers by casting the latest new young stars in new costumes facing the same old perils and uttering the same old quips.

Does Being White Make You A Racist?

Professor George Yancy of Emory University thinks so.  Here’s his New York Times Editorial, an open letter to White America.  I print it in full below the fold.

But here is my response:

Dear Mr. Yancy:

You speak undeniable truths about the world we live in, and about how white people like me benefit (almost instinctively) from white privilege.  That’s true.

But you’ve decided to redefine “racist” in such a manner that it — the word and what it represents — becomes meaningless.  As a practical matter, I can do nothing about my supposed “racism” other than be aware of it and do what I can to change the white privilege power structure, which I already do.  I have that responsibility, not only as a white man, but as a citizen of the Earth.  But being responsible for countering structural racism does not make me guilty AS a racist.

We are in an era in which great big, gaping, enormous, and injurious generalizations about broad populations are increasingly acceptable. “All men are sexist”… and so on.  And taking the philosophy that being white in America makes one culpable for racism is a great big, broad, gaping and enormous generalization.

But generalizations are the cornerstone of prejudice, which leads to the -isms which divide us.  They certainly cannot be said with love and societal health in mind.

Furthermore, I don’t believe the tautology that disagreement with you is proof that you are correct.  That is a logical fallacy.  That you may have predicted my response to your thesis does not make your thesis correct (nor particularly clever).

I like what you write to the extent that it forces “white America” (whatever that means) to be mindful of the structural racism that exists in all of the facets of life — from sports to law to politics to entertainment and so on.  But you bury the lede by making it personal.  By writing to ME as if you know ME, and insisting that I am a racist (as you define that word) has to practical use.  Even if you admit that you are racist and sexist, and even if you dress it all dressed up in bows — an actual gift for which I am (supposedly) to thank you, it does not move the ball forward or fix any problem.  It just stirs the pot.

Yes, I am a racist as you insist on defining it.  But that is your “problem”.  I cannot do anything about it.

And so I give this “gift” back to you.  And I urge you to keep fighting the good fight.  You can join me in that fight too.  Just don’t bring any presents.


Why Trump Might Not Do Well In Iowa Despite Being On Top In The Iowa Polls

The Iowa Caucus is five weeks away and conventional wisdom has been that Trump will win Iowa, even if he fails in states after that.

But I am not so sure Iowa is in Trump’s column.

First of all, Cruz is essentially tied with Trump right now, at least according to the latest Iowa poll (conducted before Christmas).

But more importantly, Trump lacks something that Cruz and other candidates have — a ground game.  Let me explain.

We sometimes forget what a caucus is. The caucuses are generally defined as “gatherings of neighbors.” Rather than going to polls and casting ballots, Iowans gather at a set location in each of Iowa’s 1,682 precincts. Typically, these meetings occur in schools, churches, public libraries and even individuals’ houses.

At 7:00pm, each precinct will be called to order by the temporary chair, an individual appointed by the county party. After a permanent chair and secretary are elected by the body, business can begin. Since 2016 is a presidential election year, the first item of business will be to conduct a presidential preference poll. Delegates are then selected, and they are bound by the results of the poll in that caucus (this is a change from previous years).

But before the poll is taken, there is a lot of discussion.  A LOT of it.  And it is important that each candidate have precinct captains and leaders to mill around and discuss with those voting.

Trump’s problem?  He hasn’t lined these people up:

Some of Mr. Trump’s Republican rivals have spent months calling and knocking on doors to identify potential supporters to draw them out to caucuses, but Mr. Trump does not appear to have invested in this crucial “voter ID” strategy until recently.

The Trump campaign hopes to attract a surge of independents and disaffected Democrats on caucus night, but the latest data from the Iowa secretary of state show no significant growth in Republican registrations.

Interviews in Iowa with Mr. Trump’s campaign workers, his volunteers and dozens of attendees at his rallies over two months, as well as observations of voter outreach, conference calls and confidential training sessions, indicate that Mr. Trump’s support in the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses may fall short of his poll numbers in the state.

I believe that Trump supporters live in a vacuum right now.  They favor Trump, but that favoritism is soft for most of them, and they can easily be persuaded to vote for Cruz (who has, we’re told, an excellent ground game in Iowa).

So expect Trump to “lose” — and by that I mean, come in second or even third, in Iowa.  I don’t think he will win.

RIP Meadowlark Lemon

The ringleader of the Harlem Globetrotters, Meadowlark was the perfect combination of athlete and clown.  He chased referees with a bucket and surprised them with a shower of confetti instead of water. He dribbled above his head and walked with exaggerated steps. He mimicked a hitter in the batter’s box and, with teammates, pantomimed a baseball game. And both to torment the opposing team — as time went on, it was often a hired squad of foils — and to amuse the appreciative spectators, he laughed and he teased and he chattered and he smiled.

He died yesterday at the age of 83.

Democratic In-Fighting – Yes, It Exists

Associated Press:

The Sanders campaign is upset that the DNC has barred the Sanders’ campaign from accessing the (non-Hillary) database of voters, thinking it is being punished when it was the DNC vendor who screwed up the database.  They’ve even threatened with a lawsuit.

But I suspect this will all be resolved by day’s end.  What’s really happening, I suspect, is that the Sanders campaign is banned from the database until they can fix the lock on the Hillary stuff.

Did Ted Cruz Leak Classified Information During The Latest GOP Debate?

It went down like this.  While Rubio and Cruz were debating each other’s records on national security and surveillance, Cruz got into some details about what the bulk data program covers.

“What he knows is that the old program covered 20 percent to 30 percent of phone numbers to search for terrorists,” Cruz said, referring to Rubio. “The new program covers nearly 100 percent. That gives us greater ability to stop acts of terrorism, and he knows that that’s the case.”

It’s not clear if Cruz, who is unpopular with many of his Senate colleagues, revealed classified information. But in his response to Cruz, Rubio noted that he did not want to say too much about the program.

“Let me be very careful when answering this, because I don’t think national television in front of 15 million people is the place to discuss classified information,” Rubio said. “So let me just be very clear. There is nothing that we are allowed to do under this bill that we could not do before.”

And that was how it went down.  Moments afterward, this was tweeted:

Becca Watkins is the communications director for Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Burr told reporters that his staff was looking into the matter as to whether or not Cruz disclosed classified information. Cruz is not well-liked in the Senate, even by his Republican colleagues.

Late yesterday, the Senate Intelligence Committee announced that it will not be investigating anything said during Tuesday’s debate.

Meaning…. well, anything.  If Cruz leaked classified information, they’re certainly not going to admit it.  Better than the terrorists think that 100% of bulk phone data is being culled.

Thursday Morning Schadenfreude


CWcTBL2WIAEGqPhMartin Shkreli, a pharmaceutical entrepreneur and former hedge fund manager who has been widely criticized for drug price gouging, was arrested Thursday morning by the federal authorities.

The investigation, in which Mr. Shkreli has been charged with securities fraud, is related to his time as a hedge fund manager and running the biopharmaceutical company Retrophin — not the price-gouging controversy that has swirled around him.

Mr. Shkreli, 32, is now chief executive and founder of Turing Pharmaceuticals, which has drawn scrutiny for acquiring a decades-old drug and raising the price of it overnight to $750 a pill, from $13.50.

He was arrested in his Midtown Manhattan apartment, according to a law enforcement source, who declined to be identified because the indictment had not been unsealed. Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn were expected to hold a news conference on the charges later Thursday.

UPDATE:  Wish this was true….

Another Debate Tonight As Trump Stays Ahead

Yes, I’ll probably live-tweet the debate tonight.

Meanwhile, Cruz leads in Iowa (according to one poll), but the story remains Trump Trump Trump. Ever since is incendiary and divisive comment about blocking Muslim immigration, Trump has become the darling of the pants-wetting and/or white supremacist right.

Here’s what happens at Trump rallies:

But it quickly became clear Monday night that the protesters had no interest in a quiet extraction — nor, for that matter, did Trump.

By the time security swooped in, several amped-up Trump supporters had already encircled the protesters — booing, and chanting, and slowly closing in — while a crush of smartphone-wielding media scrambled to capture footage of the clash. The guards managed to remove one protester, but the other resisted, stiffening his limbs and screaming about the First Amendment as they tried to haul him toward the exits. When he toppled to the floor, a horde of rallygoers assembled to hurl insults and threats at him.

“Light the motherfucker on fire!” one Trump supporter yelled.

Physical altercations between protesters, security, and the occasional tough-guy supporter have been a running theme in Trump’s combative campaign this year — but Monday night was different. Reporters who regularly cover Trump said they had never seen anything like the fevered, frenzied mood that gripped the ballroom in Las Vegas.

With the candidate’s ever darkening political style seeming to grow more perversely effective by the day, his grassroots opponents on the left are becoming more defiant and effective at causing trouble. Activists interrupted Trump at least half a dozen times at the event — and the longer the night wore on, the more crazed many in the crowd seemed to get.

One after another, protesters were forcibly dragged from the ballroom — limbs flailing, torsos twisting in resistance — while wild-eyed Trump supporters spewed abuse and calls to violence.

“Kick his ass!” yelled one.

“Shoot him!” shouted another.

When a white activist proclaimed “Black lives matter!” as she was being carted out of the building, a male Trump supporter leaned toward her and snapped, “White lives matter.”

According to NBC News, someone at the Trump rally even yelled a German Nazi-era salute — “Sieg heil!” — while a protester was being removed from the event.

Trump, meanwhile, gleefully narrated the madness from his podium like a tabloid talk show host presiding over an on-camera brawl between guests — egging on the confrontation, whipping the audience into a frenzy, and basking in his fans’ celebratory chants.

“Trump! Trump! Trump! Trump!”

“This is what we should have been doing to the other side for the last seven years!” Trump exclaimed during one of the scuffles with protesters.

Emphasis mine.

The Republican establishment doesn’t want Trump, and even Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin warn against him… in favor of Cruz.  Cruz is positioning himself to be the likeable version of Trump, but for Trump fanatics, the fact that Cruz is a senator makes him too inside.

As always, I think Trump’s numbers are overblown, especially national polls.  I MAY have been wrong about Rubio though.  He can’t seem to get traction, and Cruz may end up being the best compromise between the GOP establishment and the Trump-ites.

Josh Marshall at TPM used to think like me, but he’s now conceding that Trump might actually be the nominee.  Might:

That is one of the many things that makes the current Trump-Cruz phony war so compelling. Trump is baiting Cruz into the same smackdown he’s used to eat up Bush, Walker, Fiorina and others. But Cruz won’t take the bait. Like two zen masters facing off in a martial arts classic or perhaps two wizards do battle in The Lord of the Rings, we have an epic confrontation between two master who have trained for decades in the arts of assholery and bullying. But their powers equally matched, it is a stand off.

I keep thinking that Trump won’t pull this off and I’ll be kicking myself for not paying more attention to all the reasons why this sort of thing just does not happen. And basically I still think, things like this, things so catastrophic for a major party simply don’t happen. But each day it gets more difficult to imagine the scenarios required to prevent it. And if the savior is Ted Cruz, he could do worse in the general election than Trump. Somehow Marco Rubio needs to start coalescing support. But at the moment, it’s the reverse that is happening.

But now the talk is how this all shakes out, and when.  Eventually, the GOP might gravitate to Cruz, but what if that doesn’t happen until late in the primary season?  In other words, what if no candidate gets enough delegates at the convention to win on the first ballot?  Now, we’re talking about a “brokered” convention, which by definition is not very democratic.  Will the hard right anti-establishment types stand for that?  Absolutely not.  It could get interesting, and even a little scary.

I don’t think the debate is really going to result in any monumental shifts.  There will be a “winner” or two, and a “loser” or two, but nothing will change yet.  The movements on the GOP side of the primaries are geological in speed.

But I expect to see some of the candidates try to out-crazy Trump.  Just to try to catch a ride on the same wind he’s been riding.

Police-Related Racial Homicide in Winston-Salem?

On December 9th, Winston-Salem resident Travis Page died after being handcuffed by four Winston-Salem police officers.  After being handcuffed.

It’s a story all too familiar — a young black man dies — not in a shootout with police — but while under police custody.

It is irrelevant what Travis Page did or was accused of doing.  Unless he was attacking police with violent force, he shouldn’t have died.  Unless…

Unless it was… suicide?  An accident?  So the burning question becomes… what happened?

Fortunately, three of the four officers had body cams (the fourth was a trainee and was not required to have a body cam).  What will those cameras show?  We won’t know, at least not for a while.  District Attorney Jim O’Neill will not be releasing the videos since they are evidence in the police investigation.

Mayor Joines and the Winston-Salem Journal are among the many who are calling for the video release.

Chad Nance over at Camel City Dispatch has been doing the yeoman’s work on this, and has a nice breakdown of what is known from the public record:

  • At approximately 7:28pm on December 9th the WSPD received a 911 call reporting shots fired at the Family Dollar location on Rural Hall Rd.
  • The person who called in the complaint described a suspect fitting Travis Page’s description.
  • The suspect was described as being six-feet, four-inches tall, heavy set, and wearing a blue shirt and dark shorts.
  • Responding officers were 20 year veteran, Corporal Robert Fenimore, 22 year veteran Officer Christopher Doub, 3 year veteran Officer Austin Conrad and trainee Officer Jacob Tuttle.
  • Officers found Page a short distance from the Family Dollar. According to the WSPD he ran when police approached.
  • According to an officer on the scene recorded in a citizen video (Taken sometime after the confrontation and the arrival of Forsyth County EMS, but before Page had been taken to the hospital) Page was running away from police when he fell.
  • According to police, Page ingested a controlled substance at this time. The particular substance that he allegedly ingested has not been identified at this time.
  • The WSPD’s report indicates that Page resisted arrest and the officers had to use pepper spray on him. The officer who administered they spray has not been identified.
  • Officers have indicated that once Page was handcuffed he became “Unresponsive”.
  • According to the police report, the responding officers and Forsyth County EMS attempted to use life-saving measures to revive Page. They have not been specific about what these measures entailed.
  • Officers claim that they found a gun and controlled substances on Page before he was taken to the hospital.
  • Travis Page was pronounced dead at the hospital.
  • According to public records Travis Page did have a criminal history that included assault on a police officer and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon while on probation.
  • Page’s mother told local media that her son had a variety of medical conditions including bronchitis and gout. Travis Page’s medical records are protected by HIPPA laws and that information must be considered anecdotal at this time.
  • The SBI is now handling the investigation into the death of Travis Page and the officers have been placed on administrative duty as is common procedure in these kinds of cases.
  • WSPD’s Lt. Catrina Thompson has stated publicly that the body cam footage will not “Embarrass Winston-Salem.”

(Read the story — Mr. Nance clearly knows more than he is willing to write about)

It would be inappropriate to pass judgement on the officers at this point.  But this incident is on a lot of peoples’ radar.

Where’s Winter?

It’s beginning to look a lot like…. Arbor Day?  Unseasonably mild temperatures are spreading over the eastern half of the country and about 75% of the U.S. population will see the temperature climb over 60°F by the end of the weekend.  Not exactly Christmas season.

This is true even in the winter-whipped city of Buffalo.  There, the first snow normally occurs by November 8 and well over a foot would have accumulated by now on average. Last year the city had received over 20 inches by December 10, and areas in southern Buffalo had already been buried under 80 inches of snow. But they have been snowless so far, and will be snowless for another week at least.

What’s going on?

El Niño.

El Niño is the primary driver for the warm temperatures this winter.  The warming ocean waters in the tropical Pacific alter weather patterns around the globe and directly affect the weather over the United States, especially during the winter.  Yesterday, NOAA announced that the ocean and atmospheric conditions in the Pacific indicate the current El Niño episode is a strong one that has matured and will likely be among the top three on record.

Is the heavy El Niño effect due to global warming?  Meteorologists are against making that leap.  El Niño is only in one part of the world (although it has wider ramifications).

In fact, remember the “polar vortex”?  Yeah, that’s still around.  In fact, it is a stronger than average polar vortex (which is actually a band of strong winds high in the atmosphere that normally circles the North Pole), and because it is stronger, the cold air gets bottled up in the polar region, allowing most of the United States and Canada to enjoy the unseasonably mild temperatures.

So we can’t blame this warm and delayed winter specifically on global climate change.

It is too early to tell if it will be a White Christmas, but the long term projection is a warm winter (having just come from the hottest autumn nationwide in recorded history).

The Trump Backlash Continues

A $6 billion golf community under construction in Dubai is removing his name from the project. Trump was tossed from a respected business network in Scotland, where the billionaire says he invested more than $300 million in golf courses and other developments. And Lifestyle, a retailer that does business in an enormous marketplace spanning the Middle East, India and Africa, stopped selling Trump branded products. Trump lost his honorary doctorate at Robert Gordon University (RGU) in Scotland.

Trump says that these nations are “caving to political correctness”.

In the national media, Tom Brokaw, the veteran NBC News anchor, has called Trump’s proposal “dangerous,” and likened it to the Holocaust and the Japanese internment. On its front page, The New York Times has said Trump’s idea is “more typically associated with hate groups.” Dan Balz, of The Washington Post, has called Trump’s rhetoric “demagogic,” while BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith has informed staff that it is acceptable to refer to Trump on social media as a “mendacious racist,” because, he said, those are facts.  Thankfully, journalism has moved into the ‘have you no shame’ mode, rather than the typical “he-said she-said”.

Muslim-Americans are speaking out.  The prize goes to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for his Time editorial, which begins:

The terrorist campaign against American ideals is winning. Fear is rampant. Gun sales are soaring. Hate crimes are increasing. Bearded hipsters are beingmistaken for Muslims. And 83 percent of voters believe a large-scale terrorist attack is likely here in the near future. Some Americans are now so afraid that they are willing to trade in the sacred beliefs that define America for some vague promises of security from the very people who are spreading the terror. “Go ahead and burn the Constitution — just don’t hurt me at the mall.” That’s how effective this terrorism is.

I’m not talking about ISIS. I’m talking about Donald Trump.

This is not hyperbole. Not a metaphor. Webster defines terrorism as “the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal; the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.”

If violence can be an abstraction — and it can; that’s what a threat is — the Trump campaign meets this definition. Thus, Trump is ISIS’s greatest triumph: the perfect Manchurian Candidate who, instead of offering specific and realistic policies, preys on the fears of the public, doing ISIS’s job for them. Even fellow Republican Jeb Bush acknowledged Trump’s goal is “to manipulate people’s angst and fears.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, however, defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” Now, we don’t require by law that our candidates tell the truth. They can retweet (as Trump did) racist “statistics” from a white supremacist fictional organization that claimed 81% of murdered whites are victims of blacks, when the truth is 84% of whites are murdered by whites. They can claim (as Trump did) to have seen on TV thousands of Muslims in New Jersey cheering on 9/11, even though there is no evidence of this. They can say (as Trump did) Syrian refugees are “pouring” into the country when only 2,000 have come (out of 4.3 million U.N.-registered refugees). Then, when caught lying (as Trump has been over and over), they can do what every belligerent child does: deny, deny, deny.

While Trump is not slaughtering innocent people, he is exploiting such acts of violence to create terror here to coerce support. As I have written before, his acts could be interpreted as hate crimes. He sounds the shrill alarm of impending doomsday even though since 9/11, about 30 Americans a year have been killed in terrorist attacks worldwide — as The Atlanticpointed out, “roughly the same number as are crushed to death each year by collapsing furniture.” Trump’s irresponsible, inflammatory rhetoric and deliberate propagation of misinformation have created a frightened and hostile atmosphere that could embolden people to violence. He’s the swaggering guy in old Westerns buying drinks for everyone in the saloon while whipping them up for a lynching.

About 30,000 foreign fighters have gone into Syria to join ISIS, thousands of them from Europe and at least 250 from the United States. What most of us in these bountiful countries can’t understand is how our young, raised with such opportunity, choose to abandon our values to embrace a culture of pitiless violence. Before going, many of these recruits spend much of their time on social media being brainwashed by propaganda videos. One 23-year-old woman, a devout Christian and Sunday school teacher, was recruited via Skype. The recruiter spent hours with the lonely woman teaching her the rituals of Islam. Maybe that’s because, according to some psychologists, the brain’s default setting is simply to believe because it takes extra work to analyze information.

The same process works for Trump’s supporters. They are impervious to facts or truth because their (understandable) frustration and anger at partisan greed and incompetence have fatigued them out of critical thinking. Like deranged newscaster Howard Beale in Network, they are mad as hell and they aren’t going to take it anymore. To express their outrage, they have rallied around a so-called “outsider” with no political experience, no detailed policies, and whacky ideas that subvert the very Constitution that he would be required to swear to uphold. Electing him would be like asking the clown at a child’s birthday party to start juggling chainsaws.

Muhammad Ali hit Trump with this released statement:

I am a Muslim and there is nothing Islamic about killing innocent people in Paris, San Bernardino, or anywhere else in the world. True Muslims know that the ruthless violence of so called Islamic Jihadists goes against the very tenets of our religion.

We as Muslims have to stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda. They have alienated many from learning about Islam. True Muslims know or should know that it goes against our religion to try and force Islam on anybody.

Speaking as someone who has never been accused of political correctness, I believe that our political leaders should use their position to bring understanding about the religion of Islam and clarify that these misguided murderers have perverted people’s views on what Islam really is.

Even Ted Cruz, who has taken pains to avoid critiquing Trump, remarked at a private fundraiser that he would have problems with Trump as President and having his finger on the button.

None of this, of course, has affected Trump in the polls.  He leads in NH and SC by quite a bit.

Interestingly, there is an article in the New York Times today which reads

Fear of Terrorism Lifts Donald Trump in New York Times/CBS Poll

I am among the many who thinks it should read

Donald Trump Lifts Fear of Terrorism in New York Times/CBS Poll

The San Bernadino shootings (and to a lesser extent, the Paris attacks), of course, started the fear, but Trump is exploiting that fear in a way that even ISIS couldn’t.

On the other hand, not everyone is in Trump’s grip.  He is viewed as strongly negative by the electorate in general.  Here are some graphics from a WSJ/NBC poll released today:



Again, I think Trump has a ceiling and he’s a media phenomenon, but I don’t think he has a chance in hell to be the GOP nominee.  That’s almost irrelevant though, as his behavior this week is actually damaging to national security.  This is the culmination of years of anti-government right wing radio and TV — an actual honest-to-God fascist candidate who doesn’t see what he advocates as fascism.  In the guise of rejection of political correctness, he rejects the US Constitution and American values.

He’s yuge among white supremacists and crazy people.  The Ku Klux Klan is using Donald Trump as a talking point in its outreach efforts. Stormfront, the most prominent American white supremacist website, is upgrading its servers in part to cope with a Trump traffic spike.

This typifies a Trump fanatic/.  This lady, I am embarrassed to say, is a state representative in New Hampshire:

This is an interesting chapter in American politics, like the McCarthy Era was at one time.  I can’t wait until it is over.

UPDATE: It’s getting ugly too.  Here are Trump protesters being forcefully removed from a Trump event at the Plaza Hotel

UPDATE #2:  The first poll conducted entirely after Trump’s Muslim remarks just came out.  It was conducted by Reuters/Ipsos:

Trump led the pack of candidates seeking the Republican Party’s nomination in the 2016 election with 35 percent of support from Republican voters, the opinion poll released on Friday found, the same lead he held before Monday, when he said Muslim immigrants, students and other travelers should be barred from entering the country.

Most Republican voters said they were not bothered by his remarks, though many said the comments could still hurt Trump’s chances of becoming president. Twenty-nine percent of Republicans, who will pick the party’s nominee for the November 2016 election, said they found Trump’s remarks offensive against 64 percent who did not.


Still, in a sign of how Trump’s rhetoric has polarized the electorate, 72 percent of Democrats and 47 percent of voters overall said they were offended by Trump’s comments.

Forty-one percent of Republicans polled said Trump’s remarks could hurt his chances of becoming president; that figure was higher among all respondents.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson came in second among Republicans with 12 percent in the Reuters/Ipsos poll, and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush tied with 10 percent.

All We Are Saaaaaaying… Is Give Mass Shootings A Chance.


How Conservatives Plan To Redistrict In Their Favor

There is a case before the Supreme Court right now called Evenwel v. Abbott, and it is the most important voting rights case since the Court’s conservative majority gutted the Voting Rights Act (VRA) in 2013.

The case deals with redistricting — how you draw the lines to determine who votes in what congressional district.  What the conservatives want to do is gerrymandering — the manipulation the boundaries of an electoral constituency so as to favor one the GOP.

Right now, districts are drawn based on the number of people in each district — each district needs to have the same number of people.  But if conservatives get their way, legislative lines will be drawn based on eligible or registered voters instead of total population, thus not counting children, immigrants (documented and undocumented), prisoners, and other nonvoters. If that happened, districts would become older, whiter, more rural and more conservative, with 55 percent of Latinos, 45 percent of Asian Americans and 30 percent of African Americans excluded from political representation. The same communities most harmed by the gutting of the VRA would see their political influence further diminished.

The arguments for and against this were heard yesterday in the Court. The court appeared divided on how to proceed. Chief Justice John Roberts, who authored the opinion dismantling a key part of the VRA, expressed sympathy with the plaintiff’s argument. “Well, it is called the one person, one vote,” Roberts said. “That seems to be designed to protect voters.”

On the other hand, Justice Sonia Sotomayor took the position that states have not just a “voting interest” but “also a representation interest.” She elaborated: “A state has to be able to say—I think just as the federal government did—the legislature is protecting not just voters; it’s protecting its citizens—or noncitizens. The people who live there.”

“What we actually want,” Justice Stephen Breyer said, “is the kind of democracy where people, whether they choose to vote or whether they don’t choose to vote, are going to receive a proportionate representation in Congress.”

The Notorious RGB wondered aloud if this means that states were wrong when, prior to 1920, they including women for districting purposes.  That, she correctly mused, seemed absurd, and if the framers didn’t want to include women (for districting purposes), they would have said so (or not counted them in the census).

The swing vote on so many of these cases, Justice Anthony Kennedy. He seemed to be searching for a middle ground between the plaintiff’s claim of “voter equality” and the longstanding principle of “population equality.”

Unlike the VRA case in 2013, the civil-rights groups defending “one person, one vote” sounded confident after the oral arguments. Nina Perales of the Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund said she was “very heartened” by the questions the justices asked.

But you can never tell.  Keep an eye out for this one.


Trump May Have Hit The Ceiling

Donald Trump has defied political pundits for months now.  When he first attacked John McCain, the thought was that it would kill him in the polls, but then he went up.  And that’s been the story for over four months now.  He keeps on appealing to the worst-of-the-worst conservative base and his numbers go up.

But many are now saying what I have always said.  Yes, he has a strong base, but he has a low ceiling.  I have put that ceiling on mid-30% of Republicans.  I don’t think he can get much higher than that.

Yesterday, Trump crossed a line.

Donald J. Trump called on Monday for the United States to bar all Muslims from entering the country until the nation’s leaders can “figure out what is going on” after the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, Calif., an extraordinary escalation of rhetoric aimed at voters’ fears about members of the Islamic faith.

A prohibition of Muslims – an unprecedented proposal by a leading American presidential candidate, and an idea more typically associated with hate groups – reflects a progression of mistrust that is rooted in ideology as much as politics.

Mr. Trump, who in September declared “I love the Muslims,” turned sharply against them after the Paris terrorist attacks, calling for a database to track Muslims in America and repeating discredited rumors that thousands of Muslims celebrated in New Jersey on 9/11. His poll numbers rose largely as a result, until a setback in Iowa on Monday morning. Hours later Mr. Trump called for the ban, fitting his pattern of making stunning comments when his lead in the Republican presidential field appears in jeopardy.

Saying that “hatred” among many Muslims for Americans is “beyond comprehension,” Mr. Trump said in a statement that the United States needed to confront “where this hatred comes from and why.”

“Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life,” Mr. Trump said.

That was too much, even for Republicans who have avoided taking shots at him.  Every GOP candidate spoke against this.  Jeb Bush called it “unhinged”.  Others called it “unamerican”. The former vice president, Dick Cheney, said Mr. Trump’s proposal “goes against everything we stand for.” And others.

Cruz, who rarely distances himself from Trump, took a small step away, saying “I do not believe the world needs my voice added to that chorus of critics” referencing the large group of Republican and Democratic presidential candidates who have criticized the plan, adding “I commend Donald Trump for standing up and focusing America’s attention on the need to secure our borders.”  But then he tweeted how he will always defend religious liberty.  So… a VERY small step away — small enough to still pat The Donald on the back.

But Cruz stands alone in his weak condemnation.

GOP lawmakers have gone to the House floor telling Trump to drop out of the race.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman (D) tweeted late Monday that he was barring Trump from his city “until we fully understand the dangerous threat posed by all Trumps.”

Some are concerned and saying that, even as a candidate, Trump is a threat to national security.  There’s a lot of truth to this.  Trump’s rhetoric is the best recruitment tool that ISIS could have.

Trump is also getting burned overseas. Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, said: “The only reason I wouldn’t go to some parts of New York is the real risk of meeting Donald Trump.”

Then there is the media.  The Philly Daily News:


Trump’s rationalization for this is pretty bizarre.  He keeps using the “what’s going on” phrase:

Here’s something else that’s telling: In an interview with ABC News this morning, Trump repeated various formulations designed to express generalized uncertainty and anxiety, over and over: “What is going on?” “We don’t know what is going on.” “We have to figure things out.” “What the hell is going on.” “We have to figure out what’s going on. Something is happening that’s not good.” “Until our country’s Representatives can figure out what is going on, we have no choice but to do this.”

The details don’t matter in the least. What matters is that Trump is speaking to a basic sense among his supporters that something is going on, thatsomething is wrong. He is willing to admit this and speak to the need to do something about it, even something drastic or “frankly unthinkable.” If that offends the politically correct and corrupt media, which is probably complicit in this American decline in any case, all the better.

Details, indeed, don’t matter. On the radio this morning, I heard a CNN interviewer ask exactly how banning Muslims from entering the country would be done, since religion does not appear on passports.  Trump, obviously speaking off the cuff, said in essence, that the customs people would ask them “Are you Muslim?”

Right.  I see a few flaws in that.approach.  From a practical standpoint (they will lie) and, oh by the way, can it get MORE unconstitutional?  I think not.

Trump compares his policies to Roosevelt’s during WWII, but unfortunately for Trump, most people view Japanese internment as a BAD part of our history.  And Trump is getting compared to Hitler today, more than Roosevelt.

Will it deter Trump die-hards?  Of course not.  CNN and NBC News interviewed a number of Trump supporters in South Carolina, and asked them to react to the new “plan.”.  Here’s what they said:

“I don’t want ’em here. Who knows what they gonna bring into this country? Bombs? ISIS? What?”

“That’s a very prudent idea. I think that he’s done due diligence when he makes that statement. We have to protect our American citizens first.”

“We just let terrorists into this country.”

“Somebody just needs to go in there and take control of this. It’s going rampant, and I’m worried about America. Worried about our safety. They’re getting in. They need to be stopped.”

“I think it’s a good idea. With everything that’s going on in the world right now — it sounds harsh, but reality is reality.”

“I’m a veteran paratrooper. Been in three different campaigns and two different wars. Both Iraq and Afghanistan. And I’ve had too many brothers and sisters lost over there in those two wars to just let them come here free range in our country now. It’s a kick in the face to every veteran there is that’s fought in those wars, to us trying to protect our homeland from them coming in.”

As CNN’s reporter put it: “No one here we spoke with had a problem with the plan.”

It’s too soon to see if this has any effect on his polling numbers.  But given the VERY LOUD outcry, I don’t expect him to go up, as he usually does.  I think this propels him into the ceiling.

Actually, it might be polls that drove this.  According to one poll of likely Iowa caucusgoers, Ted Cruz is on top in Iowa at 24%, followed by Donald Trump (19%), Marco Rubio (17%), and Ben Carson (13%).

The real issue isn’t Trump, but the GOP’s reaction to it.  So far, the party spokesmen have said nothing.  (Reince Pribus simply has said, “I don’t agree”).  But White House press spokesman Josh Earnest said it best:

“The Trump campaign for months now has had a dustbin of history-like quality to it, from the vacuous sloganeering to the outright lie to even the fake hair—the whole carnival barker routine we’ve seen for some time now… The question now is about the rest of the Republican party and whether or not they’re going to be dragged into the dustbin of history with him.”

35 Years Ago Today: Lennon Killed

An important voice was silenced.  I wrote about this 10 years ago:

I was not then, and am not now, a huge John Lennon fan.  But that was one of those few watershed moments in life where you have to sit back and wonder — aloud — “why”?  All he did was talk and sing about peace and love.  Of course, he was in a long line of peaceloving people who got shot — MLK, Bobby, etc.  The fact that it turned out to be a deranged fan, rather than someone with a political vendetta, made the senseless assassination all the more senseless.

Read the whole thing.

RIP Gonorrhea

Age 90.  Immortalized in Band of Brothers:

  • William Guarnere was part of Easy Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne Division
  • He fought in some of the fiercest battles in World War II, from 1941 right until the war’s end in 1945
  • He lost a leg trying to help a wounded soldier during the Battle of the Bulge
  • Guarnere’s exploits featured prominently in Band of Brothers, the award-winning 2001 miniseries by HBO
  • He died at Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia on Saturday from a ruptured aneurysm
Pictured here witth actor Frank Hughes (who portrayed him in "Band of Brothers"

Pictured here witth actor Frank Hughes (who portrayed him in “Band of Brothers”

Women In Combat

100% equality:

In a historic transformation of the American military, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said on Thursday that the Pentagon will open all combat jobs to women.

“There will be no exceptions,” Mr. Carter said at a news conference.

The groundbreaking decision overturns a 1994 Pentagon rule that restricts women from artillery, armor, infantry and other such combat roles, even though in reality women often found themselves in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past 14 years.

The military faced a deadline set by the Obama administration three years ago to integrate women into all combat jobs by 2016 or ask for specific exemptions. The Navy and Air Force have already opened almost all combat positions to women, and the Army has also increasingly integrated its forces.

The only exemptions were requested by the Marine Corps, which has a 93 percent male force dominated by infantry and a culture that still segregates recruits by gender for basic training. But Mr. Carter said he overruled the Marines because the military should operate under a common set of standards.

Thoughts and Prayers

There seems to be a backlash to this almost reflexive (and increasingly meaningless) response to mass shootings, best exemplified by the cover of today’s New York Daily News:


There has also been a backlash to the backlash.  Christians got offended at what is being called “thoughts and prayers shaming”.  The Weekly Standard offered a headline that blared,“Liberal Outrage Over Prayers for Shooting Victims.” And the American Conservative predictably complained that “We have reached the point in our culture in which leading voices on the Left feel compelled to shout from the rooftops condemnation on Christians for offering something as ordinary and decent as prayers for atrocity victims as a first response to news of the killings. Think about that for a moment. When the simple offering of prayers for the dead and wounded are grounds for spiteful attack, it is hard to avoid wondering just what commonalities bind us as Americans anymore.” And Fox & Friends First tweeted out “Prayer Shaming After Mass Shooting: While GOP Calls For Prayers, Mainstream Media Mocks Them.”  Here’s Rand Paul:

Uh no.  What is being attacked is offering “thoughts and prayers” in the absence of action.  Nothing wrong with “thoughts and prayers” itself, especially if….

That’s a good point.  I suspect that most of these politicians don’t actually pray at all.  I wish they could be asked, what do you think about?  What to you pray for?  Peace for the family’s of the victims, certainly — but is that IT?  What are you doing to make sure you aren’t thinking about and praying for FUTURE victims’ families? Today’s Internet belongs to Mary Beth Williams at Slate, if only for writing this:

It’s not prayer shaming to say that a lot of us — a lot of us who find comfort in prayer — are sick of the very people whose rhetoric and policies are helping perpetuate a culture of death hiding helplessly behind God whenever blood is shed. Which happens to occur quite often.


Also related: Look how the other New York tabloid changed its cover:

Before —  


Later on —

CVTm1l8VAAAoXl- Blatant bigotry aside, it’s also important to call out the Post’s inconsistent focus on religion in the aftermath of mass shootings in America. After last Friday’s Planned Parenthood shooting in Colorado, the paper not only failed to feature the story on its front page, its editors opted not to label the shooter a “Christian Killer” in any accompanying stories.


The San Bernadino Shootings: Terrorism Or Not?

Here’s what we know about the shooters:

  • They have been identified as Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27.
  • Farook was an environmental specialist who had worked for the county health department for five years.
  • Farook attended a holiday party for county employees earlier that day.
  • Farook left the party under circumstances that were decribed by witnesses as “angry”
  • Farook returned maybe half an hour later with Malik. Farook and Malik both were armed with .223-caliber assault-style rifles and semi-automatic pistols.
  • They also were wearing attack gear and brought some explosive devices
  • 14 people were killed at the holiday party.
  • The couple fled in a black SUV before law enforcement intercepted them hours later.
  • Both were killed in a shootout with police, who tracked them to a home in nearby Redlands.
  • A third person was detained, but police said they hadn’t determined whether that person was involved
  • The Los Angeles Times has reported that Malik had recently married Farook after meeting him online.
  • Farook was born in the U.S.
  • Co-workers described him as a devout Muslim to the Los Angeles Times, but said he rarely discussed religion.
  • Farook had traveled to Saudi Arabia to apparently attend Hajj pilgrimage
  • Farook and Malin had a six month old daughter, who they left with Farook’s mother that morning, saying they had a doctor’s appointment.
  • Neither one was on the FBI terrorist watch list.

The question on everyone’s lips: was it terrorism or not?

On the one hand, it appears to be a workplace revenge situation.  He got into a fight at a holiday party, left angry, came back, and started shooting up the place.

But what is undeniable is that there was planning involved.  They had improvised explosive devices, which had to be made well in advance.  They had the gear and extra ammo.

So here are the theories:

(1)  This was workplace revenge (non a terrorist attack)

(2)  The fight/party was a ruse (or coincidental) and this was a terrorist attack all along (perhaps they intended to go on and hit other soft targets).

(3)  They were planning a terrorist attack somewhere, which is why they had the equipment, but something work-related triggered Farook, and at the last minute, he decided (with his wife) to shoot up the workplace.

In other words, it was a workplace revenge attack (not terrorism) or an Islamic-based attack (terrorism) or some combination of the two.

#1 seems unlikely simply because of the preparedness — the IEDs etc.  That leaves #2 or #3, and I lean toward #3 because the left the baby with the mother that morning and lied about having a doctor appointment.  I think they knew that day what was going to happen.

Now, it still is an odd choice for a target, unless you take into account that he knew the building.  And the lack of “Allah Akbar” is unusual.  And it is unusual that they radical background could be so hidden.

We don’t know the motives for sure, and the FBI is still not saying whether this is terrorism or not.  Time will tell.

Matt Pearce has a wonderful tweet about how Ted Cruz interprets these events when it is a Christian shooter versus a Muslim shooter:

Not surprisingly, Cruz won’t acknowledge Christian terrorism even when the motive is known, but will call out Islamic terrorism when the motive is still murky.

UPDATE: CNN is saying that Farook was in touch with more than one international terrorism subjects.  That seems to end the debate.

UPDATE #2:  It seems that the couple were re-armed for a second attack, after stopping at home (presumably to get more supplies).  But police fortunately intervened.  Also, twelve pipe bombs were found in home of the suspect.

We also know that the shooters fired 65 to 75 rounds at the holiday party and 76 more during police pursuit, according to the SB police chief.

Also, number of injured raise to 21.

UPDATE #3:  

The brother of the San Bernardino shooter is a decorated veteran of the U.S. Navy, a spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.

Syed Raheel Farook enlisted in August 2003 and left the service in August 2007.

He was awarded the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Navy records show.

Syed Raheel Farook was an Information System Technician, Third Class. He was on duty on the USS Enterprise; in the Surface Warfare Officer School Unit, in Great Lakes, IL; and at the Recruit Training Command, in Great Lakes, IL.

He was an Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist and won the Good Conduct Medal, records show.

His brother, Syed Rizwan Farook and sister-in-law are suspected of a mass shooting that killed 14 on Wednesday. They both died in a shootout with police.

Today’s Mass Shooting: San Bernadino, California

Breaking news 2:46 pm EST:  12 reported dead, many injured.

Some reports include a second and even third shooter.



2:55 pm: The building where the shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., was reported provides services for developmentally disabled people, according to its website


LA Times is reporting active shooters (plural) may be heavily armed and wearing body armor.

3:05 pm EST:  Networks now covering this. FBI and ATF on their way From Inland Regional Center website: – 600 staff members – provide services to 30,000 – Serves San Bernardino and Riverside counties

This is the 352nd mass shooting in the United States this year (“Mass shooting” defined as a shooting where 4 or more are killed or injured).

3:40 pm:  It’s hard to see a political motive here, at least a right wing one.  It’s possible they thought it was an abortion clinic (Planned Parenthood is nearby).  I guess time will tell.

San Benadino PD confirm to MSNBC that “shooting suspect had tactical gear”.
The Los Angeles Times is reporting that police are searching for an SUV that fled the scene of the San Bernardino, Calif., shooting, according to sources. The organization also reports that police detonated a suspicious device found on the premises. This information has not been confirmed by authorities. It is still unclear exactly how many shooters were involved

4:30 pm: Witness tells ABC affiliate reporter that an event honoring County personnel was going on in the conference center at IRC. Shooters entered there.

Apparently, no shooters caught, but fatalities have been confirmed.

6:15pm 14 dead, 17 injured.

One suspect down and apparently dead. A second suspect and possibly a third in a black SUV next to the dead suspect and surrounded by police who are negotiating a non-violent surrender.

Motives and background of suspects unknown, but this thing is close to over.

Obligatory Trump Post #5,387

So the media is examining itself again lately.  Pundits are asking, “Why is the media so afraid of calling Trump a ‘liar’?”

Well, Michael Cohen at the Boston Globe is among the many who have had enough:

Donald Trump is a liar.

For anyone who has been following the Republican presidential campaign for the past few months, this statement will not elicit much surprise. But then again, that’s also true if you’ve been following the direction of Republican presidential campaign rhetoric over the past several years.

When Trump claimed that he saw thousands of Muslims in New Jersey cheer when the Twin Towers were felled, he was lying, because thousands of Muslims in New Jersey didn’t cheer when the Twin Towers fell.

He is not stretching the truth when he says the Obama administration wants to take in 250,000 Syrian refugees. He is lying.

He was not, as ABC News put it, making “questionable comments” when he retweeted the racist claims of a neo-Nazi that black Americans are overwhelmingly responsible for homicides in America. He is peddling made-up racist claims about black Americans.

When he said that there should be a database of American Muslims and that US mosques should possibly be shut down, he wasn’t misquoted. He was quite clearly playing on xenophobic fears.

Some have argued that Trump’s intentions are unclear. Maybe he truly believes he saw Muslims in New Jersey celebrating on 9/11.

And maybe some of Trump’s best friends are black or Mexican. Instead he’s just playing on fears about immigrants, Muslim terrorists, and black criminals, like countless politicians before him.

But this is a dodge. It’s been consistently pointed out, by reporters and fact checkers alike, and often directly to Trump, that he is saying things that are verifiably untrue. That Trump keeps repeating them is all we need to know about his intentions.

I think it is great that some in the media are finally calling him out.  Being “fair” does not mean being wrong.  If Person A — and I don’t care who it is — says something that a reporter can confirm is patently untrue, then the reporter should say so in his or her reporting.

Not that it matters.  On CNN this morning, there was a remarkable panel.  I only heard it on the radio and I missed the beginning, but the CNN moderator had two regular people — both Republicans — in the studio.  And the issue was Trump.  One of the people was clearly a Trump fan — he said he built the Truckers for Trump website, among other things.  And this guy insisted that Trumps “Thousands of Muslims Dancing in New Jersey on 9/11” claim was absolutely true.  The CNN moderator pushed back and explained that CNN and every single major and local news organization looked into it, and it was absolutely untrue that there was “thousands” of Muslims.  And the Trump supporter snapped back, “But you’re wrong. We know there were thousands. We know it.”

And that, to me, explains the psychosis of Trump followers.  And that, to me, is the Trump phenomenon.  For perhaps the first time in electoral politics, we have an identifiable block of voters who are more drawn to the narrative than the truth.  See, it just doesn’t matter to them that Trump lies.  As long as he is sticking it to whoever — gays, people from other countries, minorities, women, Democrats, the media, etc.

But I have had issues with calling him a liar.  To me, a liar is someone who knows what the truth is, but says the opposite.  Trump, I believe, doesn’t know what the truth is… and, like his followers, he doesn’t care.  Again, it is the narrative.

Fortunately, as I was formulating this “not liar” theory, I read this:

Trump is something worse than a liar. He is a bullshit artist. In his 2005 book On Bullshit, Harry G. Frankfurt, emeritus philosophy professor at Princeton University, makes an important distinction between lying and bullshitting—one that is extremely useful for understanding the pernicious impact that Trump has on public life. Frankfurt’s key observation is that the liar, even as he or she might spread untruth, inhabits a universe where the distinction between truth and falsehood still matters. The bullshitter, by contrast, does not care what is true or not. By his or her bluffing, dissimilation, and general dishonesty, the bullshit artist works to erase the very possibility of knowing the truth. For this reason, bullshit is more dangerous than lies, since it erodes even the possibility of truth existing and being found.

The contrast Frankfurt draws between lying and bullshit is sharp. “It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth,” Frankfurt observes. “Producing bullshit requires no such conviction. A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it. When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensable that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter, however, all bets are off. … He does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of truth than lies are.”

Frankfurt’s analysis works extraordinarily well in explaining why Trump is so unfazed when called on his bullshit. Trump’s frequent response is to undermine the very possibility that the truth of his claims are knowable. When asked why there are no videos of “thousands and thousands” of Muslim-Americans cheering the 9/11 attacks, Trump told Joe Scarborough that 2001 was so far in the past that the evidence has disappeared. “Don’t forget, 14, 15 years ago, it wasn’t like it is today, where you press a button and you play a video,” Trump said in a phone interview on yesterday’s Morning Joe. “Fourteen, 15 years ago, they don’t even put it in files, they destroy half of the stuff. You know, if you look back 14, 15 years, that was like ancient times in terms of cinema, and in terms of news and everything else. They don’t have the same stuff. Today you can press a button and you can see exactly what went on, you know, two years ago. But when you go back 14, 15 years, that’s like ancient technology, Joe.”

This claim—that he’s telling the truth but that there can be no proof of it—is in some ways more insidious than the initial falsehood. It takes us to a post-truth world where Trump’s statements can’t be fact-checked, and we have to simply accept the workings of his self-proclaimed “world’s greatest memory.” In effect, Trump wants to take us to a land where subjectivity is all, where reality is simply what he says.

Yes, that’s it!  A bullshit artist!

Now, to be sure, Trump is not the only one (see Carly Fiorina on the Planned Parenthood video), nor the first one (see anti-vaxxers and birthers, who counts Trump among their legions).  But Trump is the best, by far.  And why is he so good at hucksterism?

His background as a real estate developer—a job that requires making convincing sales pitches—is one clue. But Frankfurt’s book offers another suggestion: “Bullshit is unavoidable whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about,” Frankfurt notes. “Thus the production of bullshit is stimulated whenever a person’s obligations or opportunities to speak about some topic exceed his knowledge of the facts that are relevant to that topic.” As a businessman-turned-politician, Trump often seems in over his head on policy discussions. Maybe that’s the core reason why he’s so given over to bullshitting.


This of course explains the polls and Trump’s apparent resiliency.  As Ben Carson’s poll numbers have plummeted lately, Trump’s have gone up.  However, the real beneficiaries of Carson’s drop have been Rubio and Cruz.  This suggests to me that there IS (believe it or not!) a ceiling to Trump’s numbers, i.e., even if there is a sucker born every minute, there still is a finite number of suckers out there at any given time.

But I still don’t hold out much hope for Trump.  And here’s why: National polls are not helpful.

There are two reasons for this:

(1)  Most people in the nation are not really paying attention.  Sure, people tune in to watch the debates…. as entertainment.  But unless they are in Iowa, they don’t really feel the need to make up their minds yet.  Even in New Hampshire, it is too soon for people to settle on one candidate or another.  In the last two elections, over 60% of all New Hampshire voters didn’t make up their mind until the week of voting.  So, national polls are virtually meaningless.  Trump is famous and gets a lot of TV time and press.  He’s the most known commodity.

(2)  Most polls ask… “if you were to vote today, who would you vote for?”.  And if a person answers “Uhhhmmmmm [6 second pause]…. Trump, I guess”, that is recorded as a “Trump”.  In other words, we don’t get the enthusiasm of the voter.

(3)  Trump only has 25-35% of the the Republican vote among registered Republicans.  And roughly 35% of people in the country are registered Republicans.  That means that within the voting age population, Trump has 25 to 35 percent of roughly one-third of the country.  Or, put another way, 8-10% of voters.  That is NOT a lot.  And certainly gives a lot more room for others to take over the field.

So, listen.  Trump is not going to be the GOP nominee.  I still say Rubio.  It could be Cruz.  But Trump will fall eventually, just as Gingrich and Huckabee and Bachmann did last time.

Breaking: Armed Gunman AT UNC – Chapel Hill [UPDATE: All Clear]

Multiple reports but still unconfirmed:

ALERT CAROLINA TIMELY WARNING: Unconfirmed report of armed person near ROTC Building / Venable Hall

12/02/2015, 8:57 a.m.

Unconfirmed report of armed person near ROTC Building / Venable Hall

ALERT CAROLINA TIMELY WARNING: Unconfirmed report of armed person near ROTC Building / Venable Hall

UNC Chapel Hill Police are investigating the report of an armed individual near the campus NROTC Building and Venable Hall.  The report is unconfirmed at this time, but the campus is asked to shelter in place.

Continue to monitor Alert Carolina website ( for any updates into this incident.  UNC Police are asking anyone with information to call the UNC Police Department at 9-1-1 or contact the Chapel Hill-Carrboro-UNC Crime Stoppers at (919) 942-7515.

For a list of safety tips, see the following link through the Alert Carolina page:

12/02/2015, 8:53 a.m.

Emergency: The University has activated the sirens. Police report an ARMED AND DANGEROUS PERSON ON OR NEAR CAMPUS.

  • Go inside immediately.
  • Close windows and doors.
  • Stay until further notice.
  • Follow directions from emergency responders or University officials.

The sirens are activated when there is a significant emergency or immediate health or safety threat to the campus community. When the sirens sound, stop classroom and campus activities; all UNC operations are temporarily suspended. Remain inside your classroom or a safe place in your building unless police or University personnel instruct you to take a specific action, such as to evacuate a building, stay out of a certain part of campus, or go to your residence hall and stay there.

The Alert Carolina website,, will be updated as soon as more information is available. It can take hours to resolve an emergency situation; updates may not be immediate.

You can let your family know you are okay in the event of an emergency affecting the Carolina campus while keeping cell phone lines open for emergency calls by using the American Red Cross Safe and Well list. The Safe and Well list is especially helpful in communicating with family members who are outside the emergency area. Go to and follow the registration instructions.

If you see suspicious activity, call 911. But do not call 911 or the Department of Public Safety just to ask for information about the current incident. Police phone lines need to remain open for emergency communications.

When the threat is over, the sirens will sound again with a different tone to announce along with the voice message: “All clear. Resume normal activities.” Click here for an audio sample of the siren emergency tone. Click here to hear “all clear.”

When the sirens are activated – and when there is an “all clear” — the University also sends a text message to the cell phone numbers registered by students, faculty and staff in the online campus directory. The University also communicates about an emergency using sources including:  campus-wide email and voice mail (for campus land lines), the Adverse Weather and Emergency Phone Line, 843-1234, for recorded information, and the University Access Channel (Chapel Hill Time Warner Cable Channel 4) along with other campus television channels.

Pic from WRAL:


UPDATE:  Never mind?

60 Years Ago Today

A black lady sat on a bus.

No, not Claudette Colvin.  The one who came nine months later, on December 1, 1955.  Yeah, Rosa Parks.  The lighter-skinned one.

That whole thing was planned, you know.  Rosa Parks (who died in 1995) wasn’t a nobody; she was an activist. She knew the bus driver too.  Knew him to be a real jerk.  It was supposed to spark a one-day boycott, but it kind of snowballed.  In a good way.

That was sixty years ago.  The struggle isn’t over.


Giving Tuesday 2015

Giving Tuesday follows Cyber Monday, which is such a 1990s name, by the way.  Who uses the word “cyber” anymore to describe Internet transactions?

Anyway, Giving Tuesday is the only designated day of the three (the third being Black Friday) which is truly in the spirit of the season. Last year, Black Friday sales were down, but Giving Tuesday had a banner.  So some people get it.  I am glad it is a “thing”, even if it is only a few years old.  The story behind Giving Tuesday is here, but basically, Giving Tuesday was established in response to the commercialization and consumerism prevalent during the holiday season.

080624-cause800Unfortunately, a few businesses – big and small – sink to a pathetic level by using the day to promote themselves and their brand.  I’m talking about businesses like Evereve, a women’s fashion retailer — starting on December 2 and extending through the end of the month, $10 from every pair of jeans sold in stores or online will go toward a loan for a female entrepreneur overseas to start her own business, provide for her family and transform her community.  The cause is just, but why is Evereve’s so-called altruism dependent on people buying their product?  That’s consumerism — the very thing Giving Tuesday was meant to counteract.

Compare Evereve to, say, The Avon Foundation For Women.  That group has pledged to raise money to benefit domestic violence organizations this holiday season in partnership with the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Consumers can donate to The National Domestic Violence Hotline and the Avon Foundation will match every donation made, up to $500,000.  No consumer sales involved. In fact, if you click through on the Avon Foundation link above, you wouldn’t even see an Avon product anywhere.

Anyway, if your email inbox and Twitter feed is like mine, you are being inundated by actual charities and nonprofits for help.  It would be nice to help them all.  Whatever you choose — if it is a charity — you might want to run it by the Charity Navigator — not only to see if it is bonafide, but to see how its donations are used.  In fact, the Charity Navigator is a good place to go if you WANT to donate, but don’t know where to donate to.  In fact, you can donate to your favorite charities — like a struggling theater company — without leaving Charity Navigator!

Last year, I made a pitch for The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, a leading peer-directed national organization focusing on depression and bipolar disorder:

DBSA’s peer-based, wellness-oriented, and empowering services and resources are available when people need them, where they need them, and how they need to receive them-online 24/7, in local support groups, in audio and video casts, or in printed materials distributed by DBSA, our chapters, and mental health care facilities across America.

Through more than 700 support groups and nearly 300 chapters, DBSA reaches millions of people each year with in-person and online peer support; current, readily understandable information about depression and bipolar disorder; and empowering tools focused on an integrated approach to wellness.

And again, for all the same reasons, I invite you to donate to them again.  I have been involved with them locally as a group facilitator, and it is a great organization.  Your donation will be matched dollar-for-dollar today!

Another strong group in the area of mental and emotional wellness is NAMI — The National Association of Mental Illness.  I’m a dues-paying member, so I am partial to this.  They are bigger than DBSA but have a broader agenda.  Most people who know NAMI, if they know NAMI at all, know it through their annual NAMIWalks, walk-a-thons all over the country to raise money and mental health awareness.

To get the facts about the mental health situation in the United States, click the “Read More” button below for a nice infographic.

If you want some more suggestions, again I recommend the aforementioned Charity Navigator… but I also will plug for some very topical charities:

Planned Parenthood — now more than ever (and you can give locally at the link)

Lady Parts Justice (edgier than PP)

Doctors Without Borders

World Relief

American Refugee Committee

ACLU – matching donations today only!

Act Blue

The Innocence Project

For breast cancer, I would avoid Susan Koman — there are better choices out there.

Locally, I would recommend the Second Harvest Food Bank or the Winston-Salem Rescue Mission, both of which gets consistently high charity ratings.  I would hold off on donating to local animal shelters, given the problems in Guilford County and Davidson County.  Forsyth County doesn’t seem to be ensnared, possibly because it is affiliated with the National Humane Society, rather than an independent local shelter.  In any event, once their acts are cleaned up, perhaps the other animal shelters will need your help.

And yeah, the arts count.  Just help out anywhere you can.

Planned Parenthood Shooting Is Domestic Terrorism

I’ve been vacationing and the holidays and yada yada, so there’s been light blogging lately.

Colorado Springs shooting suspect Robert Lewis Dear of North Carolina is seen in undated photos provided by the El Paso County Sheriff's Office. A gunman burst into a Planned Parenthood clinic Friday, Nov. 27, 2015 and opened fire, launching several gunbattles and an hourslong standoff with police as patients and staff took cover. By the time the shooter surrendered, at least three people were killed, including a police officer and at least nine others were wounded, authorities said. (El Paso County Sheriff's Office via AP)

The big news that I missed was a terrorist attack here on the United States, although whether to call it a “terrorist attack” seems to be arguable.  I’m talking of course about the shooter at Planned Parenthood.  On Saturday, November 27, a shooting and five-hour standoff with police occurred at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado. A police officer and two civilians were killed; five police officers and four civilians were injured. Police convinced the suspected shooter, identified as Robert Lewis Dear, to surrender. He was taken into custody after a standoff that lasted five hours. Yesterday, Dear was charged with murder in the first-degree, and was ordered to be held without bond.

It wasn’t hard to surmise his motive or political leanings, especially when he told the police “no more baby parts” and was known to have passed out anti-Obama literature.  Obviously, when you are trying to affect political or social change through the use of violence, that is the definition of terrorism — yet Republican candidates seem to have a hard time calling it this.  When a reporter told Ted Cruz that the suspect in the Colorado Springs killings is alleged to have mentioned “baby parts” after his arrest, the Texas senator responded, “Well, it’s also been reported that he was registered as an independent and a woman and transgendered leftist activist, if that’s what he is.”  Cruz was likely citing a report from The Gateway Pundit, a right-wing blog, that uncovered a Colorado state voter registration form which lists Dear’s gender as female.  (Occam’s Razor suggests it was likely a clerical error — and it was).

On Fox News Sunday, Carly Fiorina called alleged killer Robert Lewis Dear “deranged’ and lamented that the shooting took place on a “holiday weekend,” before zeroing in on the real tragedy: the unfair treatment of Carly Fiorina by pro-choice activists and the left. Host Chris Wallace asked Fiorina if she saw a link between overheated anti-choice rhetoric and violence by abortion opponents. Fiorina, who at the second GOP debate regaled viewers with a grisly and entirely false story about Planned Parenthood workers yanking the brain out of a “living, kicking” fetus, failed to see how her words might inspire someone to take drastic action, adding:

“This is so typical of the left to immediately begin demonizing the messenger because they don’t agree with the message…. Anyone who tries to link this terrible tragedy to anyone who opposes abortion or opposes the sale of body parts is … this is typical left-wing tactics.”

The link was made, however, not by the leftwing, but by the gunman himself. Fiorina advanced the inflammatory lie that Planned Parenthood makes a profit from trafficking in fetal body parts. In fact, the fetal tissue is turned over for medical research, with the attendant fees used to cover expenses.

Ben Carson responded to the attack by wishing everyone would be a little more polite. He then politely blamed Planned Parenthood for the shooting.  Asked if extremist rhetoric emboldens domestic terrorists, Carson argued that “both sides” are to blame for vilifying each other. A fair point, perhaps, although nobody is shooting up Focus On The Family.  Personally, I think it is okay to villify terrorists.

Donald Trump briefly approximated humanness on Chuck Todd’s Meet the Press Sunday, calling the shooting “a terrible thing.” Seconds later the GOP candidate returned to form, denouncing Planned Parenthood and essentially blaming the organization for making Trump supporters angry.

Mike Huckabee had the guts to call the shooting an act of domestic terrorism and mass murder. “There’s no legitimizing, there’s no rationalizing. It was mass murder. It was absolutely unfathomable,” he said. But then he went on to equate what happened with abortion, which is legal.  He accused Planned Parenthood, which provides health services to low-income women, of mass murder, engaging in exactly the kind of extreme rhetoric that might convince an unhinged person the group is deserving of violent attack. “And there’s no excuse for killing other people, whether it’s happening inside the Planned Parenthood headquarters, inside their clinics where many millions of babies die, or whether it’s people attacking Planned Parenthood,” he said.

The point is that what happened in Colorado Springs is just an extreme example of a long line of terrorist actions against Planned Parenthood, which include threats, murders, and bombings.  Back in September, CBS reported that the FBI had noticed an uptick in attacks on reproductive health care facilities since the first video was released by the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress (CMP). There were nine criminal or suspicious incidents (including cyber attacks, threats, and arsons) from July, when the videos first came out, through mid-September.

An FBI Intelligence Assessment at the time found these attacks were “consistent with the actions of lone offenders using tactics of arsons and threats all of which are typical of the pro-life extremist movement.” Moreover, the report said it was “likely criminal or suspicious incidents will continue to be directed against reproductive health care providers, their staff and facilities.”

Less than two weeks after CBS reported that, another abortion clinic was firebombed in California. It was the fourth arson at a Planned Parenthood location in as many months.

Since 1977, there have been eight murders, 17 attempted murders, 42 bombings, and 186 arsons against abortion clinics and providers.  Even today, a hospital in Colorado Springs was put on lockdown because of a “suspicious person” making threats to shoot one of the victims from Friday’s deadly Planned Parenthood attack.

So the Richard Dear shootings are not an isolated incident, just an extreme one.  Stay tuned.