Archives for: February 2018


As is the case with recent mass shootings, I will not talk about the shooter. He’s garbage. Instead, we should be thinking about the victims: 17 amazing kids and their teachers who should be still be alive today but were cut down by a monster.

We are in the midst of the usual cries to “do something”, which translates to “pass the gun control laws desired by Democrats, whether they would have stopped this or not”. I’ve been over this many times on these pages — how America leads the civilized world in non-gun murders as well as gun murders, how the evidence that gun control would work is thin to nonexistent. A lot of attention has focused on the AR-15 — falsely called a “weapon of war”. But we’ve been down this road before. In the 90’s, we tried to ban the TEC-9, the weapon of choice of 90’s mass shooters, including the Columbine murderers. It didn’t stop anything, just changed their weapon of choice. And I’m not sure what the point is here: to make the massacres slightly less deadly? One of the deadliest shootings in our history was Virginia Tech, which involved two pistols. And the deadliest massacres in American history — the Bath School disaster, Oklahoma City — involved bombs.

The simple truth is that these mass shootings are of a character that is more similar to terrorism than anything else (as indeed, the San Bernadino and Charleston shootings were). These aren’t the actions of people who “snapped” and grabbed a weapon. They involved months of planning and preparation. Note especially how they’ve been picking their target for maximum carnage, where escape is almost impossible: a night club, a theater, a school, an open-air concert. Each shooter is learning from his predecessors, imitating them. We are witnessing a social contagion the likes of which we have not seen.

So can we do nothing? As I said about Sandy Hook, the main thing we need to do is to keep our eyes open, to identify these killers before they strike. Taking away a killer’s AR-15 might save a life or two. Preventing him from acting in the first place would save all of them.

In that vein, the most disturbing discovery in the last few days is that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies were alerted to the Florida killer on many occasions. And not, “this guy’s a bit weird”. These were clear warnings that he was going to kill a bunch of people. They failed to follow up on it.

So if you want to do something, here’s a suggestion everyone could agree to. How about we take the FBI agents involved in garbage “anti-terror” stings or playing vice cop with local police and put them on the shooting beat? Mass shootings are rare; you’re looking for needles in haystacks. But if putting FBI agents on needle duty means we prevent one massacre, it will benefit the country way more than another round of “sex trafficking” busts that consist of arresting consenting adults or “anti-terror ops” that consist of building a terror plot around some gullible idiot.

Let’s treat this like it’s a terror issue. Only let’s be smart about it this time. More eyes on the street, more follow-up of tips, more vigilance. That crosses me as far more constructive and beneficial than taking away millions of guns that will never be used for anything more violent than target shooting.

Olymping Along

As my parting shot post (someone somewhere has to still be reading this blog, right?) to RTFLC, I thought it would be fun to throw up an Olympics post with a sprinkling of NFL,NBA, and college hoops, if anyone is interested.

Is anyone watching the Olympics? So far I am MIA, and that is really odd for me because from the time John Carlos and Tommie Smith shot the one gloved Back Power salute at the podium, I was hooked. I was in L.A. for the 1984 games, going to many events, and was in Lillehamer a few weeks after the 94 games, got to see a number of the venues. Being a USA homer, the question was always the medal count, and to what extent the Soviet Bloc was going to cheat their way to the medal stand. But this year I just can’t get motivated. Some of it has to do with the IOC, first banning most of the Russian team for “unprecedented systematic manipulation” of the anti-doping system, has now reneged on that ban and put out the “dopers welcome” welcome mat.

Some of the events are still fun, the hockey, the speed skating, and the down hill. Some of the others, the snowboarding (toking a blunt and slamming down a Red Bull mid half pipe, that I would watch), sledding down a hill, or that puzzling competition where they ski a bit, take out a rifle and shoot a target, ski a bit more, than have a slice of pizza, ski a bit more, then call their broker to check on their stocks, I just don’t get it.

What’s up with all the fawning adulation over the Chubby guy’s sister? Do they think she is somehow removed from the brutal corrupt regime of the younger brother? She is head of the propaganda arm of the ROK forchrissakes. And that crybaby Shani Davis boycotting the opening ceremonies because some racist coin toss denied him the privilege of carrying the American Flag, I hope he falls on his ass in every race he competes in.

Some other stuff, if the mood strikes;

Being born in Phili and spending my early youth there, I have been a long suffering Eagles fan my whole life. So how great was that SuperBowl? I even taped the parade last Thursday. The city of Philadelphia has problems (the usual urban blight for cities run by progressives, but I digress) so I hope Carson Weintz and company can make winning in Phili (at least in football) a common occurrence. Also, if anyone wants to comment on the tight knit Christian community they have fostered there (Foles, Weintz, Ertz, Ajayi, Peterson all invoking “All the glory to God” after the big win.

Some NBA; How good is Cleveland now, after that big trade last week, clearing out all the old guys and bringing in some youngsters? Getting a chance to play with Lebron (maybe his last year as a Cavalier) what a thrill. And I’m worried about my Warriors. Yeah, still the best team in the NBA, when they are motivated. But this technical foul funk of late, its arrogant and petulant, Steve Kerr needs to start coaching again. I like when big names move to different teams, Blake Griffin to the Pistons (yeah), Isaiah Thomas to the Lakers (ignominy defined). So, another year of Warriors/Cavaliers, or Rockets/Celtics usurp the big guys?

Lastly, college hoops. I really like the environment that exists now, 6 to 8 schools that are all playing well, no top dog or favorite, and all could conceivably peak at the right time. The Big Ten has been the surprise (Michigan State, Purdue, Ohio State), is Virginia going to win the ACC, what happened to Kentucky basketball? March Madness is my favorite time of the year, but this year it is wiiiiiiide open.

The Memo

So yesterday the GOP released the long-awaited Nunes Memo about supposed malfeasance in the FBI and their attempts to tip the election or undermine Trump. The memo is about six pages long and you can read it very quickly.

I must say, for all the hype, this landed with a resounding thud. It didn’t say much that we hadn’t already heard. Partisans will claim vindication for whatever it is they believe. But it’s not the game-changer it was cracked up to be. Most of the commentators appear not to have read the bloody thing, even though it’s a few pages long. A few notes:

  • The hysterical claims from Democrats like Pelosi that the release of this memo endangered national security are indeed hysterical. While the memo was classified, nothing in it reveals intelligence methods or reveals anything the Russians didn’t already know. If anything, it highlights our government’s reflexive tendency to classify everything, regardless of its importance.
  • The hysterical claims that this reveals a vast conspiracy to throw the election to Clinton or undermine Trump are also hysterical. The primary complaint is about the process by which the Carter Page FISA warrant was obtained. But Page was no longer a member of the Trump team in October 2016, when the FISA warrant was issued. And Page had been on the FBI’s radar for years before this. The warrant was also renewed, which indicates additional information was coming to light.
  • Conservatives are harping on the use of the partisan Steele Dossier to obtain the warrant. But there are several points to untangle. First, the report that the warrant would not have been obtained without the Steele Dossier is second-hand. A number of people are already disputing this. Second, there is no requirement in the law that potential biases in information need to be revealed. And it’s not clear that there should be. What matters is if the information is accurate, not where it comes from. If I report someone to the police for dealing drugs, it doesn’t matter if I have a personal vendetta against him and the police are not required to tell a judge if I do (and indeed don’t, when they are tipped off by rival drug dealers).
  • In addition, not all of the material in the Dossier was “salacious and unverified”. The Nunes memo misquotes Comey, who said that some of the information was salacious and unverified. What matters is if that unverified stuff was material to the warrant. The memo doesn’t reveal whether it was or not.
  • The memo does not the FBI used a news report to confirm the Steele Dossier; a news report that was based on … Steele himself. But it’s not clear if this was the only confirmation they used.
  • Indeed, there is a lot of important information the memo does not reveal: what other confirming evidence the FBI had, what specific information from the Steele Dossier was used for the warrant, what information came to light that justified future warrants. Nunes is not a stupid man. It’s my experience than when not-stupid people ask the wrong questions, it’s because the right ones aren’t giving them the answers they want.
  • The memo reveals that a couple of people involved in the Page investigation did not want Trump elected. That’s hardly a giant conspiracy. And that’s hardly damaging since FBI agents are allowed to have opinions. The questions is whether their opinion affected their work and … this doesn’t make the case for that. I’m further unimpressed because, a week ago, we saw hysterical claims about a “secret society” in the FBI that turned out to be … a one-line joke in a text message. We’ve heard a lot of hysteria on this subject with little to back it up.
  • This is especially true now that we know that Strzok was one of those pushing to re-open the Clinton e-mail investigation days before the election, an event that may have tipped the election to Trump.

In short, the memo is not nothing but it’s not the game-changer we were promised. At worst, it reveals some sloppiness by the FBI and possibly some bia. It’s hardly a revelation to those even vaguely familiar with the bureau’s methods that they are occasionally sloppy and biased.

Look, if the Republicans want to make the case that the FISA process is opaque, canted against the civil liberties of Americans and open to misdirection and misleading claims, I’m not going to argue against that. But … where the fuck have they been for the last 15 years?! People have been complaining about this for a long time. Some Republicans — Justin Amash, Rand Paul — have some credibility on this. But hearing this from Trump supporters, from Republicans who voted to expand FISA surveillance just a few weeks ago — reeks of partisanship.

No. No, it’s worse. It reeks of elitism.

You may remember last year I wrote about the Comet Ping Pong incident where Right Wing idiots conjured a sex trafficking conspiracy in a pizzeria out of thing air, culminating in some guy taking shots at the owner.

As my friend Maggie McNeill said, here is the real story: our national hysteria over sex trafficking finally hurt a friend of the powerful. This war is damaging the lives of thousands of consenting adults every day. But they don’t matter because they’re not politically connected. The owner of this pizzeria is a friend and fund-raiser for Clinton. So suddenly, miraculously, it’s a national crisis.

So yeah, let’s talk about conspiracy theorists and the people who pass on their crazy conspiracy theories. Let’s talk about Alex Jones and 4Chan and all that. Let’s acknowledge that this pizzagate business if a fabrication that is making life hell for an innocent person. But let’s also talk about the trafficking hysteria that fed into this and that results in guns being pointed in the faces of consenting adults every day.

Because until we talk about that, this Comet Ping Pong business is just another example of how crushing people’s freedom is fine … until it happens to the elites or their friends.

Every day in this country, hundred of violent no-knock SWAT raids are launched against our citizens, mostly for drugs. Some are justified. But many of these fail to recover drugs or weapons. Occasionally, they result in tragedies like a flash-bang grenade mutilating a toddler. And many of them are based on warrants that have a much more tenuous basis than the Page FISA warrant. Every day, boilerplate language is fed to judges. Every day, false or misleading claims are made. Every day, criminals accused of crimes and trying to get off are used as the basis of warrants, arrests or court testimony. And this happens without a peep from the Republicans.

I’ll believe that Republicans care about the FISA process when they care about it for someone not connected to the Trump campaign. I’ll believe they care about raids and biased warrants when they care about it for everyone else. Until that day, I see this for what it is: an attempt to muddy the waters and deflect attention away from the serious accusations against Carter Page and possible related allegations against Trump.