Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Russian Disinformation Bots, Fake News, Fox News

Newsroom at Fox News in New York City. (photo: AP)
Newsroom at Fox News in New York City. (photo: AP)

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News
23 February 18

No one has to lie to avoid telling the truth

hen you stop to think about it, can you tell the difference between Russian disinformation bots and Fox News? Actually, that’s a serious question.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s February 16 indictment of people and organizations associated with Russia offers a loose definition of Russian disinformation bots that seems equally accurate as a description of what Fox News has been doing since 1996:
… defraud[ing] the United States by impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the government through fraud and deceit for the purpose of interfering with the US political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016.
Russian bots and Fox News both have foreign roots. When Rupert Murdoch, an Australian, set about to buy American television stations in 1985, that was against the law. The Reagan-era FCC turned a blind eye to the law-breaking, and the Clinton-era FCC weaseled a way to affirm the broken law as legitimate by finding that Murdoch’s illegal holding was “in the public interest.” A year ago, for the first time ever, the Obama-era FCC approved 100% foreign ownership of American media to the outcry of almost no one. This is the world that Congress and the executive branch deliberately created over decades, a world where the unending stream of Fox lies and distortion is not only “in the public interest,” but protected by the First Amendment’s rights to free speech and a free press.

This would be an example of the Constitution turning into a suicide pact, albeit a very slow and tortured suicide.

But here we are, all in a twit about Russian bots that are given this imaginary power to affect elections when all they do is re-package the fever dreams already haunting radio, television, and the internet. Russian bots don’t even own anything. What they do more than anything is show us our real selves. So some of us embrace them for their content, others attack the reflection as an “act of war” or some other hyperbole of denial. Few say what is so far obvious: the Russian bots merely stir a pot already boiling over with fantasy and fear fed by homegrown sources for decades.

It’s not that Fox News is all-powerful and unique, but it is the whale of deception that gives some protection to the smaller sharks of deceit like Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones, Glenn Beck, and the rest of the right-wing piranha. There is no such large, effective equivalent on the left, even when the left is considered broadly. (Wikipedia’s list of alternative media on the left included CNN and The New York Times, which illustrates the effectiveness of Fox News spin.) Air America couldn’t survive, in part because it never fully abandoned intellectual integrity. The real left hardly exists in the media of today.

Response to the killings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, illustrates the irrelevance of Russian bots to essential American issues. The serious carrier of infectious deceit on gun issues is the NRA, the National Rifle Association. Pitching fear and paranoia with one hand and dishonest Constitutional history with the other, the NRA has frozen gun issues in unyielding irrationality for decades.

President Trump gets attention if not credit for endorsing two gun measures, reported in mainstream media as if he’s made some kind of movement in the direction of reason to address the very real, all-American issue of mass killings. Insofar as Trump is seen as showing any kind of leadership, that’s fake news. His gestures are well within what the NRA deems permissible. When Trump calls for regulations on bump stocks that turn weapons into automatics, that’s exactly what the NRA has endorsed, out of fear of legislation banning bump stocks. The NRA knows a law is much harder to repeal than a regulation (as Trump’s treatment of Obama regulations illustrates). And when Trump indicates some willingness to support modest changes to improve the national gun background check system, he’s not even going as far as the NRA, which supports some changes.

Trump himself is an endlessly reliable spouter of fake news, either in person or on his Twitter account. Russian bots must envy the coverage and respect his lies achieve, but Russian bots must be secretly pleased that Trump works many of the same corrosive divisions they work. Like a team, they help create the environment in which Donald Trump Jr. feels comfortable clicking “Like” on a pair of tweets passing on the story that the Parkland shooting was a false flag operation aimed at eliminating gun protections in the Second Amendment. The story also has it that the articulate student survivors, like David Hogg, are actually “crisis actors” in the employ of the deep state. YouTube took down a similar story after 200,000 hits, but now mainstream media are all spreading the story by reporting on how it was taken down for being false. Rush Limbaugh is just passing it on as true, saying that everything the student protestors are doing “is right out of the Democrat Party’s various playbooks.”

The accused killer at Parkland was a member of the US Army’s JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps), as were two of his 14-year-old victims. The Parkland shooter was trained by the US Army. Let that sink in. No wonder the Army quickly gave out three medals to its members who were killed. That’s a form of fake news.

That distracts from the serious questions: what is the Army doing in schools in the first place? Why should the Pentagon have anything to say about ninth grade curricula? Why are tax dollars spent training 14-year-old girls to shoot? And why is the US Army allowed into schools to teach that the Tonkin Gulf incident in Viet Nam was unprovoked by the US? Does it really make sense to let the military teach false history to high school students, or is that just another way to condition them to following orders unquestioningly and to believing Fox News and Trump tweets?

Russian bots didn’t create this media environment, American bots did (some of them even human, technically). Russian bots can’t match reality, and they mostly don’t try. Russian bots just exploit the media reality we’ve created for ourselves. And that media reality in turn creates people who say, with zero supporting data:
Yeah, well, obviously there’s a lot of politics in it, and it’s interesting that so many of these people that commit the mass murders end up being Democrats. But the media doesn’t talk about that.
The person who said that, Claudia Tenney, looks like a poster person for our dominant media bubble. Tenney is a Republican. She is a publisher. She is an attorney. She is 67. She is an ardent supporter of the Second Amendment in its fundamentalist form. She is in Congress. She represents southwestern New York State, including Binghamton. She was on WGDJ radio when she said that. Other media outlets covering the story include The New York Times, the Associated Press, The Washington Post,, Politico, and the one you’re reading right now. When CNN followed up on the story, she issued a statement saying in part:
I am fed up with the media and liberals attempting to politicize tragedies and demonize law-abiding gun owners and conservative Americans every time there is a horrible tragedy. While we know the perpetrators of these atrocities have a wide variety of political views, my comments are in response to a question about the failure to prosecute illegal gun crime. I will continue to stand up for law-abiding citizens who are smeared by anti-gun liberal elitists.
Could any Russian bot do better than this?

Well, yes, and NRA head Wayne LaPierre did just that on February 22 at the Conservative Political Action Conference, where he red-baited Democrats, calling them socialists and adding, without apparent irony, “Socialism is a movement that loves a smear.” In a speech with the apparent primary intent of placing armed guards at every American school and a universal database, he framed his argument with an eerie paraphrase of Claudia Tenney’s version of the party line:
They hate the NRA, they hate the Second Amendment, they hate individual freedom. They care more about control and more of it. Their goal is to eliminate the Second Amendment and our firearms freedoms, so they can eradicate all individual freedoms…. Their solution is to make you, all of you, less free…. We must immediately harden our schools…. Schools must be the most hardened targets in this country…. To stop a bad guy with a gun, it takes a good guy with a gun.
When it comes to dishonesty and disruption, these people are not outliers, they are exemplars of how to be mainstream conservative zombies in the politics of the living dead. What they actually try to say doesn’t really matter so long as it gets in the way of any rational discussion of guns. In that sense, these FoxWorld clones are, in the words of the Mueller indictment of the Russian bots, “impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the government through fraud and deceit.”

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

You Might Consider Ending Your Business Dealings With These NRA Collaborators

Marco Rubio has taken over $3 million from the NRA and he refuses to even consider stricter gun control measures.

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Facebook Page

26 February 18

he list below shows a growing number of companies severing their links with the NRA by ending their discounts to NRA members -- discounts that had been used by the NRA to promote membership. Yesterday, Delta, United, Best Western Hotels ended their relationships as well.

Unfortunately, FedEx, eHealth, Life Line Screening, and a few others continue to collaborate with the NRA. You might consider ending your own business dealings with these NRA collaborators. #BoycottNRA

Students are also asking that tourists boycott Florida when it comes to taking a vacation, until Florida lawmakers pass sensible gun laws. As Sana says, below, a call to boycott Florida's $100 billion + tourism industry is pure genius.

By the way, you might also consider severing your links to members of Congress who take money from the NRA.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Trumputin's "Policies" on Guns, Drugs, Puerto Rico, Golf, Mueller and Russian Election Theft Are All About Mob Money

Donald Trump. (photo: Getty Images)
Donald Trump. (photo: Getty Images)
By Harvey Wasserman, Reader Supported News
26 February 18
onald Trump’s sole “philosophy” is personal profit. His real “party” is the mob. His mafia “don,” Vladimir Putin, is the world’s #1 crime boss. For the pair of them, the issues of the day all boil down to one: cash flow.

Russian crime lords have been laundering money through The Donald since the 1980s. Like his slumlord father, who was allied with the New York mob, nothing really matters to Trumputin except that river of lucre. If Special Counsel Mueller touches the bottom of The Donald’s swamp, it will all be about money laundering and his ties to the organized underworld. There are many reasons he’s hiding his tax returns.

Meanwhile, let’s look at some actual issues:

GUNS: The National Rife Association is a sales organization for the weapons industry. All that twisted blather about the Bill of Rights is cheap cover.

The Second Amendment requires all gun owners to be part of “a well-regulated militia” serving “the security of a free state.”

Trump’s idiocy about arming all teachers makes sense only for promoting gun sales. Ubiquitous assault weapons and concealed handguns are both profit centers. Living school kids are not.

DRUGS: The Drug War is about keeping prisons full, jacking up pot prices for the transnational mob, protecting the alcohol and pharmaceutical industries, and preventing citizens of youth and color from voting.

It’s also no accident that our principal allies in Vietnam were heroin dealers, our Contra puppets in Nicaragua were coke pushers, and our fellow “freedom fighters” in Afghanistan are poppy growers.

The idea that Trump and Jeff Sessions oppose pot legalization for reasons of public health is a sick joke.

More than 40 million Americans have been arrested in the Drug War since Nixon declared it in the early 1970s. Dick’s assault powered a “Southern Strategy” meant to destroy communities of youth and color. Nixon’s own mob backers profited hugely from higher black market drug prices and a booming prison industry.

Sadly for Trumputin, legalization in Colorado and elsewhere has lowered crime and incarceration rates, reduced alcohol consumption, and provided serious breakthroughs using cannabis for ailments like epilepsy and glaucoma instead of hugely overpriced pharmaceuticals. Opioid death rates are far lower where pot is legal.

So all of Nixon/Trump/Sessions’ worst fears about losing cash flow and elections with the end of Pot Prohibition are coming true. But don’t look for them to give up soon.

PUERTO RICO: Trumputin is using Hurricane Maria’s devastation of Puerto Rico to ethnic-cleanse the island and make it a mobbed-up profit center. Despite fierce opposition from San Juan’s sane mayor, Carmen Yulin Cruz, Governor Ricardo Rossello wants to turn over the island’s utility and school systems to Trump cronies.

FEMA is re-running its race-based fiasco in New Orleans after Katrina. Amidst soaring emigration and suicide rates, countless US citizens remain without power, shelter, jobs, schools, clean water, and food. Land prices have plummeted, opening the door to corporate speculators. Republicans speak openly about the island as a financial center like Hong Kong or Singapore. The linked Trumputin vision would be a mobbed-up pre-Revolutionary Havana, filled with dirty money-laundering luxury hotels, casinos, and prostitution rings.

GOLF: Trump’s trips to his Mar-a-Lago resort line his pockets with taxpayer dollars. The direct expenses to haul his immense corpus down there are of course enormous.

But the Secret Service and staff stay in rooms, eat food, buy drinks, ride in golf carts, and wrack up “ancillary costs” paid for by you and me. For every round Trumputin bogeys, our millions flow to his bottom line.

ELECTION THEFT: Of course, the US itself has flipped scores of national elections around the world since the 1890s. That would include Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union, when the CIA illegally installed the drunken Mafioso idiot Boris Yeltsin. Trumputin is our imperial vulture come home to roost.

But did the Russians actually strip our voter rolls and flip our electronic vote counts?

The bottom line: they could have. Our electoral system is ridiculously vulnerable, and won’t be much better come this fall’s midterms.

Jeb Bush, Katherine Harris, Kris Kobach, J. Kenneth Blackwell, and their fellow American fixers have done such dirty work for years. The 2000 and 2004 presidential elections were stolen by “domestic terrorists” a surely as Russians intervened in 2016.

Of course, the US itself has flipped scores of national elections around the world since the 1890s. That would include Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union, when the CIA illegally installed the drunken Mafioso idiot Boris Yeltsin. Trumputin is our vulture come home to roost.

Thus far, Mueller’s investigations confirm that Putin’s mobsters meant to put their very own money launderer right here in the White House. Their exact impact on his election remains to be seen. But there was some. And he is an underworld nightmare come true.

Corporate Democrats, of course, love to tag Putin with Hillary’s absurdly avoidable loss. They’re thrilled to trash Bernie and the Greens while re-casting the Russians as the Cold War USSR. They are the ultimate fake “opposition” party, utterly void of fresh ideas, social commitment, and the slightest shred of grassroots democratic charisma.

Through it all, only one thing is certain: our elections can be flipped and stripped by virtually anybody — Russians, Republicans, Democrats, the Kochs, the alt-right, free-lance hackers, that 400-pounder in Trump’s NJ basement … you name it.

Until we have universal automatic voter registration with transparent, well-protected voter rolls, and universal hand-counted paper ballots, our electoral system is a bad joke.

And only Trump and Putin will be laughing. For them, the one “principle” of government is to guarantee that the Manchurian Mobster and Team Trumputin can continue to suck up the cash from our stripped and flipped electoral Laundromat.

Harvey “Sluggo” Wasserman hosts the “California Solartopia” show at KPFK-Pacifica in Los Angeles, and the “Green Power & Wellness Hour” at His History of the US is at, where America at the Brink of Rebirth: The Life & Death Spiral of US History, From Deganawidah to The Donald will soon be published..

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Our minds have the goal of protecting our beliefs



By George Templeton
Rim Country Gazette Columnist

Torn between two lovers
The 1976 song goes, “Torn between Two Lovers, feeling like a fool, loving both of you is breaking all the rules.”
You must decide.  Can you know so little that you miss the most important thing?  Can too many facts get in the way of making decisions?  Can facts ever explain the personal world of love, jealousy, hate, greed, envy, pride, and altruism?  We try to grasp subjective introspection with the objective, but they mix like oil in water.  We have “gut feel” and the “inner light”.  Are we directed by the “holy spirit”?  We can be thankful that God didn’t hire lawyers to help him write the Ten Commandments!  Believe it or not, we all come to Jesus like a little child.  The world is full of opinionated know-nothings.  
Deciding on Immigration   
It was 1889 Ellis Island, where 5000 immigrants per day came to America.  They did not know if they could stay.  They had to be vetted and checked for health before being allowed to continue on.  You can imagine Fred and Joe, the immigration inquisitors and Steinmetz.
The 23 year old Steinmetz pleaded, I want to become an American, but he could not reach the counter top or even be seen because he was a dwarf, only four feet tall.  Fred says to Joe, “Where is he?  How’s this guy going to tote that barge and lift that bale?”
“What is your profession?  How will you support yourself in America?”
Steinmetz replied, “I don’t have a profession.  I was a student studying imaginary numbers.”  Joe thought to himself.  “It’s going to take real numbers to help this guy.”
“How about your health?”  Steinmetz had a humped back, a crooked gait, and hip dysplasia.  His head, hands, and feet were too big for the rest of his body.
Joe said to Fred:  “Not another one.  Why do those countries keep sending us their worst?  Let’s ask him why he wants to come to America.”
“Your honor, I was going to be arrested in Germany because I was a notorious socialist and a political enemy of the establishment.  Please don’t send me back.”
A trouble maker!  Doesn’t he know that socialism can never work in the United States?
The inquisitors were not doing Trump’s “extreme vetting”.  They must have seen the plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty, “Give me … the wretched refuse of your teeming shore …” Immediate perception would have never admitted Steinmetz, but morality tore against that.
Steinmetz electrified America.  He simplified math, replacing the partial differential equations used in the days before wireless, with the algebra of complex variables and imaginary numbers.  It separated energy by making it perpendicular to losses.  He applied that to everything.  Reality spoke more clearly and that benefited all of humanity as Steinmetz knew it would.
Choosing Democracy
Imagine that society is like an amplifier.  “Happening now” inputs to it.  Without time for contemplation, we make inferences about rapid fire gossip, outputting our feelings about it.  Some of this comes back and combines with the input enhancing it and making it more extreme.  Because we believe that something is true, we see it as going beyond ourselves.
In engineering language, we say that stability depends on the feedback loop’s amplification and timing.  We want information fed back to the input to subtract from it.  Skepticism acts to correct distortion and improve accuracy.  Lacking it, society oscillates, outputting without input.
Perhaps our society is more like a differentiator.  Change commands our attention.  Sensational novelty contributes to an unstable lack of focus.  Our eyes dart from side to side, expecting to find a threat, instead of keeping a focus on the ball.  Our minds have the goal of protecting our beliefs.  We encounter the world more through faith than by rationality and logic.
The parapsychologists at the Institute of Noetic Sciences realize that our minds go beyond ourselves.  Some have claimed that we can have experiences outside our brain.  Science has failed to confirm mind over matter, yet the fact that we share language reveals that we are more than ourselves.
Democracy relies on the ability of citizens to deliberate thoroughly and reach consensus.  The founding fathers knew this.  They knew that minds could not be separated from their environment.  That is why they divided government.
Without Free-Will
The criminal explained, “The devil made me do it”.  The judge thought, “I can’t be blamed for giving you the death penalty”.  Could it be that “more freedom” is a subjective perception instead of an objective reality?
The universe is like a clock and we are part of it, yet in the cafeteria we pick an entrée.  It could be that our choice is coerced, not determined.
To be free, don’t we need alternative choices?  Suppose we have decided to murder, but we have been hypnotized so that if we change our mind we kill anyway.  We freely decide to murder, so the hypnotic spell is never actuated.  We acted freely, but had no choice.
Suppose you wish you had wanted to travel more, see and experience the world, but did not.  It is your choice.  Self-introspection is a strong indicator of free will.  But drug addicts desire to want to kick their habit and they cannot.
The faithful view predestination both in history and salvation, the latter morphing into God’s grace and pride in knowledge about not being in God’s book preordaining eternal damnation.  Morality needs deliberation, but God’s foreknowledge clashes with our free will and even his.  God is aware of his beliefs, sees the future, and already knows how he is going to choose.  He commands the future.
The philosopher G. W. F. Hegel saw God as the beginning and end of history, creating truth.  His viewpoint went on to influence Karl Marx who spun history in terms of the materialism that infects American life.  As we grow older, we realize that we cannot escape our past.  It has determined who we are and in some mysterious way who we will be.
Quantum physics suggests we take every possible path even though only one is observed.  Probability and random events replace causality.  Einstein’s universe ultimately contradicted his understanding that there was no absolute fixed point, no ether, to measure things against.  But there was space-time.  If you sliced through it, holding any two of the four dimensions constant, you would see a surface, an X-Y plot.  The past, present, and future are always equally present.
The Millionaire
The1950’s TV show concerned a fabulously wealthy man whose hobbies included confidentially giving away a million dollars to an unsuspecting recipient whom he had never met.  He devised a simple game that he knew would not be boring.  He did this because he was fascinated with human nature.  In real life, we often need to make choices between poorly defined alternatives.  Our minds have to reach beyond the given data.
The game works like this:  The millionaire gives you two boxes labeled A and B.  You are allowed to choose between taking only box B or both boxes A and B.  Box A is transparent and contains a visible $1,000.  Box B is closed.  Its contents have already been set by the millionaire.  If the millionaire has predicted that you will take both boxes A and B, then box B contains nothing.  If the millionaire has predicted that you will take only box B, then it contains $1,000,000.  How do you choose?
Hum!  You say, “I can calculate the optimum selection”.  It requires that the choices are equally likely and that the millionaire’s choice does not influence yours.  Would math replace your intuition? The game contains a blind spot!  Uncertainty cannot be avoided.  What will you do then?
You could create a table.   It should have three columns:   predicted choice, actual choice, and payout.  The table will have four rows.  There are two ways to make the prediction and two ways to make the actual choice for a total of four rows.
If the millionaire is like God, who never makes an error, there are only two possibilities.  If the predicted choice and actual choice are both boxes, than the payout is $1000.  If the predicted choice and actual choice are box B, then the payout is $1,000,000.  Either way you win something.  You could pick to maximize your winnings and that would be box B.
But suppose God commanded you to pick both boxes.  Your pick of B gets you nothing.  But God knows how you will choose because he sees the future.  The past becomes connected with your future choice.  However you choose, God has certainly predicted it, so why not choose box B and win big?
Note that this situation does not require God.  It only needs a very good predictor.  Suppose your prophet is right only half the time.  Now there are four possibilities.  In the limit, you could know that your prophet always gets it wrong.
But the millionaire isn’t God.  He is just a guy like Donald Trump with a lot of money.  You can take his word but you can’t trust his judgment.  Your choice does not alter how the money was already distributed.  It is not a poker game.  You can’t see the millionaire and don’t know him.  His reason for choosing you to play is unknown.  Is there any fact of human nature that could tip the scales in your favor?
There is a situation where the predicted choice does not match the actual choice.  Donald may have predicted that you will take both boxes, but you take only box B and the payout is zero dollars.  He may have predicted that you will take box B but you take both boxes and now the payout is $1,001,000.
You could pick the strategy that is always better, regardless of Donald’s guess.  At the time of your choosing, box B is either empty or contains $1,000,000, but box A is known to contain $1,000.  You win $1,000 or $1,001,000 if you pick both boxes.
With inflation, we have to increase all the dollar amounts by at least ten times to retain the “feel” of the game.  Suppose there was even more money in box A, say $100,000.  Would you change your decision?  How does the amount of money in box B change things?
Outside of the Box
Some people will never be pleased without winning the maximum prize.  Others are easily satisfied.  Some justify their choice by arguing that they cannot be wrong about their own private mental state.  It is their decision to make.

Cartoon: Trump's fine military parade

Trump’s military parade happened last year in Charlottesville and throughout the White House.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The NRA Just Became The Enemy of a Generation of Younger Americans

NRA's Dana Loesch battles AR-15 shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez at CNN Town Hall
The big loser in CNN’s Wednesday night Town Hall to address the horrific shooting last week in Parkland, Florida was the NRA — by far. The NRA not only potentially lost a generation of young people as members but from the sound of the audience at the Town Hall last night, it’s fair to say that many view the NRA as the enemy. And they should.

The NRA and the politicians they’ve bankrolled value easy access to guns over their lives. And the audience Wednesday night filled with younger people — many of whom just last week were dodging bullets from an AR-15, a weapon the NRA fought to legalize after it was banned from 1994 to 2004 as part of the federal assault weapons ban — got that.

These high school students may be teenagers, but they know the deal. They fully understand the power of the NRA and how politicians are beholden to campaign donations. And that led us to one of the most compelling moments I’ve ever seen on this issue. 

There was 17-year-old Cameron Kasky, who eight days ago was just living a normal teenage life when he was suddenly faced with being killed by a teenager armed with an AR-15. During this shooting, Kasky risked his life by protecting his autistic brother from the bloody rampage.

And last night Kasky stood up again for others in his generation who truly fear that a gunman will descend upon their school with weapon of war and slaughter them. He had a chance to ask Florida Senator Marco Rubio a question, a man who boasts an “A-plus” rating from the NRA and who has received over $3 million in donations from the organization.

Kasky first prefaced his question with comments that resonated with anyone who cares about saving American lives from gun violence: “This isn’t about red and blue.

We can’t boo people because they are Democrats and boo people who are Republicans,” he said to applause. He then added, “Anyone who is willing to show change, no matter where they are from, anyone willing to start to make a difference is someone we need on our side here. This is about people making a difference to save us and people who are against it and prefer money.”

Right there Kasky had framed this perfectly: You either are about saving the lives of our children or you stand with the NRA who bankrolls your campaign. Kasky then asked the question of the night to Rubio: “So Sen. Rubio, can you tell me right now that you will not accept a single donation from the NRA in the future?”

The response from the audience was awe-inspiring. The venue exploded with people jumping to their feet as thunderous applause filled the hall. Rubio looked stunned. Rubio’s facial expression made it clear that he knew things were changing in American politics. Just like with the #MeToo movement’s impact on sexual assault and harassment, Rubio could sense that we are on the edge of a revolution in regards to reducing gun violence and that the gun politics of old would no longer be acceptable.

Rubio first responded with the cliché politician answer of how he simply votes how he believes and people support him for that. But Kasky wasn’t buying it. He pressed Rubio: “In the name of 17 people, you cannot ask the NRA to keep their money out of your campaign?”

And then we saw the impact of these teenagers firsthand as the NRA’s “A-plus” rated Rubio publicly broke from the NRA. Rubio declared that he would support raising the age from 18 to 21 for “buying a rifle,” a position the NRA opposes.

Later that night we saw another example of the test that the NRA and its politicians will be subject to in this new era. This time the question came from an adult, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel. Israel was seated next to NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch, a person who in the past compared gun control efforts to Nazi and Stalinist propaganda and claimed that progressives “exploit mass shootings “as a tactic to take away law-abiding citizens’ gun.”

Israel calmly but bluntly laid out to Loesch the rules of this new political world when he told her: “I understand you are standing up for the NRA…but you just told this group of people that you are standing up for them. You’re not standing up for them until you say, ‘I want less weapons.'”

And again, the hall exploded in cheers. We again heard the sound of a political movement taking hold in America led by teenagers. That’s why we have seen vile people on the right attack these teenagers as “actors” and George Soros pawns.

These right wingers fear these young people will succeed where adults have failed when it comes to gun violence.

The time has come for politicians to show us if they value the lives of our kids over donations from the NRA. A younger generation of Americans is watching to see whose side you are on.

Friday, February 23, 2018

F*ck Wayne LaPierre

Parkland survivor Emma Gonzalez rallies supporters in the aftermath of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. (photo: CNN)
Parkland survivor Emma Gonzalez rallies supporters in the aftermath of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. (photo: CNN)
NRA head Wayne LaPierre.

By Marc Ash, Reader Supported News
23 February 18
ull disclosure: I am a gun owner and I have been for 35 years. I do not however own an assault rifle and never have.

Like most American gun owners, I allowed myself to shoot paper – paper targets, specifically. I went for years on a fairly regular basis to my local (police-run) shooting range and honed my marksmanship on paper targets.

In December of 2012 I was busy publishing RSN and had little time for any activities that diverted my time and attention from my work, when the news of the Sandy Hook shooting exploded.

To this day, most Americans cannot even begin to imagine the horror of what occurred in those classrooms to those children and the teachers who gave their lives to defend them.

I was angry that the photos of the dead children would not be released. The Connecticut State Legislature passed a law specifically to prevent the release of the images. Ostensibly it was to shield the families of the murdered children from further pain and suffering. That was a lie.

The suffering of the families of these children will never, ever end, and if they were really asked if they wanted the country to know what was done to their children, most of them would likely say, “Yes, the world should know … the world must see this.”

Just like the mother of Emmett Till. I always saw the decision to hide the Sandy Hook photos as a cynical mechanism concocted by lawmakers to shield the NRA and the politicians who enable them. In fact the NRA should fear the day those images are released.

To the point, I call for the release of all the Sandy Hook photos that the family members of the murdered children are willing to authorize. They must be asked directly. That lie must end. Let the State of Connecticut stand in direct opposition to the families of the slain children.

After Sandy Hook, I never fired another shot. In the beginning I wrote it off to being too busy or not living in an area where it was convenient. But time passed and then more time, and I came to understand that it was something deeper.

The photos of the murdered children at Sandy Hook have never been released, but I can see them. I always could. I couldn’t bring myself to go back and pick up a firearm again. I can’t.

My heroes are the young people who survived the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and all the students across the country who are mobilizing in solidarity with their brave struggle. They are young and strong – that gives them a chance to effect change. We must stand with them.

Oh yeah, this piece was supposed to be about Wayne LaPierre: Step over him.

Marc Ash is the founder and former Executive Director of Truthout, and is now founder and Editor of Reader Supported News.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

NRA Donated $10,000 to Help Train the Parkland Shooting Suspect to Use a Rifle

People attend a candlelit memorial service Thursday night for the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 people. (photo: Greg Lovett/The Palm Beach Post)
People attend a candlelit memorial service Thursday night for the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 people. (photo: Greg Lovett/The Palm Beach Post)

By Judd Legum, ThinkProgress
22 February 18

Cruz practiced on indoor ranges shooting at targets the size of coin

ikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old who charged with murdering 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, honed his marksmanship skills in a school program supported by the NRA. Cruz was, according to the Associated Press, a member of the school’s four-person varsity marksmanship team, which received a $10,000 grant from the NRA in 2016.
MSD JROTC Marksmanship team would like to thank the NRA for their grateful donation of nearly $10,000 to upgrade and replenish equipment!
— MSDJROTC (@MSDJROTC1) September 21, 2016
The marksmanship team was part of the schools’ JROTC program. On the team, Cruz trained with “air rifles special-made for target shooting, typically on indoor ranges at targets the size of a coin.”

Cruz discussed his AR-15 with other team members and was given the nickname “Wolf.” Another member of the team described him as “a very good shot.”

The NRA declined to comment on the donation. In 2015, the NRA Foundation gave $2.2 million in similar grants promoting gun use to schools around the country. This includes grants “to elementary and middle schools.”

The NRA Foundation’s website says it’s “investing in the next generation of America’s leaders” by devoting “a significant majority” of the group’s grants to “youth shooting sports.”

The NRA Foundation operates the Friends of the NRA program, which raises money for youth shooting sports as a way of recruiting young activists to fight gun regulation.

Friends of the NRA describes itself as “a 100% grassroots effort fueled by a united front to secure the Second Amendment and raise money for the shooting sports.”

The NRA has been actively commenting on the Parkland massacre on social media, arguing that the only way to prevent future tragedies is more guns.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Trump Will Not Act Against Russia Because He Is Very Likely Being Blackmailed By Russia.

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 14:  U.S. President Donald Trump listens during a working session regarding the Opportunity Zones provided by tax reform in the Oval Office of the White House February 14, 2018 in Washington, DC. President Trump hosted a group of local elected officials, entrepreneurs, and investors to discuss "how the 'Opportunity Zones' designation in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will spur investment and job growth in distressed communities."  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
"All in all, the odds are disconcertingly high that Russia, or somebody, has blackmail leverage over the president of the United States."
Step out of Bizarro world for a minute and imagine what a “normal” President would do in response to a Federal indictment just brought by one of the most respected Special Counsel in the country, that alleged the Russians committed the following acts:
  • Conducted political intelligence-gathering activities in the United States;
  • Hid their activities by setting up virtual networks in America that masked their extra-American communications;
  • Influenced the American election by using false personas to organize rallies for Trump, criticizing Muslims and spreading allegations of voter fraud by candidate Clinton;
  • Stole American identities to create controlled accounts; and
  • Destroyed evidence of their activities.
As Paul Rosenzweig, writing for The Atlantic, puts it:
If any significant fraction of what is alleged in the latest indictment is true… then this tale is a stunning condemnation of Russian activity. A Russian organization with hundreds of employees and a budget of millions of dollars is said to have systematically engaged in an effort (code named “Project Lakhta”) to undermine the integrity of the election and, perhaps more importantly, to have attempted to influence the election to benefit then-candidate Donald Trump.
At a minimum we would see a complete freeze in diplomatic communications, a recall of most if not all U.S. government personnel currently stationed in the Russian Federation, and quite likely the freezing of certain Russian assets in this country and in any country where the U.S. could exert control.  There would be a massive and public effort to connect these indicted Russians to the Putin mafia state so that the American people could be informed of the truth. There would probably be some type of military action,  something more than a gesture. There would be sanctions being discussed right now, and there would be expulsions. The President would be on the air to reassure the American people of the integrity of our elections.

In fact there are many, many options a normal Administration would take to isolate and punish the Russian state.

None of that is happening. In fact, the exact opposite:
None of Trump’s tweets expressed anger or alarm about the Russian intervention, which Mueller’s charges said involved entry into the U.S. by Russians collecting intelligence for the plan.
A White House spokesperson went even further Saturday, suggesting that Democrats and the mainstream media deserve more blame than Russia for political division in the U.S.
Jonathan Chait, writing for New York Magazine, is pretty sure he knows the reason why:
All in all, the odds are disconcertingly high that Russia, or somebody, has blackmail leverage over the president of the United States.
Chait arrives at this conclusion indirectly, as none of us except for Trump and possibly a few others in the Kremlin could possibly confirm it, but Trump’s behavior pattern towards Russia has been remarkably telling. There is no good reason for Trump’s grotesquely fawning relationship to the Russian state unless it derives from a benefit to Trump himself. That’s simply the kind of man he is. Whether that benefit is related to his finances, of which he is astonishingly secretive, or of his personal sexual habits, which have recently been revealed as equally clandestine, Trump has shown himself to be obligated for some reason to the Russian state. And the news in recent weeks has confirmed that Trump is possessed of the type of character that is ripe for blackmail.

As Chait points out, there were two objections thrown at the existence of the infamous “pee tape” described in Christopher Steele’s dossier. One was that Trump didn’t need to pay for sex. We learned this week that he no compunction about paying for sex at all. He considers sex a transaction. He’s offered at least two and probably many, many more women money for sex. So the idea that he would pay two Russian prostitutes to urinate on a bed that he was told Obama slept in is proving itself not to be farfetched at all.

He also operates within a network, like Harvey Weinstein, where he accesses people to hide his behavior from public scrutiny. We learned this week about David Pecker, the publisher of the National Enquirer, who would “buy” stories from women who Trump slept with to keep those stories from seeing the light of day. We also learned that Trump’s lawyer paid off a porn star to keep quiet about Trump’s sexual relationship with her.
So, we know Trump habitually pays for sex, and we also know he is willing to pay to keep embarrassing secrets from going public. That is to say, these secrets could be leveraged against him.

What else do we know? We know Russia has a decades-old system for gathering compromising sexual secrets on prominent foreign visitors. We also know Trump harbored a burning resentment of President Obama in the wake of Obama’s mocking him at the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner. And many reports of Trump’s decision-making suggest that the strongest consideration in any decision is the chance to defile or destroy something associated with Obama.
Trump’s reaction to Mueller’s indictment and hard evidence of a Russian attack on our society thus far has been limited to crowing about the fact that he himself has not yet been implicated in “collusion.”  In fact Trump has fixated on the word “collusion” to an unusual extent, repeating it over and over in his Tweets, almost as if he’s trying to distract from something else.

But Trump’s possible collusion with Russia was never the point of Mueller’s indictment here. As Rosenzweig points out, the indictment is conspicuous for its lack of any mention of American and Russian collusion at all. While the evidence strongly indicates that there was some type of direct collusion between members of the Trump campaign (though not Trump himself as of yet) even if there was “collusion” there would simply be an expectation of a quid pro quo, such as Trump lifting sanctions on Russia in exchange for the electoral assist.

But Trump reneges on deals all the time. That is the essence of declaring Bankruptcy, which he has done many times. He has no problem reneging on a deal. So even if there was collusion that in and of itself wouldn’t explain Trump’s continued inexplicable behavior towards the Russian state (unless the nature of the collusion—the quid of the quid pro quo-- itself was the object of extortion by Putin—certainly a possibility). There really is no explanation for his behavior towards Russia, behavior so bizarre he is at odds with the entire U.S. Intelligence apparatus.
Unless he’s being blackmailed.
Far from being bizarre, imagining Trump paying prostitutes to pee on a bed Obama used as a primitive revenge ritual, and Russians taping the episode, is perfectly consistent with what we know about both parties.
That exact scenario may not have happened. Indeed, sex is not the only kind of secret Trump harbors. He endured months of criticism first from Republican candidates, then Democrats, and all along from the media, for refusing to disclose his tax returns. Trump clearly feels protective of his financial information. Some of that information is in the hands of his business partners, many of whom are associated with Russia or are unsavory in some other way.
Rosenzweig describes Mueller’s indictment as a message directed not to Trump, but to Americans as a stark warning that the American Republic is under attack. In fact, thus far the profound implications of this devastating indictment have been met with deaf ears from the very person who should be reacting with resolve to reassure the American people of the integrity of their Democracy. That is what a normal President would do.

Unless he could not afford to.