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Open Thread: A Mournful Valentine [UPDATE]

[NB: Check the byline. UPDATE at the bottom. /~Rayne]

A year ago today, fourteen students and three staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida were killed by a lone 19-year-old gunman armed with an AR-15 rifle. More were injured.

Since then nearly 1,200 more children have died due to gun violence.

It’s an American problem, to have so much freedom and an inability to responsibly self-regulate it even though our Constitution clearly calls for a “well regulated Militia.”

The problem is as much money as it is guns. Money has been used to poison Americans’ attitudes toward guns; money has been used to capture legislators to prevent regulation.

The vulnerability of our society to corporate influence and control in pursuit of money has now created an opportunity for asymmetric warfare. Information assaults were launched last year by foreign-controlled bot swarms to propel pro-gun messages and suffocate gun control messages.

And the GOP-led 115th Congress did nothing in response because they were bought by NRA money, infused by Russia.

Oh, pardon me — members of Congress who received much of the $50 million in NRA campaign contributions in 2016 offered thoughts and prayers for the survivors and victims’ loved ones last year as the blood of innocents coagulated and dried on the floor of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Stuff your thoughts and prayers sideways, you useful idiots with your mouths flapping platitudes, you fifth columnists with your grasping hands out, greedy for more blood money for your next campaign. They are as helpful today as they were a year ago.

Don’t think for a moment we can’t see how you’ve obstructed the ability of Americans to defend themselves with adequate and timely gun control this past year. It’s past time to fix your disloyalty to this country and its children and pass effective gun control legislation beginning with the House bills H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 and H.R. 1112, the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019.

This is an open thread. Keep all gun talk in this thread; if it drifts into other threads I will bin it. If such a threat bothers you, have some thoughts and prayers.

_________

UPDATE — 2:45 P.M. ET —

This is a list of the members of Congress SplinterNews listed as offering up thoughts and prayers via Twitter a year ago after MSD-Parkland’s mass shooting and who also received campaign contributions for 2016 from the NRA. I was looking patterns and I don’t see one readily except for political party affiliation. The lone Democratic Party member to receive funds and offer platitudes was Tim Walz, now governor of Minnesota instead of a House rep.

Do you see a pattern in this besides a preference toward Class II and III senators — up for re-election in 2018 and 2020? Are there committee memberships relevant to these donations?

Senate:
Mitch McConnell (R-KY) – $9,900 -II <-Majority Leader
Marco Rubio (R-FL) – $9,900 -III
Rob Portman (R-OH) – $9,900 -III
Joni Ernst (R-IA) – $9,900 -II
Thom Tillis (R-NC) – $9,900 -II
Dean Heller (R-NV) – $9,900 -I
Jim Inhofe (R-OK) – $9,450 -II
John Hoeven (R-ND) – $8,450 -III
Steve Daines (R-MT) – $7,700 -II
Ron Johnson (R-WI) – $7,450 -III
John Boozman (R-AR) – $5,950 -III
Todd Young (R-IN) – $5,950 -III
Mike Rounds (R-SD) – $5,450 -II
James Lankford (R-OK) – $5,000 -III
Bill Cassidy (R-LA) – $4,950 -II
Richard Shelby (R-AL) – $4,950 -III
David Perdue (R-GA) – $4,950 -II
Tim Scott (R-SC) – $4,500 -III
Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV) – $2,500 -II
Ted Cruz (R-TX) – $350 -I
John McCain (R-AZ) – $300 (RIP)

House:
Barbara Comstock (R-VA) – $10,400
Mike Coffman (R-CO) – $9,900
Will Hurt (R-TX) – $9,900
John Katko (R-NY) – $9,900
Bruce Poliquin (R-ME) -$9,900
Lee Zeldin (R-NY) – $9,900
Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) – $7,450
Martha McSally (R-AZ) – $6,500 <-Running for McCain’s seat in 2020
Bill Schuster (R-PA) – $5,950
Richard Hudson (R-NC) – $4,950
Steve Scalise (R-LA) – $4,950
Lamar Smith (R-TX) – $4,950
Ken Calvert (R-CA) – $4,500
Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) – $4,000
Robert Aderholt (R-AL) – $3,500
Michael McCaul (R-TX) – $3,500
Darin LaHood (R-IL) – $3,000
Erik Paulson (R-MN) – $3,000
Tom Reed (R-NY) – $3,000
Diane Black (R-TN) – $2,500
Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) – $2,500
Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) – $2,500
Rodney Davis (R-IL) $2,500
John Ratcliff (R-TX) – $2,500
Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) – $2,500
Pete Sessions (R-TX) – $2,500
Roger Williams (R-TX) – $2,500
Mike Bishop (R-MI) – $2,000
Bradley Byrne (R-AL) – $2,000
Buddy Carter (R-GA) – $2,000
Chris Collins (R-NY) – $2,000
Mario Diaz Balart (R-FL) – $2,000
Sean Duffy (R-WI) – $2,000
Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN) – $2,000
Tim Walz (D-MN) – $2,000 <-Now MN governor
Bob Gibbs (R-OH) – $2,000
Paul Gossar (R-AZ) – $2,000
Sam Graves (R-MO) – $2,000
Glenn Grothman (R-WI) $2,000
Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) – $2,000
Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) – $2,000
French Hill (R-AR) – $2,000
Bill Huizenga (R-MI) – $2,000
Darrell Issa (R-CA) – $2,000
Bill Johnson (R-OH) – $2,000
Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) – $2,000
Doug Lamborn (R-CO) – $2,000
Luke Messer (R-IN) – $2,000
Kristi Noem (R-SD) – $2,000
Scott Perry (R-PA) – $2,000
Robert Pittenger (R-NC) – $2,000
Ted Poe (R-TX) – $2,000
Tom Rice (R-SC) – $2,000
Martha Roby (R-AL) – $2,000
Mike Rogers (R-AL) – $2,000
Todd Rokita (R-IN) – $2,000
Peter Roskam (R-IL) – $2,000
Dennis Ross (R-FL) – $2,000
Austin Scott (R-GA) – $2,000
Jason Smith (R-MO) – $2,000
Elise Stefanik (R-NY) – $2,000
Steve Stivers (R-OH) – $2,000
Mark Walker (R-NC) – $2,000
Jackie Walorski (R-IN) – $2,000
Mimi Walters (R-CA) – $2,000
Joe Wilson (R-SC) – $2,000
Rob Wittman (R-VA) – $2,000
Steven Palazzo (R-MS) – $1,750
Mike Kelly (R-PA) – $1,500
Steve Womack (R-AR) – $1,500
Ralph Abraham (R-LA) – $1,000
Lou Barlettea (R-PA) – $1,000
Susan Brooks (R-IN) – $1,000
Warren Davidson (R-OH) – $1,000
Ron DeSantis (R-FL) – $1,000
Louie Gohmert (R-TX) – $1,000
Kenny Marchant (R-TX) – $1,000
Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) – $1,000
David McKinley (R-WV) – $1,000
Dave Reichert (R-WA) – $1,000
Tom Rooney (R-FL) – $1,000
Randy Weber (R-TX) – $1,000
Daniel Webster (R-FL) – $1,000

Contra Kavanaugh

[As always, check the byline — this is by me, Rayne, and I am not the lawyer on this crew.]

Call your senators RIGHT NOW and insist they do whatever they can to halt Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. He should not be confirmed.

Congressional switchboard number: (202) 224-3121

Leave a voicemail, don’t put it off; there’s less than 24 hours before the hearing begins. Do you need a script to help make your call? Check with @Celeste_pewter at this link; she has you covered. Send a fax if you’d rather. Look up your senators’ contact details at GovTrack.us. But do it, RIGHT NOW. Come back to this when you’re done.

~ | ~ |~

Now that’s the important part of this post, the must-do call to action right up front. Drop everything and make the call before proceeding. Persuade friends and family to do the same right now.

The rest of this post is a formality over which I have fretted for more than a week. There are myriad articles out there, new ones published every day, explaining Kavanaugh’s judicial history and why he is unacceptable as a justice with a life-time appointment.

The most important reason, though, is evident in the actions of the White House and the GOP combined.

Bad, Bad Faith

They have acted and continue to act in bad faith about everything while in office. Kavanaugn’s nomination and their handling of the vetting process is but one more cluster of bad faith acts.

If this administration had nominated Kavanaugh in good faith, his works would have been openly available to the Senate Judiciary Democrats with few exceptions — but this is not the case.

If Kavanaugh himself was a good faith nominee, he would be pushing for his work to be open for evaluation — but he is silent.

If the GOP Congress was acting in good faith, they, too, would demand all Kavanaugh’s documents — but they aren’t. Senator Susan Collins in particular deserves a drubbing here, having signaled an intent to approve Kavanaugh based on the documents she’s seen so far and they are a piddling amount of the documents Kavanaugh created or was involved with during his career. She is willfully buying a pig in a poke in spite of her position on women’s reproductive health.

The hurry to seat Kavanaugh is also unnecessary; Mitch McConnell wants him to begin on October 1 with the SCOTUS’ next session. To meet this wholly arbitrary deadline McConnell has broken with past practice — and shorted the production of documents related to Kavanaugh’s work history.

It’s not just the Trump administration, either, since many of the withheld documents were generated during the Bush administration. An unprecedented and partisan review process by George W. Bush administration lawyers is running in tandem with the National Archives and Records Administration’s document production, which the NARA calls “something that has never happened before.” NARA can’t produce the Kavanaugh documents before the end of October; the Bush lawyers are cherry-picking their selection to meet the 9:30 a.m. Tuesday hearing.

Given what we know of the Bush administration’s efforts on torture and surveillance alone, Senate Democrats are right to be worried about the insufficiency of documents. Pat Leahy indicated what few documents they’ve received include many duplicates, further frustrating analysis.

Why are the administration and the GOP trying so hard to prevent access to documentation of Kavanaugh’s work history? Why the sudden reversal on transparency after a Republicans-only meeting on July 24th? What of the concerns Leahy expressed in an August 17th letter to White House Counsel Don McGahn?

…do you have reason to believe any of the records relate to:
1. The legal justifications or policies relating to the treatment of detainees?
2. The rules governing the detention of combatants?
3. The warrantless wiretapping of Americans?
4. A proposed constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman?

These topics are far too weighty to be given deliberate short shrift — the specificity of exclusion is troubling, especially when combined with questions about Kavanaugh’s questionable finances and the likelihood Kavanaugh lied under oath before the Senate in 2006. It gives the appearance of a cover-up, which is more than bad faith; it’s malignancy.

Before Justice Kennedy retired we had already quite enough of GOP bad faith. Obama’s SCOTUS nominee Merrick Garland should have had a hearing; his work product had not been suppressed. Obama’s previous nominees had likewise been fully vetted, their documents made available. But Mitch McConnell suppressed Obama’s last appointment in bad faith; there is nothing at all in the Constitution to support the Senate’s denial of Obama’s appointment by refusing to evaluate his nominee.

Article 2, Section 2: He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

(emphasis mine)

Refusing to hold a hearing meant a rejection of the Senate’s role to advise and consent. By the simplest interpretation of the Constitution, McConnell violated his oath of office by failing to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and to well and faithfully discharge the duties of his office.

Unfortunately there is no remedy save for impeachment of McConnell or removal by voters and neither will happen before Tuesday.

Unindicted Co-Conspirator-in-Chief

The next critical reason why Kavanaugh should neither receive a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing nor be confirmed is Trump’s current status as an unindicted co-conspirator.  Although the current conspiracy for which Trump has not yet been indicted is not now in Special Counsel’s folio, we cannot know until after Special Counsel’s Office has completed their work whether Kavanaugh’s appointment was part of a larger conspiracy to defraud the U.S. The Senate should exercise its role to advise and consent by refraining from evaluation of Kavanaugh until Trump’s status is resolved — and the Senate Judiciary Dems should uniformly reject a hearing and confirmation.

What is already known about Kavanaugh suggests he will not act neutrally should the prosecution of any case involving Trump as a co-conspirator come before the SCOTUS. In 2009 Kavanaugh wrote for the Minnesota Law Review on deferrals of civil suits, criminal investigations and prosecutions of the president,

… The indictment and trial of a sitting President, moreover, would cripple the federal government, rendering it unable to function with credibility in either the international or domestic arenas. Such an outcome would ill serve the public interest, especially in times of financial or national security crisis.

Even the lesser burdens of a criminal investigation—including preparing for questioning by criminal investigators—are time-consuming and distracting. Like civil suits, criminal investigations take the President’s focus away from his or her responsibilities to the people. And a President who is concerned about an ongoing criminal investigation is almost inevitably going to do a worse job as President.

In the same article, Kavanaugh encouraged Congress to write legislation “exempting a President—while in office—from criminal prosecution and investigation, including from questioning by criminal prosecutors or defense counsel.”

This opinion is flawed and based on what he saw of Clinton, Bush, and Obama presidencies. We no longer have a president who is absorbed by the duties of the office, taking roughly 25% of his time in office to commit violations of the Emoluments Clause by playing golf at his own resorts. The Special Counsel’s Office investigation hasn’t disrupted his golf game; it hasn’t disrupted the remaining 75% of his time in office save for Trump’s entirely elective and unnecessary kvetching via Twitter about a witch hunt.

No feedback from senators so far indicates Kavanaugh would recuse himself on cases coming before SCOTUS related to civil suits or criminal charges against Trump.

Health Care, Women’s Reproductive Rights, Settled Law Unsettled

These issues are all of a piece since they are interrelated by a narrow number of cases and will likely come down to swing senators who claim to care most about these issues — senators Collins and Lisa Murkowski. Kavanaugh has been interviewed by Collins who says she believes he is in agreement with her that Roe v. Wade is settled law and not likely to change. Collins, however, has been screwed over repeatedly by her party in no small part because she trusts uterus-deficient counterparts to see women’s reproductive rights as she does (this is an awful wordy way to say she’s easily played).

Lindsey Graham, however, left off sucking up to Trump to suggest Roe could be overturned by Kavanaugh because “a precedent is important but it’s not inviolate.” Having said this on at least two different Sunday talk shows one might wonder if he is leading Kavanaugh or Collins and Murkowski.

No Senate Democrat should give Graham or Kavanaugh the benefit of the doubt, though. His dissent in Garza v. Hargan, the D.C. Circuit case in which a 17-year-old asylum seeker sought an abortion while in U.S. custody, is disturbing. He wrote,

The Government has permissible interests in favoring fetal life, protecting the best interests of a minor, and refraining from facilitating abortion. …

No. The government has no interests in favoring fetal life as if fetuses had rights co-equal to the mother, teen or adult, whether free or in detention. Forcing a minor to carry another child to term is not in the government’s interests; it’s child abuse.

Kavanaugh’s opinion in Priests for Life v. HHS, wrestling with the issue of religious freedom versus access to contraception, is also disturbing. He concluded,

First, under Hobby Lobby, the regulations substantially burden the religious organizations’ exercise of religion because the regulations require the organizations to take an action contrary to their sincere religious beliefs (submitting the form) or else pay significant monetary penalties.

Second, that said, Hobby Lobby strongly suggests that the Government has a compelling interest in facilitating access to contraception for the employees of these religious organizations.

Third, this case therefore comes down to the least restrictive means question.

Nowhere in this conclusion does it ever occur to Kavanaugh there are other reasons women are prescribed birth control besides contraception which have nothing to do with employers’ religious beliefs. To be fair, most men are clueless about the benefits of birth control for minimizing cramps and managing other debilitating menstrual problems. But this conclusion combined with the dissent in Garza do not assure that Kavanaugh will see Roe as settled.

Semi-Automatic Weapons Wankery

Not good. Kavanaugh dissented in Heller v. District of Columbia, a case which upheld Washington D.C.’s ban on semi-automatic weapons, writing that the Supreme Court

“held that handguns — the vast majority of which today are semiautomatic — are constitutionally protected because they have not traditionally been banned and are in common use by law-abiding citizens.”

This blows off the 1994 Federal Assault Weapon Ban which expired in 2004 and should have been renewed since civilian deaths by assault weapons escalated after 2004.

Kavanaugh couldn’t be trusted to support a ban on assault weapons which are semi-automatic.

Net Neutrality No-Go

This issue infuriates me as much as Kavanaugh’s dissent on Garza. Last year in U.S. Telecom Association v. FCC he wrote,

… While the net neutrality rule applies to those ISPs that hold themselves out as neutral, indiscriminate conduits to internet content, the converse is also true: the rule does not apply to an ISP holding itself out as providing something other than a neutral, indiscriminate pathway—i.e., an ISP making sufficiently clear to potential customers that it provides a filtered service involving the ISP’s exercise of “editorial intervention.” …

Except ISPs are nearly inseparable from telecom — which we would not allow any editorial rights over content — and ISPs are too thin in some markets, forcing customers to accept what might be the only ISP in their area along with that ISP’s “editorial intervention.”

I’m also disturbed by the examples he used of throttled content like Netflix and Ticketmaster while ignoring the possibility an ISP could exercise “editorial intervention” over essential services like email and VoIP.

Nothing like having Verizon sitting on the Supreme Court.

Surveillance State

Good Lord, his understanding of metadata…Kavanaugh wrote in his opinion for Larry E. Klayman v. Barack Obama, et al. (2015) denying an emergency petition,

… In my view, that critical national security need outweighs the impact on privacy occasioned by this program. The Government’s program does not capture the content of communications, but rather the time and duration of calls, and the numbers called. In short, the Government’s program fits comfortably within the Supreme Court precedents applying the special needs doctrine. … In sum, the Fourth Amendment does not bar the Government’s bulk collection of telephony metadata under this program. …

There’s no chance at all to his thinking that metadata itself could be the message.

~ | ~ |~

That’s more than enough without having to really dig, and I haven’t even touched on Kavanaugh with regard to LGBT equality. White House and GOP bad faith is enough reason to insist Kavanaugh not be confirmed.

If you made it this far without having called your senators, do it RIGHT NOW and insist they do whatever they can to halt Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. He should not serve a lifetime as a justice given what we already know.

Congressional switchboard number: (202) 224-3121

National School Walkout and LEO on Alert: Coincidence?

At 10:00 a.m. today — minutes from now — memorial walkouts for Columbine mass shooting victims will take place, part of a national school walkout protesting the lack of gun reform. Check Twitter for hashtag #NationalSchoolWalkout.

One problem: law enforcement may have received warnings this week about potentially violent protests — denoted by the call for riot gear — which could precipitate overreaction to what have been peaceful March For Our Lives events to date.

Look at this tweet from Wednesday:

Pittsburgh LEO was cautioned about protests arising should Trump fire DOJ’s Rod Rosenstein or Special Counsel Robert Mueller this week. While the warning it shares expresses concerns about yesterday, will law enforcement continue to be on alert?

We don’t know how widely the warning was shared or if there were multiple warnings from multiple sources.

It’s also upsetting that the person who organized a tentative protest rally against the prospective firing of Rosenstein or Mueller had taken out a permit.

Why is law enforcement getting its shirt in a knot about a rally with a valid permit? Why the warning this week coincident with the National School Walkout?

Thursday: Repetition

A little Prince to make the painful repetition a little easier to take.

By repetition I mean what’s happening in Puerto Rico compared to what has already happened in Michigan.

Some of Michigan’s most financially distressed cities were forced to accept emergency managers, supplanting the cities’ democratically elected officials. Under state law, EMs were the sole point of power and authority for administration until the cities were deemed financially viable. We all know how that turned out; in Flint’s case, ten people died from Legionnaire’s disease and roughly 8000 kids will pay for the incompetence of the emergency management scheme for the rest of their lives due to the permanent effects of lead poisoning. The incompetence is further magnified by governmental bodies’ failure to do the right thing to completion, while continuing to milk the city and state of more money to no effect.

Witness the state attorney general Bill Schuette now asking for $3.4 million to investigate what can already be easily seen in records released to date. The assessments made so far have been equally wrong — like Schuette’s office suing two consulting firms when documentation clearly shows outright stupidity in contract management or malfeasance on the part of government was the real problem. And none of Flint’s water problems would have happened had not the city been forced off Detroit’s water by the state treasurer’s office, which rejected a last-minute offer far cheaper than construction of the new Karegnondi water line. Seeing this doesn’t need millions of dollars, only ethics.

Puerto Rico — with a population smaller than Los Angeles in an area a little smaller than Connecticut — is now undergoing a similar loss of democracy for similar reasons of financial distress. The territory is $73 billion in debt caused in no small part by suffocating federal policies. The U.S. Senate just voted to supplant Puerto Rico’s elected officials’ authority with a team of managers. They had too little democracy as it was before this schema, not having the same kind of representation that the fifty states have; many of the financial limitations Puerto Rico faces have been directly related to the territory’s inability to regulate commerce.

The economic hitmen have won. Now the vultures descend.

The galling part is this approach is called PROMESA (Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act) — a promise. Brace yourselves, Puerto Ricans, at least they’ve warned you. Que Dios tenga misericordia porque los buitres no lo hará.

Odd lots
I’ve got a bunch of stray cats and dogs here that didn’t fit under any theme so far this week. In other words, there wasn’t much repetition. Make of them what you will.

Thank goodness tomorrow is Friday and I can indulge in a little jazz. See you then.

Monday: Fierce Dog

Hunger and fear are the only realities in dog life: an empty stomach makes a fierce dog.

— excerpt, personal journal of Capt. Robert Falcon Scott

This short film by Aaron Dunleavy was inspired by his childhood in Blackburn, Lancashire UK. The script was improvised and cast using locals.

All districts in Lancashire voted Leave during last week’s Brexit referendum, with 65% of Blackburn voters supporting Leave.

Worth noting an article in Lancashire Telegraph about an Aldi’s store under construction. Aldi’s is a German-owned grocery store chain; have to wonder if construction will be completed.

Brexit botch bits

  • @shockproofbeats on Brexit’s impact on Northern Ireland (Storify) — It’s messy now and promises to be even uglier.
  • Downside for China (and other foreign investors): Real estate purchases may be put on hold (SCMP) — Some deals in the works may be halted until the pound is more stable. On the other hand, Britain may step in and put the brakes on sales; too easy for overseas entities with big money to buy up property while pound is depressed.
  • Upside for China (and other banking centers): Business could pick up in Hong Kong (SCMP) — London is the second largest trading center of yuan next to Hong Kong; some of the business could shift back to Hong Kong, especially if HSBC bank choose to relocate its headquarters to HK from London.
  • No change in position on Brexit referendum since last Friday according to PM David Cameron (Independent-UK) — Though Cameron is now going to leave in September. He continued to push triggering of the Article 50 to his successor while taking pot shots at Labor Party over its purge this weekend. Not certain most Americans will notice just how Cameron has managed to shift the blame to both MPs and the people for a referendum he proposed, or how he has turned execution of Article 50 into a poisoned chalice. Lord Chancellor Secretary of State for Justice Michael Gove, Leave campaign proponent, was present at today’s session in Parliament but said nothing before disappearing. Boris Johnson, MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Leave campaign proponent, was noticably absent. Wankers all three.

SCOTUS Week
Waiting around watching the court for good or ill until this morning is kind of like waiting for Shark Week — hey, it IS Shark Week! What a coincidence!

Miscellaneous trouble

Promises to be a busy week ahead. Stay tuned!

Wednesday: Get Bach

Summer bug laid me up. I’m indulging in the audio equivalent of tea with honey, lemon, and a shot of something to scare away the bug. A little cello playing by Yo-Yo Ma never fails to make me feel better.

This sweet video is enlightening, didn’t realize Ma had an older sister who was an accomplished musician at a tender age. Worthwhile to watch this week considering the blizzard of arguments about immigrants and refugees here and abroad.

And then for good measure, a second favorite added in the mix — Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman together, performing Beethoven’s Triple Concerto Fantasy.

There. I feel a little better already.

Probably better than frustrated House Democrats led by Rep. John Lewis who are engaging in a sit-in protest on House floor demanding a vote on No-Fly-No-Buy gun control. If you want to watch the action, you’ll have to check social media. It’s said House GOP leadership ensured CSPAN cameras were shut off.

Diesel do you

  • Volkswagen streamlining offerings to cut costs, 40 makes on the chopping block (Bloomberg) — This is the old General Motors play that eventually killed Oldsmobile and Pontiac to reduce costs related to duplicative brands. Makes sense, especially if this hatchet job kills passenger diesels. Note the story says a fix may come later — uh-huh, like never? Because VW can’t handle the volume of required repairs OR the lack of actual clean diesel technology, OR both?
  • Testimony in S Korea: VW’s upper management may have ordered regulatory cheats (The Hankyoreh) — Story is focused on emissions controls defeat and approval process, but sound controls were also an issue in South Korea. Were those likewise suppressed by order of VW’s German head office?
  • Former CEO under investigation for securities fraud (Reuters) — Big investors want to know why it took a year for Winterkorn to act after the emissions controls defeat were made public by researchers. Bet there’s a link between Winterkorn’s notification of researchers’ findings and the destruction of emails.

Sigh, cyber, sigh

Wait, what?
Did you know Led Zeppelin is being sued over Stairway to Heaven? Allegedly a key riff in the famous 40-year-old tune was stolen, violating copyright. Forty years. ~smh~

Going back to a recumbent position. Stay braced for the outcome of the sit-in and Brexit vote tomorrow.

National Sickness: No Debate Allowed on Civilians Owning Weapons of War

Three fatal mass shootings within three weeks should be providing an opportunity for a national conversation on civilians having easy access to semiautomatic weapons and high capacity clips that are designed for use in war. Two of the killers in these cases were known by family and/or medical personnel to be dealing with mental issues while the third had generated at least some attention from both government and private groups that monitor groups harboring violent extreme racist views. Despite these clear warning signs in the shooters’ backgrounds, all three legally purchased and possessed their weapons that were designed for wartime use.

Instead of the nation assessing what can be done to prevent weapons designed solely for killing large numbers of people getting into the hands of those who are most likely to put them to that use, we have major players in our society fanning some of the issues that contribute to the problem. Last week, Congressman Joe Walsh delivered a speech casting Muslims as dangerous extremists bent on killing:

“One thing I’m sure of is that there are people in this country – there is a radical strain of Islam in this country -– it’s not just over there –- trying to kill Americans every week. It is a real threat, and it is a threat that is much more at home now than it was after 9/11,” Walsh said.

Walsh went on to claim that radical Islam had found its way into the Chicago suburbs, including some that he represents.

It’s here. It’s in Elk Grove. It’s in Addison. It’s in Elgin. It’s here,” he said.

Just a few days later, a man was arrested in nearby Morton Grove for firing at a mosque while people were inside praying. Fortunately, this time the shooter only used a pellet gun instead of a weapon of war, which could have led to yet another disaster.

Joe Walsh and other extremists in Congress like Michele Bachmann and Steve King happily spout their venom that fires up racists, but we also learned this week that the man behind the 2009 Department of Homeland Security report on right wing extremist groups capable of violence had his report repudiated and his team dissolved. He subsequently left DHS. Both Democracy Now and Danger Room have chronicled Johnson’s plight. Sadly, Johnson’s work was quite accurate when it came to the shooting at the Sikh temple. From Spencer Ackerman at Danger Room:

Daryl Johnson had a sinking feeling when he started seeing TV reports on Sunday about a shooting in a Wisconsin temple. “I told my wife, ‘This is likely a hate crime perpetrated by a white supremacist who may have had military experience,’” Johnson recalls. Read more