The Houston Area: Yet Another High School Massacre

It is just past noon and I am already into the wine.   Trying to figure out a post this morning among the near infinite possibilities was difficult enough and then I heard about the latest school shooting, this time in Texas with 10 killed and 10 injured.  That pretty much shut the door on my thinking.

Do these media types really expect us to watch the umpteenth repeat of the same old story?  The over speculations on causes and what we can do to make this “never happen again.”  Of course, it will happen again.

The assurances of our so-called president that these victims have “our support forever.”  Could words be any more empty?

And I can’t stand to listen to any more “how did you feel” interviews, or any of the other stuff that the cable stations wedge in to show they care.   And, though feeling some guilt, I don’t want to listen to another story of a child’s promising life that was so cruelly cut short.   I feel badly for those families, but when slaughtering school children becomes common place, I don’t want to know every detail.

Tell me something new.

What I want is more insights as to what sort of coordinated effort we might develop to reduce the chances of repetitions.  The bulk of coverage of these school shootings is so uniformly preliminary as to tell us nothing.  I’m still waiting for a detailed report of what happened in Parkland, which I hope can give us some solid clues as to how to better guard against future shootings.

Unfortunately, while the state of Florida has a commission working on this, the last I read in April they weren’t coming up with a full report until next January.  I hope they eventually do give us some useful insights, though the slow pace is maddening.  Given that the shooter was throwing up more red flags than a Moscow parade, I most want to know more about the failure among the various agencies involved – the police, schools, etc. –  to communicate with each other.

But that article points out other problems as well such as flaws in the school’s and the police’s response procedures.  One simple but huge problem source sticks out to me.  The classrooms could only be locked from the outside, so to lock up one’s room a teacher had to lock themselves out.

Mr. President, instead of being supportive forever, how about injecting some money into the Florida commission to help them finish the job sooner?  And then actually act on the conclusions the study draws.

For those interested in reading that April article, go here.

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North Korea, Stormy Daniels and this and that….

So many, so many possible topics, so let’s just take a glance at a few ongoing sagas…

Since it touches upon the prospect of nuclear war, let’s begin with North Korea, which is acting like it wants to develop its relationship with South Korea (you know, their athletes marching together at the Olympics, etc.).  NO KO and SO KO are setting up a hot line between their two nation heads and will have talks in upcoming weeks which may lead to talks including the U. S.

It sounds good, but NO KO has made peaceful overtures over the years, which wound up stalling periods while they continued to develop nuclear weapons. Perhaps the Trump crazy persona has prompted Jong UN to reconsider…………but more likely it is a clever ploy by UN, buying time and perhaps splitting our relationship with SO KO.

Stormy Daniels is a picayune topic, but much more fun, unless you are Donald J. Trump. The porn star/adult film actress (depending on how much you want to go “tisk, tisk”) refuses to go away.  It looks like she will become a bigger pain to the president as she is suing for the right to tell her story arguing the non-disclosure agreement is invalid as Trump never signed it.

Even if she must give the $130,000 back, she will undoubtedly make much more in appearance fees and likely some sort of book deal.  It should be fun to watch her buzzing around nipping at Trump like a clever mosquito.  Rumors say she has some photos she’d like to share.

The really big topic of gun control can wait, as Congress is slowly muddling through various proposals, never knowing what Trump would actually sign.  Meanwhile, some interesting reactions from business, in that two big sellers of guns, Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods, have established more restrictions on their own gun sales.  Also, numerous large corporations have stopped giving NRA members special discounts.

Of course, the drivers for ongoing work on this issue are the high school students organizing a big March in Washington later this month, and various walkouts at schools throughout the country.  And undoubtedly other events I don’t know about.  Of course Congress will do as little as possible, most thinking of how it will affect voting in the fall elections.  A hefty dose of determined idealism from the young adults gives me some hope the NRA won’t completely tip the balance as usual.

Speaking of changes, the White House just lost its 16th high level administrator when Gary Cohn, White House chief economic adviser, resigned.  Some kind of record exodus I think.   Cohn resigned after Trump refused to take back his suddenly announced tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, a move that has lots of critics besides Cohn, and few defenders.

For one, it could ignite a trade war, especially with Canada and Mexico, the two biggest exporters of those goods to us.  For another, there are a lot more people working in industries here that use those metals as opposed to those that mine them.  Tariffs will prompt price hikes that make their products less competitive.  Any employment gains in steel production seem likely overshadowed by losses in the steel using industries.

No matter to Trump as it is a great distraction from other issues and makes him look good when he goes to Pennsylvania soon to give a campaign speech in a steel producing area.  It is a complex matter, but no reason to say more yet, as Trump could completely rework this as it suits him.

And of course there is the Mueller investigation, which keeps coming up with more indictments and/or agreements for witness testimony.   Trump must be having some nightmares of looking around and seeing the terminator steadily moving towards him.

What else?  Remember the week the was supposed to be infrastructure week?  Well, forget it.  Nothing has happened there and doesn’t seem likely to before the election.   It looked like a bad idea at the time and has lost its impetus for now.

Speaking of delay, DACA comes to mind.  Since it will be tied up in the courts for months, my bet is Congress will do little or nothing for months.  Also being delayed are major steps to combat Russian interference in our election this fall.  Trump pretends otherwise with talk of a comprehensive study of the matter under way, but no specific actions and fall not far away.

Criminal, I say.  Criminal.

Feb 28, 2018: A Particularly Bizarre Day in Trumptopia

I was not going to post for a few days to let a number of issues develop, but there were so many odd political occurrences yesterday I wanted to give it a little attention, so I’m sharing a tweet from Sam Stein, politics editor for the Daily Beast, just to give you a taste of the day (I added a few words in blue for clarity).

Stein captured Trump’s day thus:   Between calling his AG Jeff Sessions “DISGRACEFUL;”  Agreeing to a liberal fantasy of gun reform in a televised bi-partisan meeting in the White House; losing his comms director Hope Hicks; watching his son-in-law Jared Kushner chewed up by devastating news reports; and seeing Special Counsel Mueller hone in on his attempts to fire Sessions;  it’s just your average day in Trumpland.”

I’d say Stein is employing understatement. Even for Trump this was a bit much.  All of these occurrences will give rise to more and more stories which  undoubtedly will compete for attention with new or renewed “breaking news” to the point of our bewilderment and/or just tuning out altogether with our excuse being you can’t believe anybody.  For me the worst thing Trump has done is to turn the already murky world of political reality into a blinding sleet storm.

Amidst the mental muck I will try to focus on what happens with the gun reform issue.  Most likely not much.  Recall how Trump had a similar meeting about DACA on a Tuesday in January wherein he appeared open and even eager to make a deal, but by Thursday he reversed his position, obviously influenced by his base and advisers.  The “Tuesday Trump” or the “Thursday Trump”  has become a byword for a Trump-about-face, I think coined by Republican Senator Lindsay Graham.

So we’ve seen the “Tuesday Trump” on gun reform and now we have to wait and see what the “Thursday Trump” has to say.  Most likely he will pull back from every positive thing he said about gun reform that the NRA doesn’t like.  It might boil down to bump  stocks being passed, as the NRA doesn’t seem to mind that.

I’ll get back to you.


P. S. – Trump says or does so many odd things that we tire of pointing them out, but that only makes his craziness our reality.  Trump must fundamentally be a coward, as he is always indicating how brave he is, like the other day when he asserted that unlike that “cowardly” security guard he would have run into that school even if he didn’t have a gun.  Who else would pat himself on the back for something he has only fantasized?

That is the sort of thing that truly the brave, like a Medal of Honor recipient, would never, ever say about himself, the kind of thing only someone with a lot of self-doubt would say.  And then what does he do?   Yesterday he puffs himself up more by teasing some of the Congress people about being afraid of the NRA, when he has been completely cowed by them until his “brave” words yesterday which he has plenty of time to take back.

One might say he lacks the courage of his convictions, but then he has no convictions, only a fantasy of himself.

Don’t Arm Teachers. Ban Assault Weapons.

I’m a liberal leaning fellow who has never owned a gun because I most likely would misuse it in some way.   So, my assertion above doesn’t count much unless you are already a part of the choir.

But Ralph Peters agrees with me and he is a gun lover, retired lieutenant colonel who often appears on Fox, sometimes espousing conspiracy theories I dislike.   Peters made the most compelling case I’ve seen for banning assault weapons in yesterday’s New York Post, and I want you to read it, so I’ll keep this short.

Simply put he argues these are military weapons whose sole  “purpose is to kill human beings.” In response to the notion that  that “Guns don’t kill people, people do”  he says “But people with rapid-fire weapons kill a lot more folks a whole lot faster.”  

As for the idea of arming teachers he writes: “When the shooting starts, even the best-trained, most disciplined soldiers and cops — US Army Rangers or NYPD SWAT members — don’t put every round on target. The notion that a guard or teacher who goes to the range once a quarter would keep kids safe is profoundly divorced from reality. ‘Friendly fire’ would simply add to the danger.”

I’m one who feels sorry for Scot Peterson, the police officer stationed at the school since 2009, apparently well liked, even garnering an award one year.  One doesn’t maintain an edge for battle hanging around most schools.  My guess is that he lost the cop’s instinct for danger and ability to respond to it.  He’d become more a staff member than a cop, so  even with that past training and a gun he froze.  Are we assuming teachers with guns are going to become super heroes?   Not to say someone won’t, but it is a dubious plan.

Again, we don’t need more teachers armed, we need less assault weapons easily attainable to attack their schools with.

That Post piece here

A School Slaughter and the Normal Abnormal in Trumptopia Last Week

(I want to give the political gist of some of last week.  To give more would be way too much for a post.  As is this may be my longest post ever.  It was a big news week.) 

School slaughters have become part of our new normal but one thing different here is how a number of the teenage victims seem new born activists determined to not let the rest of us forget this time.  To begin with, several have tweeted to Trump to forget his hopes and prayers. They want actions.  Maybe just maybe…. 


The other points are the more normal incidents of Trump’s governance by chaos.  The scandal of the week grew out of his WH staff.   His staff secretary, Rob Porter, resigned after allegations he abused his two former wives.  The bigger issue was the poor vetting process that allowed him to handle top security papers, which raised questions about WH chief of staff General Kelly’s handling of that, which Kelly appears to have lied about.  Most interesting to me is Representative Trey Gowdy opened an investigation of the matter.  I only hope he is half as tenacious as he was in grilling Hillary Clinton about Benghazi over several years.


The issue of Russian interference in our elections figured prominently last week in various ways, most misinterpreted by Trump to suit his narrative that any efforts Russia made were negligible and, most importantly, his campaign had not colluded with them.

In stark contrast to Trump’s assertions, the heads of the major intelligence branches testified to Congress Monday and all of them believe Russia interfered with the last election and will continue to do so as long as we let them.  Also, upon questioning, it became clear that the WH had not given them specific instructions on how to deal with it.  I might add  Trump has refused to enact stricter sanctions on Russia voted by Congress almost unanimously last summer.

Then later in the week Special Prosecutor Mueller’s team announced indictments of 13 Russians for their interference in 2016, removing all doubt.  As he always has done, Trump ignored the interference, stressing that “no collusion was proven.”  Well, not yet, but the investigation seems far from over.  And, collusion or no, what about the interference, Donald?  What about that?   It’s OK with you as long as it helps you?

I’m continuously stunned by how Trump ignores Russian interference while never criticizing Putin, and most Republicans say nothing.  If the situation was reversed they would never stop yelling traitor.  I can imagine only two reasons for Trump’s behavior, one being his supreme narcissism that makes any admission of interference diminish his win.  And/or Putin has information that could sink him.


As he said he would, Senate Republican leader McConnell took up the immigration issue Monday. Four bills were brought up but none received more than 54 votes while it takes 60 to pass under Senate guidelines.  The one reflective of Trump’s proposal got the fewest votes, 39.

The Dreamers remain in limbo while Trump blames the Democrats, of course, even though he showed no willingness to make a deal, I. E. show some give and take in the process.  Trump doesn’t make deals.  He gives fiats and when the other side isn’t willing to accept his position in total, he blames them for not wanting a deal.

By the way, remember how Trump said he would rewrite our trade deals and make much better ones.  Can anyone come up with a single new trade deal he has actually made this past year?  He has broken deals and threatened to break others, but give me an example of one new deal he has made.  If he had he would have tweeted up a storm.


The Infrastructure Week that Wasn’t:   The Porter scandal dominated the headlines in the first half of the week and then the Florida massacre took over from then on.  No matter,  Trump’s infrastructure plan is just more of his B. S.  He talks about $1.5 trillion investment, but the federal government will only pay 200 billion of that, the rest is to come from states and public/private investments.

State budgets have been creaking for years so forget that and the other part is guesswork at this point.  Also, Trump’s new budget plan shows infrastructure cuts, not hikes, so some of the that 200 billion will be needed to get back to previous spending levels.

By the way, the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates it will take $3.6 trillion invested by 2020 just to raise the country’s support systems to acceptable levels, so under the most optimistic vision Trump’s Great America will still be undergirded by crumbling roads, bridges and airports.


Trump Sexcapades – Trump has given so many signs of being a sexual sleaze bag, that recent stories about big hush money payments to two mistresses prior to the election are hardly a surprise and not worth going into unless they turn into something prosecutable.


The Weekend Tweet Storm: Trump reportedly spent the weekend largely watching TV news and commentary while growing more and more furious about the ongoing Russia investigation, spewing out a dozen or so emails blaming or criticizing others, mischaracterizing situations and continuously emphasizing “no collusion” while now arguing he has always meant the “hoax’ was the collusion part, not Russia’s meddling itself.  No, he continually conflated the two until Mueller’s Russian indictments this week.  He is an expert at saying things imprecisely, so later he can always say he didn’t mean what had seemed obvious.

His last tweet  target was Oprah who was on 60 Minutes last night with a panel of voters talking about Trump and the election.  His tweet began calling Oprah “insecure” and went on to state:  “The questions were biased and slanted, the facts incorrect.”

Leaving aside that last accusation from the King of Falsehoods, let’s take a vote as to who is more insecure:  Oprah, who rose from poverty to become hugely successful and gets along with most people while loved by many, or Donald, who began rich and though he’s had his own share of success is always puffing himself up while battling with others, usually tearing them down?

And Oprah is the insecure one?

The Vegas Massacre and the New Normal

In the background Donald Trump is giving the standard stock speech about praying for the victims and their families and insisting “we are here for you”.   What is being here for you mean?  I realize that public figures have to say something, but do you think anyone feels consoled by these rote statements?  Just part of the necessary ritual I guess.

Nevada, an open carry state, has few gun laws, so no problem carrying around 50 caliber rifles that make grim jokes of the idea of “bullet proof” vests.   It accentuates the valor of the police and other first responders, but that won’t likely stop congress from passing a law now being considered to allow for more gun silencers, according to Bill Bratton,  former New York police commissioner.

Hunters want them to protect their hearing, it is argued.  That silencers could help insanely angry shooters avoid immediate detection doesn’t count for much I guess.

In subtle ways I think we are all becoming more like Israelis.   We have to live our lives with dim thoughts of sudden horrific attack tripping across our minds.   Talked to an Israeli on a plane awhile back and she said you get use to it.  She said it’s not all negative.  It helps you feel more alive.

I favor other ways to make me feel more alive.   Terror tends to make me want to stick to small venues, such as my condo.  Controlling guns seems off the table, even though it will be talked about a lot as usual.  Instead we seem more inclined to reshape the world for our self protection.  I heard a weapons expert suggest metal detectors be placed in all Casinos.  Also, I heard talk of making alterations in buildings to make clear lines of sight harder for shooters to find.  If we can’t control guns I guess we have to do something.

I can imagine small ways we can keep ourselves safer.   Bomb sniffing Apple watches might become the new craze.

Imagine a mother daughter conversation prior to a concert:  “Don’t forget your Kevlar vest, honey.” “Mom, those vests aren’t really great, and it doesn’t match my outfit.  I’ll just have to take my chances.”  “O. K. just remember to duck and cover.”

Of course the easiest way to protect ourselves is to seldom go out.  About 30 years ago the trend towards “cocooning” was defined as “the practice of spending leisure time at home in preference to going out”.   That trend seems only likely to get stronger, though now I would call it “bunkering,” a preference to stay at home for self-protection.

I learned of the massacre when turning on the TV at 7:00 a.m., watched if for about 20 minutes and figured I learned about as much as any one knew.  I turned on my recorded three hours of Morning Joe and sped through it in 10 minutes as it only had scenes from Vegas, which meant endless speculation was in full swing.

The shooter was apparently the most normal of guys, the “contrarian profile of a mass shooter” according to a former FBI profiler.   I’ve seen a photo of him.  He had a nice smile, but he must have felt he had nothing to smile about any more.   My guess is he was mild mannered, not one to explode often while the heat of anger was accumulating like a pan on a stove we forget to turn off.

To me the biggest clue is he was 64.   That has given him decades to accumulate resentments and disappointments and people to blame for both.  Or maybe he just hates Donald Trump and identifies country music buffs as his supporters.  Eventually a theory will take hold, but I don’t know if it much matters.  There is only so much you can do to prevent the crazy angry from acting out their fantasies as long as there are guns a plenty.

If the shooter left a note, I’d like it to read:   “My sincere thanks to the NRA for protecting my right to bear arms.”

Here’s to a Republican Senate Victory Tomorrow.

I have so many thoughts and questions on world events jammed together in my little mind that  I feel mentally constipated.   I need to relieve myself of some of them or my head will burst, but where to begin the flow?

I’m not up to tackling the ISIS crisis, Ebola or even the Ukraine (remember when that was the big attention grabber ?   Still, a near civil war brewing there in the western part with Putin playing his games, but it is a tired story, not quite hot enough at the moment to attract our public attention.)

Let’s look at the Senate race which  is mildly interesting to me because I watch enough cable news to be ensnared into viewing the event like a horse race or football game and the “two teams” seem close enough to expect a good match tomorrow, even though the pundits are leaning towards a Republican victory.

Unlike those pundits, I don’t take it very seriously as it seems to me which ever party holds the Senate reins (which is like riding a bucking bronco), the familiar gridlock will continue.   At the moment, I like the idea of a Republican victory simply because it should make for a more interesting next  two years, as they would be in a position to actually develop shared legislation in both Houses.   That would tie them down to their ideas instead of allowing them the luxury of a constant chorus of we’d do it better than Obama.

O. K. show us what you got.

I don’t think they’ve got much, frankly, and it is so much easier to agree in criticisms of Obama and the Democrats than actually agreeing among themselves on something specific to do.   Really, do you think Ted Cruz could agree on much with anyone other than possibly his clone?  That the Republican party can’t even govern itself might be revealed prior to the 2016 election and give the Democrats real governing power then, both Houses and the presidency, assuming typhoon Hilary doesn’t run out of wind  by then through over exposure.

Of course, from a liberal perspective there are negatives if the Republicans win the Senate (they already control the House).  For one, President Obama would likely have even less chance to accomplish much of anything the next two years, but how would that be so different than the last two?

Also, if a supreme court judge or two needs replacing over these next two years, for Obama to find  someone who could get nominated and not add to the conservative majority of the court might be so hard, we’d have an eight (or less?) member court for awhile.   And of course, with the Republicans controlling the committee chairs, Senate investigations of the Obama regime would multiply like dandy lions in an Illinois summer, vying for TV time with fellow House Republican Darrell Issa’s ongoing contemporary version of judgement at Nuremburg when it comes to all things Obama.

Maybe this all wouldn’t be so good for the country, but it figures to me more interesting to follow than two more years of largely the same boring political theater.   I say:  Let’s have some new boring political theater.

My attitude reminds me of something the romantic English poet John Keats wrote centuries ago.  “What shocks the virtuous philosopher, delights the chameleon poet.”

I’m feeling poetic today.  And a little less constipated now.