The problem may be with the Cops.

Today I guess we’ll see the release of a tape that will show the brutal beating of motorist Tyre Nichols in Memphis after a traffic stop. But just like there was a twist in the two California mass shootings — both committed by elderly Asian men — there is a twist in this one as well: the five officers involved are all black.

Would they have beat the ever living shit out of this kid if he were white?

Hard to know.

There is, after all, black on black racism.

But the problem may just be with cops.

Apparently they beat this kid for three minutes. The video is going to be more brutal than the Rodney King video. And in this case, the poor kid died. (Not immediately, but after three days of hospitalization, apparently from internal bleeding.)

They kicked him, they pepper sprayed him, they tased him, and there were five of them.

This was over a traffic stop (albeit reckless driving). The kid ran away (OMG!)

There seems to be a character flaw with certain (but certainly not all) police officers. They resort to violence far too quickly. 

When cops complain that having to regard the civil rights of the public hamstrings them in their duties, that is (for the most part) ridiculous. You can treat people with dignity and still enforce the laws.

I realize that some members of the public could try any of our patience to its limits, and that hidden dangers lurk everywhere. But that’s also why cops make good money. In Massachusetts many of them make six figures. These officers are not making department store salaries.

And it doesn’t take that much self discipline not to beat the ever living shit out of one slender guy when there’s five of you, even after a foot chase. Just put some cuffs on him and be done with it.

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All of our gun reform efforts will be a Nothingburger, until we face our addiction

Over the last few days there were two massacres in California. (“At least 18 dead in 3 days after mass shootings in California devastate 2 communities.”) One of them was in two different locations, and that one seemed to be motivated by grievances with a former employer. The other one may initially have been motivated by a grievance against an ex-spouse.

Two things were unusual about these massacres: both of them were perpetrated by older men (72 and 67) and both of them were perpetrated by men of Asian descent.

And really, it doesn’t matter what the grievances were. What matters is that our country is awash in guns, and there is nothing that anybody can do about it.

Back in June, when lawmakers passed, and the President signed, the “bi-partisan” gun reform, I said it was a complete nothingburger.

And I stand by that assessment.

Nothing is going to change in America until we kick our addiction to firearms — an addiction as strong as cocaine is for some — and stop equating guns with “freedom.”

Guns don’t represent freedom.

Guns represent violence.

In the United States we have more guns per capita (393 million guns in a nation of 326 million people) than any nation on earth. We are the only nation that has more guns than people. Second in line are Saudi Arabia and Yemen, and the latter nation is currently in a civil war.

Compare that to Japan, where 0.3% of people own handguns.

Or compare that to the Netherlands, where about 2.6% of the people own guns.

In the Netherlands, there were 76 gun deaths in the entire country in 2018. By contrast, the city of Memphis TN accounted for 306 homicide deaths in 2021 by itself.

All of our efforts at gun “reform” are a nothingburger until we stop sanctifying (and misreading) the 2nd Amendment and until we start taking assault rifles off of the street.

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Now they’ve found Classified Documents at Mike Pence’s House

So now they’ve found classified documents at Mike Pence’s house.

Oh boy.

Can’t wait until they find classified documents at Barack Obama’s house.

This whole shitstorm seems to be pointing to something that some commentators have been suggesting for quite a while, which is that the United States government classifies way too many documents.

I don’t know who makes those decisions. I don’t know what the criteria are.

But the whole thing seems to be out of control.

So one thing seems clear is that if Joe Biden didn’t know that he had classified documents at his house, neither did the Russians or the Chinese. There wasn’t any security risk, because nobody knew the documents were there. So nobody was looking for them.

Same for Mike Pence. I’m sure whatever documents he had were accidental.

Not so for Donald Trump. He didn’t take documents accidentally. He took them deliberately and wilfully. He hung onto them even after he had been ordered to return them. He hung onto them even after he had sworn that he had returned them. He pretended to have declassified documents when he did no such thing.

All the evidence — although this would be difficult to prove — is that Trump was hoping to use the documents to bargain in some way. Especially with foreign countries.

Still, the drip-drip-drip of documents being found at Biden’s various residences and offices has certainly been enormously frustrating and annoying.

Wondering how many different documents and how much of a drip-drip we’ll get from Pence’s residences and offices.

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David Crosby died Yesterday

David Crosby died yesterday, and it left me with somewhat complicated feelings. Crosby was, of course, one of the founders of the Byrds, and then subsequently one of the founders of Crosby, Stills & Nash (later Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young).

CSN&Y famously played its second gig ever at Woodstock.

Crosby himself was a complicated guy. Prone to addiction and erratic behavior, he spent 9 months in a Texas state prison in 1985 on weapons and drug charges, and then was arrested again in New York City in 2004 on more weapons and drug charges. (That time, he only got probation and a $5000 fine.) 

Crosby was also the recipient of a highly publicized liver transplant in 1994, which generated a discussion about whether a celebrity who abused his body as much as Crosby had should be eligible for a transplant ahead of other, less famous people in the line.

Finally, Crosby had complicated relationships with his bandmates. He fought with just about all of them, and at the time he passed away he was still on the outs with all three of the other members of CSN&Y.

But here’s the thing: Crosby was part of the hippie generation.

And the hippies were right. 

About just about everything.

Our society is corrupt, and seems to be getting more corrupt all the time. As technology seduces us, and we become more alienated, and the rich get richer and the powerful get more powerful, I long for the idealism of the hippies. That may not have been a practical life-style, but there are so many things so wrong with our current world, that a part of me wishes we could blow the whole thing up and start over again.

With better intentions.

For whatever his faults, David Crosby was always on the right side politically. He was anti-war and anti-nuke back from the 1960s, and had stayed progressive ever since.

His generation is dying out now, and I’m sorry to see them go. And, let’s not forget that Crosby was an extremely talented songwriter. Very talented. And a very good singer, who was able to blend his voice expertly with his other bandmates.

I don’t personally believe in the after-life, and Crosby is now wherever he was before he was born. But I hope that he had a sense of completion by the time that he did pass away.

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It’s a False Equivalence.

The news that there were classified documents found from Joe Biden’s days as Vice President in locations where they weren’t supposed to be sets up a false equivalence between Biden and Trump.

The two cases are not at all the same.

  • Donald Trump took boxes and boxes of classified documents to his Mar-a-Lago  home because he thought that he “possessed” them.
  • The National Archives and Records Administration sought to retrieve the documents when they became aware of them, and Trump’s attorneys certified — falsely — that all the documents had been returned.
  • A criminal investigation was opened after it became apparent that Trump and his attorney had not returned all the boxes.
  • A search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property in August of 2022 turned up more boxes of classified documents. FBI agents seized over 13,000 government documents,among which they found 103 classified government documents, as well as many empty folders with classified markings.

On the other hand:

  • A dozen or so classified documents from Biden’s vice presidential days were discovered in November at a think tank in Washington, and a second set of classified papers from that time was found at a storage space at Biden’s Delaware home.
  • The discovery of the Biden documents was voluntarily disclosed, and all the documents were turned over voluntarily.
  • It is unknown whether Biden took the documents personally, or whether they were taken by someone on Biden’s staff.

And yet, Merrick Garland has now appointed a special counsel to investigate both situations. He kind of had to. He couldn’t afford the appearance of a double standard, even though there is currently no evidence that anything criminal was done in the Biden situation, whereas Trump’s behavior was clearly criminal.

Some people on the left think that the documents were planted, given the suspicious timing of the situation, but I’m not prepared to go that far. We barely know anything about how the Biden documents got there, and we’re going to have to wait to find out.

But many Americans are going to think that it’s all the same: Trump mishandled documents and Biden mishandled documents, so what’s the difference?

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The House established a subcommittee on the “weaponizing” of the federal government.

There’s been a story in the news this week about how Republican lawmakers on Tuesday gave their approval to a new House subcommittee designed to probe the “weaponization” of the federal government.

Come again?

Does anybody in the Repuglican party remember Donald Trump?

Nobody did more to weaponize the federal government than Donald Trump, who repeatedly abused his power for revenge and personal gain.

The new subcommittee, part of the House Judiciary Committee, is expected to be chaired by the full panel’s chairman, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).

The panel’s creation is a victory for the House’s Freedom Caucus, which pushed for a body that would tackle a number of GOP gripes about ongoing investigations.

Of course, investigations of the Trump administration have resulted in actual indictments and convictions, unlike, for example, investigations into Benghazi or Hillary’s emails.

The subcommittee is set to include 13 Republicans and five Democrats. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, said the committee was largely created to “settle political scores on behalf of Donald Trump.”

Democrats also raised concerns that in some cases appointees to the subcommittee could be intervening in investigations that involve them. Several have pointed to Scott Perry (R-Pa.) who’s phone was seized by the Justice Department last year, was also subpoenaed by the House select committee investigating Jan. 6, 2021.

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Kevin McCarthy is now being punished for his spinelessness

Today is, of course, the two-year anniversary of the January 6th insurrection. That it coincides with the 4th day of the chaotic fight over the Speakership is, perhaps, no small irony.

On the day after the January 6th insurrection, Kevin McCarthy gave a speech in which he had a brief moment of clarity. But that clarity did not last. Within days he was backtracking, and it didn’t take long before he was cozying up to Donald Trump again.

Now, Kevin McCarthy is, in essence, being punished for his spinelessness.

The 20 dissenters who are keeping him from the speakership are all election-deniers. They are all disruptors for whom Trump is their spiritual father. And now, by all accounts, in addition to the many concessions that they have already wrought from McCarthy, they want to hand-pick four members for the all-powerful Rules Committee.

Not surprisingly, the 202 Republican members of the House who are not disruptors are starting to resent the concessions being made to the dissenters. Everybody is being held hostage by this group.

We’ll find out soon how much longer this can go on.

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It’s even worse than we thought it would be

The chaos previously predicted with respect to the election of a new House Speaker has turned out to be crazier and more divisive than had even been predicted.

Oh boy!

As is by now well known, McCarthy could not afford to  lose more than 4 members from the five-person Republican majority. By now he has lost 21.

As some commentators described it, the protracted fight “lays bare both the power of the hard right and the depth of its disdain” for the “transactional” political style of McCarthy. But the battle is also revealing the limitations of Trump’s ability “to reel in his allies and the burn-it-all-down political style he nurtured as his party’s standard bearer.”

One former member of Congress, former representative Carlos Curbelo of Florida, put it this way:

Donald Trump was a model for never apologizing, never backing down, disrespecting institutions and traditions, the politics of contempt. Frankenstein created a bunch of mini-Frankensteins and they are all grown up and independent now.

There are two things that I keep reading about but haven’t really got a good explanation for: first, that the dislike of McCarthy is “personal,” and second, that it’s not really clear what the dissenters want.

With respect to the first item, I have not heard or understood what McCarthy has done to the dissenters that made it “personal.” Aside from wanting the job more than either Hillary or Mitt Romney wanted the Presidency, McCarthy has been as pliable as a Gumby doll, and has already agreed to most of the dissenters previous demands.

Secondly, the answer to the question of what the dissenters now want is as clear as the water in an algae pond. (It should be noted that they may want different things, so there may not be “one answer” to this question.) NPR addressed this question this morning, looking at the 21 dissenters and what they may seem to want. It seems that these hard right Republicans are not interested in “governing” in any traditional sense, but mostly want to cause chaos and break things.

Kind of like Elon Musk.

We’ve been heading in this direction for decades, of course, with no one reining in hard right disruptors, but basically just giving them more oxygen on social media. Finally, after years and years and years of this shit, it seems that some of the moderate Republicans — especially those few who didn’t sell their souls during the Trump years — have had enough.

But they don’t seem to have the power to alter the score sheet.

I still think that it’s possible (although maybe unlikely) that McCarthy strikes a deal with the Democrats to produce a slightly less radical and more bipartisan Congress. Otherwise, I don’t quite see how this saga ends.

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It’s going to be a Republican clown show, starting today.

As is pretty well known by now, Kevin McCarthy is desperate to become Speaker of the House. To do that he needs to win the votes of at least 218 of the 435 members, and given that he only has 222 Republican members, he can only lose four of them. 

More than that number have already declared that they would never vote for McCarthy.

In response, McCarthy keeps trying to pivot further and further to the right, in the hopes of gaining traction with the “no” votes, but I think he’s got it all wrong.

If I were McCarthy I would pivot to the center. Make a deal with a dozen or so blue dog Democrats to get him to 218.

In return, McCarthy would have to promise to be . . . [checks notes] . . . somewhat bipartisan.


Imagine that. Having to be bipartisan.

Imagine how refreshing that would be for the American political landscape. 

But there is nothing to indicate that is going to happen. The new House is sworn in today, and McCarthy is still short of the votes he needs to be speaker. Voting starts today.

As a number of commentators have noted, nothing can happen until a Speaker is elected. No committees can be formed. No agenda can take place. The Speaker is the only legislative leader mentioned in the Constitution. (“The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.”)

As other commentators have noted, the Republican legislators in the House seem determined to prove right away that they won’t be able to govern. It’s going to be Hunter’s laptop, and impeaching DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and investigating the January 6th Committee, and failing to raise the debt limit, and a complete clown show.

Of course any legislation that the House does manage to pass can be blocked by the Democratic Senate and the President’s veto pen.

Good luck, America. We’re going to need it!

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Tiptoeing into 2023

As we get ready for 2023, I don’t think anybody out there is saying, yeah, let’s do it, let’s get going!

I think just about everybody is tiptoeing into 2023, after the last couple of years, just worrying about how this one is going to work out.

For one thing, we still have the war in Ukraine. It doesn’t look like there’s any chance — short of Vladimir Putin having a heart attack — that this thing is going to end anytime soon.

Putin is not going to give up. And clearly the Ukrainians are not going to give up either. In the meantime Putin keeps sailing missiles into their civilian infrastructure, especially their power grid, in one of many war crimes on top of the many war crimes that his military has already committed.[1]

For another thing, we still have the specter of Donald Trump haunting us. Oh sure, the vise of justice is slowly starting to grip around him, but as Bibi Netanyahu has recently proved, you can be under indictment and still be restored to power.

For another thing, we still have the current Supreme Court, with their determination to walk back rights that were granted to us as citizens a long time ago, in order to restore the conservative vision of a just society.

And for another thing, anti-Semitism racial prejudice is back on the rise again, and bigots are no longer ashamed of espousing their ass-backwards views. There is no end in sight to the polarization of our society, split as we are, into almost equal halves. There seems to be no obvious way to reunify those halves.

[1]Now, back at the Nuremberg trials, they were able to hold perpetrators accountable for their war crimes because the German regime was annihilated and the country engaged in an unconditional surrender. That is clearly not going to happen with Putin’s Russia.

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