Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Hoax That Wasn't

News yesterday of indictments handed down by Special Counsel Robert Mueller against 13 Russians involved in various crimes against our republic serve as a not-so-gentle-reminder of the serial dishonesty, moral turpitude, and lack of fitness of the current occupant of the White House. 

Having declared dozens of times since his election that charges of Russian meddling were a "hoax" and along the way, trashing the reputations of several patriotic Americans, his own appointees, and the entire intelligence community of the United States, the President is revealed once again to simply have no ability to process and distribute information reasonable people can consider to be true. He long ago surrendered the high ground on this issue, one that would have allowed him to state that while Hillary Clinton's flawed campaign was the reason she lost the election, Russia's interference was both obvious and unacceptable, and that he was determined to see that it never happens again. Lending further evidence to his utter inability to see the threat from Russia,  a remarkable series of statements before a Senate panel last week, the six heads of America's various intelligence agencies ALL testified that they had not received any explicit direction from the President to guard against Russian meddling in the 2018 election.

I don't know where the Mueller investigation will ultimately lead. Were these indictments part of a grander roll-up that will ultimately lead to evidence of conspiracy? Or were they the end of the line, evidence only of Russian-sponsored mayhem without any connection to the candidate? Neither conclusion can be reached from the information in the 37 page indictment . I urge you to read the indictment, and then look back in time to your social media activities during the election and consider how similar some of the statements and activities were to things people you know were passing along.

I continue to believe that if the President is nicked for anything out of this investigation, it will be for financial reasons (tax evasion being the most likely). Even if it were to be proved that say--for instance--his digital operation provided "targets" to the Russians for their information operation--the likelihood that it could or will be proven to have occurred with his knowledge or permission is low. The country could ultimately be confronted with the truth that his campaign engaged in conspiracy without the same level of certainty that he was part of it. Removal of the President is of course, a political act, and it is doubtful that he would be removed in that situation. The other way of removing a President is to defeat him, and if the foregoing evidence were presented to the electorate, perhaps a better decision will be made in 2020.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Thoughts on Yet Another School Shooting

The occasion of (yet another) mass murder/school shooting has the usual suspects mounting the ramparts in defense of whatever silliness it is they adhere to in moments like this. Gun rights types point at the legal nature of the weapon used, the legal purchase of the weapon, and the Constitutional rights of the purchaser to do so---seemingly without acknowledgement that the very right and the very ease in which it is exercised are among the contributing elements to this disease in our society. The anti-gun folks will prattle on and on about "sensible gun control" as if that has a consensus meaning, they will ignore the existence of an actual, considered, and codified Constitutional right , and they will (mostly) avoid saying what it is that they really want to say--or really need to say--and that is that the Second Amendment should be altered or repealed. They realize that half the country very much disagrees with them and their politicians--save for those who represent compact, urban clusters--must appeal to constituencies as divided on gun issues as the country is.

Add to this witches brew of Constitutionally shielded discussion other elements wherein the Bill of Rights plays--such as the rise of a movement in the US based on the individual rights of those suspected to be cognitively deficient to treat mental illness within the general population rather than institutionalizing them, and the concomitant virtual elimination of such institutions.

We have a problem, folks. A big one. But there is no easy solution--though one may appeal to you. We are divided on the issue of guns in an important way, and one of those sides makes (legitimate) recourse to the Bill of Rights. This is no small thing. We must as a people be very careful about how we approach tinkering with these rights considered so fundamental by our Founders as to warrant inclusion. But we must also remember that the genius of the Founders is that they gave us means (two of them, in fact) to challenge their wisdom through the amendment process.

And while some may consider this next to last paragraph rank "whataboutism", I write it not to justify a point of view but to ensure sufficient context. Every single day--in the minds of a significant number of voters--107* Marjory Stoneham Douglas High School mass murders happen--aided by taxpayer money--in the nation's abortion clinics. Those who would see this end are as morally justified in holding their view as those who look upon yesterday's violence with revulsion. Those who justify the destruction of life wield the Constitution in their own defense too, even though doing so relies not upon the actual text of the document, but upon its "shadows" and "penumbras".

There are no easy answers here. But that is no excuse for doing nothing. I'd like to see the President call for panel of prominent citizens to discuss the issue of mass murder holistically. Nothing can be off the table--arming teachers would be as viable as confiscating guns under an altered Constitutional arrangement. This panel should hold public hearings around the country--in urban, suburban, and rural towns. And at the end of its deliberations, it should make a series of recommendations designed to spur legislation at the federal and state level as appropriate, that tackle small bites of this large and diseased elephant.

*CDC stats report (for 2013, last year available) 664,000 abortions in the US every year, which devolves to 1800+ a day, and with 17 killed yesterday, approximately equivalent to 107

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Sunday Potpourri 2/11

I'm sorry folks. I'm in a really, really foul mood. My Wahoos lost a basketball game last night. It wasn't just a "basketball game" though--it was more than that.

If UVA had won, the team would have likely risen from #2 to #1. But that isn't important.

If UVA had won, they would have delighted a rabid HOME crowd. But that isn't important.

If UVA had won, they would have capped off a wonderful day hosting the ESPN College Game Day crew, showcasing the world's most wonderful center of learning. But that isn't important.

What IS important, is that UVA lost to Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, our dread rivals, our instate nemesis, a team we beat on THEIR home floor a month ago by 26 points.

It was embarrassing. We shot the ball terribly from outside, which (to me) means you need to work the ball inside. But we don't have much of an inside game, or at least we don't with our starting lineup. And when we had the right people to challenge Tech's defense, we didn't challenge. It was like we said, "look, there are three guys there clogging the lane so we can't go there". Yes you can. You just have to be smart about it, and we weren't. It doesn't happen often, but UVA was outcoached.  Plain and simple.

To top off my intemperate reaction to the game, was this comment from one of our players:

No Ty--it wasn't about #1, it was about Tech. Beating Tech. It wasn't UCLA we were playing. It wasn't St. Bonaventure. It wasn't even some other ACC foe. It was Tech. The quicker you understand that, the quicker you'll find the reserve to beat them in close games, something we failed to do once last year and then again this year. Losing to tech is simply not the same as losing to anyone else.

Enough kvetching about this. On to other matters.

I have to head into DC tomorrow to be interviewed for a Smithsonian Channel film project called "Carriers at War:  USS FORD". They've set aside three hours for it, which means they'll probably harvest about 3 minutes to go into the piece. But I'm excited to once again have the opportunity to talk about the single most flexible and powerful thing we buy in our military, and its continuing importance to the national security of the United States.

The Kitten has decided to capitalize on her investment of 10 years of understanding and patience to dragoon me into getting qualified as a "belayer", or the dude who stands on the ground at a rock climbing gym working the safety mechanism that enables the climber to move safely up and down. We had a class yesterday morning at the local YMCA (big plug: Easton MD YMCA is the bomb), but I need to go back today and practice a bit--before taking the "test" sometime this week. She is already qualified for this position, so she belayed me on a trip up the bunny slope yesterday, one in which my nearly immobile hips barked at me in anger but which was definitely fun.

I'm having a good deal of fun watching the White House work its way through the Junior Varsity that was available to them for staffing after those with scruples absented themselves from service (or were absented through their statements and actions--like me). The plain truth of the matter is that a tremendous number of solid citizens decided not to take on the virtually certain reputational diminishment that comes from serving Trump--and also, that those who were attracted to service with the President did so in many cases because their characters were as flawed as his and felt kinship with him. Birds of a feather flock together. Not everyone who went in is morally and ethically compromised; saying so would be unfair. But plenty are, and many who weren't will become that way in further service to this charlatan.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Sunday Potpourri

It has been a while since I last did a Sunday Potpourri, and I apologize to readers who expect better of me.

Let's talk about the Super Bowl (am I allowed to type that, or do I need to pay a royalty?). My interest in the Big Game generally, and in pro-football generally, has waned in the past few years. I suppose it is a bit Druidical for me to not be too concerned about the concussion issues (grown men are hurling themselves at or near the heads of other grown men for great sums of money--what did we think would happen); my growing disinterest in the pro game is entirely due to the on-field celebrations (yes, I'm a curmudgeon. Haven't we been over that?), the ridiculous rules (what exactly is a catch?) and overall poor quarterback play even though the game has sought to put an electric fence around them.

But I am a tad bit interested in this year's game, and it is due to an awakening of -- dare I say it -- pride in where I grew up. You see, I don't have a favorite pro team. But I do always hope the Eagles do well because so many people I know from South Jersey are so invested in their success. My Facebook timeline is awash in Eagles boostering, and I suppose I'm getting a little swept up in it. And so I will watch the game and pull for the Eagles.

But back to really important matters--college basketball. My Wahoos (#2 in the country--root for Seton Hall today at Villanova--please!) went up to Syracuse yesterday and beat them soundly before the largest college basketball crowd of the year. From the sounds I heard when UVA's defense drove Syracuse in to a shot-clock violation, it sounded to me like the Hoo's traveled pretty well. I've begun to arrange my schedule in a manner that provides the time and space for me to attend post-regular season games. I've got a room at a hotel in Brooklyn for the ACC tournament, and I've blocked out (for planning purposes, of course) time later in March for possible attendance at NCAA tournament games. This has been a very fun season--don't know how far they can go, but I know that no one wants to play them.

The big MEMO was released this week, and while it was obviously a partisan, political hack job designed to cast the FBI and Justice Department in the worst possible light to discredit ongoing investigations into the President's shady past, it also raised for me some concern about the degree to which arguments against it were wrapped in "national security" language. Don't get me wrong--the political impact of the memo--targeting as it does the credibility of law-enforcement and intelligence agencies--is threatening to national security. But the information contained in it -- originally classified as "TOP SECRET" reflects the troubling tendency in the US to dramatically over-classify things. Even so, the MEMO stupendously undercut the goal that it was intended to carry out, in that it clearly established the chronology of events which indicated that Trump campaign officials were under investigation (in some cases for years) long before the FISA warrant was pursued. And so, the GOP happily continues with its slash and burn attacks on the institutions that guide civil society in order to prop up a man who is presiding over the diminishing of the party's reach.  Nice trade.

It was interesting to watch the coverage of the Grammy Awards recently--wherein the music industry came together for a night to virtue signal as one in its condemnation of sexual assault, sexual harassment, discrimination against women, dating, flirting, saying hello, and casting a quick glance (which are increasingly confusing acts, apparently) --all the while celebrating "rap" and "hip-hop" for several hours -- musical traditions that aren't exactly the purview of "woke" feminism. Hypocrisy marches on.

Enough for now. 

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