“See something, say something?” Total crap.

The meme that I was hearing over and over after the Florida shooting, and I was yelling at the TV, the meme that they kept promoting that was making me so crazy was, “oh, if you see something, say something – we should have been able to see this coming.” As if to say that only in the United States do we have people who have mental illness problems. This is just total crap.

New York City came up with this “see something, say something” slogan. In fact, they trademarked it. When Washington DC wanted to use that, they had to pay New York City. so they they came up with this thing. John Mueller writes about this for the Cato Institute of all things, back in 2012. But we’ve known about this for a long time. It began in 2006 in New York City, the “see something, say something” campaign in the New York subways and all over the city – call the police if you see something, particularly if it has to do with terrorism. In 2006 it had generated 9000 calls and by a year later it was 13,000 calls, in 2008 it was up to 27,000 calls. And by the way, every single one of those calls provokes a police investigation, so we’re talking probably tens to hundreds of millions of dollars spent.

So a reporter for the New York Times and then later a reporter for Cato asked, out of these thirty thousand calls about suspicious activity, how many produced an actual arrest or conviction for terrorism or any other crime?

Zero.

I remember last year there was a story when I was living in Washington DC about how the DC Metro was averaging something like 18,000 calls a year. How many terrorists had they caught?

Zero.

And so now we’re going to take this, which does nothing. The thing from previous years was “it’s too soon to talk about this, the emotions are too hot.” What crap. And everybody figured out it was crap. And everybody figured out this is just a way of avoiding a serious discussion while you continue to take your blood money from the National Rifle Association, Cory Gardner and Richard Burr. Richard Burr is at the top of the list. The NRA invested 7 million dollars in Richard Burr. You think he’s going to talk about gun control? You think he’s going to talk about an assault weapon ban, which by the way Ronald Reagan supported? Do you think he’s going to talk about bringing back the Brady Bill which Ronald Reagan supported?

These guys are not Republicans. These guys are shills for corporations. They go to whomever pays them the most. It’s just that simple. If you’re a deadly industry in the United States, if you produce pesticides that cause cancer, if you produce chemicals that kill people, if you work with petroleum products that foul the air and the water and kill our planet, the Republican Party will take your money. They’ll even pretend science doesn’t exist for you. That’s how sold are out they are.

And so the old meme was, “oh, our thoughts and prayers are with you and it’s too soon to talk about it.” Now after Newtown, we’re just not taking that anymore. So now they’ve come up with a new one and it’s all over the media. You see all these shills on TV over and over and over again and you need to be letting your networks know when you see these people how offended you are by this BS.

You see these people going, “oh well, if we had just had somebody report him.”

This idiot in Florida who shot these 17 kids, who murdered these 17 kids, he had already been reported to the FBI. There’s nothing you can do under the current law. At the very best you could adjudicate them mentally ill, but Donald Trump and the Republicans in Congress passed a law – one of their very first pieces of legislation – that said even if somebody’s adjudicated mentally ill, and there are 75,000 people in America who fit that category, so severely mentally ill that they qualify for Social Security disability which is a multi-year process with multiple doctors certifying that you’re so badly impaired that you can’t work, that those people can now buy guns.

So calling up and saying, “I think this guy is a potential shooter,” it does nothing. But this is the new meme – do anything to avoid talking about gun control, anything to avoid talking about why the hell do we have weapons of war on the streets of America.

Congressman Tyler Tannahill from Kansas, this idiot congressman who the day before the shooting announced that he’s raffling off an AR-15 – yep if you want to support his campaign make a donation and your entered into the raffle for an AR-15, the weapon that killed those kids. These people are nuts.

No they’re not, they’re not nuts, they are sociopaths. They don’t give a damn about the United States of America. They don’t give a damn about our children. All people like Richard Burr and Thom Tillis and Roy Blunt and Marco Rubio and Cory Gardner and Joni Ernst and Rob Portman and Todd Young and Bill Cassidy, all they give a damn about is the millions that the NRA gives them.

–Thom Hartmann

How The Republicans Stole the 2nd Amendment

by Rebecca Koza, Daily Kos

[What follows is a brief historical review of how the 2nd amendment has been interpreted through the years by a variety of supreme court decisions, and how the Republican Party, over the last thirty years, has waged an unceasing war on academic, legal and lobbying fronts that culminated in their long-sought victory in 2008, in the form of District of Columbia v. Heller, a convoluted opinion penned by the late Justice Antonin Scalia that was as thoroughly, indelibly politically motivated and saturated as any the Supreme Court has issued. It’s where we are today– the “legal” right of an individual to bear arms, completely at odds with what the framers intended. “There is perhaps no more dramatic proof of how critical judicial nominations are than the arc of the Second Amendment. The stakes are illustrated all too often, in Sandy Hook and Orlando and Parkland; in the 96 people who die each day as a result of gun violence”]

*****

Republicans stole the Second Amendment.

Over the course of 30 years, the right waged a war on political, legal, and academic fronts to redefine that amendment, contrary to history, text, and precedent, as creating an individual right to bear arms. Of course, none of those efforts, nor their aggregate effect, would have been enough to accomplish the right’s aims without a far-right ideologue on the Supreme Court, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, to codify them.

The right’s misappropriation of the Second Amendment ranks among the most stunning legal feats in U.S. history.

In the two centuries following the adoption of the Bill of Rights, in 1791, no amendment received less attention in the courts than the Second, except the Third. As Adam Winkler, a constitutional-law scholar at U.C.L.A., demonstrates in a remarkably nuanced new book, “Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America,” firearms have been regulated in the United States from the start. Laws banning the carrying of concealed weapons were passed in Kentucky and Louisiana in 1813, and other states soon followed: Indiana (1820), Tennessee and Virginia (1838), Alabama (1839), and Ohio (1859). Similar laws were passed in Texas, Florida, and Oklahoma. As the governor of Texas explained in 1893, the “mission of the concealed deadly weapon is murder. To check it is the duty of every self-respecting, law-abiding man.”

Although these laws were occasionally challenged, they were rarely struck down in state courts; the state’s interest in regulating the manufacture, ownership, and storage of firearms was plain enough. Judges took regulation as not only common sense, but wholly compatible with the Second Amendment. As Jeffrey Toobin recounted for The New Yorker six years ago: For more than a hundred years, the answer was clear, even if the words of the amendment itself were not. The text of the amendment is divided into two clauses and is, as a whole, ungrammatical: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The courts had found that the first part, the “militia clause,” trumped the second part, the “bear arms” clause.

In other words, according to the Supreme Court, and the lower courts as well, the amendment conferred on state militias a right to bear arms—but did not give individuals a right to own or carry a weapon.

So, what spurred the departure from the well-established, longstanding understanding of the Second Amendment and the adoption of the contemporary, hopefully temporary, interpretation? Politics.

Before the nineteen-seventies, the N.R.A. had been devoted mostly to non-political issues, like gun safety. But a coup d’état at the group’s annual convention in 1977 brought a group of committed political conservatives to power—as part of the leading edge of the new, more rightward-leaning Republican Party. The new group pushed for a novel interpretation of the Second Amendment, one that gave individuals, not just militias, the right to bear arms. It was an uphill struggle. At first, their views were widely scorned. Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, who was no liberal, mocked the individual-rights theory of the amendment as “a fraud.”

It’s worth noting that tensions remain within the NRA; its official positions are more extreme than those of its constituents. As Jill Lepore reported: Gun owners may be more supportive of gun-safety regulations than is the leadership of the N.R.A. According to a 2009 Luntz poll, for instance, requiring mandatory background checks on all purchasers at gun shows is favored not only by eighty-five per cent of gun owners who are not members of the N.R.A. but also by sixty-nine per cent of gun owners who are.

 Republicans’ long-sought victory came in 2008, in the form of District of Columbia v. Heller, a convoluted opinion penned by the late Justice Antonin Scalia that was as thoroughly, indelibly politically motivated and saturated as any the Supreme Court has issued.

Whatever the reason, handguns are the most popular weapon chosen by Americans for self-defense in the home, and a complete prohibition of their use is invalid. If it seems bizarre that the statement concluding that a ban on gun ownership is unconstitutional hinges on the weapon’s popularity, that’s because it is. Former Justice John Paul Stevens, who also authored a dissent, spells out how egregious a deviation Heller is.

The Second Amendment plainly does not protect the right to use a gun to rob a bank; it is equally clear that it does encompass the right to use weapons for certain military purposes. Whether it also protects the right to possess and use guns for nonmilitary purposes like hunting and personal self-defense is the question presented by this case. The text of the Amendment, its history, and our decision in United States v. Miller, 307 U. S. 174 (1939), provide a clear answer to that question. More to the point, Stevens notes, there is no evidence of an intention to limit regulation.

Neither the text of the Amendment nor the arguments advanced by its proponents evidenced the slightest interest in limiting any legislature’s authority to regulate private civilian uses of firearms. Specifically, there is no indication that the Framers of the Amendment intended to enshrine the common-law right of self-defense in the Constitution. Although the right had approached its latest effort to argue for an individual right to bear arms with renewed enthusiasm, its reasoning and support hadn’t changed at all.

No new evidence has surfaced since 1980 supporting the view that the Amendment was intended to curtail the power of Congress to regulate civilian use or misuse of weapons. Indeed, a review of the drafting history of the Amendment demonstrates that its Framers rejected proposals that would have broadened its coverage to include such uses.

In understated but damning language, Stevens called out the majority’s relatively violent departure from stare decisis, the principle that a court should almost always adhere to precedent. (It’s Latin for “to stand by things decided.”) Even if the textual and historical arguments on both sides of the issue were evenly balanced, respect for the well-settled views of all of our predecessors on this Court, and for the rule of law itself, would prevent most jurists from endorsing such a dramatic upheaval in the law.

Justice Stephen Breyer’s separate, slightly more pointed dissent goes even further than Stevens’. It appears to have made a terrific impression on Scalia, who refers to Breyer’s dissent 15 times in the majority opinion. The majority’s conclusion is wrong for two independent reasons. The first reason is that set forth by JUSTICE STEVENS—namely, that the Second Amendment protects militia-related, not self-defense-related, interests. These two interests are sometimes intertwined. To assure 18th-century citizens that they could keep arms for militia purposes would necessarily have allowed them to keep arms that they could have used for self-defense as well. But self-defense alone, detached from any militia-related objective, is not the Amendment’s concern. The second independent reason is that the protection the Amendment provides is not absolute. The Amendment permits government to regulate the interests that it serves. Thus, irrespective of what those interests are— whether they do or do not include an independent interest gun in self-defense—the majority’s view cannot be correct unless it can show that the District’s regulation is unreasonable or inappropriate in Second Amendment terms. This the majority cannot do.

Two years after Heller, conservatives went back to the Supreme Court to secure the enforcement of an individual right to gun ownership against the states. In other words, they wanted to minimize the potential for both federal and state gun control regulation. In 2016, the right convinced the Court to formally declare that this new, distorted version of the Second Amendment applies equally to all “bearable” arms.

There is perhaps no more dramatic proof of how critical judicial nominations are than the arc of the Second Amendment. The stakes are illustrated all too often, in Sandy Hook and Orlando and Parkland; in the 96 people who die each day as a result of gun violence.

The GOP Plot Against the FBI

 

[OK, If you haven’t been paying attention so far, it’s time to start. There is a conscious, serious plot to destroy institutions of the U.S. government, encourage distrust of our most essential bureaucracies, and establish an autocracy that once in place, will be hard to dislodge. The republican Party is a co-conspirator with the Trump administration in this effort, having just defied all long-established norms and released top secret classified information disguised as a “memo” written by the Trump staff and coordinated with republicans on the House Intelligence Committee. The purpose of this memo release is to create doubt about the Special Prosecutor’s investigation into the Russian collusion and conspiracy with Trump and his campaign to throw the election to him. It has no basis in fact, leaving out huge chunks of information from the underlying documents and destroying any context in which these classified docs were created. This is an opinion piece by nothing less than the NYT editorial board, the paper that’s on the desk of every world leader every morning. We’re very close to once more putting on our coats and getting into the streets en masse, people. If the Popular Vote Loser uses this memo as a pretext to fire Rod Rosenstein, it will be pitchforks and torches time. Wish to fuck it wasn’t the middle of winter.]

So this is what a partisan witch hunt really looks like.

In a demonstration of unbridled self-interest and bottomless bad faith, the Trump White House and its Republican minions in Congress are on the cusp of releasing a “memo” that purports to document the biggest political scandal since Watergate. To pull it off, they are undermining the credibility of the law enforcement community that Republicans once defended so ardently, on the noble-sounding claim that the American public must know the truth.

Don’t fall for it.

Reports suggest that the three-and-a-half-page document — produced by the staff of Representative Devin Nunes (R-White House), who somehow still leads the House Intelligence Committee despite his own record of shilling for President Trump, and who is supposed to be recused from these matters — has nothing to do with truth or accountability. Rather, it appears to be misleading propaganda from people who are terrified by the Russia investigation and determined to derail it by any means necessary.

Mr. Nunes’s cut-and-paste job ostensibly shows that anti-Trump F.B.I. investigators conspired to trick a federal intelligence court into granting them a warrant to spy on a former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page, because of his Russian connections — in that way corrupting the entire Russia investigation from the start. How did the investigators manage this feat? By relying on a dossier prepared by a former British intelligence agent, Christopher Steele, but hiding from the court that Mr. Steele’s work was being funded by Democrats, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and thus was hopelessly biased.

There’s so much deception and obfuscation going on here that it’s hard to know where to start.

First, Mr. Nunes and his fellow Republicans have treated the dossier like the holy grail for the Russia investigation, but it didn’t reach the F.B.I. until the inquiry was already underway — prompted in mid-2016 by suspicious contacts between Russians and George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign. Mr. Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty to lying about those contacts and is now cooperating with the special counsel’s investigation.

Second, the F.B.I. didn’t zero in on Mr. Page for the hell of it. He has been in the government’s sights since 2013, when investigators learned he was being targeted for recruitment by a Russian agent. To obtain a warrant to spy on someone like Mr. Page, an American citizen, investigators must show probable cause that he is working as a foreign intelligence agent. This would require reams of documentary and other evidence gathered over the years, of which the dossier would have been only one part. In addition, the 90-day warrant for Mr. Page has already been extended at least once, which means investigators had to show the intelligence court new information, beyond the dossier, justifying the basis of the original warrant.

Third, even if Mr. Nunes shows that investigators did not tell the court who financed the dossier — which originated as a Republican-backed effort during the primaries — that is hardly a scandal. It’s not clear that the court, in Mr. Page’s case, relied on the dossier at all, but even if it did, courts rarely deny warrants on the grounds that an informant had some bias. They always assume some bias exists, as it frequently does, and then weigh the information in light of that assumption.

 Finally, the idea that investigators were out to fool a federal judge shows a profound ignorance of how the intelligence courts actually work, and of the degree of vetting that precedes every warrant application. As one former F.B.I. agent explained, a conspiracy to obtain a warrant based on bad information would have required the involvement of at least a dozen agents and prosecutors, a corrupt or incompetent federal judge and the director of the F.B.I. — all working in concert to undermine Donald Trump.

You could call it all a wild-eyed conspiracy theory, only there’s no real theory behind it. Instead, there’s a mad scramble to set off this latest smoke bomb, despite pleas to not do so from, among other people, Mr. Trump’s handpicked F.B.I. director, Christopher Wray. After Mr. Wray and Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, failed to persuade the president’s chief of staff, John Kelly, to withhold the memo, the bureau released a highly unusual statement expressing “grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”

That Mr. Nunes and the other Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee are happy to disregard this appeal shows how far down the rabbit hole they’ve gone. Mr. Nunes hasn’t even seen the classified documents underlying his memo, and has refused to show his work even to Republican senators. Is this the behavior of someone concerned with honesty, transparency and good government?

None of this is to say the F.B.I. and the rest of the federal law enforcement apparatus should be immune from criticism or reform. They should be subject to regular oversight and searching scrutiny. But that isn’t why Mr. Nunes is pushing his dishonest memo. As Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday: “It’s not that the government is always right or always wrong about secrecy. It’s that Americans would be right to see this release as proof that selective classification is used more often to deceive them than to protect them.”

It would be nice to treat Mr. Trump, Mr. Nunes and their cohort as the junior high school pranksters they resemble, but what they’re doing — cynically undermining the nation’s trust in law enforcement, fostering an environment of permanent suspicion and subterfuge — is far more dangerous.

The question is whether there are any adults left in the G.O.P. The evidence so far is not encouraging, notwithstanding a sporadic furrowed brow in the Senate. At some level, one hopes, a sense of shame and responsibility to the republic will finally kick in. But that, too, is unlikely. Republicans from the top on down have made it clear, expressly or otherwise, that this is all about winning the political fight directly in front of them, the consequences — and the rest of America — be damned.

–The Editorial Board, The NEW YORK TIMES – February 1, 2018