Like the song "Lawyers In Love" we have a land with too many in high places willing to do anything for money neglecting people, honor and principle but a change is coming. No more falling for the lie of living only individualistic and independent leaving us divided and conquerable by powerful special interests but a people, a nation collaborating for the greater common good in various groups all across the nation. A land of people working together to help one another with a vision moreover as Jesus would have us be. Love, Mercy, Forgiveness, Kindness....something about another Land. The change is coming

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Trump’s Miserable Crew Has Never Been So Desperate

President Donald Trump in the White House Rose Garden on April 13. (Saul Loeb/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

These are desperate times for the quislings of Trump. The cost of collaborating with President Trump in the continued debasement of American democracy is becoming far too high. Fifteen months into his presidency, Trump has seen a national security adviser, a former campaign chairman, a foreign policy adviser and another high-ranking campaign official face charges of serious crimes. This week, the president must have felt the walls closing in even more tightly around him when FBI agents searched the home, office and hotel room of his longtime personal lawyer, whom associates call Trump’s “fixer.”
The president’s response to the Michael Cohen search, duly authorized by an independent federal judge, was to reflexively trash law-enforcement officers, undermine the rule of law and slander a Vietnam War hero who has committed his adult life to the service of America. By now, of course, few should be surprised by the depths to which Trump sinks when attacking law enforcement personnel. But this week provided insight into just how desperate Trump and his courtiers have become in their defenses of an indefensible administration. The president promoted a Fox News show via Twitter that starred a steady stream of sycophants who slandered special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
Mueller, who led a Marine rifle platoon in Vietnam, has been awarded a Bronze Star, two Navy commendations, a Purple Heart and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. After being shot through the leg, the young Princeton grad continued leading his troops in battle. Later he would continue his service in Vietnam even after he was given the opportunity to go home.
Such bravery and dedication to the United States could never have been shown on the battlefield by the miserable crew who lined up to attack the special counsel.
Despite playing tennis, golf and football during his college days, Trump took five deferments, four for college and one for bone spurs in his feet. On the day Trump graduated from college, 40 Americans were killed in Vietnam.
Newt Gingrich, who went on Fox News and compared “the American FBI” to Joseph Stalin and Nazis, also did not serve. And Joe DiGenova, who now spends his days sliming law-enforcement officers who investigate crimes in Washington, took student deferments, even admitting in 2003 that anyone who did the same should seriously consider never seeking public office “when you didn’t serve, when you had a chance to.”
And yet, DiGenova, Gingrich and Sean Hannity — beneficiary of the president’s Twitter news promo — seem all too comfortable attacking an American war hero who has spent his life honorably serving this country in times of war and peace. In fact, Mueller’s record has been so spotless that none other than Gingrich himself tweeted 11 months ago, “Robert Mueller is superb choice to be special counsel. His reputation is impeccable for honesty and integrity. Media should now calm down.”
What a difference a year makes. Gingrich has now joined the chorus of collaborators attacking Mueller. Since most Republicans on Capitol Hill agree with Gingrich’s earlier assessment of Mueller’s exemplary character, one wonders how GOP senators and conservative representatives will respond to these latest desperate and despicable attacks.
Even the most terrified politician must know that Trump and his stooges have reason to be rattled. And an ABC News-Washington Post poll shows that almost 7 in 10 Americans want Mueller to continue his investigation into possible Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. Sixty-four percent support the special counsel’s investigation into Trump’s past business dealings. And nearly 6 in 10 Americans believe that the special counsel must continue investigating Trump’s payoff to women for the purpose of keeping them quiet during the 2016 election.
Regardless how Mueller’s investigation ends, Trump will one day leave Washington. And when he does, the steady stream of attacks on Justice Department professionals, FBI agents and all the honorable men and women who daily defend Americans against enemies foreign and domestic will forever stain the reputations of Trump’s most shameless apologists. All this for a man who has spent decades showing loyalty to little else but his ravenous pursuit of money and fame.
- Joe Scarborough
My take: Quislings? Strong language but yea we'll throw it in there with lackeys, acolytes, toadies, stooges, brown noses and the rest of the Trump minions. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

No, Christian, Jesus Didn’t Say You Can Have Your Guns

In the wake of the shameful growing legacy of mass shootings in America, one of the saddest realizations, is that the loudest, most vehement voices championing the cause of weapons of brutality—have come from professed Evangelical Christians.

The cognitive dissonance of supposed followers of Jesus choosing the side of violence and opposing the movement of mercy is staggering, exceeded only by the contention that Jesus says they can pack heat.

It’s nonsense and heresy and it’s a full bastardization of his life and ministry.

There simply aren’t any theological gymnastics wild enough to make it work.

Not with the Jesus who preached that those following in his footsteps would turn the other cheek to violence.

Not with the Jesus who spoke of the blessed nature of the peacemakers.

Not with the Jesus whose benevolence and lack of force were ever-present.

Gun-loving Jesus followers love to point to a passage in the Gospel biography written by Luke, where Jesus speaks about his impending unlawful arrest by Roman soldiers and instructs them to “bring a sword.”

This, they claim is their God-given gun license.

The problem is, they stop reading at this point, close the book—and run to their gun shows and NRA rallies.

They fail to stick with the same story for a couple of paragraphs; when the Romans arrive, and one of Jesus’ students named Peter, takes out one of said swords, and cuts off a soldier’s ear. Jesus verbally tears into Peter, heals the solider’s ear, and tells those with him that this will not be their way.

He then allows himself to be taken into custody, beaten, and ultimately murdered by his captors.

This is the full story, and it is bad news for those wanting to be cowboys.

This narrative isn’t helpful for the gun-toting followers of Jesus.
This narrative doesn’t give them a God who consents to their weapon-lust.
This narrative doesn’t let them have Jesus and NRA membership at the same time.
This narrative actually tells them to drop their weapons and to beat them into plowshares, and to be those who live differently than the fear-bringers.

Christians straining to hold on to their guns, talk about the story of Jesus fashioning a whip to drive money lenders out of the temple, as some half-baked gun blessing—which again is such a perversion of the story that it would be laughable if it weren’t resulting in so many dead school students two thousand years later.

Jesus chases the corrupt people out of the temple because they are profiting from the manipulation of religion. Jesus is driving out the modern-day NRA lobbyists, corrupt politicians, and religious hypocrites. He is running the vipers off and they are the vipers. (And by the way, he doesn’t kill or strike any of them in the process.)

This is why people outside Christianity think that followers of Jesus picking up the cause of tools of mass murder is a blasphemous disconnect—because it is.
They’re seeing it all perfectly clearly.
They can see people trying desperately to make God in their own fearful, insecure, bullying image, and they reject it all.
They know enough about Jesus to know that his finger would never be on a trigger—and there’s simply no way to get around that.

In a last-gasp attempt to hold Jesus at gunpoint, these folks love to quote him talking in Matthew’s Gospel about his mission, “not to bring peace, but a sword.”

Again, they desperately want those words, but not their context or their intention. Jesus is speaking about the way his teachings will cause turbulence between people; the way interpersonal conflict will arrive when they endeavor to do his work of love, compassion, and justice: that it will drive a wedge, it will cause a rift—it will bring a sword. He isn’t saying he wants us to lay waste to our family members. He isn’t saying he came to bring people to hand-to-hand combat. (Yes, gun advocate Christians actually try to go here, to this ridiculous place.)

Those professing to take such words literally, may also be prepared to gouge their eyes out for looking at a woman lustfully—though I imagine this would leave a vast army of blind faithful folks in churches this coming Sunday.

No Christian, Jesus wants no part of your gun lust. He wants nothing to do with your seething nationalism and your 2nd Amendment shield and your tough guy bravado behind a trigger.

He told you to love your enemies.
He told you to turn your cheek.
He told you not to resist an evil person.
He told you to be foot washers and wound binders and compassion givers.
He told you to care for the least and to feed the poor and to welcome the refugee.
That is what he said clearly.

You can love your guns.
You can open carry in department stores.
You can champion the cause of assault weapons.
You can cover your bumper in tough guy propaganda.
You can oppose any sensible gun regulations.
You can glory in your amassed arsenal.
You can do nothing while thousands of people die every year in America.

Just don’t try and pretend Jesus is okay with it.

He isn’t.

He weeps at it all.

And so do those of us who realize it.

- John Pavlovitz

The World Is Awash In The Politics Of Fear

We Americans aren’t used to hearing European leaders outdoing us in the defense of democracy. But that’s exactly what happened Tuesday in Strasbourg, France, home of the European Parliament, where French President Emmanuel Macron delivered a rousing speech on the virtues of the open society.
He didn’t pull his punches. He spoke of a “European civil war,” one in which “national selfishness and negativity seems to take precedence over what brings us together.” Needless to say, this comment made plenty of headlines.
But we should be paying more attention to another one of his insights. We live, he said, “at a time of great change and transformation, digital revolution, climate change” — all things that “have led to fears and imbalances.” And these anxieties, he noted, are fueling the current authoritarian resurgence we’re witnessing around the world — and even within Europe itself.
He’s right. Our world is awash in the politics of fear. A few hours after Macron spoke, President Trump posted a tweet attacking California Gov. Jerry Brown (D), whom he accused of failing to ensure security “along [the state’s] very porous Border,” adding that, as a result, “The high crime rate will only get higher.”

Looks like Jerry Brown and California are not looking for safety and security along their very porous Border. He cannot come to terms for the National Guard to patrol and protect the Border. The high crime rate will only get higher. Much wanted Wall in San Diego already started!
This was an odd thing to say about a state where crime rates are at historic lows. But Trump wasn’t trying to make a factual point. He was trying to do what he does better than just about any other American politician: Frighten people.
Fear is what got Trump elected. Hillary Clinton — and Trump’s rivals in the Republican primaries — campaigned on traditional bread-and-butter issues. Trump stoked the collective anxieties of millions of Americans by fixating on presumed threats: Islam. Globalization. Rapacious bankers. War-happy neocons. Trade deficits. Scheming reporters. And he’s still at it — though the repertoire of enemies is always expanding. (See “the Deep State.”)
Traditionally, U.S. presidents strive to project optimism and hope. Yet even if Trump is breaking with those domestic norms, he’s entirely in step with the global moment. In Hungary this week, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s allies continue to vilify the opposition as dupes of the Hungarian American billionaire George Soros — whom Orban has built up into a terrifying straw man for all sorts of nefarious forces allegedly threatening the country’s sovereignty. Orban’s diatribes against Muslims and migrants have made him a hero to the far-right parties that are on the rise throughout the European Union.
The same patterns hold across the world — from the Philippines, where President Rodrigo Duterte exploitsanxiety about crime by waging an extrajudicial war on drug dealers, to Turkey, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan traffics in surreal conspiracy theories featuring the United States, Europe, Kurds and the Islamic State. Strongmen rise precisely because they promise security against burgeoning threats.
Fear is one of the most powerful human emotions. When it takes over, prudence, wisdom and rational thought go out the window — which is precisely what the demagogues want. It is no coincidence that fearmongering politicians are also leading purveyors of disinformation. Case in point: the far-right Alternative for Germany party, which has become notorious for disseminating fake scare stories about migrants on social media. And as we’ve seen again and again, it’s nearly impossible to correct the record once such smears have entered the media ecosystem.
So how do we fight back? We can start by acknowledging that fear-based politics is powerful because it often has roots in fact. The modern world is rife with chaos and injustice, and liberal democracies won’t succeed unless they start to tackle the root causes of social insecurity. Sensible and balanced immigration policies — something notably lacking in both the United States and Europe — would be a good start. Policies to address income inequality and the destructive effects of globalization are also desperately needed. (Note: Trump-style tax cuts and protectionism won’t cut it.) And fundamental reforms to empower citizens and boost participation in the political process would help, too.
But these are all long-term solutions. In the meantime, we can follow the French president’s lead by reasserting our faith in democratic solutions. It’s time we started making the case for the open society. We should explain why liberal institutions offer a flexibility and capacity for self-correction that can’t be emulated by autocrats. We should explain why tolerance is the only sensible path in a world that is now inescapably multicultural. And we should explain why the rule of law remains the best remedy against corruption and despotism.
Above all, we shouldn’t be afraid to show some attitude. The autocrats, flush with victory, aren’t afraid to shout their beliefs. It’s time we responded with the force of our own convictions. Let’s call out the fearmongers for what they are. Macron’s speech offers an excellent model.
- Christian Caryl
My take: I'm all in.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Mueller Has Evidence Cohen Was in Prague in 2016, Confirming Part Of Dossier, The Serious Part

Robert Mueller is special counsel for the Department of Justice. He oversees the investigation into Russia's possible connections 
to the 2016 election and Trump campaign. Alexa Ard, Maureen Chowdhury, Patrick Gleason McClatchy

The Justice Department special counsel has evidence that Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and confidant, Michael Cohen, secretly made a late-summer trip to Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Confirmation of the trip would lend credence to a retired British spy’s report that Cohen strategized there with a powerful Kremlin figure about Russian meddling in the U.S. election.

It would also be one of the most significant developments thus far in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of whether the Trump campaign and the Kremlin worked together to help Trump win the White House. Undercutting Trump’s repeated pronouncements that “there is no evidence of collusion,” it also could ratchet up the stakes if the president tries, as he has intimated he might for months, to order Mueller’s firing.

Trump’s threats to fire Mueller or the deputy attorney general overseeing the investigation, Rod Rosenstein, grew louder this week when the FBI raided Cohen’s home, hotel room and office on Monday. The raid was unrelated to the Trump-Russia collusion probe, but instead focused on payments made to women who have said they had sexual relationships with Trump.

Cohen has vehemently denied for months that he ever has been in Prague or colluded with Russia during the campaign. Neither he nor his lawyer responded to requests for comment for this story.

It’s unclear whether Mueller’s investigators also have evidence that Cohen actually met with a prominent Russian – purportedly Konstantin Kosachev, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin — in the Czech capital. Kosachev, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee of a body of the Russian legislature, the Federation Council, also has denied visiting Prague during 2016. Earlier this month, Kosachev was among 24 high-profile Russians hit with stiff U.S. sanctions in retaliation for Russia’s meddling.

But investigators have traced evidence that Cohen entered the Czech Republic through Germany, apparently during August or early September of 2016 as the ex-spy reported, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is confidential. He wouldn’t have needed a passport for such a trip, because both countries are in the so-called Schengen Area in which 26 nations operate with open borders. The disclosure still left a puzzle: The sources did not say whether Cohen took a commercial flight or private jet to Europe, and gave no explanation as to why no record of such a trip has surfaced.

Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller’s office, declined comment.

Unconfirmed reports of a clandestine Prague meeting came to public attention in January 2017, with the publication of a dossier purporting to detail the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russia – a series of reports that former British MI6 officer Christopher Steele gathered from Kremlin sources for Trump’s political opponents, including Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Cohen’s alleged communications with the Russians were mentioned multiple times in Steele’s reports, which he ultimately shared with the FBI.

When the news site Buzzfeed published the entire dossier on Jan. 11, Trump denounced the news organization as “a failing pile of garbage” and said the document was “false and fake.” Cohen tweeted, “I have never been to Prague in my life. #fakenews.”

In the ensuing months, he allowed Buzzfeed to inspect his passport and tweeted: “The #Russian dossier is WRONG!”

Last August, an attorney for Cohen, Stephen Ryan, delivered to Congress a point-by-point rebuttal of the dossier’s allegations, stating: “Mr. Cohen is not aware of any ‘secret TRUMP campaign/Kremlin relationship.’”

However, Democratic investigators for the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, which are conducting parallel inquiries into Russia’s election interference, also are skeptical about whether Cohen was truthful about his 2016 travels to Europe when he was interviewed by the panels last October, two people familiar with those probes told McClatchy this week. Cohen has publicly acknowledged making three trips to Europe that year – to Italy in July, England in early October and a third after Trump’s November election. The investigators intend to press Cohen for more information, said the sources, who lacked authorization to speak for the record

One of the sources said congressional investigators have “a high level of interest” in Cohen’s European travel, with their doubts fueled by what they deem to be weak documentation Cohen has provided about his whereabouts around the time the Prague meeting was supposed to have occurred.

Cohen has said he was only in New York and briefly in Los Angeles during August, when the meeting may have occurred, though the sources said it also could have been held in early September.

Evidence that Cohen was in Prague “certainly helps undermine his credibility,” said Jill Wine-Banks, a former Watergate prosecutor who lives in Chicago. “It doesn’t matter who he met with. His denial was that I was never in Prague. Having proof that he was is, for most people, going to be more than enough to say I don’t believe anything else he says.”


Former Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks

“I think that, given the relationship between Michael Cohen and the president,” Wine-Banks said, “it’s not believable that Michael Cohen did not tell him about his trip to Prague.”

The dossier alleges that Cohen, two Russians and several Eastern European hackers met at the Prague office of a Russian government-backed social and cultural organization, Rossotrudnichestvo. The location was selected to provide an alternative explanation in case the rendezvous was exposed, according to Steele’s Kremlin sources, cultivated during 20 years of spying on Russia. It said that Oleg Solodukhin, the deputy chief of Rossotrudnichestvo’s operation in the Czech Republic, attended the meeting, too.

Further, it alleges that Cohen, Kosachev and other attendees discussed “how deniable cash payments were to be made to hackers in Europe who had worked under Kremlin direction against the Clinton campaign.”

U.S. intelligence agencies and cyber experts say Kremlin-backed hackers pirated copies of thousands of emails from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chief John Podesta during 2015 and 2016, some politically damaging, including messages showing that the DNC was biased toward Clinton in the party’s nomination battle pitting her against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Mueller’s investigators have sought to learn who passed the emails to WikiLeaks, a London-based transparency group, which published them in July and October, causing embarrassment to Clinton and her backers.

Citing information from an unnamed “Kremlin insider,” Steele’s dossier says the Prague meeting agenda also included discussion “in cryptic language for security reasons,” of ways to “sweep it all under the carpet and make sure no connection could be fully established or proven.” Romanians were among the hackers present, it says, and the discussion touched on using Bulgaria as a location where they could “lie low.”

It is a felony for anyone to hack email accounts. Other laws forbid foreigners from contributing cash or in-kind services to U.S. political campaigns.

If Cohen met with Russians and hackers in Prague as described in the dossier, it would provide perhaps the most compelling evidence to date that the Russians and Trump campaign aides were collaborating. Mueller’s office also has focused on two meetings in the spring of 2016 when Russians offered to provide Trump campaign aides with “dirt” on Clinton – thousands of emails in one of the offers.

Cohen is already in the spotlight because of the FBI raids on his offices and home in New York. Various news outlets have reported that investigators principally sought evidence on non-Russia matters, including a covert, $130,000 payment Cohen made days before the 2016 election to porn star Stormy Daniels to silence her about an alleged affair with Trump. The FBI raids also scooped up some of Cohen's computers and cell phones among other evidence, according to these reports.

CNN, which reported Friday that Cohen’s business dealings have been a subject of a separate months-long investigation by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, also quoted sources as saying that Cohen often taped phone conversations and those tapes also could be in the FBI’s possession.

If the raids turned up evidence that would be useful to Mueller’s investigation, rather than the one being done in New York, it would be shared with Mueller’s team, unless a court imposes conditions regarding the transfer of evidence, said former senior Justice Department official Michael Zeldin. “Given the sensitivities in this case, I expect evidentiary sharing decisions will be mediated by main DOJ and FBI headquarters,” Zeldin said.

Prior to Trump’s election, Cohen spent almost a decade in high-profile positions in Trump’s real estate company and grew a reputation as Trump’s “fixer.” During 2016, he was an informal adviser to the Trump campaign, proving to be one of Trump’s fiercest defenders in television interviews.

When Trump took office, Cohen became Trump’s personal attorney.

He also formed a law firm, Michael D. Cohen & Associates, which in April forged a strategic alliance with the powerful Washington lobbying firm Squire Patton Boggs. With headlines blaring about Cohen’s role in providing hush money to Daniels, the two firms disclosed this week they had parted company.

Soon after Trump took office, Cohen became embroiled in controversy when The New York Times reported he was involved in promoting a secret “peace plan” for Ukraine and Russia that was the brainchild of a little-known Ukrainian legislator, Andrii Artemenko. The plan would have ended U.S. sanctions against Moscow and allowed Russia, if it pulled back militants invading Ukraine, to keep control of Crimea under a 50- to 100-year lease, if voters approved.

In February 2017, he told the newspaper, he left it on the desk of Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who resigned days later and later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about contacts with the Russian ambassador. But in subsequent interviews, Cohen denied ever delivering the plan to the White House.

Knowledge that Cohen may indeed have traveled to Prague during the campaign could heighten Trump’s risk of being prosecuted for obstruction of justice if news reports are accurate that he is considering firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Mueller investigation, or Mueller.

“This kind of knowledge impacts his state of mind in taking any action in firing anyone from the Justice Department or Mueller’s office,” Wine-Banks said, because it would be easier for prosecutors to build a criminal case showing he did so to impede Mueller’s investigation.

If the Prague meeting actually occurred, Kosachev’s possible involvement would be especially significant given his close ties to Putin and other roles he has played in covert Moscow efforts to destabilize other countries, Russia experts said.

“While not a member of Putin's innermost circle, (Kosachev) is one of the most influential Russian voices on foreign affairs,” said Michael Carpenter, a former senior Pentagon official. “When Kosachev speaks, everyone knows he's speaking for the Kremlin.”

Kosachev appears to have been a booster of Trump over Clinton in early June of 2016, according to a post on his Facebook page at the time.

“Trump looks slightly more promising,” Kosachev wrote. “At least, he is capable of giving a shake to Washington. He is certainly a pragmatist and not a missionary like his main opponent [Hillary] Clinton.”

The Prague meeting would have occurred during a period when Trump advisers had become jittery about publicity swirling around the campaign’s Russian connections and seemingly friendly posture toward Moscow, according to the dossier and a source familiar with the federal investigation.

Campaign chairman Paul Manafort resigned abruptly on Aug. 19, shortly after the revelation that he had received $12.7 million in secret consulting fees over five years from the pro-Russia Party of Regions in Ukraine. Manafort was instrumental in the 2010 election of pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted in early 2014 and fled to Moscow.

Another flap stemmed from a secretive maneuver at the Republican National Convention in July. Party officials weakened language in the 2016 Republican platform calling for a boost in U.S. military aid to support Ukraine’s fight with Russian-backed separatists who invaded Eastern Ukraine and Crimea.

The dossier cited multiple sources as reporting that Kremlin officials also had grown edgy about the possible exposure of their secret “active measures” effort to defeat Clinton and help Trump. According to the dossier, Russian diplomat Mikhail Kalugin was brought home from Russia’s embassy in Washington last August because he had played a key role in coordinating the cyber offensive. McClatchy quoted several Russia experts on Feb. 15 as saying they suspected Kalugin was an intelligence operative. Kalugin has denied any espionage activities.

Cohen’s attendance at a Prague meeting like the one described in the dossier would have been a logical assignment for him; Trump had long used him to solve business and legal headaches, three Republican operatives who were close to the campaign said.

One source with close ties to the campaign said Cohen “wanted a bigger and more formal role [in the campaign], but there were a lot of long knives out for him within the campaign and the larger GOP infrastructure in part because he was a Democrat and treated people horribly.”

Cohen was best known during the 2016 campaign for his testy interviews defending Trump. In one case, when an interviewer cited poor polling numbers for Trump. Cohen kept aggressively asking, “Says who?”

Beginning last year, he took a hand in fundraising for the Republican National Committee and Trump’s re-election campaign. Cohen was one of four co-chairs of a big fundraiser at the Trump International hotel in mid-2017 that raised about $10 million for the two committees. In April 2017, Cohen was named a national deputy finance chairman at the RNC, not long after his March announcement that he had officially registered as a Republican.

A millionaire with his own New York real estate holdings, Cohen has long had family and business ties to Ukraine. His wife is Ukrainian, and he has had ties to Ukrainian ethanol company. He also once ran a thriving taxi business.


My take: All of the Steele Dossier examined so far has been confirmed. What that means is a serious bridge to collusion between Trump and the Russians is emerging. You got to admit, Trump's behavior relative to the Russians and Putin has been way too strange, even for a populist wanting to stir things up. 

Friday, April 13, 2018

Facial Recognition Spots Criminal in Crowd of 60,000

Facial Recognition Spots Criminal in Crowd of 60,000

In China, there's nowhere to hide from the combo of cameras, facial recognition, AI, and all-knowing database.

The Chinese government's solution to keeping things running smoothly involves strict controls on everything from the Internet to how individuals go about their daily lives. In order to do that, China has setup a network of over 170 million security cameras, all of which are hooked up to an ever-improving facial recognition system. Even the police in China are starting to wear facial recognition glasses!
So it should come as no surprise that the police there just managed to catch a suspected criminal who thought he'd be safe in a crowd of 60,000 people.
As the BBC reports, the man in question is 31-year-old Mr Ao, and he was wanted by the police for "economic crimes," the details of which have now been released. He was caught while attending a Jacky Cheung concert in Nanchang city last weekend. Everyone entering the concert venue must pass by a camera. Mr Ao's face must have been on record as the camera and facial recognition system flagged him up.
The police reacted quickly and surrounded him after he had taken his seat for the concert. Apparently Mr Ao was simply "shocked" he had been found, clearly believing he'd be safe among so many people and at such a busy event. He was wrong, and the authorities don't mind everyone knowing that as it acts as a warning to others.
China's monitoring system works through a combination of cameras, facial recognition, artificial intelligence, and a central database. When a face is detected, the central database is accessed and an individual's details retrieved. Those details can include name, gender, ethnicity, full address, and whether they have been charged with any crimes or have outstanding warrants. In Mr Ao's case, the outstanding warrants details would have triggered the alert.
- Matthew Humpheries

My take: There are those out there i'm sure that never got the message from movies like 1984, Logan's Run or books such as A Brave New World. They say if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear but i wonder what these people thought the founding fathers were doing putting so many safeguards and checks and balances into our government system. Conservative Christians seem to love these surveillance methods and have no problem with them but they also see in the near future an anti-christ that can track you everywhere and make sure you have the mark of the beast. I would go back to where the founding fathers put in so many safeguards to our government. They knew it would not always be about being a bad boy, it would also be about what you believe politically or religiously, religious and political persecution of which their recent history was relatively fresh. Smart people realize this and foresee this. Be smart. Opposing privacy intrusion is not about siding with criminals or terrorists as lying manipulating politicians may tell you, it's about safeguarding your children's future against the tyranny of an all seeing despotic eye of which those manipulating politicians are full aware but are willing to bet your future on a little present political gain for themselves. 
Benjamin Franklin, one of those founding fathers said. "If you are willing to give up a little freedom for a little security you deserve neither." He could have and would have said; If you accept all encompassing surveillance to protect yourself and your possessions you deserve to lose them anyway. Jesus said: " If you try to save your life you will lose it. Consider these and use a little wisdom and a little foresight next time it matters. 
If the "you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to fear" people win out just where do you think were headed and don't think there are not those in high places in U.S. corporate America and Wall Street that strive for societal certainty and stability believing it cements their economic status and believing all encompassing surveillance will provide that certainty and that stability. 
The founding fathers knew full well the nature of man and you and I would be a fool to believe that nature has changed. We would be a fool to doubt the ends to which men of wealth and power will go. They are, you should know, not immune to great delusion.

You say this is only China but the trajectory of the world is not toward division it is toward a unified whole. The strongest measures to protect freedom, privacy and justice for all individuals must be maintained at all times, the freedom to believe as you want and reasonably express it and the right to keep it private if you want. 
You better get a grip and you better start getting it now....

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Fearless, Outraged Young Protesters At The March For Our Lives

Until recently, advocates for gun control hadn’t realized what their movement was missing: fearless, outraged teen-agers. On Saturday morning, in Washington, D.C., students and parents gathered to protest the lenient gun laws that allow for endless mass shootings in America. Many had orange price tags dangling from their wrists: $1.05, the amount the National Rifle Association donated to the Republican Senator Marco Rubio, divided by the number of students in Florida, the state he represents. A massive sound system broadcast pop songs: Kesha’s “Tic-Toc,” Britney Spears’s “Toxic,” the Killers’ “Mr. Brightside.” The mood was celebratory, but determined.
The March for Our Lives was organized by a group of tough and eloquent young survivors of the recent massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida. The point of today’s action is to insure “that a comprehensive and effective bill be immediately brought before Congress to address these gun issues.”

By noon, it was impossible to move easily through the crowd. Teens waved homemade signs (“Hunting Season is Over”; “No, I’m Pretty Sure Guns Kill People”) and huddled together for photos. Poppy Fleming, a nine-year-old student at Hartwood Elementary, in Stafford County, Virginia, stood with Deborah and Michael Fleming, her grandparents. She held up a sign decorated with the names and locations of various mass shootings. In the middle, she’d written, in magic marker, “Am I Next?”
“We can teach her about civil disobedience,” Deborah said. “We can teach her how to vote.”
“Yes!” Poppy shouted. “Nine years away.” She was wearing a black knit hat with “Resist” stitched along the brim. She told me she’d gotten it at Busboys and Poets, a community space founded by Anas Shallal, an Iraqi-American artist and activist.
After every mass shooting, there’s a public outcry, but it frequently fades without real progress; something feels profoundly different this time. The energy on the street was crackling, undeniable. How do you define or explain a tipping point? The night before, on CNN, I watched the parents of Lauren Milgram, a Sandy Hook survivor—Lauren was seven years old when she encountered an active shooter at her elementary school, and hid in a bathroom with her classmates and teacher—tell a reporter they had been “too polite” after the incident. Young people have certainly been instrumental to political upheavals before—in 1960, in Greensboro, North Carolina, four black men, none older than nineteen, sat down at a segregated Woolworth’s lunch counter and refused to leave (a portion of that lunch counter is now on display here, less than a mile from the rally, in the National Museum of American History). At this particular moment, they feel like our only hope for change.

Gayle Morris, sixty-four, and Joanne Zinski, sixty-two, are both school psychologists in Palm Harbor, Florida. I asked them what they thought was different this time—why half a million marchers had suddenly mobilized. “It’s these Parkland students,” Zinski said. “We are here to support them. It took a group that was willing to push back the grief to action. For some reason, they’ve sparked something—for America, and I know in us.” Morris agreed: “Sandy Hook, those parents, that community, they did wonderful things, but they couldn’t get the momentum. Teen-agers are so powerful.”

Most speakers today were under the age of twenty-one, but beyond that, the students who addressed the crowd in D.C. were united by the ways in which guns have negatively affected their lives. Jaclyn Corin, a seventeen-year-old Parkland survivor, spoke about how her community is made up of many “privileged individuals” whose voices are often given more space—yet she acknowledged the “communities of all classes” that have been decimated by gun violence. “We share the stage today and forever,” she said. After her speech, Corin brought Yolanda King, the granddaughter of Martin Luther King, Jr., to the stage. The Parkland students seem to instinctively understand that their fight not only crosses racial and class lines but also exists on a historical continuum, as an extension of the civil-rights movement. King led the crowd in a chant: “Spread the word! Now you heard! All across the nation! We are going to be! A great generation!”

- Amanda Petrusich

Saturday, March 24, 2018

A Research Study Said Guns Made Homes Less Safe, Then The NRA With The Help Of Your? Congressmen Stifled That Research For 21 Years

We’ve been here before. A young man gets his hands on a gun (usually an assault rifle), and he murders a group of people. We cry and grieve and blame one another.

And, then, we move on.

Because the politics of guns in America is just too hard.

The massacre inside a Florida high school may rewrite the final act this time. But even if policy-makers do take action, they will do so knowing less than they should about why killers kill — and how to stop them.

That's because 21 years ago, Congress caved in to a National Rifle Association demand, and effectively, reduced federal spending on gun violence research.

While the "Dickey Amendment" crafted by lawmakers did not ban funding for research, it had the same effect. The amendment prohibited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from advocating for gun control. At the same time, Congress reallocated $2.6 million within the CDC’s budget, which was exactly how much the agency had invested in firearm injuries research the year before.

“Bureaucrats understood what that meant, and they stopped funding it,” said Avery Gardiner, co-president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “I think that had an effect not just on government research but on all research. ... I think potentially a whole generation of public health research has been affected by the Dickey Amendment.”

It's not that all federal funding ceased; it was more a question of priorities and focus after the Dickey Amendment passed. Which leads to a couple of questions:

Could lives have been saved if, instead, the federal government had committed to an all-out targeted research effort to reduce firearm violence? And would a push by the CDC and other government funders make a difference now? Researchers would love to find out.

Back up for a moment, though, and get a sense of the problem. Consider these statistics:

More than 33,000 people die by firearms in the U.S. every year; roughly two-thirds of them are suicides. Among the top five countries ranked by GDP, the U.S. was far and away the leader in death by firearm assault. Its rate of 4.2 per 100,000 population dwarfed that of the United Kingdom (0.08); Germany (0.12); China (0.07) and Japan (0.05), according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle (2015 statistics). And in Milwaukee, of 12 homicides so far this year, nine of the victims have died by gunfire, the Milwaukee Police Department reports.

Stephen Hargarten compares what happened to gun violence research to the federal effort in the 1980s to battle HIV/AIDS. And both he and Gardiner point to an earlier push to understand why so many Americans were dying in car crashes. Both were serious public health crises at the time. But the attention paid to those problems paid off: AIDS now can be managed by patients and their physicians, and far fewer people die in car accidents.

“HIV/AIDS was ravaging the country, and it was severely politicized because it was hitting a certain population,” said Hargarten, the chair of Emergency Medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin and director of the school’s Comprehensive Injury Center. “But then there was an effective research agenda put forward with resources, and look at what happened.”

During the 1960s and '70s, the federal government took steps to reduce traffic fatalities, and fatalities fell. Later, there were efforts, both public and private, to address drunken driving, and from the early 1980s through about 2010, alcohol-related traffic deaths were "cut in half with the greatest proportional declines among persons 16-20 years old,” the National Institutes of Health reports.

Gun violence and traffic safety are both multifaceted problems, requiring a variety of solutions. “We put in place seat-belt laws, car-makers developed air bags. We had new rules on alcohol. We have backup cameras in our cars. Each one of those changes focused on a different part of the auto death problem in America,” Gardiner said.

Said Hargarten: “I think we have an opportunity to attack gun violence in the same way.”

The Dickey Amendment

Why did Congress do what it did in 1996?

That story begins three years earlier when Arthur Kellermann, then at the University of Tennessee, and his colleagues published an article in the New England Journal of Medicine about their CDC-funded firearms research. They found that gun ownership was a "risk factor for homicide in the home.”

Far from making homes safer, their research found, guns made them less safe.

The Kellermann article got a ton of media attention, and the NRA demanded that the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention, which funded the study, be eliminated, according to an account by the American Psychological Association. The center was not eliminated, but Congress warned researchers that “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” The amendment was authored by the late U.S. Rep. Jay Dickey (R-Ark.).

Then, in a case of Father Congress know best, lawmakers reallocated $2.6 million in the CDC budget from firearm injury research to traumatic brain injury. In the years after that, CDC-funded research into firearm injury prevention dropped 96%, a study by Mayors Against Illegal Guns found.

Dickey, who died last April, came to regret the amendment that bore his name. He and Mark Rosenberg, who was director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the time the amendment passed, wrote in a 2012 Washington Post commentary:

“We were on opposite sides of the heated battle 16 years ago, but we are in strong agreement now that scientific research should be conducted into preventing firearm injuries and that ways to prevent firearm deaths can be found without encroaching on the rights of legitimate gun owners.”

There are tantalizing signs that the earth is shifting under the national gun debate. The passion of Florida high school students is one example. So are comments by Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), a staunch defender of the Second Amendment. After the Florida shootings, both signaled they would favor more federally funded research into gun violence.

The Dickey Amendment only prevents advocacy — not research, Azar noted in congressional testimony earlier this month. “We’re in the science business and the evidence-gathering business, and so I will have our agency certainly working in this field,” he said, according to a Politico report.

But the proof will be in the funding.

After the murders of 20 school kids and six adults inside Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, the Institute of Medicine recommended a wide range of research, Hargarten remembers. President Barack Obama requested funding, “and Congress failed to budget it,” he said.

Researchers have continued to investigate gun violence using private funding and limited federal dollars in the years since the Dickey Amendment was passed. After the Sandy Hook murders, for example, Obama ordered health agencies to sponsor gun studies, which led NIH to issue "three program announcements" specifically targeting firearm violence. Those were not renewed, NIH said Thursday. In all, about $11.4 million in research funding for firearm violence and prevention was granted over three years, according to a Science magazine report.

The research question

Do policy-makers have what they need to make good decisions about gun violence? As with nearly every facet of the gun debate, there is a disagreement about that.

In a Los Angeles Times commentary earlier this week, Devin Hughes and Mark Bryant called out House Speaker Paul Ryan and other politicians for failing to act after Ryan cautioned against doing anything "before we even have all the facts and the data."  Hughes is founder of GVPedia and Bryant the executive director of Gun Violence Archive, both of which make gun research available to the public.

GVPedia has amassed more than 700 academic studies and papers on the topic of gun violence, most of which were published after 1996. They contend this work tells "a clear story about what can help stop mass shootings in America.”

But advocates for gun control and researchers say significant holes remain in our understanding of the problem, especially school shootings and the impact of the 1994 assault weapons ban. They want targeted funding programs from federal agencies that clearly signal the government believes gun violence is a problem.

Hargarten would start by trying to figure out how better to identify high-risk youth. Gardiner would ask the CDC “to research disparities in gun deaths in different parts of America, especially vulnerable populations.”

And who knows what a true, full-court press by the federal government could do? It's worth finding out, Hargarten said.

"The CDC, NIH, the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the National Institute of Justice also should be involved in this research agenda," he told me. "With the scope of deaths, it deserves a broad group of researchers, and you should fund centers of excellence. We should have research done all over the country at academic research centers just like we do for other complex public health burdens."

David D. Haynes

My take: First of all this is a mind-blowing outrage that, because of "pressure"(threat of money to oppose or withdrawal of money to help congressmen get elected) from the NRA, research into something as astronomically important as the effect of guns on home safety could be effectively banned. How bizarro world turned on it's head can something become? Of course it is not a direct ban but the net effect has essentially been  a chilling effect on any other research on gun safety in homes and so there it is before your face and it is let to sit there as it is and nothing is done to continue research through other means? After a month the congressmen see the net effect discouraging research and do nothing, a year passes and nothing. Their mission accomplished. Really?

The first time I heard this I thought that it should be impossible and illegal that any company or group could lobby congress to stop research as important and relevant as this to the American people's best interests. In fact it strikes me as laughable and as un-American as anything could possibly be yet we in America have for 21 years allowed this kind of ban to go on, a repression of something trying to get at the truth where our health and lives are gravely concerned. I mean it sounds like something the mafia would concoct to cover something up.

Am I even thinking this out and writing this correctly? Could this possibly fly here in America, that congressmen could be bought off by the N.R.A. or any company or association to the extent that a study on the safety of homes with guns could be stopped and that it would stand for even one week let alone 21 years? A ban that is passed for the financial interests of the NRA ignoring the safety interests of U.S. citizens? I mean what is this, something akin to a repressive communist nation or corrupt banana republic controlled by the N.R.A. that they could actually get away with this?

That is just wholly crazy and has to be be one of most outrageous examples of the corruption resulting from the ongoing lack of campaign finance reform and the need to overturn Citizen's United(citizen's betrayed). I mean honor, integrity and principle just fly out the window with this. It really borders on something akin to treason in trying to curtail the ability for Americans to protect themselves from over-proliferation of guns or for that matter anything that is a part of thousands of deaths every year.

Let me see if got this right, YOU, America, have allowed this to go on, for congressmen to ban, to stifle research into the effect and dangers of firearms in homes across America?
I have allowed it but vaguely knew about it but that stops here.