Press Briefing … No Sound, No Picture … No Information

Sometimes I pass over a story that I might normally be expected to tackle.  First, I can only manage to write two posts a day, sometimes not even that.  Second, I try to be sensitive and some topics just really ought to be left alone.  Third, some topics get old after a few posts and one finds oneself being repetitious.  There is, however, one topic that I will always tackle when I see it, and that is free press/free speech issues.  Today, it is back on my radar.

Reporters were barred from recording video or audio footage during Monday afternoon’s White House press briefing. The reason for this aberration?  Who knows?  The excuse Press Secretary Sean Spicer gave was that Trump had already given a comment earlier in the day and would be making another comment later in the day, thus … “there are days that I’ll decide that the president’s voice should be the one that speaks and iterate his priorities.” Who knew that we are limited to two comments per day?

CNN’s senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta said, “Make no mistake about what we are all witnessing. This is a WH that is stonewalling the news media. Hiding behind no camera/no audio gaggles. It just feels like we’re slowly but surely being dragged into what is a new normal in this country where the President of the United States is allowed to insulate himself from answering hard questions.”

Even when cameras and recorders are allowed in, the press briefing has become a Cliff Notes version, yielding little, if any, useful information.  Spicer’s briefing on Monday may have set a record for brevity — he took questions for less than 11 minutes. Among his responses to 22 questions, he cited previous presidential statements, deferred answering or said he didn’t know 11 times.

“One major change [from previous administrations] is the hostility emanating from the administration for certain members of the press,” said April Ryan, who has covered the White House since President Bill Clinton’s last term. Ryan said Mike McCurry, Clinton’s press secretary, once described the White House’s interactions with the media as “a friendly adversarial relationship. Nowadays the friendly has been dropped from that analogy.”

Larry-Sabato

Larry Sabato

Larry Sabato, the director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, whose opinion I generally respect, says that perhaps the daily press briefings no longer have value:

“Particularly in this administration, most of what you hear in a press secretary’s press conference, in that daily briefing, is misrepresentations, outright lies, and propaganda. And, on the whole, I think people would do better without that.”

I certainly agree with the first part of his statement, but disagree that we would do better without them.  The press briefings are the chance to at least attempt to pin down the administration, to hold them accountable. Martha Kumar, a professor who studies White House communications, also disagrees with Sabato, saying …

“The briefing is an opportunity to hold people accountable, and just knowing that reporters are going to ask questions, that becomes part of policy thoughts and discussions within an administration.”

The level of secrecy within the administration is unprecedented.  According to a Washington Post article this evening, in addition to the secrecy surrounding the senate health care bill, numerous federal agencies are refusing to share internal documents with Congress, Trump is still refusing to release his tax returns, visitor logs are no longer released by the White House, and Trump even refuses to admit whether he played golf on the weekends.  “More and more in the Trump era, business in Washington is happening behind closed doors. The federal government’s leaders are hiding from public scrutiny — and their penchant for secrecy represents a stark departure from the campaign promises of Trump and his fellow Republicans to usher in newfound transparency.”

Even outgoing Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz said, “I see a bureaucracy that doesn’t want documents and the truth out the door . . . and just flipping the middle finger at Congress.”

I already believe Trump and his White House staff are guilty of gross abuses of power, lies, secrecy and deflection.  Can you imagine how much worse it could be if there were no oversight by the press?  If nobody had to answer, or at least pretend to answer the tough questions?  Once we take away oversight by the press, we have opened the door for far more corruption than currently exists.  We have opened the door from which our democratic freedoms will exit.

WE THE PEOPLE Are Being Crushed Under The Senate’s Heel

In May, when the House of Representatives passed an unconscionable health care bill, I noted that the bill would not stand a chance in the Senate.  I must retract that statement at this time, for it appears that the Senate has no more conscience than the House, and plays an even dirtier game of pool.

Nobody can say for certain what is in the Senate’s version of the bill that promises to repeal ACA (Obamacare) and replace it with … who knows?  It is apparent that the main goal is simply to repeal ACA, to pander to Trump’s narcissistic desire to erase President Obama’s name from every and anything and replace it with his own.  Never mind that ACA has worked fairly well, despite its entirely fixable problems.  Never mind that the House bill would rob some 24 million U.S. citizens of their ability to even have health care. The goal of the GOP members of Congress has nothing to do with We The People, and everything to do with tax cuts for big corporations.

Republican Senate leaders are now trying to ram through their own version of the the bill the House passed last month, one that, all reports suggest, will differ only in minor, cosmetic ways. And they’re trying to do it in total secrecy. It appears that there won’t be any committee hearings before the bill goes to the floor. Even the senators have not received so much as a draft of the text of the proposed bill.  Some have seen a PowerPoint presentation, but the “slides are flashed across the screens so quickly that they can hardly be committed to memory.”

“Clearly, the goal is to pass legislation that will have devastating effects on tens of millions of Americans without giving those expected to pass it, let alone the general public, any real chance to understand what they’re voting for. There are even suggestions that Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, might exploit loopholes in the rules to prevent any discussion on the Senate floor.” – Paul Krugman, New York Times, 19 June 2017

Recently Vox asked eight republican senators what, exactly, the bill is intended to do, what problems it will solve, and who stands to benefit.  Let us look at two of these interviews:

Tara Golshan, Vox and Senator John McCain:

Goldshan: Generally, what are the big problems this bill is trying to solve?

McCain: Almost all of them. They’re trying to get to 51 votes.

Golshan: Policy-wise. What are the problems [in the American health care system] this is trying to solve — and is the bill doing that right now?

McCain: Well, it’s whether you have full repeal, whether you have partial repeal, whether you have the basis of it. It’s spread all over.

Golshan: But based on the specifics of the bill you have heard so far, is it solving the problems [in the health care system]?

McCain: What I hear is that we have not reached consensus. That’s what everybody knows.

Golshan: Right, but outside of getting the votes. From what you hear of the actual legislation being written, is it solving the problems you see —

McCain: It’s not being written. Because there’s no consensus.

Golshan: But generally speaking, what are the big problems it is trying to solve?

McCain: You name it. Everything from the repeal caucus, which as you know, they have made their views very clear — Rand Paul, etc. And then there are the others on the other side of the spectrum that just want to make minor changes to the present system. There’s not consensus

Jeff Stein, Vox and Senator Chuck Grassley:

Stein: I want to ask a very broad question: What do you think this health care bill will accomplish that will improve America? What’s the positive case for this bill?

Grassley: Well, I can tell you what it’s going to do for Iowa. We are one of those states that in a couple of weeks if [the insurer] Medica pulls out, we’ll have 94 of our 95 counties won’t have any insurance ,even for people who have the subsidies. That’s what we have to concentrate on now.

Stein: How do you think the bill will fix that problem?

Grassley: Well, by bringing certainty to the insurance market. They don’t have that certainty now.

Stein: By bringing certainty to the insurance market. What certainty?

Grassley: What?

Stein: What do you mean by certainty?

Grassley: Well, they can’t even file. They have to check the rates real high if they don’t know what the government policy is. And so the certainty is that passing a bill gives the health insurance companies certainty.

Stein: Wouldn’t not passing a bill also do that?

Grassley: No, it … well, yeah — it gives them certainty that you’ll have a lot higher rates than if you pass the bill.

Stein: So you’re saying [the bill] will lower the rates?

Grassley: Um, if you’re talking about lowering the rates from now down, no. The rates could be way up here. [Points to sky] And if they — if we get a bill passed, it maybe wouldn’t go up or would go up a heck of a lot less than they would without a bill.

Stein: By “rates,” are you talking about premiums?

Grassley: Yeah, premiums. … I’m sorry I have to go.

There is more, but obviously I cannot replicate the article here … to read the full article click this link.

Both McCain and Grassley came across as having the intellect of a high school sophomore … how did they even get elected in the first place? And these people are the ones who will vote for a bill that they do not understand, simply in order to maintain their standing with a so-called president who also does not understand health care, and to rob the American people of the opportunity to seek medical care when they need it.

One of the biggest problems in health care today stems from the greed of the insurance industry and the pharmaceutical industry. Many health insurers could see significant tax cuts if ACA is rolled back. Repealing ACA’s taxes on the industry, plus the anticipated corporate tax cut, could save health care companies upward of $200 billion over the next decade, by some rough estimates. If anybody still believes that “trickle-down economics” actually works and that the insurance companies will somehow share that $200 billion with people in need of healthcare, then I have a beautiful bridge I will sell you cheap!

health-care-2The senate bill will likely, if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has his way, come for a vote very soon.  If passed, it then goes to the House, then to Trump.  If this bill is allowed to go all the way and become law, more people than ever in this country will die because they cannot obtain medical treatment.  It is that simple, folks.  All that is required is for three republican senators to find their conscience and vote against this bill … just THREE!  What can we do?  We can e-mail and call our unconscionable senators and make it very clear that if they vote for this bill, they will be out of a job next time they come up for re-election, either in 2018, 2020, or 2022.  Tell them that we have longer memories than they believe and they will not receive our vote.  If we do not use our voices, WE LOSE!

It’s Another Jolly Monday!!!!

Good Monday morning, dear friends … thanks for dropping by!  As I promised last week, I have fresh-baked cinnamon rolls for you today!

Monday-cinnamon-rollsI hope you all enjoyed your weekend!  It was hot here … hot and humid.  Those of you who are fathers, I hope your family spoiled you with special love and treats yesterday … Happy Belated Father’s Day!

Now grab your coffee and a cinnamon roll and let’s have a few chuckles together before you head out into the frozen tundra to make your way to work.  Oh wait … it is the middle of June … no frozen tundra here, although my friends in Australia may be seeing some!

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Monday-beerWe all know that the Germans like their beer, right?  What would a German festival be without beer?  So, it’s never too early to start preparing for the Wacken Open Air (WOA) hard rock festival, which kicks off in northern Germany in August. Good planning is the key to a successful festival, and the Germans are on top of this one.  They are building a 4-mile (7 km) pipeline that will deliver a glass of beer per second!  While oil pipelines have been the topic of much controversy in recent years, I am betting this pipeline will have no naysayers!

Monday-beer-pipelineThe WOA festival runs August 3-5, in case any of you are interested in attending.  This year’s festival will feature such bands as Megadeth, Alice Cooper and Trivium, and is expected to draw a crowd of 75,000.  It is anticipated that each of those 75,000 will consume 5.1 litres (nine pints) of beer during the festival. Um … that’s a lot of beer!

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Monday-beer-festival


New sport … Pizza Acrobatics!  Yes, you’ve all seen how some experts in the making of pizza dough can toss the dough into the air, catch it on their fist and twirl it around, making it all seem so effortless?  Well, I can tell you from personal experience (read, failure) that it is NOT as easy as they make it look!  I have tried this a few times and most often my efforts end up either splattered on my face or else on the floor.  But …

Every year in Las Vegas, pizza acrobats from across the globe convene to compete in the star-studded World Pizza Games. A subset of the city’s annual Pizza Expo, the games showcase athletes, many of whom are also chefs, as they take dough to new heights. (There’s a similar competition—known as the World Pizza Championships—in Italy each year.)

World Pizza Champion Tony Gemignani currently holds the record for most consecutive across-the-shoulder rolls of pizza dough in 30 seconds with 37 rolls. During the competition, the acrobats perform a variety of tricks for a small panel of judges. For two to three minutes, as a song plays in the background, they toss their dough into the air as they jump, spin, and do cartwheels.

Check out this video of Tony Gemignani … you will be AMAZED!


What do you do if you’ve been out with friends and had just a wee bit too much … er … fun?  Your car is parked in a metred lot, and yet you know it isn’t a good idea for you to drive, but how much of a fine might your car wrack up over night?  Well, here is what one person in Wausau, Wisconsin did:

Monday-note-on-carHe or she left the above hand-written sign on the window of the car, saying:

“Please take pity on me. I walked home… safe choices!” And she (or he, but I’m thinking it was a ‘she’) drew a little smiley on the bottom.

It worked!  Officer Jim Hellrood did take pity on her and left his own note on the car, reading: “Pity granted, just a warning.”  Remember this for future reference, folks!


Short question:  what would you think of pizza-flavoured ice cream?  Yeah, that was what I thought too.  Little Baby’s Ice Cream in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, created the pizza ice cream flavour, as an homage to Pizza Brain, a museum located near the shop, and the flavour has been a hit with patrons. It contains crushed tomatoes, salt, crushed red pepper, oregano, raw garlic paste, and basil.

Monday-pizza-ice creamTurns out that Little Baby’s may not be the first to come up with the idea, however, as I found an article from 2015 reporting that: “Coolhaus—which has ice cream trucks in Southern California, New York, and Dallas, as well as two brick-and-mortar locations in the Los Angeles area—has up and decided to go there and interpret the salty, greasy wonder known as pizza into a frozen dessert.”  Interestingly, I also learned that Coolhaus has ‘Whiskey Lucky Charms Ice Cream Sandwiches’.

Monday-pizza-ice cream-2I have been told that I do not have an adventurous palate, and it must be true, because neither the pizza-flavoured ice cream, nor the Whiskey Lucky Charms Ice Cream Sandwiches hold any appeal for my boring palate.

 


Monday-math-signThis sign was seen at a deli in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Gotta wonder what happened that led to the need for this sign?  Some humorous speculations:

“Perhaps they thought those conversations were getting too irrational?”

“Some of them got downright complex.”

“You’ve gotta ask!!! I’m imagining fisticuffs over fibonaci or something like that.”


Joke of the Week:

Bill Gates is hanging out with the chairman of General Motors.

“If automotive technology had kept pace with computer technology over the past few decades,” boasts Gates, “you would now be driving a V-32 instead of a V-8, and it would have a top speed of 10,000 miles per hour. Or, you could have an economy car that weighs 30 pounds and gets a thousand miles to a gallon of gas. In either case, the sticker price of a new car would be less than $50.”

“Sure,” says the GM chairman. “But would you really want to drive a car that crashes four times a day?”


Well, friends, I’ve enjoyed our Monday morning together, and I do hope I’ve given you at least a little bit of a smile with which to start your week.  I hope you all have a really great week, and that you share your gorgeous smile with a few others!  A smile is a funny thing … it has a domino effect and yet, no matter how many you share, there is always at least one left.  Keep safe and keep smiling!  Hugs and love from Filosofa!

Monday-funny-3Monday-funny-1

 

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Senator Kamala Harris Appears To Make The Old Boys’ Network In The Senate, Nervous

To some of us, there was never any doubt that it’s still a man’s world, especially in Washington. Freshman Senator Kamala Harris is getting a taste of this lesson, and blogger-friend Gronda has written an excellent, informative post about Senator Harris’ attempt to get answers in the ongoing investigation into the Trump-Russian connections. Please take a moment to read this post, and also pay attention to the comment by crustyolemothman, who has made a prediction that I would like to naysay, but I’m not sure he’s off-base at all! Thank you, Gronda for the post and permission to re-blog!

Gronda Morin

Image result for photos of kamala harris during hearingsThere is not a woman alive who has ever held any executive type position who has not experienced this phenomenon of being interrupted, talked over by male co-workers while she was simply doing her job. There are literally hundreds of published articles out there in the real world, advising women how to navigate successfully under these set of circumstances.

There have been credible studies which validate this assertion. For example the Harvard Business Review has published empirical data in its review dated 4/11/17, demonstrating that the Supreme Court female Justices are interrupted by their male counterparts at a rate of 3 times greater than their male colleagues.

Image result for photos of kamala harris during hearingsMost women who have been watching the US Senate Intel Committee hearings within the first half of 2017, have noticed the former prosecutor, former attorney general and freshman Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), as she performs her expected role in a professional manner, by…

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On Rainbows, Kermit, and … Russians???

Kermit-1Who could NOT love Kermit the Frog?  Remember seeing Kermit singing The Rainbow Connection in The Muppet Movie?  WHAT???  You don’t remember Kermit the Frog???  Oh woe, woe, and thrice times woe! (Did I do it okay, Roger?) Well here … check out the original of Kermit singing the song in the movie, and then we can proceed.

Brings a tear to your eye, doesn’t it?  It’s actually one of my favourite songs and resides high on every playlist on my phone and ipod, though what I listen to is the version sung by the Carpenters.  Well … to get on with this story … no, first I must show you the lyrics so you understand where I am coming from:

♫Why are there so many songs about rainbows and what’s on the other side?

Rainbows are visions, but only illusions, and rainbows have nothing to hide.

So we’ve been told and some choose to believe it.

I know they’re wrong wait and see.

Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection.

The lovers, the dreamers and me.

 

Who said that wishes would be heard and answered when wished on the morningstar?

Someone thought of that and someone believed it.

Look what it’s done so far.

What’s so amazing that keeps us stargazing and what do we think we might see?

Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection.

The lovers, the dreamers and me.

 

All of us under its spell.

We know that it’s probably magic.

Have you been half asleep and have you heard voices?

I’ve heard them calling my name.

Is this the sweet sound that calls the young sailors.

The voice might be one and the same.

I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it.

It’s something that I’m supposed to be.

Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreamers and me.

La-da-da, de-da-da-do

La-da-da-da-da-de-da-do ♫

 

Okay, so now to the point of this post.  The other day, as I was going about my house chores and singing (terribly off-key and with only half the lyrics right … I once mistook the line “Hey, I’ve looked” for “Help me Agnes”) and I found myself, quite unbidden and without conscious thought, singing the following lyrics …

kermit

♫Why are there so many thoughts about Russians and who’s on the other side?

Russians are visions, but only illusions, and Russians have nothing to hide.

So we’ve been told and some choose to believe it.

I know they’re wrong wait and see.

Someday we’ll find it, the Russian connection.

The Sessions, the Kushners and Trump. ♫

 

Mind you, this came completely unbidden, without malice aforethought … it just popped out of my brain/mouth as I flapped the towels for rolding. I ask myself, and you, dear readers … have I been spending too much time on the ‘dark side’?

My apologies to Kermit the Frog, the late Jim Henson, songwriters Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher … I meant no harm.

A bit of history, to try to make amends for my faux pas …

The song was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for Best Original Song, though it didn’t win either; instead it reached #25 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, appeared in every subsequent Muppets film, and has been covered dozens of times. And it all started with Jim Henson’s voice in a swamp.

On March 27, 1996, a New Zealand man invaded a radio station and held its manager hostage. His main demand? That the station, Star FM, play “Rainbow Connection.” Before the song could be played, police retook the station and arrested the man. “Who said that every wish would be heard and answered when wished on the morning star,” indeed.

And still my favourite is the one done by the Carpenters, released in 2001:

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Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Lend Me Your Ears

It would be funny were it not so tragic.  I have tried to stop short of calling Trump supporters stupid.  I have referred to them as lemmings and other terms, but have never outright called them stupid.  Today, I must re-think that and admit what has been obvious for some time now:  Trump supporters fall far short of being the brightest bulbs in the pack.  What, you may ask, has Filosofa stirred up today?

Shakespeare.  Specifically, one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, Julius Caesar.  This play has been politicized numerous times in the past:

On the eve of World War II, Orson Welles staged a landmark anti-Fascist production with a Mussolini-like Caesar. The Royal Shakespeare Company recently set the play in Africa, powerfully evoking the continent’s dictators and civil wars. Five years ago, the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis staged a production featuring the assassination of an Obama-esque Caesar by a group of right-wing conspirators. Even John F. Kennedy was once depicted as Caesar! But never before has it stirred quite so much controversy as it did this week, when a production in New York’s Central Park became the flashpoint for threats of violence around the nation.

caesar-2Oskar Eustis, the director, chose to make his Caesar decidedly Trumpian, giving him a shock of hair, an overlong red tie and a wife with a recognizably Slovenian accent. As all Caesars are, he’s killed in the middle of the play — bloodily — by Brutus and his band of co-conspirators.  And the fallout from right-wing dim-bulbs has been ridiculous!

Delta Airlines and Bank of America have pulled their sponsorship from the Public Theater’s free Shakespeare in the Park program. But the most troubling aspect is that New York Classical Theatre, which performs in Central Park, has received a host of threatening messages, as have theaters around the country where Julius Caesar is being performed.  Shakespeare Theatre Company of Washington, D.C., has received about a dozen caustic e-mails and numerous tweets accusing the company of inciting violence and linking it to this week’s shooting at a congressional baseball practice..

Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts received roughly 40 venomous messages, including one that wished the theater “the worst possible life you could have and hope you all get sick and die.” At Shakespeare Dallas, executive and artistic director Raphael Parry says his company has received about 80 messages, including threats of rape, death, and wishes that the theater’s staff is “sent to ISIS to be killed with real knives.”

One protestor, Laura Loomer, was charged with criminal trespass and disorderly conduct after interrupting a New York production of Julius Caesar during the assassination scene and shouting: “This is violence against Donald Trump. This is political violence against the right!”  Audience members booed and shouted for her to get off the stage.  I suspect that this was not a random act, but was planned, since the incident was filmed by Jack Posobiec, a rightwing provocateur best known for helping to spread the Pizzagate conspiracy theory. He stood up as Loomer was escorted off stage by security guards and yelled at the crowd: “You are all Goebbels. You are all Nazis like Joseph Goebbels … You are inciting terrorists. The blood of Steve Scalise is on your hands.”

caesar-3A Public Theater spokeswoman said: “Our production of Julius Caesar in no way advocates violence towards anyone. Shakespeare’s play, and our production, make the opposite point: those who attempt to defend democracy by undemocratic means pay a terrible price and destroy the very thing they are fighting to save.”

Of course the dim-bulbs need someone to tell them when to be outraged, and the majority do not live in New York City, probably have only the vaguest notion who Shakespeare was and even less about who Julius Caesar was.  Enter Fox News and Breitbart who can always be counted on to stir the masses and they did not disappoint this time, either.  True to form, Breitbart led the pack with an article titled “‘Trump’ Stabbed to Death in Central Park Performance of ‘Julius Caesar’”, and Fox News fed the flames, tweeting “NYC Play Appears to Depict Assassination of @POTUS.”

Now, it has been said that if the shoe was on the other foot, so to speak, liberals would have the same reaction. But … in 2012 the shoe was on the other foot.  The Acting Company teamed up with the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis to produce a version of Julius Caesar in which the title character was very similar to then-President Obama.  No corporate sponsors pulled out or even made a comment.  No hate mail was sent.  And the New York Times gave it a positive review, calling it a “tough act to follow”.

Two points need to be made.  First, those who have a bit of knowledge of Shakespeare and the play Julius Caesar understand that the entire message of the play is NOT to promote assassination, but rather to warn against it.  Those who have no knowledge of the premise of the play ought to educate themselves before going off the deep end and sending hate mail regarding that which the do not understand. Second, this is a play.  It is art.  Art is always subject to interpretation.  If we allow people, fueled by right-wing media, to ban interpretations of plays, to shut them down through threats of violence, then what is the next step?  Book burnings?  Censorship of the press?  Arrests of peaceful protesters?  Think about it.

No Justice, Once Again … Another Sad Day …

It should have come as no surprise.  My heart should not have dropped into my shoes.  I should not have had any tears left to cry.  But it did, it did, and I did.

Jeronimo Yanez was just acquitted by a jury in the murder … yes it was murder … of Philandro Castile in a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Need I state that Jeronimo Yanez is white, Philandro Castile was black?

Sequence of events:

06 July 2016 – 32-year-old Philandro Castile, cafeteria manager at the local Montessori school, was driving with his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds a few minutes after 9:00 p.m., when police officer Jeronimo Yanez, age 29, pulled him over in a ‘routine’ traffic stop allegedly because of a burned-out brake light. Yanez approached the car window and asked Castile for his license and proof of insurance. As Mr. Castile reached for his wallet, presumably to get his driver’s license, Yanez pulled his gun and shot Mr. Castile through the window … not once, not twice, but seven times.  While Ms. Reynolds sat in the passenger seat of the car and her 4-year-old daughter, Dae’Anna, was in the backseat!  Yanez claimed that he thought Mr. Castile matched the description of a suspect in a recent robbery.  He also said that he thought Castile was going for his gun, which was disputed by Ms. Reynolds. The County Medical Examiner’s office ruled Castile’s death a homicide and said he had sustained multiple gunshot wounds.

Diamond and daughter

Diamond Reynolds and Dae’Anna in the aftermath

Ms. Reynolds began video on her phone just as the shooting ended, and livestreamed to Facebook … video that went viral within a short time and that was also presented as evidence at trial.

16 November 2016 – Prosecutors charged Yanez with second-degree manslaughter for the fatal shooting, saying that “no reasonable officer” would have used deadly force in the same situation. Yanez was also charged with two felony counts for intentionally discharging the gun.

30 May 2017 – The trial of Jeronimo Yanez begins with jury selection.

12 June 2017 – Closing arguments complete, the jury of 10 white and 2 black people begins deliberations

16 June 2017 – The jury returns a ‘not guilty’ verdict


The trial:

During the trial, Yanez testified that he had been parked in his squad car when he saw Castile drive by, and they ‘made eye contact’.  “He gave me a deer-in-the-headlights look. It’s a trigger.” (Of course he did … just the day before, another black man, Alton Sterling, had been brutally murdered by white police officers!  Black males in this country know what they can expect at the hands of white police officers!)

Yanez said that gave him “strong suspicions” about Castile, whom he believed could be one of the robbery suspects from a robbery that had taken place four days prior.  Yanez said Castile had a nonworking brake light, which gave him legal grounds to conduct a “pretext” traffic stop that’s then used to investigate other crimes.

Yanez claimed at trial that he saw Castile begin pulling a gun out of his pocket, although immediately after the shooting, he told his supervisor that he had not seen a gun and did not know where it was. Ms. Reynolds testified that Castile was reaching into his pocket for his driver’s license.

Yanez also claimed that he smelled marijuana in the car.  Marijuana was, in fact, later found in the car, however … Yanez’ lawyer, Earl Gray, claimed that Mr. Castile had been under the influence of marijuana and delayed in his reactions at the time of the shooting. “We’re not saying that Philando Castile was going to shoot Officer Yanez,” Mr. Gray said. “What we’re saying is that he did not follow orders. He was stoned.” But video from Yanez dash-cam proves otherwise, showing that Mr. Castile was driving normally, pulled over quickly and was alert and courteous when talking to Officer Yanez.

Earlier in the week, the jury was divided 10-2 … I can guess which jurors argued for a conviction and which for an acquittal.  But somehow by Friday they decided to absolve Yanez of all charges.  I will not speculate on those deliberations, but instead leave it to your own imaginings.

Officials in the St. Anthony, Minnesota, police department said, they have decided “the public will be best served if Officer Yanez is no longer a police officer in our city.”

The murders of Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile resulted in the nations of the Bahamas, United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain issuing travel advisories for citizens who might be considering travel to the U.S.

The murders of both Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile are a wart on the nose of the United States.  The absolution of their murderers proves that justice in this nation is prejudiced, that justice here is anything but just if you are an African-American.  Just like the cases of Freddie Gray, Keith Lamont Scott, Michael Brown, Paul O’Neal, Christian Taylor, Tamir Rice, and so many more, once again, justice was not served. As long as we are content to have a proven racist in the position of Attorney General, it never will be.  As long as we turn our backs and wear our blinders, it never will be.  Until we ALL stand up and speak out against racism, against white supremacy, against mistreatment of our fellow human beings, it never will be. Today was another sad day for the United States of America … one of many such days.

sad

On Chocolate Milk, Baby Carrots and Mind Bounce …

A story in The Washington Post this morning caught my eye:

The Surprising Number of American Adults Who Think Chocolate Milk Comes from Brown Cows

Surely this must be a joke, right?  WRONG!

“Seven percent of all American adults believe that chocolate milk comes from brown cows, according to a nationally representative online survey commissioned by the Innovation Center of U.S. Dairy.

If you do the math, that works out to 16.4 million misinformed, milk-drinking people. The equivalent of the population of Pennsylvania (and then some!) does not know that chocolate milk is milk, cocoa and sugar.

One Department of Agriculture study, commissioned in the early ’90s, found that nearly 1 in 5 adults did not know that hamburgers are made from beef.”

Now, I did not grow up on a farm, though one of my pseudo-uncles was a rancher, and a friend of my parents’ was an orchardist.  But, I know from whence most of the food I eat originated.  The article, once my initial shock had worn off, brought back some memories.  My sister-in-law used to think that hamburgers came from pigs … ham-burgers.  Okay, I guess I can see that.  And my niece was visiting one summer when I made French fries one night.  Now, I most often eschew the frozen ones and make homemade French fries by peeling and cutting potatoes, then frying them in hot oil.  When I did so, my niece said, “Wow, Aunt Jill, I didn’t know you could make French fries from potatoes!”  Sigh.

“When one team of researchers interviewed fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders at an urban California high school, they found that more than half of them didn’t know pickles were cucumbers, or that onions and lettuce were plants. Four in 10 didn’t know that hamburgers came from cows. And 3 in 10 didn’t know that cheese is made from milk.”

I did learn something new today from a related article:  baby carrots are not baby carrots! They are, rather, sculpted from full-sized adult carrots.  The story:

“In the early 1980s, the carrot business was stagnant and wasteful. Growing seasons were long, and more than half of what farmers grew was ugly and unfit for grocery shelves. But in 1986, [Mike] Yurosek, itching for a way to make use of all the misshapen carrots, tried something new. Instead of tossing them out, he carved them into something more palatable.

At first, Yurosek used a potato peeler, which didn’t quite work because the process was too laborious. But then he bought an industrial green-bean cutter. The machine cut the carrots into uniform 2-inch pieces, the standard baby carrot size that persists today.”

Who knew?  I guess I’m as under-educated in matters of agriculture as the rest!  Today, the ‘baby carrots’ account for 70% of all carrot sales.  It’s rather sad, though, to think of how much carrot is going to waste in this manner.  I typically buy the baby carrots, as they are just the right size for soups and stews, snacking, and roasting, but I think I will go back to buying full-size carrots now … after all, it only takes a minute to peel and cut a carrot!

produce.jpgAs tends to happen frequently these days, one thought sets my mind down a perilous path of many twists and turns, and the original article, about ‘food-ignorance’ led me to an ugly place.  Sigh.  But one must wonder, with the bulk of our population living in urban areas and never having grown so much as a scallion, what happens if … if there is an extended power outage, if through an act of aggression or a natural disaster, we are not able to run to our local supermarket and purchase veggies, cheese, milk and chicken?

We have become all too dependent on our food being always available, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and we do not give a second thought to how that food got there.  When the weather forecaster says “a chance of flurries in the overnight hours”, the supermarkets are suddenly packed with shoppers who simply must stock up on milk and toilet tissue.  In the past year or so, people have become even more dependent, as now most major supermarkets offer a service where the consumer can go online, select their groceries, specify a pick-up time, then simply drive to the front of the store and pick up their grocery order.  I have not tried this service, and probably won’t, for the bulk of my shopping happens in the produce department, and I prefer to select my own peppers and onions.  But to others, it is a time-and-energy saver, and is gaining momentum, from what I understand.

All of us have become far too dependent on things that could disappear in the blink of an eye, and I am no exception.  I do not pretend to know what the answer is, and certainly we cannot live our lives in fear of the unknown.  I remember during the cold war, families building ‘bomb shelters’ in their back yards, stocking them with surplus food and other essentials.  Even more recently, in response to a panic that computer systems would not be able to handle the date switch to the 21st century, rumour had it that the entire electrical grid of the U.S. might be down for a long period.  Remember Y2k?  So no, I do not think panic is in order, but I do think it would behoove us to at least understand some of the more basic things in life, such as how to grow a few veggies, how to bake our own bread, and most importantly, how to live with less.

Now how the heck did I go from what was intended to be a humorous piece to this?  See … this is how my mind works.  I call it ‘mind bounce’, for it is as if there is one of those small bouncy balls inside my skull jumping from one place to another with warp speed.  Welcome to my world!!!

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And The Pile Of Lies Grows … As Does Pinocchio’s Nose

In my post yesterday, A Session with Sessions , I claimed in no uncertain terms that I firmly believed Jeff Sessions lied under oath on Tuesday, 13 June 2017.  I was fairly confident at that time that proof of his lies would be forthcoming, but I had no idea that it would come so soon.

On Tuesday, Jeff Sessions testified, under oath, that he did not believe he had any contacts with lobbyists working for Russian interests over the course of Trump’s campaign. Today, two days later, Richard Burt, a lobbyist who has represented Russian interests in Washington, confirmed that he attended two dinners hosted by Jeff Sessions during the 2016 campaign.

Not only that, but Burt advised then candidate Trump on his first major foreign policy speech, a role that brought him into contact with Sessions personally. The speech on which Mr. Burt corroborated was delivered … wait for it … at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington on 27 April 2016, the very date that Mr. Sessions denies having had any contact with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Well, he actually said he ‘doesn’t remember’ any conversation with Kislyak … I suppose there is a difference.

According to a report by The Guardian …

“Burt, who previously served on the advisory board of Alfa Capital Partners, a private equity fund where Russia’s Alfa Bank was an investor and last year was lobbying on behalf of a pipeline company that is now controlled by Gazprom, Russia’s state-controlled energy conglomerate, first told Politico in October that he had been invited to two dinners that were hosted by Sessions last summer, at the height of the presidential campaign.

Sessions, a former senator for Alabama who was chairman of the Trump campaign’s national security committee, reportedly invited Burt so that he could discuss issues of national security and foreign policy.”

Mr. Sessions … do you know the meaning of the word ‘perjury’?

Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser whose interactions with Russia are under FBI investigation and who is known to have been a liaison between the Trump campaign and Russian officials last year, said he found “the entire line of questioning to be near the pinnacle of witch hunt tactics. In the grand scheme of things, the severe civil rights abuses by Clinton-Obama-Comey regime carried out against myself and other supporters of the Trump campaign in their illegal attempts to influence the 2016 election will help clarify how irrelevant all these petty side-questions are.”

Who knew there was even a “Clinton-Obama-Comey regime”?  And who knew they were on a witch hunt to bring down poor Mr. Page and the Trump supporters?  Mr. Page, it should be noted, has written or is writing a book.

Truth:  that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality; a fact or belief that is accepted as true.

The concept of truth, of fact, has been blurred or completely lost in Trump’s world of alternative facts.  We can never believe a single word, without first checking to confirm the veracity, that is emitted from the mouths of Trump and his minions.  The dwindling number of Trump supporters still claim to believe, to hang on his every word, but … are they trying to kid us, or are they trying to convince themselves?

In less than five months, Trump, Sessions, Tillerson, Kushner and the rest have turned what was once a fairly stable democracy into a shambles, a joke.  There is no transparency, there is not even any longer a pretense of operating the government ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people’We The People have been shoved aside, not important in the grand scheme of things. Donald J. Trump is not a president, but a wanna-be king, and his hopes are that the likes of Vladimir Putin can help him find his crown. His goal was never to “make America great again” … it was always to “make Trump rich again”. And if achieving that goal requires lies, corruption, scandal and other crimes against the nation, so be it, for Donald aims to have his way.

lies.jpgLike an animal caught in a trap, Trump is lashing out at his critics.  On Thursday, he again tweeted that he was the victim of a massive “witch hunt”.  I know I am tired of hearing his “oh poor me” tweets of woe, but apparently even some of his own are tired of it.  Republican Senator John Thune was asked on “Morning Joe” Thursday if Bob Mueller is a man of integrity and whether he had done anything so far in the conduct of the investigation that lead him (Thune) to believe Mueller is conducting a witch hunt.  Thune’s response:

“No, he is a man of integrity, Mark, and he needs to be able to do his work. And I think it’s better for all of us if that work continues. It’s — obviously he is going to get to the bottom and he is going to find the facts, and I think that’s his role. And I think we ought to let him continue to do that and I assume at some point there will be an end to all this. He’ll have done his investigation and there will be whatever findings there are.”

Even Trump lapdog Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could not support or defend Trump’s tweet, saying only, “I typically don’t comment on the president’s tweeting habits.”

I have nothing but pity and contempt for any who still believe, or claim to believe, the lies of Trump, Sessions and the rest, for they are the ones who wrought upon this nation the utter chaos under which we are now forced to live, and they have only themselves to blame for the destruction of our democracy, our society, and our sanity.

Senate Passes Bill To Bar President From Arbitrarily Lifting Sanctions Against Russia

Yesterday we saw something that we have not seen in Congress for a very long time … bipartisanship. The Senate voted 97-2 to impose further sanctions on Russia AND … even more importantly … to prevent the president from eliminating sanctions against Russia. This is important, and blogger-friend Gronda has done such an excellent job in reporting and explaining the significance of this action that I am sharing her post with you. Please take a minute to read, because this sort of bipartisan action is crucial to our foundation of governance. Thank you, Gronda, for an excellent post and for permission to re-blog!

Gronda Morin

Image result for photos of senate passing sanctions bill Crapo-backed Russia sanctions bill passes Senate

I have made it known in several of my past blogs that I am personally convinced that all of the republican President Donald Trump’s bizarre bromance with Russia is due to him being highly motivated to have the 2014 sanctions lifted which were imposed on Russia due its unprovoked incursion into Crimea, Ukraine.

It is my contention that somehow, both the president and his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as Exxon’s former CEO, stand to benefit financially if these sanctions were lifted which would be contrary to the US national security interests.

Image result for photo of tillerson with putin and sechinMr. Tillerson’s interests are due to Exxon potentially benefiting by lifting Russian sanctions:

Around 2012,  Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson had been hard at work, negotiating and closing on a deal with Russia’s oil company Rosneft for oil exploration and drilling in the arctic area, valued by experts at upwards of $500 billion…

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