Less than two months ago, Ian Long walked into the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks and began firing two semiautomatic handguns, killing 11 people in the bar and wounding an arriving sheriff’s deputy (who tragically was killed when struck by a round fired by another arriving officer) before turning one of his guns on himself.
Raging wildfires that led 75% of Thousand Oaks’ residents to evacuate less than two weeks later overwhelmed the tragedy in the public’s mind, which is a tragedy of another sort. Yes, the fires were awful. Statewide they killed more than 100 people, 86 in the Camp fire alone, while damaging or destroying nearly 20,000 buildings worth at least $9 billion (in the areas hit by the Camp, Woolsey and Hill fires). About 1.8 million acres burned in total, a record.
Wildfires have always been a part of nature in California. One could argue that gun violence is part of California’s nature too, though the latter is something we could do more to control. But first we have to pay closer attention to the problem.
The federal government remains in a partial shutdown as President Trump digs in his heels (good thing those bone spurs got better) over his silly wall, refusing to agree to a spending bill that doesn’t include $5.7 billion for what assuredly would be a waste of tax dollars. At some point, one of the few adults left at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue needs to explain to the president the difference between compromise and capitulation.
And yes, the Senate Democrats are holding firm, too, in their opposition to the wall. The difference, though, is the Democrats recognize the folly in Trump’s obsession, one that the president re-embraced Thursday afternoon in a public statement that makes a pretzel of the truth about the border and public safety.
“The president has made clear that any bill to fund the government must adequately fund border security to stop the flow of illegal drugs, criminals, MS-13 gang members, child smugglers and human traffickers into our communities — and protect the American people,” the White House said, adding: “The administration understands this crisis and made a reasonable, common-sense solution to Democrats five days ago — we've not received a single response.”
There will be no investigation by the federal judiciary of allegations that Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh violated judicial ethics in testifying at his Senate confirmation hearings.
As a matter of rough justice, that might be a defensible outcome: Those complaints seemed like an outgrowth of the political opposition to Kavanaugh’s confirmation, rather than the typical allegations of judicial misconduct filed under the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act. For better or worse, the Senate decided that Kavanaugh was sufficiently credible to deserve confirmation.
Nevertheless, the reason why the complaints were dismissed by the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals — to which they were referred by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. — highlights a troubling loophole in judicial accountability: Not only Kavanaugh but his colleagues on the court are exempt from an ethics code that applies to other federal judges.
The body of Jakelin Caal, the 7-year-old Guatemalan girl who died in U.S. immigration custody this month, arrived in her family’s impoverished farming village on Christmas Eve just hours, as it turns out, before Felipe Gomez Alonzo, an 8-year-old Guatemalan boy, died while being detained by federal border agents in New Mexico. The two deaths have drawn significant attention to the medical care available to migrants taken into custody by the U.S. government.
Wednesday afternoon Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen announced that she had ordered medical screenings of all detained migrant children, which raises the question of whether such screenings had been done routinely before. One would hope that people being sent to detention, children or adults, would be screened as a matter of health policy — both for the new arrivals and for the people they would be joining in the detention centers.
Advocates have argued for months that the administration’s detention policies increased the health risks to migrants, particularly children. But the government’s desire to incarcerate migrants to deter others from trying to enter the country apparently outweighed any sense of humanitarian responsibility.
The stock market rallied Wednesday morning, but the big losses in previous days have rattled observers who consider Wall Street something of a leading indicator of the U.S. economy — a sign that at least some financial industry professionals see something in the data about future business prospects that they don’t like.
Of course, it’s risky to try to read the minds of investors or to draw quick conclusions about the swings of a volatile market. Plus, there’s this observation from the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday: “Behind the broad, swift market slide of 2018 is an underlying new reality: Roughly 85% of all trading is on autopilot — controlled by machines, models or passive investing formulas, creating an unprecedented trading herd that moves in unison and is blazingly fast.”
Nevertheless, there are headwinds building up to impede the progress of U.S. businesses in the coming years, and investors need to factor them into their thinking. One of these hurdles is significant, yet completely artificial: The trade war President Trump is fighting with much of the industrialized world.
You know what would be nice? If the government shutdown included President Trump’s Twitter account, because the blusterer-in-chief is in fine form here on Christmas Eve. By around lunchtime on the East Coast, the president had tweeted on a number of topics, including his silly wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, offering a bizarre take on its funding:
The Wall is different than the 25 Billion Dollars in Border Security. The complete Wall will be built with the Shutdown money plus funds already in hand. The reporting has been inaccurate on the point. The problem is, without the Wall, much of the rest of Dollars are wasted!
“Shutdown money?” And, oh yeah, it’s the Democrats’ fault the president shut down the government because he can’t get his way, proving once again that he was temperamentally ill-suited for a job that requires flexibility, diplomacy and vision.
Remember, Trump took full blame for the shutdown during a televised meeting at the White House he arranged in hopes of bullying Democratic congressional leaders into partially funding the wall. So much for the art of the deal.
For the new year, I resolve not to be baited into responding to President Trump’s idiotic tweets.
But that’s next week’s resolution. In the meantime:
The only problem our economy has is the Fed. They don’t have a feel for the Market, they don’t understand necessary Trade Wars or Strong Dollars or even Democrat Shutdowns over Borders. The Fed is like a powerful golfer who can’t score because he has no touch - he can’t putt!
I write often about the inequities of the American capital punishment system, including the arbitrary nature of the decision to pursue the death penalty, the whims or malevolence of the prosecuting side and juries, and the fundamental inhumanity of the execution itself.
A few days ago, I wrote about the nature of those who wind up being executed. This year 11 of 25 executions were of people who had displayed “significant evidence of mental illness,” nine of the condemned showed “evidence of brain injury, developmental brain damage, or an IQ in the intellectually disabled range,” and at least 11 were abused as children.
What did they have in common? They also tend to wind up with bad lawyers, a function of their relative poverty. Where a wealthy individual charged with murder can afford to hire higher-caliber lawyers, the poor tend to get assigned counsel that the government pays for who historically have included a high percentage of the incompetent.
The president reportedly was irritated by the resignation letter Mattis submitted Thursday, which some in the punditocracy characterized as a “stinging rebuke” because it lays out a case for multinationalism. Or rather, he was irritated by the way the media, analysts and other politicians reacted to it, because (according to the New York Times) he had accepted the letter without reading it.
When President Trump decreed that all asylum seekers must present themselves at a port of entry to have their application considered, he broke clear language in U.S. law that says people may present themselves anywhere along the border and request asylum.
Trump predictably got sued, and predictably tried to enforce that rule while the court cases proceed. And just as predictably, the courts told him no. And predictably again, rather than go through the regular appeals process, the president ran straight to the Supreme Court, which shot him down Friday without comment — though by a narrowly divided 5-4 vote.
Meanwhile, President Shutdown is on the verge of furloughing a large portion of the federal government because Democrats in the Senate (wisely) refuse to vote for an omnibus spending bill that would include $5 billion to extend the wall and fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border.