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Friday, February 16, 2018


  I assume everyone receiving this e mail agrees with my views on guns.  I have heard endless analyses of the issue in the last 24 hours.  I would like to share my thoughts of the most interesting comments, good and bad.
       First, the lunatic in chief.  His first tweet put the blame on the teachers and students for not preventing the gunman from doing the killing.  This man is crazy, not to mention evil.  Today he gave a seven minute speech  with the same old platitudes about prayer and telling children how much we love them.  He said we will do everything we can to protect them.  That is, of course, a bald faced lie.  
        Rubio, Ryan,  Cruz and others say now is not the time to talk about gun control.  It never is.  Grassley said the one thing all of the mass killers have in common is that they had mental problems.  He is wrong.  There is a second thing they all had in common.  They all used assault weapons.  After every mass murder Ryan has said exactly the same ting, now is not the time to talk about gun control.
      Tim Kaine made  a great argument.  He said that the NRA has its headquarters in his state.  He gets an "F" grade from the NRA.  He nevertheless gets reelected.  He called the NRA a fraudulent  paper tiger.  They should not be feared.  Yet his colleagues fear that the NRA will go after them if they buck the NRA.  Kaine urges his colleagues to forget their fears.  The NRA is really toothless.  If only there were a stiff spine on Capitol Hill.
        Wolfe Blitzer interviewed  a psychiatrist  who is an expert in mass violence.  She put into words exactly what I had been thinking.  She said it is a pure fantasy to think that increased mental treatment will prevent these things from happening.  She said that mass killings occur as a result of a sudden explosion of a psychotic episode.  She said that one cannot predict which mentally impaired person will explode and which will not.  She said the only thing that  can be effective is controlling the availability of assault weapons.  She said that states with effective gun control laws have lowered their numbers of gun related crimes.  The psychiatrist said that she herself has held an assault weapon.  She said it gives a person a tremendous sense of power and entitlement.    Just putting such a weapon in  anyone's hands is highly dangerous.
         Chump's speech was interesting in a couple of ways.  First, he was reading from a teleprompter.  He can barely read.  I suspect  a fifth grade teacher would say that he is barely at grade level.  He spoke with almost no inflection.  He gave the usual platitudes.  Second, his speech never once said the word "gun".    The good news for Chump is that the massacre occurred near Mar A Lago.  I guarantee that when he goes to Florida to meet the families of the victims it will not stop him from getting in his rounds of golf.  Watch and see.    Thanks again for listening.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Preparing witnesses

  Chump has preempted me once again.  For a few days I have been thinking about writing a piece about preparing a witness for testimony.  Before I could get to my computer there arose  the story of another Trumpian biting the dust, or should I say hitting  a spouse.  Separately there is the story of Nancy Pelosi a 77 year old woman, standing on four inch heels delivering a passionate 8 hour speech about dreamers and the moral obligation of Paul Ryan to do the right thing.  So I will start with preparing a witness.  More to follow about other subjects.  I assume Trump will preempt me again.
       Before reading beyond this sentence, please ask yourself what would be the first question you would ask Chump if you were Mueller?  I have my question.  Here it is. You told NBC News the following," I have the world's greatest memory.  It's one thing everyone agrees on."  Is that a true statement?  Will Chump admit that was a lie?  Or will he still claim he has the world's greatest memory? As a wise person once said, if you are going to lie, you better have a good memory.  We know that he can tell multiple lies within one sentence.  In fact, he told two lies in the above quote.
       I have prepared a huge number of witnesses for testimony under oath whether at depositions or trials.  I always told them certain basic rules.  First, never lie.  Never worry that an answer will hurt you.  What will hurt you is if you lie and you're caught.  Second, there is nothing wrong with saying, "I don't remember."  The witness is not being given a memory test. The problem for Chump is that he has publicly stated on multiple occasions that he has the world's greatest memory.  So if he answers the first question affirmatively, every time he says he does not remember, he is lying.  Chump has faced this dilemma  before. In a deposition involving Trump University, he said he did not remember 35 times.
       Years ago I represented a fairly wealthy woman in a personal injury case.  In written interrogatories she answered that she had never been arrested and convicted of a crime.  At her oral deposition she said the same thing.  Then the opposing counsel asked her about her conviction for shoplifting at Saks.  That was the end of the case.  Later she told me that she thought the other side would never find out about it.  If she had told me about the conviction before answering the interrogatory, the problem would have gone away.  The shoplifting had nothing to do with an auto accident case.  But she ruined her case by lying.
        I have no doubt that Mueller has a great deal of knowledge about Chump's nefarious dealings with Russians.  If he lies, Mueller will have him both on the dealings and on perjury.  
        I have had the experience, more than once, of dreading my client's upcoming testimony.  Some clients are uncontrollable. It is an awful experience.  I think that Chump is far more uncontrollable witness than any I have dealt with.  If I were Chump's lawyer I would play out the string as long as possible in the hope that somehow he will not be compelled to testify.  I would love to be a fly on the wall to hear the discussions between Chump and his lawyers.  Then I would love to buzz unto  the wall for Mueller's questioning of Chump.  I remain convinced that once Mueller completes his investigation, Chump's presidency will have less than a 50% chance of survival.  He's a liar and a thief. Thanks again  for listening.


Congress pushing back on Trump's reckless Mideast policies

President Trump’s disastrous policies in the Middle East could help lead to a new outbreak of fighting at one of the region's most sensitive hotspots -- Israel’s border with Gaza.
In the latest escalation in US-Palestinian tensions following the president’s December decision to “take Jerusalem off the table,” the Trump administration decided to punish them by withholding funds that help support over 1.5 million Palestinian refugees.
Slashing aid to the Palestinian refugee relief agency UNRWA cruelly hurts some of the region’s most vulnerable and neglected people. It increases the prospects for despair, unrest -- and ultimately -- violence.
There are some legitimate concerns about the ways in which UNRWA operates, and good ideas about how it could change for the better. But improving the organization’s work and funding structure will require thoughtful and deliberate reforms -- not recklessly cutting off all of its funding before that process of reform has even begun.
Trump’s move has Israel’s top security officials deeply worried. Last week, they warned the Israeli government that weakening UNRWA could push the humanitarian crisis in Gaza past its breaking point and lead to a serious new round of protests and fighting with Israeli forces all along the border.
With many Gazans unemployed and living with severely limited access to food, water and electricity, the IDF’s chief of staff this week warned the Israeli cabinet of imminent total collapse there -- and urged leaders to take steps to prevent it.
The administration’s refusal to help maintain stability or pursue real peace is only fueling more conflict. When the US abdicates leadership, it’s Israelis and Palestinians who will pay the price.
Here’s the good news: A growing number of members of Congress understand the damage that Trump and company are doing, and they’re standing up to oppose this reckless policy. Over 100 members -- including Representative Brenda L. Lawrence -- have signed a new letter to President Trump urging him to continue funding to UNRWA and bilateral aid to the Palestinian Authority.
J Street was proud to support and advocate for this urgent letter, which was led by Representatives Peter Welch and David Price. We mobilized supporters across the country to help make clear that slashing funds to vulnerable refugees is dangerous and unconscionable.
The letter sends a strong message:
“Deliberately exacerbating the hardship of the Palestinian people and reducing the ability of their government to function would only contribute to the benefit of those who reject engagement. Extremist and anti-Israel groups would be all too eager to fill in the vacuum, deepening their hold in the region and expanding their destructive influence on the prospects for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.”
The situation in Gaza is desperate -- but further suffering and conflict is not inevitable. We know that solutions are possible. Last week at an emergency conference to discuss the situation, Israel presented a billion dollar humanitarian assistance plan that could help bring new water treatment facilities, power plants and economic opportunities to the Strip.
Implementing this kind of much-needed plan takes creativity, vision and political will. A responsible US government would act now to head off disaster. Instead of bullying refugees and international institutions, it would rally Israeli and Palestinian leaders and the international community to help Gaza and prevent violence.
Right now, we have dangerous leadership in the White House. But we can’t just stand by while this administration lashes out at Palestinians and makes Israelis less safe. We can’t let a toxic mix of confrontation and negligence lead to more suffering and crisis in Gaza, the West Bank and across the region.
The Welch-Price letter is just the latest proof that a different vision of the US role in the Middle East is possible. Many of our elected officials are committed to standing up for diplomacy, partnership and humanitarianism.
At J Street, we’re determined to stand behind these pro-Israel, pro-peace members of Congress and work to elect even more leaders to stand alongside them and challenge the Trump agenda in 2018 and beyond.
Thanks for all that you do,
Jeremy Ben-Ami
President, J Street
P.S. -- You can thank Rep. Lawrence for signing the Welch-Price letter by calling her office: (202) 225-5802. It's important that we show members they have strong support from their constituents for staking out pro-Israel, pro-peace positions.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Why I'm a Liberal

This is going to be VERY long, so: TL;DR: I’m a liberal, I’ve always been a liberal, but that doesn’t mean what a lot of you apparently think it does.
Some of you suspected. Some of you were shocked. Many of you have known me for years, even the majority of my life. We either steadfastly avoided political topics, or I carefully steered conversations away from the more incendiary subjects in the name of keeping the peace. “I’m a liberal” isn’t really something you broadcast in social circles where “the liberals” can’t be said without wrinkling one’s nose.
But then the 2016 election happened, and staying quiet wasn’t an option anymore. Since then, I’ve received no shortage of emails and comments from people who were shocked, horrified, disappointed, disgusted, or otherwise displeased to realize I am *wrinkles nose* a liberal. Yep. I’m one of those bleeding heart commies who hates anyone who’s white, straight, or conservative, and who wants the government to dictate everything you do while taking your money and giving it to people who don’t work.
Or am I?
Let’s break it down, shall we? Because quite frankly, I’m getting a little tired of being told what I believe and what I stand for. Spoiler alert: Not every liberal is the same, though the majority of liberals I know think along roughly these same lines.
1. I believe a country should take care of its weakest members. A country cannot call itself civilized when its children, disabled, sick, and elderly are neglected. Period.
2. I believe healthcare is a right, not a privilege. Somehow that’s interpreted as “I believe Obamacare is the end-all, be-all.” This is not the case. I’m fully aware that the ACA has problems, that a national healthcare system would require everyone to chip in, and that it’s impossible to create one that is devoid of flaws, but I have yet to hear an argument against it that makes “let people die because they can’t afford healthcare” a better alternative. I believe healthcare should be far cheaper than it is, and that everyone should have access to it. And no, I’m not opposed to paying higher taxes in the name of making that happen.
3. I believe education should be affordable and accessible to everyone. It doesn’t necessarily have to be free (though it works in other countries so I’m mystified as to why it can’t work in the US), but at the end of the day, there is no excuse for students graduating college saddled with five- or six-figure debt. 
4. I don’t believe your money should be taken from you and given to people who don’t want to work. I have literally never encountered anyone who believes this. Ever. I just have a massive moral problem with a society where a handful of people can possess the majority of the wealth while there are people literally starving to death, freezing to death, or dying because they can’t afford to go to the doctor. Fair wages, lower housing costs, universal healthcare, affordable education, and the wealthy actually paying their share would go a long way toward alleviating this. Somehow believing that makes me a communist.
5. I don’t throw around “I’m willing to pay higher taxes” lightly. I’m self-employed, so I already pay a shitload of taxes. If I’m suggesting something that involves paying more, that means increasing my already eye-watering tax bill. I’m fine with paying my share as long as it’s actually going to something besides lining corporate pockets or bombing other countries while Americans die without healthcare.
6. I believe companies should be required to pay their employees a decent, livable wage. Somehow this is always interpreted as me wanting burger flippers to be able to afford a penthouse apartment and a Mercedes. What it actually means is that no one should have to work three full-time jobs just to keep their head above water. Restaurant servers should not have to rely on tips, multibillion dollar companies should not have employees on food stamps, workers shouldn’t have to work themselves into the ground just to barely make ends meet, and minimum wage should be enough for someone to work 40 hours and live.
7. I am not anti-Christian. I have no desire to stop Christians from being Christians, to close churches, to ban the Bible, to forbid prayer in school, etc. (BTW, prayer in school is NOT illegal; *compulsory* prayer in school is - and should be - illegal) All I ask is that Christians recognize *my* right to live according to *my* beliefs. When I get pissed off that a politician is trying to legislate Scripture into law, I’m not “offended by Christianity” – I’m offended that you’re trying to force me to live by your religion’s rules. You know how you get really upset at the thought of Muslims imposing Sharia on you? That’s how I feel about Christians trying to impose biblical law on me. Be a Christian. Do your thing. Just don’t force it on me or mine.
8. I don’t believe LGBT people should have more rights than you. I just believe we should have the *same* rights as you.
9. I don’t believe illegal immigrants should come to America and have the world at their feet, especially since THIS ISN’T WHAT THEY DO (spoiler: undocumented immigrants are ineligible for all those programs they’re supposed to be abusing, and if they’re “stealing” your job it’s because your employer is hiring illegally.). I’m not opposed to deporting people who are here illegally, but I believe there are far more humane ways to handle undocumented immigration than our current practices (i.e., detaining children, splitting up families, ending DACA, etc). 
10. I believe we should take in refugees, or at the very least not turn them away without due consideration. Turning thousands of people away because a terrorist might slip through is inhumane, especially when we consider what has happened historically to refugees who were turned away (see: MS St. Louis). If we’re so opposed to taking in refugees, maybe we should consider not causing them to become refugees in the first place. Because we’re fooling ourselves if we think that somewhere in the chain of events leading to these people becoming refugees, there isn’t a line describing something the US did. 
11. I don’t believe the government should regulate everything, but since greed is such a driving force in our country, we NEED regulations to prevent cut corners, environmental destruction, tainted food/water, unsafe materials in consumable goods or medical equipment, etc. It’s not that I want the government’s hands in everything – I just don’t trust people trying to make money to ensure that their products/practices/etc are actually SAFE. Is the government devoid of shadiness? Of course not. But with those regulations in place, consumers have recourse if they’re harmed and companies are liable for medical bills, environmental cleanup, etc. Just kind of seems like common sense when the alternative to government regulation is letting companies bring their bottom line into the equation.
12. I believe our current administration is fascist. Not because I dislike them or because I’m butthurt over an election, but because I’ve spent too many years reading and learning about the Third Reich to miss the similarities. Not because any administration I dislike must be Nazis, but because things are actually mirroring authoritarian and fascist regimes of the past. 
13. I believe the systemic racism and misogyny in our society is much worse than many people think, and desperately needs to be addressed. Which means those with privilege – white, straight, male, economic, etc – need to start listening, even if you don’t like what you’re hearing, so we can start dismantling everything that’s causing people to be marginalized. 
14. I believe in so-called political correctness. Not because everyone is a delicate snowflake, but because as Maya Angelou put it, when we know better, we do better. When someone tells you that a term or phrase is more accurate/less hurtful than the one you’re using, you now know better. So why not do better? How does it hurt you to NOT hurt another person? Your refusal to adjust your vocabulary in the name of not being an asshole kind of makes YOU the snowflake.
15. I believe in funding sustainable energy, including offering education to people currently working in coal or oil so they can change jobs. There are too many sustainable options available for us to continue with coal and oil. Sorry, billionaires. Maybe try investing in something else.
I think that about covers it. Bottom line is that I’m a liberal because I think we should take care of each other. That doesn’t mean you should work 80 hours a week so your lazy neighbor can get all your money. It just means I don’t believe there is any scenario in which preventable suffering is an acceptable outcome as long as money is saved.
So, I’m a liberal.  Linda Samelson