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200 words: Flipper, flipper, flipper

Donald Trump apparently is an expert on “flippers” now.  Not dolphins named Flipper, or appendages of seals and other aquatic mammals or those devices scuba divers and snorkelers wear.  No, these flippers are called “cooperating witnesses” by everyone but mobsters and the prosecutors who lock mobsters up.

Trump was quoted in an interview on Wednesday, Aug. 22nd on Fox and Friends: “I know all about flipping, 30, 40 years I have been watching flippers. Everything is wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they flip on whoever the next highest one is or as high as you can go.”

I don’t doubt Trump knows all about flipping given his legal history.  But I would make one correction to his definition of flipping, to wit, “…..and they flip on whoever the next highest criminal is or as high as you can go.”

Flipping is legal slang for persuading a suspect in a conspiracy to turn state’s witness on his/her co-conspirator.  It is a term only used in the context of criminal investigations.  It’s applied to the pursuit of criminal co-conspirators to get them to tell the truth about their partners in crime. Criminals not “ones,” Mr. Trump, criminals.

Which vermin will really get caught in the “perjury trap?”

Rudy Guliani and Jay Sekulow have been doing all manner of exotic contortions to explain away why the president, who says he would love to talk to special prosecutor Mueller, just can’t seem to get to it.  It’s that ominous perjury trap, you see.

Many legal experts have pushed back on this spurious claim by noting that there is no such thing in the real world as a perjury trap.  Simply tell the truth and there is no perjury, so no trap.  But that simple act appears to be beyond the president’s capabilities.

Rudy and Jay push back that there is, indeed, such a thing as a perjury trap, and they have right-wing media’s megaphone attempting to lend legitimacy to this nonsense.  They say that Mueller would try to trick the President, simple-minded “innocent” that they want us to believe he is, into saying something that contradicts something innocuous he might have said earlier.  Even an innocent exageration or mis-remembering could put the president in jeapordy of “perjury.”

Here’s the problem with that argument.  Exaggerating, mis-remembering, even lying, isn’t perjury unless that lie is told under oath.  Anything the president may have said before sitting down, under oath, with special counsel attorneys can’t be perjury unless he said that earlier thing under oath and it is provably untrue and material to their investigation.

Perjury isn’t a gotcha game.  Perjury is a crime because telling the truth under oath, is an essential component of our criminal justice system.  The threat of a perjury conviction is a tool used to protect the justice system and all of us from those who might bear false witness against us.  It is a legal tool, not a political tactic.

“Under oath” is the important, defining modifier for any accusation of perjury.  As far as perjury is concerned, it doesn’t matter what Don Junior or Hope Hicks or Roger Stone told Trump or what he told them at any time in the past.  What matters is what Donald Trump tells investigators under oath.  If he testifies truthfully or lies in a way the investigators can’t prove what he told them under oath is untrue, there is no perjury.  So no trap.

If Trump says “I can’t remember” what Hope Hicks told me on such and such a date, and that is a lie, how would Mueller’s investigators prove that what he said about not remembering the lie? No perjury. No trap.  Maybe some concern about his mental capacity. But no perjury.

Rudy and Jay’s real problem is that the moron in the Oval Office could quite accidentally get a lot of people around him in big legal trouble simply by answering questions as he always does, off the top of his head with on logic filter.  The bumbling fool would, as he often has, wreck havoc in the lives of everyone that sustains him by casually offering up unsolicited evidence of criminal behavior by his aides and family members and associates.  They are the ones worried about sitting Trump down in front of Mueller’s investigators.  Of course the liar in chief would walk away essentially unscathed because the Justice Department has a policy not to prosecute a sitting president.

The only ones who need fear a “pejury trap,” as Rudy and Jay know full well, are the family and professional associates of the pathological liar they call “Mr. President.”  This is about keeping them out of jail.

200 words: Dog whistles no longer required?

One year ago today a racist mob tore apart Charlottesville. Then one of the thugs who instigated this violence killed a young woman amongst peaceful counter-demonstrators.  The president’s response to this deliberate homicide? “Many sides” we’re to blame. It was a new low point for Trump and the GOP leadership who protects him.

Yesterday, in response to a question I raised at a meeting of retired public employees about his preparation for any such white supremacist violence occurring in Spokane County, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, started his response with “there is blame on both sides.” Nonsense.

Ozzie’s response was sadly Trumpian. “Both sides” will be to blame.  Is this now the accepted GOP response to fears of violence from these right-wing thugs? Really?  No need for dog whistles anymore.

I believe Sheriff Ozzie is a good man.  He is a good sheriff.  I voted for him twice. He needs to drop this facile equivalence meme and straight up promise to protect me, my family and my friends from these right-wing thugs if they show up to stifle my First Amendment rights with their clubs and guns.

It’s not both sides, Ozzie, it’s them, their racism and their weapons.

Property crime in the hood

Preface: I subscribe to the Next Door app for my neighborhood in Spokane, WA.  The Comstock Park neighborhood is one of the more desirable neighborhoods in Spokane.  Twenty years ago, when my wife and I got together, we pooled the equity we held in our respective homes just to come up with a downpayment large enough to get into a rambling rancher we bought back then.  It’s appraised value has increased 78% since we bought it.  Not that much by California standards, but gigantic in steady eddy Spokane’s housing market.

Normally, our Next Door email bulletins deal with lost pets, finding lawn work for a teenager, weighing in on school board or parks board proposals that will affect our neighborhood.  Lately, my Next Door app notices have been dominated by reports of car and garage break-ins, lots of them.  We are getting nervous and frustrated with the apparent lack of increased policing.  Several neighbors report their cars being broken into several times.

Here was my response to one of those nervous neighbors who is new to the area:

Property crime is up everywhere in the city, not just Comstock. The jail is mostly full of violent criminals, so there’s no where to put theives when they do catch them. It’s a much bigger problem than law enforcement can address, even if they and we are not ready to admit it.

We are dealing now with third generation criminals who have never known any other way of living. Grandpa was an alcoholic or a drug addict and a thief, dad was the same, and now them. It’s the only way they know how to survive. Breaking that cycle of poverty and crime, will take time and a lot more than just more law enforcement. We could go broke trying to hire enough cops to catch them all or to build and staff enough prisons to hold them all.  Overcrowding is already at crisis levels in the our county.

For instance, just yesterday, a prisoner was killed in Spokane County Jail in a cell housing 10 (TEN) prisoners. Is building more jails really the answer? Can we actually afford that?

As evidenced by the fact that we own a home in this neighborhood, we have managed to climb into and stay in the middle class. It’s up to us who have the resources and connnections to hold some sway in our political system to have a serious discussion right now about how to keep the next generation of impoverished predators amongst us from growing up into a criminal lifestyle.

It will call for more than hiring more cops, building more prisons or buying more burglar alarms. We need to find a way for these fellow citizens to climb up and out of poverty as youngsters. That will take some political will to change a lot of the way we do things now.

Until I retired I often rode the North Monroe bus to my job. Take that ride and just eavesdrop on some of the conversations. Take a good look out the window at some of the neighborhoods you cruise through on that bus. I grew up in one of those neighborhoods. I notice that there are clearly two or more families living in many of these sweltering, run-down homes.  You see them spilling out onto their front porches with their electric fans trying to make it through anothe 90-degree day.

In the meantime, by all means, do what you can to protect your property. You worked hard to have what you have. I know I did. But let’s also understand that it took decades of anger-driven legislation, frustration and skepticism about social programs for Spokane to get to this state of affairs. It may take another decade or two of smart public policy to move away from it.

CMR without the AR 15

So here I sit in a really uncomfortable folding chair, in the Ferris High School commons listening to Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovitch, try to avoid explaining why they think any 18 year old should be allowed to buy an assault weapon. Right now she is blaming the FBI for the Parkland Shooting and defending the open sale of weapons to children as a Second Amendment right.

These kids aren’t letting her get away with her deflections. She’s asking the kids to explain why they are so violent? Tone deaf.

She makes sure to repeat at every opportunity her support for the Second Amendment unrestricted.

 

 

200 words: A thought experiment for CMR

 

My local newspaper won’t give a centrist Democrat the column space it does to an untrained right-wing hack.  They limit me to a 200-word letter once a month, that must still compete with every other letter writer to see newsprint.  So I am choosing to put my monthly 200 words right here instead. Here is February’s installment of 200 words: Let’s do a little thought experiment for Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and local GOP voters.  Let’s imagine that the only difference from today is that the electoral college vote matched the popular vote and Hillary Clinton is sitting in the Oval Office. Robert Mueller still investigates Russian interference in the election.  He releases his 13-count indictment of Russian hackers. In response, President Clinton does absolutely nothing. Would Representative McMorris Rodgers still be sitting on her hands?  Would Leader McConnell or Speaker Ryan or Reps. Nunes or Gowdy stand silent?  Of course not.  Holy hell would break loose, right? Yet in our reality, the leader of CMR’s party, Donald J. Trump sits in the White House, tweeting and trolling while Rome burns. CMR sits mute while Putin steals our democracy.  Now imagine that you always vote Republican.  You believe in traditional Republican values.  The 2018 election approaches. Do you still vote for a representative who would sacrifice our democracy to curry favor with an adolescent who stumbled into the White House 3 million votes short of a real majority? Are you going to vote for a woman who enables Russian trolls to sabotage our elections just because you always vote Republican? Jim Wavada The Alsatian Diaspora

Fair and balanced? Who cares?

I was a working, bona fide and credentialed journalist once.  I reported the news in my community. I got paid for it.

Since my high school years in local reporter Dorothy Powers Junior Press Club in Spokane, WA., I decided I would become a reporter. After all, it was Superman’s day job, right?

I worked hard as a kid.  I excelled in English class.  I enrolled in my high school journalism class, which became my favorite part of the school day.  I learned the inverted pyramid structure of writing.  I learned and applied the grammatical rules in the AP Style Guide.  I learned interview and note taking techniques.  I learned to appreciate the value of a good editor and how to be one.

My MOS (military occupational specialty) in the U.S. Navy was Journalist.  I was proud of my rating and relished the opportunities to develop my professional chops with the written word.  I wrote hundreds of mundane press releases for hometown newspapers announcing promotions and awards for the local boys.  I learned the style differences required for radio and TV news scripts by writing and editing evening television newscasts for AFRTS (Armed Forces Radio and Television Service) , and hourly news capsules for base and shipboard radio programs.s

After my military service, I earned my dual degree in journalism and political science.
I went to work for three local weekly newspapers over a period of a dozen years.  I worked my way up from cub reporter to editor at the latter two newspapers.  I even won some regional awards for excellence in reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ).

I had an official press pass from the SPJ as well as one from the local press club and press credentials issued only after an interview by the local police department. These credential were not easy to acquire. They acknowledged that I had invested years in the education and professional work experience to claim the title journalist, and that I was gainfully employed by a legitimate news organization.  I was a bonafide, working journalist.

So here’s the point of all this personal history.  In all my years as a professional journalist, not once was I told by any of my bosses to be “fair and balanced.”  Not once.

That’s not because these publishers and editors expected me to take sides or slant my reporting left or right.  Quite the opposite.   They were all silent on this point because they firmly believed that fairness and balance was not my responsibility as a professional reporter.

Instead, they required me to be accurate and comprehensive.  I was taught that whether my writing is fair or balanced is the reader’s call, not mine.  My employers had no intention of trusting me or any other reporter to decide what’s fair or what constitutes balance. Those are value judgments for our readers to make, not journalists or their editors.

My publishers and editors were very adamant, however, that my work be accurate and comprehensive.  Like most people on the planet, they believe there are objective facts to be reported and that no issue in the public domain is a simple as it might first appear to be.

Think about it for a minute.  If I commit to reporting all the facts of an incident or situation accurately, if I portray the larger context comprehensively, I have done my job.  I have given my readers the tools they need to reach their own conclusions about the event I am reporting.

My reporting may well be perceived by the reader as fair and balanced. Great.  Or it may not, if that reporting contradicts a reader’s closely held values. As a professional reporter, fairness and balance is not my call.  That’s the reader’s call.

In fact, filtering my reporting to include only that which I consider “fair,” and reaching past the facts of a situation in an attempt to achieve what I think is “balance,” would be a violation of the journalistic ethics I learned in school.

In school we were taught to faithfully report the five Ws and the H: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How.  Answering these questions is the foundation of any reporting.  For most news, the pursuit of the first four Ws is straightforward. Reporting that last W,  why, and the how of a complex event can be more challenging.

Professional journalism has an answer for this.  It’s called attribution. As a journalist you ask someone clearly in a position to know the why and how and you quote them.  You don’t speculate or opine yourself.  You learn who the available authorities are on the topics of your reporting, and you seek them out for comment.  You ask them the why and how questions and report their responses.

So when some news organization tells you they are fair and balanced, what they are really telling you is that “we don’t trust our readers to judge the facts and determine what is fair and balanced.”  Or they might be telling you that they don’t feel the need to do the hard work or invest in the newsroom personnel to  provide accurate and comprehensive reporting when they can simply proclaim themselves fair and balanced.

As a reader, a consumer of news reporting, I prefer old fashioned, professional journalism. Give me the facts, all of them.  Present the context for the issue being reported. I will decide what’s fair and how important balance is to my understanding of the subject of the reporting.

Half a million homeless, but hey, let’s go golfing

March 21, 2017
Jim Wavada

I’m not one of those people with instant recall for big numbers. I just know when big is big and I am moved by big numbers. The big numbers moving me right now, are the number of refugees created by the war in Syria. That’s the war that sucks up lots of weapons and ammunition, artillery, rifles, even drones, missiles manufactured in the U.S., Russia and Israel. We are feeding a conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands of innocents and left hundreds of thousands more refugees. All at a profit to these merchants of death.

The other big numbers I think about are the tax dollars, millions of them every weekend to wrap our president in a cocoon while he flies from Washington, D.C. to Florida to golf and hold court at his southern White House. The reported cost is $3.5 million per weekend trip.

President Trump has not mentioned the Syrian refugees except as part of his ban to keep us safe from having to see any of them in America. So he works on tax breaks for arms manufacturers and merchants, while ignoring the gigantic human toll this indifference is taking.

So what if hundreds of families are murdered and made homeless, it’s important that we send our draft-dodging, tax cheating, pathological liar of a president to Florida to golf on the weekends and show off for the wealthy members of the Mara Lago resort, his people.

In just two months, this orange wonder has spent more on travel to Florida than it would take to feed every refugee in the Sudan and Syria. Big numbers. He likes big, you know. Like him, I don’t know the exact numbers. Maybe I should. Maybe we all should.

Or we could just go play a round of golf. My handicap is Yuge! Big number.

Can’t balance the pathologically unbalanced

March 16, 2017
Jim Wavada

Sean Spicer, Donald Trump’s beset press secretary, is stuck with unenviable, essentially impossible task of trying to push the narrative that this erstwhile administration’s problems do not begin and end in the Oval Office and the West Wing of the White House.

Spicer, his blood pressure almost visibly rising, stands, a dumbstruck amateur, in front of a room of genuine professional journalists (despite White House attempts to contaminate the press pool with hacks from alt-right media outlets), and tries to deflect and dissemble over the CIC’s current late night conspiracy theory cum libel cum threat cum whine.

Spicey squeals about a lack of balance in reportage. Balance is indeed the problem, but not in the press pool. The balance problem is in the official residence in the wee hours of the morning. Spicer and other sad defenders of the President must deal with an emotionally unbalanced, some would say unhinged, boss.

We seriously ought to be scouring the legal reasons for impeachment and ask ourselves if emotional illness or mental incapacity is one of them and how it can be invoked to put the wheelhouse of our ship of state back in sane, balanced hands.