SOBERLY ONWARD

1. It’s late on Monday, October 30, 2017.

2. It’s the 282nd birthday of John Adams – among many other things, our second President.

Any disturbance you saw in the ground around Quincy, Mass., today might have reflected his thoughts about his 43rd successor.

3. It’s nearing the end of what some Trump haters believed would be the political equivalent of Christmas – the day when Robert Mueller announced the first indictments in his investigation of the Trump campaign’s possible ties with Russia.

Much has been made about the court proceedings – the indictment of former campaign manager Paul Manafort and his buddy, Rick Gates. And the guilty plea of Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos.

Trumpistas tried to downplay the activity. Manafort and Gates were hit on charges related to activities before Trump even started running for president. And Trump’s latest fib fabricator, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, pooh poohed Papadopoulos as an unpaid aide.

Of course, most Trump foes cheered. Their theme song today is “This Could Be the Start of Something Big.”

So here’s my quick thought as we go on in this saga.

No doubt I’m with the Trump haters. No doubt.

But let’s say, for argument’s sake, that what we saw today was – as the Trump people fervently wish – the worst of what’s coming down. I don’t believe that. But let’s just say it.

How would you, if you’re on this side of the divide, feel?

Most of us would say “That’s it?” and scream. You’d go “What about Flynn and Kushner and Donald Jr.? What about Trump?”

Here’s why I’m at peace with where we are tonight.

The way this case is being pursued by Mueller gives me more and more confidence that whatever is uncovered is the truth.

It’s deliberate. It’s methodical. It’s thorough.

Here’s why I think that.

We had no idea about Papadopoulous, who is far more dangerous to Trump than Manafort and the charges he got hit with.

He was arrested in July. For more than two months, there wasn’t a hint of this anywhere. No leaks. No speculation. Nothing.

And the case against Papadopoulos, who brings the concept of collusion with the Russians directly into the campaign, was so solid that the guy pleaded guilty earlier this month.

And still it didn’t leak. For more than three weeks. Until Mueller could make his case against Manafort and Gates to the grand jury.

That might be good legal practice. But is that something you normally associate with what transpires in Washington?

Mueller didn’t trumpet anything. He didn’t hold a flashy news conference. He stayed as under the radar as could be for someone investigating whether or not Trump and/or his people finagled the 2016 election with Putin and the Russians.

There is nothing in this for Robert Mueller. He’s 73 years old. He has no political constituency. He could make a ton of money as a consultant. He could just sit at home and binge watch TV.

No. Instead, he has soberly taken on this terrible responsibility and done in a way that makes him an American hero.

Mueller will face the brickbats of Trumpistas. It’s thankless and it’s difficult.

They’ll, of course, sound different if his investigation doesn’t go much further. Which would exonerate Trump in the national eye.

If that happens, I’m prepared to accept it. The way he’s conducted this investigation so far speaks to an integrity that’s hard to find anymore.

At least someone has it in 2017.

But you know and I know and, best of all, Trump knows that Robert Mueller is far from done.

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NOT BUYIN’ IT, JEFF

1. It’s Wednesday, October 25, 2017.

2. It’s the 257th anniversary of George III’s ascension to the British throne.

Even he’s looking pretty good right now next to Trump.

3. A lot’s being made of the “rebellion” of two Republican senators yesterday.

In the morning, Tennessee’s Bob Corker unburdened himself to CNN’s Manu Raju. Among the things Corker said was that Trump is “debasing” the nation and is “absolutely not” a role model for the nation’s children.

Later in the day, after Trump lunched with the GOP senators, Jeff Flake of Arizona weighed in. He announced on the Senate floor he won’t seek re-election next year and laid the blame on Trump.

“We must stop pretending that the degradation of our politics and the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal,” Flake said.

Corker, by the way, also isn’t running for re-election.

4. So the first reaction to this sense of outrage is “You think?”

I mean, it took these guys nine months of this eaf being in the Oval Office for them to realize what a creep he is?

Secondly, Flake rightfully is getting kudos for stating exactly what’s wrong with Trump and the Republican Party in 2017 – in fact, what’s been wrong with the Republican Party since Nixon.

It is a party of anger and grievance. It has no interest in governing. It’s interested in ruling.

As I’ve stated many times, there’s a big difference.

Democrats’ problem is always trying to find the perfect solution to a problem.

That’s why the party has failed to capitalize on what’s been an amazing success – Obamacare. A serious effort to tame one of the worst things facing most American families is foiled by critics who are upset that more wasn’t done.

Democrats ran away from the Affordable Care Act in 2010 and 2014. They paid for it. We’re still paying for it.

Republicans aren’t troubled by responsibility. They just want to be in charge. And they want to reap the benefit of that.

That was evident last night when they succeeded in gutting a measure that protected consumers from their moneybag friends, the bankers who gave us the financial crisis.

That will be evident as they push for tax cuts that no one needs but the donors they suck up to – the Kochs, the Mercers, et al. – crave.

If Republicans were serious about what they say they’re for – helping people by enabling private enterprise – they would have had a real proposal that they thought was better than Obamacare.

And the reason they didn’t – besides the fact that Obamacare was born out of a plan crafted by a Republican governor of Massachusetts in the first place – is that they didn’t care whether or not it helped people. They cared that Democrats passed it and Barack Obama signed it.

5. One other thing: Flake and Corker have reputations in their party for working with the other side.

In this Republican Party, that’s apostasy. Their attitude is: We rule. Period.

But Flake and Corker aren’t willing to fight for the idea that there’s a Republican way to govern. That there are ideas in both parties that could make life better for Americans. That there is an approach to the world that affirms America’s role as a leader without being a bully or scaring the whole damn planet.

Most of what Flake said is on target. But by stepping away, he’s conceding that the loons run the asylum. And that there’s little he can do about it.

Now, had Flake said he was voting to organize the Senate with the Democrats on his way out, there might have been something more than being pissed about Trump wanting a sycophant in his seat.

If Flake, Corker and one other of these supposedly ticked-off moderate Republicans chose to vote as Democrats and make Chuck Schumer majority leader, they would send a real message to Trump and the nut jobs in their party.

And it’s not as if they’d have to compromise their principles to do that. They wouldn’t have to support single-payer healthcare or immigration reform or gun control or anything else that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and the like stand for.

They would just put themselves in a position to work with others of like mind – in both parties – to affect the change they say they want.

To change the tone in Washington. To accomplish things for people. To put Trump in his place.

Instead, Jeff Flake and Bob Corker are giving Trump, Bannon and the rest of the Putin Pal Brigade exactly what they want.

The GOP nominees for those seats next year will carry the Trump Seal of Approval. Or Bannon’s. They might even be disciples of his holiness, Roy Moore, the Alabama kook who’s running for Jeff Sessions’ vacant seat.

In the end, Flake and Corker have done nothing to advance what they believe is conservatism without the anger. They’ve given in.

They prove two things:

One is that Trump is right. The only reason they’re squawking is they can’t get elected. Maybe, as Trump says, even as dog catcher.

The other is that Republicans are not about governing. They’re about ruling. If Flake and Corker wanted to govern, if they wanted to work for the American people and not on them, there’s a path to it.

They’re running – as fast as they can – the other way.

 

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IT’S NEVER UNITED NATION DAY WITH THIS CLOWN

1. It’s Tuesday, October 24, 2017.

2. It’s the 72nd anniversary of the United Nations. Despite occasional badmouthing by politicians throughout the world, it’s still around.

It’s a place where nations can talk and even make an occasional statement that carries moral weight.

When I was in elementary school in the 1960s, the UN was revered. October 24 was United Nations Day. We took a class field trip to the magnificent UN Building in New York in fourth grade. And the whole school was big on trick-or-treating for UNICEF, the organization designed to help children throughout the world.

Right now, the UN’s stature with the American government is pretty low.

It has a lot to do with the dolt in the White House, who embarrassed the nation last month with a pathetic speech to the General Assembly. The one in which he was flippant about a possible nuclear war with North Korea.

3. It’s been 34 days since Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico – a category 4 storm that devastated the whole island.

At this juncture, three-fourths of the territory remains powerless. A ridiculously large portion of the population doesn’t have running water. Businesses are operating sporadically.

If this were the case in any other part of America – especially in the areas where Trumpistas believe in their entitlement – there would be rioting. The people of Puerto Rico – Americans all – would get the ultimate award for patience if one was given.

All Trump seems to want to do is take credit for a recovery that hasn’t happened. A real president – a real human being – would be mortified by what’s transpired.

Make America great? What’s happening in Puerto Rico humiliates this nation before the world. We can’t even help our own people!

4. Today’s travesty in the Puerto Rico tragedy comes from a Washington Post story about how a small company from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s hometown of Whitefish, Mont., holds the contract to fix the island’s power grid. When Maria struck on Sept. 20, Whitefish Energy had two employees; it’s using 280 subcontractors to do the work.

When we lost power five years ago in Hurricane Sandy, this area was chockablock with trucks from Georgia Power and Alabama Power. Our utility, Orange & Rockland, was overmatched by the storm and called for help. It took eight long, cold, dark days to get things back to normal.

According to the Post, U.S. utility companies were prepared to offer assistance. But then this deal unfolded. And, after 34 days, it’s still pretty dark in Puerto Rico.

So, yes, it’s a little suspicious that this small company from the 700-people hometown of the Interior Secretary gets this huge job.

But will anyone other than the news media investigate this?

You’re kidding, right.

5. By the way, I love CNN’s new “Facts First” campaign.

I’m biased, of course. Today is the third anniversary of my retirement from CNNMoney, and I remain proud of the 16 years I worked for a news organization that continues to do great journalism.

And because I know how much integrity goes into what’s done in New York and all the other CNN quarters, and I know how much it stings having that integrity challenged by proven liars, I think this campaign is perfect.

One of the reasons I spout as much as I do these days is that I had no ability to do that in my CNN years. Company policy bars opinion stating or political activism by anyone who isn’t paid to state opinions.

So I didn’t. I had to hew to the facts of a story, and if they fell against the point of view I held, they still saw the light of a screen because they were the facts.

This morning, in response to this campaign, I saw the hashtag #ThingsITrustMoreThanCNN was trending on Twitter. The usual trolls are there, with the usual references to sexual predators or other bogeymen as being more trustworthy than a news organization whose people risk their lives at times to get at the truth.

They’re cowards, hiding behind their oh-so-clever Twitter handles, manipulated photos and Breitbart talking points. It’s just a sign that the CNN campaign hits home.

Because it deals with facts. Period.

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EVERYBODY AGREES. AND YET.

1. It’s Tuesday, October 17, 2017.

2. Today is the 203rd anniversary of the London Beer Flood.

You read that right.

On this day in 1814, nine people died when vats containing more than 300,000 gallons of beer atop a brewery on Tottenham Court Road collapsed, swamping the adjacent neighborhood.

3. Sen. John McCain took a lot of folks in his own party to task last night when he accepted the Liberty Award in Philadelphia.

In his speech, the Arizona Republican said he worried the nation was abandoning the ideals it has advanced throughout its history “for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems.

McCain didn’t name any of those people. Apparently, he didn’t have to, because one of them chimed in this morning.

“People have to be careful because at some point I fight back,” Trump told a Washington radio interviewer. “I’m being very, very nice but at some point I fight back and it won’t be pretty.”

Now, I’m not the biggest John McCain fan. He’s been dissed by Trump before – remember the I-don’t-like-war-heroes-who-are-captured canard – and still supported much of his regressive agenda.

But it’s clear there’s no love lost between the two. And even though he’s 81 years old and battling the ravages of brain cancer, I’d put his mind and courage up against Trump’s every day and be sure he’d win.

4. If you’re not from New York, how we vote next month on whether or not to hold a constitutional convention probably doesn’t matter.

Actually, if you’re from New York, you normally wouldn’t care either.

But this year’s referendum is a curiosity.

The current constitution requires that New Yorkers vote every 20 years on whether or not to hold a constitutional convention to revise or rewrite the document. This year is the vote.

What campaigning is being done, at least where I live and travel, is very one-sided. All the signs say vote “No.”

Rarely do the signs go into substance about why you should vote “No.” One that I saw near my mom’s house on Long Island talked about how it would raise taxes, because the convention costs money.

But the “No” signs are everywhere. On lawns and billboards. On car bumpers and magnets.

I have yet to see any outdoor display favoring this convention. There are no “Yes” signs to be found.

So I was wondering who is actually is for this thing.

One group is Citizens Union, which advocates for government reform. And goodness knows, given the propensity of scandal in the state legislature, New York could probably use reform.

It’s been my experience to live and work in three states – New York, New Jersey and Illinois – noted for their corruptibility. New York would outpace the other two, except that Illinois has had about as many governors go to prison than didn’t in my lifetime.

Anyway, Citizens Union says a convention would erase some of the problems that lead to corruption. It talks about rules on campaign contributions and election reform.

But some of the wording on the group’s own site might not be their strongest selling point.

Some opponents have stated that opening up the constitution could lead to efforts to reduce some protections that go even beyond those in the U.S. Constitution. And here’s the group’s response:

“Though an unlimited Constitutional Convention does present some risk to currently codified protections, we believe that this risk is worth taking, as it provides the opportunity to construct governmental systems that improve representative democracy through increased accountability, transparency, effectiveness, and ethical conduct.”

Citizens Union says a “Yes” vote will empower them to campaign for the things it wants in the constitution. As far as the things it doesn’t want – like, say, a right-wing effort to curtail abortion rights which you can bet a billion bucks would occur – you can trust them, they’ll fight it.

That doesn’t inspire confidence.

And yet, despite all the “No” signs and banners and stickers, the last poll taken by Quinnipiac College shows a plurality favoring this thing.

That might tell you something about the state of disgust with government.

Or it might just be that something everybody seems to hate must have something redeeming about it.

I’m probably going to vote “No” because I don’t see Citizens Union standing like Horatius at the bridge holding off the Kochs, the Trumpistas and corporate money. 

But if “Yes” wins, some Democrat should hire its campaign manager. If there is one.

 

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ORANGE JUICE AND INJUSTICE

1. It’s Tuesday, October 10, 2017.

2. It’s the 60th anniversary of President Dwight Eisenhower’s apology to the finance minister of Ghana, Nobla Gbedemah.

While visiting Dover, Del., Gbedemah and a companion stopped at a Howard Johnson’s for an orange juice. They were given the juice in paper cups and told to take them outside, that the restaurant would not serve them.

Gbedemah complained. Eventually, Eisenhower and his vice president, Richard Nixon, invited Gbedemah to the White House for breakfast.

Now, there are indications that Gbedemah was a bit of a character. According to accounts, he had a falling out with Ghanian President Kwame Nkrumah, who suspected Gbedemah of plotting a coup. He won a parliamentary election in 1969, but was denied his seat by the nation’s highest court and quit politics.

But you can’t fault the man for raising a stink about how he was treated at Howard Johnson’s.

You can’t fault any man or woman for complaining about being denied service or fair access or any kind of justice on the basis of their race.

3. Here’s a reminder: The power of how the NFL players and others are protesting racial injustice is driving their opponents crazy.

If they really wanted to disrespect the flag, the national anthem or veterans – as Trump, Pence and others who have wet their pants over this thing scream – there are more graphic ways to do it. They could shout invective or sing some other song while the anthem is playing. They could desecrate the flag. They could shun veterans.

They have chosen a gesture, kneeling, that a normal world wouldn’t see as wrong. That a normal world would see as reflective on the anthem – rather than just standing there wondering what plays the offense is running on the first series of downs.

By being respectful, they have given more power to the point – that there is racial injustice in this country that needs to be addressed. That the solution to the flap over whether police conduct toward African-Americans isn’t some mindless demand for worship of cops by people losing their reason to trust them.

Pence has no desire to solve any problems. If he did, if he actually had the wherewithal to be a leader instead of a sanctimonious leech, he would have met the players in Indianapolis and discussed why they were doing what they were doing.

Instead, the miserable Trump puppy did what the owner told him to do, and walked out of Sunday’s game. It was a political stunt, pure and simple, and if it didn’t backfire on this joke of a human being then the joke is on those who fell for it.

There’s a grievance. That’s what these players and thousands of others in society are saying. It doesn’t go away like a head cold or a zit. Trying to browbeat it away – or, worse, questioning the Americanism of the people expressing it, only seeks division to exploit and make political capital.

There’s a lot of pressure on these athletes – who, let’s face it, would be in politics and not sports if that’s what they did best. Their ability to make a living on their skills is extremely limited – by both the degree of their talent and their age. So protesting civil injustice can’t be an easy choice, even for the most radical among them.

If Pence was a man and not a squealing Republican hamster, he’d apologize for what he did last Sunday. The NFL players are protesting, respectfully but sincerely. In the process of kissing the boss’ ass, he disrespected not just the players, but the flag and the anthem being presented.

I know. Fat chance.

But solving the nation’s problems requires teamwork, not a bludgeon. And certainly not stunts or insulting tweets.  Here’s to hoping.

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SOME PEOPLE JUST DON’T LIKE WOMEN

1. It’s Friday, October 6, 2017.

2. It’s the 240th anniversary of the Battle of Fort Clinton and Fort Montgomery.

It took place about 10 miles up the Hudson from where I live and is noted for the fact that the generals on both sides were named Clinton – in fact, both of the Americans’ generals were brothers named Clinton.

The British Clinton, who was no known relation, beat the two Americans. So not a good day in history for the good guys.

3. Neither, unfortunately, is today.

Let’s start with Harvey Weinstein.

Exposing sexual predators with power requires a strength that often takes time to muster. We saw what happened last year with Roger Ailes at Fox News.

Unfortunately, 20 years went by before Harvey Weinstein was shown for what he is. It was supposedly the best kept secret in Hollywood that this producer, a hit maker responsible for loads of Oscars, took unwelcome liberties with women in the film industry. He paid those who complained to maintain his reputation.

So kudos to The New York Times for bringing this out into the open. And kudos to the women who told their stories to the Times’ reporters.

Folks on the right are chortling over what they perceive as Democrats’ discomfort about Weinstein, who donated a lot of money to the party’s candidates over the years.

What Democrats should be is angry. So should Republicans and any other political stripe you imagine.

Sexual predators look for ways to cloak their heinous behavior in respectability. In Weinstein’s case, he might have reached the conclusion that as long as he put in his money in noble causes on the left, his abhorrent behavior would be overlooked.

That might have worked for a time. But hypocrisy stinks and the smell overpowers.

Several Democrats who received money from Weinstein are either returning it or donating it to groups advocating against violence toward women. That’s a no-brainer.

If you’re a Democrat and believe that women deserve fairness and justice, that money should be out of your hands.

And Weinstein should be a pariah to the party. For as long as he lives.

4. Today’s other news that reflects an irrational view of women comes, of course, from the White House.

As expected, Trump announced that employers no longer have to pay for essential contraceptive services required by Obamacare if they have religious objections.

For some reason, people who don’t believe women should have the ability to choose whether or not to carry a pregnancy to full term also don’t believe women should have the ability not to become pregnant in the first place.

I guess, they believe, this is how you stop men and women from engaging in sexual activity unless they want to procreate.

Which is, of course, ridiculous. Most people don’t want 10 children. It’s hard enough to raise one.

Not to mention that some people don’t want any for whatever reason.

And that reason is nobody’s business but that person’s or couple’s.

Finally, contraceptives are not just for birth control. They are often used to combat other health issues such as migraines related to menstruation.

Here’s something that shouldn’t be a radical idea: Women are entitled to be free from pain.

But the busybodies of the Christian right seem to believe it’s divine will that their preferences on this be the law of the land.

Not every employer is going to be stupid enough to take away the provision of contraceptive services to employees.

Just the ones who hide behind some religious excuse to reveal their contempt of the women who work for them.

5. And, finally, this: Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton apologized for remarks demeaning a female reporter who asked him about routes, which is what wide receivers run on pass plays.

He thought it was funny that she would know what a route was.

One thing that should be really tired is the concept that women don’t understand anything about sports.

It should have been tired more than a half-century ago.

It’s my experience that women know all they need to know about any sport. This shouldn’t need to be said, but women have proven themselves as sports journalists – and it is preposterous to infer that they’re not sophisticated enough to understand the real nitty gritty of the game.

And that applies to fans, too. It’s my experience, for instance, that women who follow the Mets enough to blog or tweet are as knowledgeable and entertaining in their statements and exhortations as any guy.

One more thing:

It was my mom, nearly 60 years ago, who taught me how to keep score. That I’ve done so to cover a World Series professionally is a tribute to her teaching and her passion for the game.

Now she’s absolutely wrong about supporting the designated hitter. She may be about to turn 85, but I don’t intend to let up on that argument.

 

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SORRY. NOT THIS TIME EITHER.

1. It’s Monday, October 2, 2017. We’re two days into the final quarter of the year.

2. It’s the 11th anniversary of the West Nickel Mines School shooting.

A terrorist from nearby walked into an Amish girls’ school in Pennsylvania and shot eight of the 10 girls in attendance, killing five of them, before he took his own miserable life.

3. As I write this, the death toll from last night’s horror in Las Vegas is 59.

That’s nine more people than died more than a year ago in an Orlando night club, 27 more than in the 2007 slayings at Virginia Tech and 33 more than the number of children and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

Shooting death stats look like we’re listing the home run leaders in baseball.

It’s pathetic. It’s sick.

And yet, there are idiots who believe that somebody’s right to shoot up a country music concert in Las Vegas supersedes the concertgoers’ rights to live.

We are going to hear – and we should hear – the tragic stories from Las Vegas. There will be more than we can bear. More than 500 people were injured last night.

That means about 600 lives were affected by a terrorist – stop minimizing these people as misguided and recognize them for what they are! – who somehow decided he’d go to the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Casino Hotel and start shooting.

Actually, that 600 number is way too small. There are parents and children, spouses and lovers, business partners and drinking buddies, teammates and neighbors. Thousands of them whose lives can never be the same.

You would think that this one, this is the one, that will get this nation on a path toward reining in this embarrassment of gun violence. That this time, this time, is when we’ll put a stop to this nonsense.

That there must be something we’re doing wrong that civilized nations – this stuff takes us out of that group – manage to do fairly well. There are countries of significant size, such as Japan, that have fewer gun deaths annually than we had last night in Las Vegas. We can’t do that?

Actually, we can’t. We won’t.

I’d love to be optimistic and say there will some result from this. Why does any civilian need 19 automatic or semi-automatic weapons? Surely, there’s a way to control this – even a minimum effort.

Nope. Not gonna happen.

We didn’t do it after Columbine when it was high school kids killed or Aurora when moviegoers got shot. We didn’t do it after Virginia Tech when it was college students or after Colorado Springs when it was women getting examinations at a clinic.

Most of all, we didn’t do it after Sandy Hook. We didn’t do it when most of the victims were 6- and 7-year-old children, less than two weeks before Christmas.

None of that, not Orlando or Killeen, Texas, or San Bernardino or Roseburg, Oregon, or any other mass slaying you can think of moved the U.S. Congress toward some semblance of reason on the possession of firearms.

In fact, after Sandy Hook, the scumbag who runs the National Rifle Association stood in front of TV cameras and proclaimed that the real problem was that the school’s educators weren’t armed. “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a guy,” said this collection of vomit and excrement.

And that’s where it stands. This country wouldn’t do anything about kids getting killed. The NRA roused its members, who got into their pickup trucks, sat on their brains and railed about how Barack Obama or some other liberal was taking away their guns.

What’s left to get indignant about if you can’t see that killing kids at an elementary school is the ultimate obscenity. That urinating on the flag while the national anthem plays pales in comparison.

So 59 people at a country music concert, while certainly an impressive number, won’t change anything.

The House might – might – postpone its vote that would allow looser restrictions on silencers that was scheduled for this week. But forget forgetting the idea. That ain’t happening.

And with this idiot who occupies the Oval Office, there’s no impetus at all for change.

I’d love to think that tonight, as families wail about the loss of someone they love, as friends stare blankly at the TV screens showing the latest news, as the beyond-belief brave men and women who responded to this incident continue to help those who were wounded, that this will be the turning point.

That the nation’s lawmakers will realize that prostitution to the gun industry is a surefire path to hell. That people have the right to go out in public – I guarantee no one in that concert crowd thought twice about his or her safety – without fear.

To a concert, a ball game, a mall, a rally, a parade, a hospital. To an elementary school, for God’s sake.

This is the game changer?

No. Sorry. They’ll wait this one out too.

But I’d give a lot to be proven wrong.

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