“A Very Demented Person”

Frustrated By Lack Of Motive, Media and President Settle For Characterization Of Shooter, Lifestyle

There may never be a clear answer to why Stephen Paddock massacred 58 people. So for now it seems  convenient to paint the killer as a “high rolling crazy”. Or someone who was just plain nuts, yet far more well-financed than mass-shooters tend to be. And leave it at that.

But trading “Why?” for “Who?” as the central question, signals the beginning of a long descent into discussion of mental illness, and away from serious consideration of control of access to weapons nobody should need or have. President Trump seemed to be pushing the conversation in that direction too: calling the gunman “a very demented person”, yet refusing to comment on gun control (more on that below).

 • Paddock’s girlfriend, who was in the Philippines at the time of the attack, apparently didn’t provide much additional insight in initial interviews with police, saying, “It never occurred to me in any way whatsoever that he was planning violence against anyone”.

We’ve talked a lot about “bump-stocks” this week, and now congress is too. Even several prominent Republicans including Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn saying it’s probably a good idea to “look into” regulating the devices, which have no other use but to skirt federal prohibitions on automatic weapons by enabling semi-automatic rifles to replicate fully automatic fire.

Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson went even further, according to Politico: saying he’d support a bill barring bump stocks from purchase. “Automatic weapons are illegal. If that facilitates that, to me it would be subject to the same ban”.

While legislation banning “bump-stocks” is absolutely essential (And was in fact part of a failed assault weapons package proposed by California Senator Dianne Feinstein back in 2013), it’s also something of an easy way out for Congress. That way they can say they didn’t sit around and do nothing, yet at the same time limit their focus to an accessory, and completely avoid tackling the issue of more effectively regulating firearms. As Feinstein puts it: passing such narrow legislation would hardly constitute a “sea change.”

We’re sorry to keep showing you this same bit of video, but it’s an important reminder of how nuts it is  the ATF didn’t think this bit of equipment needed to be regulated.

• President Trump visited Las Vegas, and appeared as “Presidential” Trump: somber and on script. He met with families, victims, emergency room workers, and first responders. Offering some of them what he apparently considers the ultimate reward: a visit to the Oval Office.

When asked about gun control, the President said “we’re not going to talk about that today”. Which seems to be a step back from his comment the day before that “we’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes by“.

But really it’s just a different way of saying the same thing. And it takes a page straight out of the NRA playbook: whenever there’s a huge tragedy involving firearms deflect and steer clear during the “we gotta do something” phase.

If you went to the NRA’s website at the time we wrote this, you would be sucked into a time warp of about a week: transported back to a time when standing up for the American flag was the big story of the day, and a mass shooting in Las Vegas has magically not occurred. If only that was so.

NRA home page, last night


• According to the Guardian, if you searched “Las Vegas shooting” on YouTube, many videos float to the top questioning whether the massacre actually happened; arguing it was a hoax. Algorithms fail again.

The Guardian says when it asked YouTube (which is owned by Google) about it, they were told conspiracy theory or “false flag” videos do not violate its standards.

Still, even if YouTube doesn’t eliminate them altogether, one would think if they can build an algorithm to float videos up so more people are exposed to them, they can also build something to push videos down to lessen their exposure.

In our opinion, the main reason for the problem is from day one, all their tools and algorithms were built for maximizing profits, not maximizing quality of content. Conspiracy theories get lots of views and clicks and shares and that’s what everything they’ve built is programmed to support.

Tillerson Says He’s Not Leaving, But Does Not Deny In Moment Of Anger He Called Trump A “Moron”

The Secretary of State’s bizarre and interesting appearance comes after an NBC news report that at some point during the summer, in a moment of fury, he called Trump a “moron” and was on the verge of resigning until Vice President Mike Pence talked him out of if.

Tillerson’s response to the media: he’s isn’t resigning, he’s never considered resigning. And he seems sincerely taken aback at the compulsion in DC to hang one’s dirty linen in public. (Although he did not deny the “moron” comment, saying instead: “the places I come from, we don’t deal with that kind of petty nonsense.”)

In other words, it’s moronic.

Here’s a clip:

Puerto Rico’s Governor Steers Clear Of Direct Confrontation With Trump, But Shrewdly Uses Massive Diaspora To The Mainland As Political Leverage

Politico reports The White House is walking back comments Trump made following his visit, about wiping out the island territory’s $75-billion in debt. The President said “I don’t know if it’s Goldman Sachs, but whoever it is, you can wave goodbye to that.” Trump had earlier scolded Puerto Rico in a Tweet for thinking they might escape its massive debt owed to Wall Street, and now his Budget Director is trying to assure investors that still holds true. Mick Mulvaney saying Puerto Rico’s still going to have to figure out how to fix its own fiscal errors.

Sorry, we can’t get enough of the paper towel toss photos

While Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rossello has publicly praised Trump, he’s also found an effective political pressure point: constantly reminding the President the many Puerto Rican evacuees now on the mainland could stay if the territory does not get the funds to rebuild and debt relief:  “You’re not going to get hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans moving to the states — you’re going to get millions.” Pinpointing their destinations as Florida, New York, and Texas. And by implication, nudging those states to the left: which could be of great peril to Trump.

Republicans Are Getting Ready To Eat Their Own

Vice President Mike Pence’s Chief of Staff and seasoned political operative Nick Ayers, told a group of Republican donors in a closed door meeting, they need to browbeat congressional Republicans into getting behind Trump’s agenda or else consider a big money push to “purge” them.

In an audio recording obtained by Politico, Ayers further suggests donors “test” politicians’ loyalty to Trump, and stop giving money to Senators and Representatives who demonstrate they are not fully behind Trump’s agenda, then start recruiting opponents. (Ayers was very clear to explain he was not speaking for the President or Vice President).

Nick Ayers

Still, we’re already seeing this dynamic at work, with Far-Right Republicans promising ugly campaign challenges against more moderate Republican candidates. As we’ve noted before this will create a huge opportunity for Democrats, but also huge risk. Candidates tend to be weakened in terms of both stamina and finances if they’ve faced a brutal primary battle. At the same time, if Democrats cannot pull off an outright win, they’ll likely be facing a much more Radically Right-wing and unified House and Senate after next year’s elections.

For instance, a more radical Congress might follow up on Trump’s passion for weakening the First Amendment. The President this morning Tweeted:

That Tweet coming after Senate Intelligence Committee leaders said they’ve “hit a wall” and will extend their investigation into Russia’s disruption of the 2016 election into next year.