Jon Cazares

Jon Cazares

Another white supremacist right-wing terrorist commits mass murder. I’m sure you’ve heard all about it. I’m not going to talk much about gun control because you already know where you stand on that issue. I’m not going to even talk about the actual massacre because you’ve probably heard all about it and, honestly, I doubt I have anything new to say. I do want to talk about the fact that I wish I was more shocked. I mean, do you actually remember a time when it would be shocking to hear about any kind of massacre? I certainly do, and I honestly feel like it was decades ago. Now, I just wait for it to happen, knowing it will.  

Remember back in 2011 when a white supremacist right-wing terrorist massacred 79 people in Norway? I hope you do, because I actually forgot all about it. I seriously did. This morning I read Huffpost’s really excellent: Mass Shooters Have Exploited the Internet For Years. New Zealand Took It To A New Level. (No, seriously, it’s great, you should take a few minutes to read it because they accurately point out some of the social problems that lead to mass shootings). Somewhere within the Huffpost story, the writers mention the 2011 attack in Norway that killed seven nine people, and I immediately thought, “Attack on Norway? Jesus, I don’t even remember that one.” I had to look it up. It took me a few moments of reading to recall the details. And then I thought, “Oh, I think there's a Netflix movie about it that just came out a few months ago - maybe I should watch it.” Sadly, my thoughts were not “What a horrible, f**king thing to have happened!” Nope. My thoughts were, “Don’t remember it. Oh, right, now I remember it. I should watch the movie.” =(

I mean, there are plenty of mass shootings I do remember. Without looking anything up: Vegas. The Ariana Grande concert in the UK (I think this was a bomb and not a shooting, or maybe it was both, or maybe I’m mixing up concert attacks). The FL nightclub massacre. Columbine. Virginia Tech. Sandy Hook. The Synagogue attack in … um, I can’t recall which city (and I even wrote about that attack). The attack on the movie theater where viewers were watching Batman, but I don’t remember the name of the theater chain or the city it happened. Multiple attacks on black folks while they’re in church. Multiple attacks in Paris within the last five years. The Kenya school attack. The Australian massacre in Port Arthur and I only remember this one because of the Jim Jefferies stand up routine about the attack and his views on gun control (which, is a pretty good routine). The Amish school shooting in … actually, I don’t remember where. Those are the ones I remember off the top of my head and there are clearly important details that I just can't recall - like the horrible massacre in Norway where 79 people died! Five years from now, after another couple dozen mass shootings have occurred, I wonder which of the above I will have forgotten?

Obviously the point being that mass shootings happen often enough that I no longer even remember some of them. I don’t claim to have a solution; however, I do see a few things in common with modern day massacres.

  • They’re very often by right-wing extremists and/or religious fanatics.
  • They’re overwhelmingly by men. Like, 99.9% of the time the mass shooter is male - a cripplingly insecure male.
  • They are usually white. Not always, but usually. 
  • They often leave behind a "manifesto" where they blame their crippling insecurities on Jews, or people of color, or women, or liberals - or all the above.  
  • They all use semi-automatic guns, and often use modified semi-automatic rifles.  

And there we have our game of Clue: The modern day massacre edition! Pick a mass shooting and ask -  who did it? Oh, I know! I know! Is it ”the crippling insecure white male right-wing extremist, in the city, with a semi-automatic weapon?”  (Well, not 100% of the time but, close enough).

Hey, how about this for a new law - men are banned from owning and operating guns! No, that's illegal. Let's remember the Second Amendment here so, oh, I know! Men can own, like, a flintlock rifle or a blunderbuss, or something as equally inefficient in the modern world - but women are allowed to own Uzi's and 9mm semi-automatic pistols! That would probably cut down on mass shootings. =)

Anyway. We all know mass shootings are not going away. Maybe the next time a cripplingly insecure man decides to shoot up a movie theater - I’ll be there and get killed. Or maybe the next time a cripplingly insecure man decides to “ignite a race war” by walking into a church filled with black folks and gunning them down - you’ll be there and get killed. Or maybe the next time a cripplingly insecure man decides to walk into a nightclub and gun down dancers - your kid will be there and get killed.

But I hope not. I hope someone, somewhere has a solution. And I hope it comes sooner, rather than later. Until then, I will cynically just wait for the next mass shooting to happen. I’ll probably post a bitter story about that one too - "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." 

The word has spread all over the internet, and all over the news that as many as 50 people conspired in a scheme to help their kids cheat on SAT/ACT tests and / or get their kid admitted to a privileged school on an athletic scholarship - even if the child had never played the sport.

Okay. Well, that’s clearly fraud. You can’t pay someone to take tests for your kid and you can’t get admitted on scholarship for a sport you’ve never played. That’s a crime. And let’s not forget the general idea that the moment you pay for the privilege of placing your child in a college that he/she probably didn’t deserve to be at - you’ve actually significantly harmed someone else who deserved that place but was rejected due to your fraud.

And there are some high profile people involved in this including actress Felicity Huffman (of Desperate Housewives fame) and actress Lori Loughlin (of Full House fame) both who paid huge sums of money to cheat their kids into college. Now, I know parents will do anything for their kids so, to be honest - I’m certainly not surprised to hear that rich parents will, you know - pay large sums of money to give their children even more privilege and more advantages than they already had. This is not a big shock to me.

And this is nothing new, right? I mean, all you have to do is apply common sense and reason to the George W. Bush Yale/Harvard question. How did Bush Jr. get into either ivy league school with his C average in high school, his decent (but certainly not great) SAT score and his zero college sports scholarships? You or I would NOT be able to get into Yale or Harvard with a C average and a decent SAT score. So how did Bush Jr. get in? Well, we all know that answer to that - because his family is well know and rich, rich, rich.

Obviously both schools accepted Bush Jr.., probably for the prestige of the Bush name but maybe, like in these recent cases - out of fraud. It’s very possible the Bush family just shelled out huge sums of cash to both schools until the universities in question said, “Sure, we’ll take your C student son!”

Well, that’s pretty much what this new scandal is all about. And we’re talking all sorts of universities are involved in this - Georgetown, Stanford, Yale, Wake Forest, UCLA, USC, Harvard, to name a few. And officials are claiming this might be just the tip of the iceberg.

So, how did this all happen?

It appears that a man named William "Rick" Singer is the front runner. Singer is CEO of “The Key,” which is a college admission prep company. And Singer pretty much told super rich parents that, for a specific fee, he would pay people to take standardized tests for their kids and then Singer would bribe test administrators to look the other way. If that wasn’t going to work out, he told parents he could create fake sports photos to submit to the schools and pay coaches to recommend a sports scholarships. He did that too! Well, Singer was caught, and he confessed to everything, so I’m not going to bother with the word - alleged.

And, of course, sometimes the parents helped in communications with university officials or coaches. Sometimes they didn’t. But they all paid and they all knew what they were doing was illegal. And some of the parents paid huge amounts of money - up to millions of dollars! I mean, how much does your kid have suck in school for their parents to need to pay millions of dollars to get them accepted?

Anyway, then Singer used his “The Key” business to launder all the money, and all the parents agreed to the scam from top to bottom. And this is pretty much the epitome of fraud, racketeering and conspiracy. So this is going to get a whole lot of rich people in trouble, all their kids are going to get thrown out of their respective schools and lots of money is going to get lost. The lawyers will all make out like bandits, though (but don’t they always). 

What will happen now?

Well, will anyone go to jail? Ummmm, probably not any of the parents. They’re all rich and have expensive lawyers. They’ll probably pay a fine or two and get a hand-slap or two. And there will certainly be public embarrassment and humiliation. Prosecutors might pin a few things on some low power scapegoats and throw them in jail as, “a lesson,” but that’s probably all that will happen.  

Anyway. I don’t know about you but I am not surprised that super rich people pay ridiculous amount of money to get their kids into a college that they clearly don’t deserve to be in. Is it a crime? Yes. Should their kids be kicked out of school? Yes. Should there be some kind of punishment and/or fine? Yes. Will there be lawsuits? Yes. But, to be honest, the only thing that really shocks me here is that, this time - the rich folks actually have to pay for their crimes. That's actually, pretty surprising. 

After two horrific airline crashes within six months many airlines around the world are grounding the Boeing 737 MAX 8, the model of plane used in both crashes. Investigators are still looking into the most recent crash that happened on Sunday to see if it the reason for the crash is related to the previous 737 MAX 8 which crashed just six months prior.  

Boeing is the largest aerospace company in the world and it’s a leading manufacturer of commercial jetliners, defense, space and security systems, and service provider of aftermarket support. It’s also one of America’s biggest (if not THE biggest) manufacturing exporter, as the company supports airlines and U.S. and allied government customers in more than 150 countries.

Boeing leaders should be panicking right now. This is a brand new plane and now it’s responsible for the deaths of several hundred people. I mean, the investigation for the recent Ethiopian crash isn’t complete and it might reveal that the crash was due to pilot error and not as the previous crash, because of a manufacturing error. But, I doubt it. The Indonesian crash six months ago was due to a malfunction with the MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System) which is an “automatic feature that detects if the nose of the plane is pitched up too high and pushes it down to prevent the craft from stalling.” The MCAS during the Indonesian flight sensed that the nose of the plane was too high (even though, it wasn’t) and forced the plane down, sending it into an irreversible nose dive that killed everyone on board. The recent Ethiopian crash on Sunday has all the same signs of the Indonesian disaster.

Many world airlines are not waiting for the recent investigation to conclude and have grounded the Boeing MAX 8. This is the right move! Sadly, some airlines are ignoring the threat and are keeping that model in flight rotation. This is clearly a risk/profit analysis, right? They are choosing to risk the death’s of their passengers because they are concerned grounding the plane might cut into their profits and they certainly don’t want to admit any guilt because that will only add fuel to all those future lawsuits that are coming.

Enter Senator John Thune (R) who is ranking member on aviation oversight of the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). Thune told reporters that he would be open to grounding the planes if the evidence pointed to it, but absolutely did NOT say that the Boeing MAX 8 should be grounded out of precaution. That is, of course, until a reported asked this question:

Reporter: Would you feel safe flying in a Super Max 8 right now? Would you fly on it?

Thune: Uhhh...well, I guess I would uh, probably like everybody else, prefer flying on some other plane.

Isn’t that just like a spineless politician? He won’t go against his corporate masters but he certainly wouldn’t fly on that plane! He can’t even come out and say it out loud. He has to stammer and stutter his way into a “prefer” comment.

Obviously, the Boeing 737 Super Max 8 should be grounded. And Thune knows it. I mean he certainly won’t risk his life, or the lives of his family but - you? He’s fine with that. I hope his constituents vote him the F out of office come next election day.

As of Tuesday here are the airlines that are still flying the Boeing 737 Super Max 8:

American Airlines

Southwest Airlines

Norwegian Airlines

TUI

Fiji Airways

Icelandair

Flydubai

WestJet

GOL Linhas Aéreas

 

Updated 3/13/19 - 3:00pm: Most countries have grounded the Boeing 737 Super Max 8. Boeing did NOT ground the planes themselves because they care more about $$ than human lives. Finally, just a few minutes ago - President Trump issued an Executive Order grounding all 737 Super Max 8 models in the U.S. 

 

This is an updating story. 

Multiple sources are reporting that Ethiopian Airlines flight  302 from Addis Ababa, crashed Sunday morning killing everyone on board. It was just six minutes into its flight and investigators are currently searching for the black box and have only just begun to unravel the tragedy. But what we do know is that this is the second time in the last few months that a Boeing 737 MAX 8 has gone down within minutes of takeoff.

Last year, Lion Air Flight JT610 out of Indonesia went down a few minutes after takeoff killing all 189 on board. That black box was found and investigators determined that the MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System) was suspected to have caused the crash. To my understanding the MCAS is a, “automatic feature that detects if the nose of the plane is pitched up too high and pushes it down to prevent the craft from stalling.”

And sounds as if, if the MCAS malfunctions then it believes the plane is rising to quickly and, in order to avoid an engine stall, forces the plane to push down into a nose dive. Which means the pilots of the Indonesian flight desperately fought the nose dive. In fact, the crash investigation found that the pilots attempted to raise the nose of the aircraft more than 20 times in 11 minute flight before they crashed into the sea approx. 13 minutes into their flight.

What we don’t know is if the two crashes have anything in common other than the fact that they were both the same model of plane but it’s certainly something to be aware of. The model in question, the Boeing 737 MAX has only been out for a few years. As of now investigators are treating it as “coincidence” that both recent crashes had the exact same model and have gone down within minutes of take off but, I’m sure that they will be looking into similarities.

Boeing, of course, immediately entered damage control mode and released a carefully worded “Boeing is deeply saddened by the passing of the passengers and crew of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 …”

Did you catch that? The “passing” of the passengers and crew? That kind of pisses me off. The passengers didn’t peacefully “pass” in their sleep, no - they died a terrifying & horrible death and it might be because your (Boeing) brand new planes are not safe.

It’s too early into the investigation to know exactly why the plane crashed but, to be honest, if you heard that two of the exact same plane model have crashed under similar circumstances - would you buy a ticket on that plane? Because I certainly won’t.

This is a developing story.

Okay. As a huge Michael Jackson fan I did not want to watch Leaving Neverland, the HBO documentary detailing MJ during the height of his stardom and his relationship with two boys, aged 7 and 10 (now in their 30s), and their story of how MJ sexually abused them. I mean, I was always on the fence with MJ's guilt. I’m sure that over the years, I defended him in conversations, even though I had my doubt.

I grew up in the 80’s and MJ was THE super star of my generation. Everyone loved him. I mean, don’t get me wrong, there was always a kid or two that was like, “I hate Michael Jackson” but, whatever. No they didn't.  

In fact, one of the hardest decisions my 9 year old self ever had to make was this: It was Friday night and there were two things on TV at the same time that I desperately needed to watch.

The first: Doctor Who: The Key to Time Part (something)  Dude, you may not care about Doctor Who but for me, as a nine year old kid - Doctor Who was the everything!  I can’t remember exactly which episode of Key to Time was going to be on, but I know that it aired at 10pm and went until midnight. On Friday.

The second: Friday Night Videos. Which, from memory was on from 10:30 to 11:30pm. And, you know what video was going to be the featured? Thriller! For the first time, ever!

OMG! What to watch. What to do? What to watch! Doctor Who or Thriller?  Thriller or Doctor Who?

I watched Doctor Who. Which, come Monday morning at school, turned out to be huge mistake because everyone else had seen Thriller and I was suddenly the uncool kid, and the only kid in class - who had not seen it. Which, is a big deal when you’re nine.

Moving forward, personally, I think Bad is actually a more consistent album than Thriller, and Smooth Criminal is the greatest dance video ever produced and probably my favorite MJ song. I bought MJ’s early 90s album, Dangerous, but by then the magic was fading. I never bought HIStory and never even heard much of his music after that because by then we were neck deep in “Wacko Jacko” stories and abuse allegation trials. And, even if their wasn’t actual abuse, which is what I believed at the time - Jackson was f**king weird, man! He did himself no favors by … ummm … admitting to sleeping in the same bed with lots of children. For many years. At his private ranch. While the parents of the kids where at a completely separate part of the ranch. And MJ had alarms on his doors & hallways so no one would be able to sneak up on his bedroom unnoticed - where he was alone with the children. In bed. But, um, nothing happened (says Jackson.)

And a lot of us … kind of believed it. I mean, the idea that MJ, who’s public persona was nothing more than a grown up kid himself, actually molested children was difficult to believe. But now, in 2019, the very thought that I didn’t believe the allegations against him feels pretty damn naïve. But at the time, I mean, he was weird and he was rich - which makes him an easy target. And just because he’s weird and rich doesn’t mean he’s evil. And besides, I like his music and his dancing is awesome. Therefore - he probably isn’t guilty. Right? (And "probably" was good enough for me.) 

Shortly after his death (in 2009), I read about a couple of the police officers that had collected evidence in the 90's Jackson child abuse allegations. And while they were under a gag order and were unable to discuss specifics, both of the officers said something that struck me, which was to the effect of, “I make sure no one, and I mean no one in my house, or family - listens to Michael Jackson. Ever.”

Hmmm. Reading between the lines there, it sounds as if the officers involved in collecting evidence from Neverland Ranch were so disturbed by said collected evidence against M.J. - that they refused to let anyone in their family ever listen to his music.

To me, that suggested - something. Not everything, yet ...  but something. But still, at the time, had you asked me if I was 100% certain of MJs guilt I probably would have made excuses defending him, but then at the end of the conversation would have said, “But I don’t know, I wasn’t there. So … maybe he’s guilty.”

Back to the fact that I really didn’t want to watch Leaving Neverland. You know why? Because it’s pretty damn clear I always suspected in my heart that my childhood idol was guilty of pedophilia and I just didn’t want to hear proof. Which is a sad admission, but there it is. Also, I suspect many, many people feel/felt this way.

And so, I watched it.

Holy God. The documentary is as horrifying as you’ve heard. Part 1 details the allegations, which are stunning. Part 2 deals with family trauma, which is heartbreaking. And it's true that the documentary doesn’t offer “proof,” per say (for example - video of the abuse), it does; however, offer two extremely believable, sincere testimonials from James Safechuck and Wade Robson, both of whom accused MJ of sexually molesting them for many years when they were young, Wade as early as seven years old. Seven years old! And the documentary does not make any case that MJ doesn’t know what he is doing. In fact, it suggests the exact opposite in that MJ is a totally self aware f**king monster. The grooming. The planning. The lying. The seducing. The gifts. Getting the kids to lie for you. Just about everything we know about child molesters is there and it was probably always there, and most of us ignored it - because Michael Jackson is awesome!   

Corey Feldman and Macaulay Culkin, MJ's two famous childhood actor friends, have both repeatedly said that MJ never did anything inappropriate to them which, I actually beleive because they were both famous child actors at the time. Pedophiles target kids with no power. Feldman and Culkin had, at least a modicum amount of power which is probably why MJ didn't target them. Culkin, as far as I am aware, has yet to comment on the documentary, but Feldman pushed back calling it “one sided” and criticized the film because MJ has no chance to defend himself.  But, that's not exactly true, is it? I mean, MJ had every chance to defend himself when he was alive and in fact, he did so because there were acusations and trials. It occurred to me that we’ve only heard MJ’s side of the story - over and over and over - that he's innocent, he would never hurt kids, the alleged "victims" were out for money and that the media lied about him because he's rich and weird. That's the story we've been told. Leaving Neverland is actually, the first time we’ve ever heard from any of the alleged victims. So, I kind of feel like, while it's true we don't have "proof" that MJ is guilty or innocent - we've heard his side of things - that he's an altruistic angel and does nothing wrong and is the target of a smear campaign. And now we've finally heard from two of the alleged victims. And they are very, very compelling. 

Feldman, himself an alleged victim of sexual abuse, quickly backtracked his early defense of MJ, telling CNN:

“I cannot in good consciousness defend anyone who’s being accused of such horrendous crimes, but at the same time, I’m also not here to judge him, because, again, he didn’t do those things to me and that was not my experience …  It comes to a point where, as an advocate for victims, as an advocate for changing the statutes of limitations to make sure that victims’ voices are heard, it becomes impossible for me to stay virtuous and not at least consider what’s being said and not listen to what the victims are saying … As I’m watching it [the Leaving Neverland documentary], I’m going, ‘This doesn’t make sense to me. This isn’t the guy that I knew. But look, I’m a guy that at 14 years old was molested, did have a pedophile completely lie to me about who he was. I trusted him. I believed in him as a friend, and I thought he was a good person, and then he molested me. It all proves that I’m not the best judge, and that’s why I shouldn’t be the judge in this situation, and especially given the fact that I’m so close to [Jackson].”

Jackson still has his defenders. He always will. I used to be one of them. Not so much any longer. I mean, MJ was weird and rich and was an easy target and his estate is worth … God only knows … a couple of billion dollars? That, right there, is motive. So, I feel that I really understand all the reasons people don’t want to believe that, Michael Jackson, the best selling recording artist of all time - is a pedophile. I really do understand the reasons for doubt, but - I no longer believe any of them.

Not one bit.

Meanwhile, in the gaming community there has been some controversy about an upcoming game. Well, actually it’s been more like a huge fight. You see, there is a game developer called, “Desk Plant” and they are planning to release a game in April called “Rape Day.”

If you think the name of a game Rape Day means that you get to play a game where you … you know, rape women. Well, then you’d be right. That’s right - some douchebag company honestly thought it would be a great idea to market a game where you could rape women.

But who would be dumb enough to release such a game (you might ask)?

Enter Steam. For those that do not know, Steam is website developed by Valve Corporation. The site is used to distribute games & related media online and provides the user with installation and automatic management of software. Steam has a lot of games. And I mean - a lot. I use it all the time. In fact, 90 million active members use Steam every month, just to give you an idea how big the game site is.

Steam is no stranger to controversy. They sell a huge variety of games that cover a huge variety of topics up to and including - controversial topics. There has been game drama. Which led Steam to come up with an official response and, they kind of washed their hands with policing games they sell on their site. They feel that folks should be able to tell stories and create games about any and all controversial topics. It’s the free speech argument. Which is totally fair, so they basically said that unless the game is illegal - we’ll sell it.  From their official June 6th, 2018 blog post:

“...we've decided that the right approach is to allow everything onto the Steam Store, except for things that we decide are illegal, or straight up trolling.”  

Okay. Fair enough. The “straight up trolling” comment is the interesting part because that could mean … well, a lot of different things.

Cut to Rape Day. The developers call it an interactive graphic novel. What this means is the game is not a traditional animated movement game as your characters walk around, interact with objects and fight bad guys. Instead of that, it’s more like you (the player) are flipping pages of a comic book and get to make choices in order to reveal specific drawn pages.

The premise of Rape Day is simple: it’s a zombie apocalypse. And in the zombie apocalypse you play a sociopath. And you get to kill zombies. You also get to murder survivors and rape any and all women you encounter!

Um, what?

As you can imagine, the ridiculous premise brought the gamer social media house down. Multiple petitions and almost ten thousand emails flooded Steam Sales owner Valve Corporation with a universal cry of “WTF?”

After a few days of deliberating, Steam released this as their official word on the matter:

"After significant fact-finding and discussion, we think Rape Day poses unknown costs and risks and therefore won't be on Steam. We respect developers’ desire to express themselves, and the purpose of Steam is to help developers find an audience, but this developer has chosen content matter and a way of representing it that makes it very difficult for us to help them do that."

I’m fine with Steam’s decision here. Now, this doesn’t mean no one will be able to find the game anywhere. Desk Plant will probably just sell it off their own site, or something. But not getting on Steam will certainly restrict its findability, for sure.

BUT .... like all controversial things … controversy breeds sales. And I know I am part of the problem here. For example: It’s highly likely that, had I not written about this game - you may have gone your entire life without ever hearing about it. And I wouldn’t have ever heard about it had several game sites not written about it. Had the game just been released on Steam it might have come and gone and the overwhelming majority of us would have lived in blissful ignorance. Which, probably, would have kept sales for Rape Day, very, very low. And then the game and the company that developed it, probably would have come and gone and faded into obscurity.

Alas, now it’s out there. It’s not even just on the game sites any longer as Variety, Business Insider and Fortune all have articles about it. What probably began as some legitimately concerned women and/or parents sending a message or two to Steam asking them, “Is this seriously what you want to sell on your site?” has now blossomed into free advertising for a game that most folks would have never, ever heard about in the first place.

Which makes me a little sad. I mean, technically, these guys aren't doing anything illegal (as far as I am aware) but the idea of trying to "normalize rape" (that's the game developer's words, not mine) frankly, is kind of disgusting. 

So, while Rape Day, as a game, might be legal - at least it won’t easily accessible and found on Steam. And I'm okay with that.

Although, I am suddenly playing Devil's Advocate here and thinking, "But if it remains on Steam, you could see which of your friends are playing it and then you could sit them down and be like, "Dude - WTF is wrong with you!?"

Nah. I guess I'd just rather just have it off Steam, go find it somewhere else, Incel Troll.  

Tanner Wilson, a student at Caddo Hills High School in Norman, Arkansas often walked the halls of school with his wheelchair bound buddy, Brandon Qualls. Tanner took notice that his friend Brandon, would often have to stop and rest his arms due to fatigue. And it’s easy to imagine why. I mean, you try pushing yourself around in a manual wheelchair for hours at a time and see how long you last. Right?

Anyway, Tanner took notice alright. So much so that he spent two years saving his money from a part time job. He also spent a year searching the internet for a motorized wheelchair that would work well for his friend Brandon. After two years of work, saving and then finally finding a motorized wheelchair on sale on Facebook, Tanner bought it for his buddy. Tanner then surprised Brandon during class one day, presenting the wheelchair to him in front of his friends and teacher.

You can watch the video here. (This is the same video linked to the front of the page).

And that is why Tanner Wilson is my favorite person this month.

Two devastating tornadoes ripped through Alabama on Sunday night killing at least 23 people, injuring dozens more with at least ten people still missing. The Governor immediately declared a statewide emergency and by Monday afternoon FEMA had search and rescue teams in state in hopes of finding those still missing.

 

In fact, 18 tornadoes hit Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina over the weekend, it’s just that the Alabama two did the most damage, including one that blasted through Lee County and caused the most deaths. The storm hit several families tragically hard - seven from two families related by marriage were killed and at least three families had two or three people die in the storm. The names of the all the victims can be found here.

 

By Tuesday morning rescue operations turned into recovery operations and residents were told to push any debris on their property out to the edge of the roadway for eventual pickup. But if that’s not bad enough, the weekend might bring in more storms from the west.

 

According to CNN there are multiple ways you can help families affected by the storm - here is the official link to the Public Good campaign to help victims of Alabama tornadoes. Or you can donate to the Alabama Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund.

Multiple sources (but mostly CNN Business) are reporting that Amazon will offer their Prime customers the option to select “Amazon Day” for their delivery option. An Amazon Day selection means customers may select a specific day of the week to receive all their packages from the company, instead of Amazon delivering packages to them through the week.

This is Amazon’s plan to “reduce its carbon footprint and give customers more control over when they receive their packages.” Seems like a legit idea to me. Especially for folks who order from Amazon multiple times per week. The only minor issue issue I see could be one of storage space. I know Amazon already has many warehouses where they store product but this seems to be slightly different. For example: Let’s say over the course of a week you order ten things from Amazon and want them all delivered the following Monday. And then millions of other folks do the exact same thing. Suddenly, that’s means Amazon has a large amount of things to store until Monday morning. Which, could be an issue. But, I guess the counter argument is that storage is probably only a minor logistical problem - for a company a large as Amazon. Fair enough.

Again, it should be noted that only Prime member will receive the Amazon Day option and you don’t need to select it. If you wish, you can continue to get your shipments daily. I’ve also read that by, “2030, Amazon wants half of its shipments to be carbon neutral.” To me that says that Amazon Day, for now, is optional. But it might suggest that it will become the norm at some time in the future.

I think the once per week delivery option is actually a great idea. Much better then Amazon’s previous “make the delivery process smoother” idea - the Amazon Key. If you are unfamiliar with the idea, Amazon’s Key is a security camera, door lock and Cloud storage for about $250. You instal Amazon’s Security System and Key and that will allow Amazon drivers to unlock your Amazon lock, and deliver your packages inside your home when you are away.

I mean, safe packages - that’s cool. But … allowing strangers into your home - not so much.  

And, after a quick Google search for “Amazon Key sales” it appears as if Amazon Key has been wildly unsuccessful and hugely unpopular. And I am not surprised.

Anyway.

Amazon Key. Nope.

Amazon Day. Sign me up!

Editor's note: Lots of interesting stuff here and I think the entire statement is worth reading but I'm not sure I see the "smoking gun" that will turn Trump supporters away from supporting the President. I mean, they don't care that he has sex with porn stars and cheats on his wife (or they pretend to think he's innocent of such things because they believe him to be a "Christian," which he is not), they don't care how much he's actually worth (or not), they don't care about his taxes, they don't care about Hilary Clinton (unless they're bashing her). They only care that Trump isn't a Democrat. If the Cohen statement said something like, "I actually have proof Trump is a secret Democrat and has been working in collusion with the Dems to pass a Green New Deal," well - then they'd turn on him! Aside from that, I fear this is all going to revert to business as usual...
 
Cohen's opening statement to Congress: 
"Chairman Cummings, Ranking Member Jordan, and Members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me here today.
I have asked this Committee to ensure that my family be protected from Presidential threats, and that the Committee be sensitive to the questions pertaining to ongoing investigations. Thank you for your help and for your understanding.
 
 
I am here under oath to correct the record, to answer the Committee's questions truthfully, and to offer the American people what I know about President Trump.
I recognize that some of you may doubt and attack me on my credibility. It is for this reason that I have incorporated into this opening statement documents that are irrefutable, and demonstrate that the information you will hear is accurate and truthful.
Never in a million years did I imagine, when I accepted a job in 2007 to work for Donald Trump, that he would one day run for President, launch a
campaign on a platform of hate and intolerance, and actually win. I regret the day I said "yes" to Mr. Trump. I regret all the help and support I gave him along the way.
I am ashamed of my own failings, and I publicly accepted responsibility for them by pleading guilty in the Southern District of New York.
I am ashamed of my weakness and misplaced loyalty -- of the things I did for Mr. Trump in an effort to protect and promote him.
I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump's illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience.
I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is.
He is a racist.
He is a conman.
He is a cheat.
He was a presidential candidate who knew that Roger Stone was talking with Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks drop of Democratic National Committee emails.
I will explain each in a few moments.
I am providing the Committee today with several documents. These include:
  • A copy of a check Mr. Trump wrote from his personal bank account -- after he became president - to reimburse me for the hush money payments I made to cover up his affair with an adult film star and prevent damage to his campaign;
  • Copies of financial statements for 2011 -- 2013 that he gave to such institutions as Deutsche Bank;
  • A copy of an article with Mr. Trump's handwriting on it that reported on the auction of a portrait of himself -- he arranged for the bidder ahead of time and then reimbursed the bidder from the account of his non-profit charitable foundation, with the picture now hanging in one of his country clubs; and
  • Copies of letters I wrote at Mr. Trump's direction that threatened his high school, colleges, and the College Board not to release his grades or SAT scores.
I hope my appearance here today, my guilty plea, and my work with law enforcement agencies are steps along a path of redemption that will restore faith in me and help this country understand our president better.
***
Before going further, I want to apologize to each of you and to Congress as a whole.
The last time I appeared before Congress, I came to protect Mr. Trump.
Today, I'm here to tell the truth about Mr. Trump.
I lied to Congress about when Mr. Trump stopped negotiating the Moscow Tower project in Russia. I stated that we stopped negotiating in January 2016. That was false -- our negotiations continued for months later during the campaign.
Mr. Trump did not directly tell me to lie to Congress. That's not how he operates.
In conversations we had during the campaign, at the same time I was actively negotiating in Russia for him, he would look me in the eye and tell
me there's no business in Russia and then go out and lie to the American people by saying the same thing. In his way, he was telling me to lie.
There were at least a half-dozen times between the Iowa Caucus in January 2016 and the end of June when he would ask me "How's it going in Russia?" -- referring to the Moscow Tower project.
You need to know that Mr. Trump's personal lawyers reviewed and edited my statement to Congress about the timing of the Moscow Tower negotiations before I gave it.
To be clear: Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it. He lied about it because he never expected to win the election. He also lied about it because he stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars on the Moscow real estate project.
And so I lied about it, too -- because Mr. Trump had made clear to me, through his personal statements to me that we both knew were false and through his lies to the country, that he wanted me to lie. And he made it
clear to me because his personal attorneys reviewed my statement before I gave it to Congress.
****
Over the past two years, I have been smeared as "a rat" by the President of the United States. The truth is much different, and let me take a brief moment to introduce myself.
My name is Michael Dean Cohen.
I am a blessed husband of 24 years and a father to an incredible daughter and son. When I married my wife, I promised her that I would love her, cherish her, and protect her. As my father said countless times throughout my childhood, "you my wife, and you my children, are the air that I breathe." To my Laura, my Sami, and my Jake, there is nothing I wouldn't do to protect you.
I have always tried to live a life of loyalty, friendship, generosity, and compassion -- qualities my parents ingrained in my siblings and me since childhood. My father survived the Holocaust thanks to the compassion and selfless acts of others. He was helped by many who put themselves in harm's way to do what they knew was right.
That is why my first instinct has always been to help those in need. Mom and Dad...I am sorry that I let you down.
As many people that know me best would say, I am the person they would call at 3AM if they needed help. I proudly remember being the emergency contact for many of my children's friends when they were growing up because their parents knew that I would drop everything and care for them as if they were my own.
Yet, last fall I pled guilty in federal court to felonies for the benefit of, at the direction of, and in coordination with Individual #1.
For the record: Individual #1 is President Donald J. Trump.
It is painful to admit that I was motivated by ambition at times. It is even more painful to admit that many times I ignored my conscience and acted loyal to a man when I should not have. Sitting here today, it seems unbelievable that I was so mesmerized by Donald Trump that I was willing to do things for him that I knew were absolutely wrong.
For that reason, I have come here to apologize to my family, to the government, and to the American people.
***
Accordingly, let me now tell you about Mr. Trump.
I got to know him very well, working very closely with him for more than 10 years, as his Executive Vice President and Special Counsel and then personal attorney when he became President. When I first met Mr. Trump, he was a successful entrepreneur, a real estate giant, and an icon. Being around Mr. Trump was intoxicating. When you were in his presence, you felt like you were involved in something greater than yourself -- that you were somehow changing the world.
I wound up touting the Trump narrative for over a decade. That was my job. Always stay on message. Always defend. It monopolized my life. At first, I worked mostly on real estate developments and other business transactions. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Trump brought me into his personal life and private dealings. Over time, I saw his true character revealed.
Mr. Trump is an enigma. He is complicated, as am I. He has both good and bad, as do we all. But the bad far outweighs the good, and since taking office, he has become the worst version of himself. He is capable of behaving kindly, but he is not kind. He is capable of committing acts of generosity, but he is not generous. He is capable of being loyal, but he is fundamentally disloyal.
Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great. He had no desire or intention to lead this nation -- only to market himself and to build his wealth and power. Mr. Trump would often say, this campaign was going to be the "greatest infomercial in political history."
He never expected to win the primary. He never expected to win the general election. The campaign -- for him -- was always a marketing opportunity.
I knew early on in my work for Mr. Trump that he would direct me to lie to further his business interests. I am ashamed to say, that when it was for a real estate mogul in the private sector, I considered it trivial. As the President, I consider it significant and dangerous.
But in the mix, lying for Mr. Trump was normalized, and no one around him questioned it. In fairness, no one around him today questions it, either.
A lot of people have asked me about whether Mr. Trump knew about the release of the hacked Democratic National Committee emails ahead of time. The answer is yes.
As I earlier stated, Mr. Trump knew from Roger Stone in advance about the WikiLeaks drop of emails.
In July 2016, days before the Democratic convention, I was in Mr. Trump's office when his secretary announced that Roger Stone was on the phone. Mr. Trump put Mr. Stone on the speakerphone. Mr. Stone told Mr. Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange and that Mr.
Assange told Mr. Stone that, within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton's campaign.
Mr. Trump responded by stating to the effect of "wouldn't that be great."
Mr. Trump is a racist. The country has seen Mr. Trump court white supremacists and bigots. You have heard him call poorer countries "shitholes."
In private, he is even worse.
He once asked me if I could name a country run by a black person that wasn't a "shithole." This was when Barack Obama was President of the United States.
While we were once driving through a struggling neighborhood in Chicago, he commented that only black people could live that way.
And, he told me that black people would never vote for him because they were too stupid.
And yet I continued to work for him.
Mr. Trump is a cheat.
As previously stated, I'm giving the Committee today three years of President Trump's financial statements, from 2011-2013, which he gave to Deutsche Bank to inquire about a loan to buy the Buffalo Bills and to Forbes. These are Exhibits 1a1b, and 1c to my testimony.
It was my experience that Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes, such as trying to be listed among the wealthiest people in Forbes, and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes.
I am sharing with you two newspaper articles, side by side, that are examples of Mr. Trump inflating and deflating his assets, as I said, to suit his financial interests. These are Exhibit 2 to my testimony.
As I noted, I'm giving the Committee today an article he wrote on, and sent me, that reported on an auction of a portrait of Mr. Trump. This is Exhibit 3A to my testimony.
Mr. Trump directed me to find a straw bidder to purchase a portrait of him that was being auctioned at an Art Hamptons Event. The objective was to ensure that his portrait, which was going to be auctioned last, would go for the highest price of any portrait that afternoon. The portrait was purchased by the fake bidder for $60,000. Mr. Trump directed the Trump Foundation, which is supposed to be a charitable organization, to repay the fake bidder, despite keeping the art for himself. Please see Exhibit 3B to my testimony.
And it should come as no surprise that one of my more common responsibilities was that Mr. Trump directed me to call business owners, many of whom were small businesses, that were owed money for their services and told them no payment or a reduced payment would be coming. When I advised Mr. Trump of my success, he actually reveled in it.
And yet, I continued to work for him.
Mr. Trump is a conman.
He asked me to pay off an adult film star with whom he had an affair, and to lie to his wife about it, which I did. Lying to the First Lady is one of my biggest regrets. She is a kind, good person. I respect her greatly -- and she did not deserve that.
I am giving the Committee today a copy of the $130,000 wire transfer from me to Ms. Clifford's attorney during the closing days of the presidential campaign that was demanded by Ms. Clifford to maintain her silence about her affair with Mr. Trump. This is Exhibit 4 to my testimony.
Mr. Trump directed me to use my own personal funds from a Home Equity Line of Credit to avoid any money being traced back to him that could negatively impact his campaign. I did that, too -- without bothering to consider whether that was improper, much less whether it was the right thing to do or how it would impact me, my family, or the public.
I am going to jail in part because of my decision to help Mr. Trump hide that payment from the American people before they voted a few days later.
As Exhibit 5 to my testimony shows, I am providing a copy of a $35,000 check that President Trump personally signed from his personal bank
account on August 1, 2017 -- when he was President of the United States -- pursuant to the cover-up, which was the basis of my guilty plea, to reimburse me -- the word used by Mr. Trump's TV lawyer -- for the illegal hush money I paid on his behalf. This $35,000 check was one of 11 check installments that was paid throughout the year -- while he was President.
The President of the United States thus wrote a personal check for the payment of hush money as part of a criminal scheme to violate campaign finance laws. You can find the details of that scheme, directed by Mr. Trump, in the pleadings in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
So picture this scene -- in February 2017, one month into his presidency, I'm visiting President Trump in the Oval Office for the first time. It's truly awe-inspiring, he's showing me around and pointing to different paintings, and he says to me something to the effect of...Don't worry, Michael, your January and February reimbursement checks are coming. They were Fed-Exed from New York and it takes a while for that to get through the White House system. As he promised, I received the first check for the reimbursement of $70,000 not long thereafter.
When I say conman, I'm talking about a man who declares himself brilliant but directed me to threaten his high school, his colleges, and the College Board to never release his grades or SAT scores.
As I mentioned, I'm giving the Committee today copies of a letter I sent at Mr. Trump's direction threatening these schools with civil and criminal actions if Mr. Trump's grades or SAT scores were ever disclosed without his permission. These are Exhibit 6.
The irony wasn't lost on me at the time that Mr. Trump in 2011 had strongly criticized President Obama for not releasing his grades. As you can see in Exhibit 7, Mr. Trump declared "Let him show his records" after calling President Obama "a terrible student."
The sad fact is that I never heard Mr. Trump say anything in private that led me to believe he loved our nation or wanted to make it better. In fact, he did the opposite.
When telling me in 2008 that he was cutting employees' salaries in half -- including mine -- he showed me what he claimed was a $10 million IRS tax refund, and he said that he could not believe how stupid the government was for giving "someone like him" that much money back.
During the campaign, Mr. Trump said he did not consider Vietnam Veteran, and Prisoner of War, Senator John McCain to be "a hero" because he likes people who weren't captured. At the same time, Mr. Trump tasked me to handle the negative press surrounding his medical deferment from the Vietnam draft.
Mr. Trump claimed it was because of a bone spur, but when I asked for medical records, he gave me none and said there was no surgery. He told me not to answer the specific questions by reporters but rather offer simply the fact that he received a medical deferment.
He finished the conversation with the following comment. "You think I'm stupid, I wasn't going to Vietnam."
I find it ironic, President Trump, that you are in Vietnam right now.
And yet, I continued to work for him.
***
Questions have been raised about whether I know of direct evidence that Mr. Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia. I do not. I want to be clear. But, I have my suspicions.
Sometime in the summer of 2017, I read all over the media that there had been a meeting in Trump Tower in June 2016 involving Don Jr. and others from the campaign with Russians, including a representative of the Russian government, and an email setting up the meeting with the subject line, "Dirt on Hillary Clinton." Something clicked in my mind. I remember being in the room with Mr. Trump, probably in early June 2016, when something peculiar happened. Don Jr. came into the room and walked behind his father's desk -- which in itself was unusual. People didn't just walk behind Mr. Trump's desk to talk to him. I recalled Don Jr. leaning over to his father and speaking in a low voice, which I could clearly hear, and saying: "The meeting is all set." I remember Mr. Trump saying, "Ok good...let me know."
What struck me as I looked back and thought about that exchange between Don Jr. and his father was, first, that Mr. Trump had frequently told me and others that his son Don Jr. had the worst judgment of anyone in the world. And also, that Don Jr. would never set up any meeting of any significance alone -- and certainly not without checking with his father.
I also knew that nothing went on in Trump world, especially the campaign, without Mr. Trump's knowledge and approval. So, I concluded that Don Jr. was referring to that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting about dirt on
Hillary with the Russian representative when he walked behind his dad's desk that day -- and that Mr. Trump knew that was the meeting Don Jr. was talking about when he said, "That's good...let me know."
***
Over the past year or so, I have done some real soul searching. I see now that my ambition and the intoxication of Trump power had much to do with the bad decisions I made.
To you, Chairman Cummings, Ranking Member Jordan, the other members of this Committee, and the other members of the House and Senate, I am sorry for my lies and for lying to Congress.
To our nation, I am sorry for actively working to hide from you the truth about Mr. Trump when you needed it most.
For those who question my motives for being here today, I understand. I have lied, but I am not a liar. I have done bad things, but I am not a bad man. I have fixed things, but I am no longer your "fixer," Mr. Trump.
I am going to prison and have shattered the safety and security that I tried so hard to provide for my family. My testimony certainly does not diminish
the pain I caused my family and friends -- nothing can do that. And I have never asked for, nor would I accept, a pardon from President Trump.
And, by coming today, I have caused my family to be the target of personal, scurrilous attacks by the President and his lawyer -- trying to intimidate me from appearing before this panel. Mr. Trump called me a "rat" for choosing to tell the truth -- much like a mobster would do when one of his men decides to cooperate with the government.
As Exhibit 8 shows, I have provided the Committee with copies of Tweets that Mr. Trump posted, attacking me and my family -- only someone burying his head in the sand would not recognize them for what they are: encouragement to someone to do harm to me and my family.
I never imagined that he would engage in vicious, false attacks on my family -- and unleash his TV-lawyer to do the same. I hope this committee and all members of Congress on both sides of the aisle will make it clear: As a nation, we should not tolerate attempts to intimidate witnesses before congress and attacks on family are out of bounds and not acceptable.
I wish to especially thank Speaker Pelosi for her statements in Exhibit 9 to protect this institution and me, and the Chairman of the House Permanent
Select Committee on Intelligence Adam Schiff and Chairman Cummings for likewise defending this institution and my family against the attacks by Mr. Trump, and also the many Republicans who have admonished the President as well.
I am not a perfect man. I have done things I am not proud of, and I will live with the consequences of my actions for the rest of my life.
But today, I get to decide the example I set for my children and how I attempt to change how history will remember me. I may not be able to change the past, but I can do right by the American people here today.
Thank you for your attention. I am happy to answer the Committee's questions."
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