Gates to plead guilty

ABC News: Former Trump aide tells loved ones of plans to plead guilty, cooperate with special counsel

President Donald Trump’s one-time campaign aide Richard Gates has told family and close friends in a letter sent this morning he plans to plead guilty Friday in the special counsel’s criminal case against him, setting up the potential for Gates to become the latest well-informed Trump insider to assist in the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential contest, according to sources close to the matter.

In the letter obtained by ABC News, Gates writes to family and friends “despite my initial desire to vigorously defend myself, I have had a change of heart,” Gates explained. “The reality of how long this legal process will likely take, the cost, and the circus-like atmosphere of an anticipated trial are too much. I will better serve my family moving forward by exiting this process.”

Gates is scheduled to appear before a federal judge Friday to face reduced charges of conspiracy against the United States and lying to federal agents, according to a new court filing.

One could assume that the strength of the case against him had a part to play in his decision. It seems unlikely Gates would plead guilty if he was not guilty.

The potential for a guilty plea could dramatically change the dynamics in the investigation, just one day after special counsel Robert Mueller added a raft of new financial and tax charges to the criminal case against Gates and his longtime colleague, Paul Manafort.

It depends on what Gates tells the investigators beyond the charges he faces, in  particular if he provides information about contacts between the trump campaign and Russians intent in interfering in US elections.

Debate on guns in US schools

The Parkland, Florida shooting last week has stirred up debate about access to firearms and gun violence, a major problem in the United States.

From the Gun Violence Archive 2018:

  • Total number of incidents 7,803
  • Number of deaths 2,138
  • Number of injuries 3,651
  • Deaths from mass shootings 34
  • Deaths from defensive use 224
  • Unintentional shooting 248

Number of deaths, past years:

  • 2014 – 12,556 (271 from mass shootings)
  • 2015 – 13,516 (333 from mass shootings)
  • 2016 – 15,094 (383 from mass shootings)
  • 2017 – 15,594 (346 from mass shootings)

Horrendous and rising alarmingly. Per population, that rate of deaths would equate to about 230 gun deaths per year in New Zealand.

Students across the country are protesting –  After Parkland, Students Across the U.S. Are Holding Protest Walkouts Over Gun Violence

In a wave of demonstrations reaching from Arizona to Maine, students at dozens of U.S. high schools walked out of class Wednesday to protest gun violence and honor the victims of last week’s deadly shooting in Florida.

The protests spread from school to school as students shared plans for their demonstrations over social media. Many lasted 17 minutes in honor of the 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Hundreds of students from Maryland schools left class to rally at the U.S. Capitol. Hundreds more filed out of their schools in cities from Chicago to Pittsburgh to Austin, Texas, often at the lunch hour. Thousands walked out in Florida.

At the protest in Washington, students held a moment of silence in memory of those killed in Parkland and listened as the names of the dead were recited.

While some groups have worked to organize national demonstrations in the coming weeks, students say gatherings Wednesday were mostly impromptu and organized out of a sense of urgency to find solutions to gun violence.

Many of the protests were accompanied by chants of “Never again,” which has been a rallying cry since the Florida shooting.

However the voice of well organised resistance to gun control has also been heard: NRA’s Wayne LaPierre at CPAC: Gun Control Advocates Are Exploiting the Florida School Shooting Tragedy

Wayne LaPierre, the National Rifle Association’s Executive Vice President, told the Conservative Political Action Conference Thursday that politicians and the media are exploiting the Florida school shooting to expand gun control and ultimately abolish the second amendment, striking a defiant tone in his first public remarks since the mass shooting that killed 17 people and reignited the gun control debate in the U.S. to a fever pitch.

“As usual, the opportunists waited not one second to exploit tragedy for political gain. Chris Murphy, Nancy Pelosi, and more, cheered on by the national media, eager to blame the NRA and call for more government control.”

“They hate the NRA. The elites don’t care one wit about school children. If they truly cared, they would protect them.”

“It’s not a safety issue, it’s a political issue. They care more about control. Their goal is to eliminate the Second Amendment and our firearms freedoms so they can eliminate all individual freedoms.”

“They don’t care if their laws work or not. They just want get more laws to get more control over people. But the NRA, the NRA does care.”

He concluded this year’s speech by reiterating the advice he provided in the wake of Newtown five years ago: “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

Having less bad guys and less guns would help too.

President Trump has been criticised for proposing to arm thousands of teachers to protect schools. He ‘clarified’ his suggestion on Twitter:

I never said “give teachers guns” like was stated on Fake News @CNN & @NBC.

What I said was to look at the possibility of giving “concealed guns to gun adept teachers with military or special training experience – only the best. 20% of teachers, a lot, would now be able to immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions.

There are about 3.2 million public school teachers in the US. 20% of that is 640,000 teachers. That is a lot of people to arm and train to a high level on an ongoing basis.

An armed policeman heard the shooting at Parkland but never went inside. Miami Herald: “A school campus cop heard the gunfire and rushed to the building but never went inside — instead waiting outside for another four agonizing minutes as Cruz continued the slaughter.” He has since resigned. What should one person do in that situation? very difficult to know.

Highly trained teachers would also serve as a deterrent to the cowards that do this. Far more assets at much less cost than guards. A “gun free” school is a magnet for bad people. ATTACKS WOULD END!

History shows that a school shooting lasts, on average, 3 minutes. It takes police & first responders approximately 5 to 8 minutes to get to site of crime. Highly trained, gun adept, teachers/coaches would solve the problem instantly, before police arrive. GREAT DETERRENT!

If a potential “sicko shooter” knows that a school has a large number of very weapons talented teachers (and others) who will be instantly shooting, the sicko will NEVER attack that school. Cowards won’t go there…problem solved. Must be offensive, defense alone won’t work!

Armed police and offensive tactics have not solved a huge death toll from gun violence in the US.

And teachers don’t seem to be very keen.

The culture of gun ownership and gun violence in the US is so ingrained and staunchly defended it is hard to see any easy fixes, especially when the President proposes escalation.

And when the NRA is so financially influential in US politics.

When 17-year-old student Cameron Kasky took the microphone at CNN’s town hall on Wednesday night, he put Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio on the spot when he asked: Would you refuse to accept further campaign donations from the National Rifle Association?

After a moment, Rubio gave his answer: No, he wouldn’t.

Rubio has been on the receiving end of some of the largest financial support from the NRA over the years.
His hesitancy to distance himself from the organization shows how many in Congress have come to rely on the NRA’s largesse to help them remain in office — and their fear of crossing a group legendary for its ability to get its supporters out to vote.

According to federal election data compiled by the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics, eight lawmakers have been on the receiving end of at least $1 million in campaign contributions from the NRA over the courses of their careers, Rubio among them.

 

 

 

Media watch – Saturday

24 February 2018

MediaWatch

Media Watch is a focus on New Zealand media, blogs and social media. You can post any items of interested related to media.

A primary aim here is to hold media to account in the political arena. A credible and questioning media is an essential part of a healthy democracy.

A general guideline – post opinion on or excerpts from and links to blog posts or comments of interest, whether they are praise, criticism, pointing out issues or sharing useful information.

General chat

“Is there any way we could have a thread for the more lightweight stuff like music and general chat?”

Do it here. Please no personal attacks or bickering. Anything abusive, provocative or inflammatory may be deleted.

Open Forum – Saturday

24 February 2018

Forum

This post is open to anyone to comment on any topic that isn’t spam, illegal or offensive. All Your NZ posts are open but this one is for you to raise topics that interest you. 

If providing opinions on or summaries of other information also provide a link to that information. Bloggers are welcome to summarise and link to their posts.

Comments worth more exposure may be repeated as posts.Comments from other forums can be repeated here, cut and paste is fine.

Your NZ is a mostly political and social issues blog but not limited to that, and views from anywhere on the political spectrum are welcome. Some ground rules:

  • If possible support arguments, news, points or opinions with links to sources and facts.
  • Please don’t post anything illegal, potentially defamatory or abusive.

FIRST TIME COMMENTERS: Due to abuse by a few first comments under any ID will park in moderation until released (as soon as possible but it can sometimes take a while).

Sometimes comments will go into moderation or spam automatically due to mistyped ID, too many links (>4), or trigger text or other at risk criteria.

Free speech is an important principle here but some people who might pose a risk to the site will have to keep going through moderation due to abuses by a small number of malicious people.

World watch – Saturday

Friday GMT

WorldWatch2

For posting on events, news, opinions and anything of interest from around the world.

New Zealander of the year

That seems like a fair choice. her determination had made a major difference to many aged care workers by getting them decent wage rates for difficult jobs. It should also benefit many of those being care for.

NZ First pork or overdue help for regions?

I don’t think there’s any doubt that the regions have been neglected and in some cases allowed to wither by successive governments over the past thirty years.

It’s harder to work how much the $3 billion over three years regional development fund is an overdue investment in provincial New Zealand, and how much might be a vote buying spree by NZ First and Labour.

There were multiple media statements from Minister of Regional Economic Development Shane Jones detailing initial spending targets.


Provincial Growth Fund open for business

The new $1 billion per annum Provincial Growth Fund has been officially launched in Gisborne today by Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones.

“As of today, the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) is open for business and has the potential to make a real difference to the people of provincial New Zealand,” Mr Jones says.

“We are being bold and we are being ambitious because this Government is committed to ending the years of neglect. Nearly half of us live outside our main cities. If this country is to do well, then our provinces must thrive.

“Our first regional packages support the regions most neglected by the last government: in Northland, Tairāwhiti-East Coast, Hawke’s Bay and Manawatū-Whanganui and the West Coast of the South Island.

“We are providing an immediate boost to these areas by investing $61.7 million into forestry initiatives, tourism ventures, rail and roading projects, and supporting these regions develop their proposals further to help them get off the ground.

“The first of many projects the PGF will support will create more than 700 direct jobs, and 80 indirect jobs – an impressive start to what will be an exciting three years for our provinces.

“If all the projects we’re funding realise their full potential, this will equate to more than $344 million of public and private investment for our regional economies.”

The PGF aims to enhance economic development opportunities, create sustainable jobs, contribute to community well-being, lift the productivity potential of regions, and help meet New Zealand’s climate change targets.

“The $3 billion will be fully committed over three years, making investment in the provinces more attractive for private sector investment, which has strongly favoured our main urban centres in recent years.

“We will form genuine partnerships up and down the country and provide the capital needed to stop projects languishing in long-term plans and regional action strategies.”

All regions are eligible for funding.

“An Independent Advisory Panel has been appointed to assist the decision-making of ministers and officials, supported by a new Regional Economic Development Unit within the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to work directly with regions, ensuring this isn’t a Wellington-driven Fund.

“Our provinces are full of ideas and proposals. I have been heartened by the aspirations of so many businesses and investors, local councils, iwi, and community groups and I’m pleased to say that we now have a mechanism to see these realised.

“The announcements we’re making today are just the beginning and I’m looking forward to building on this momentum over the coming weeks, months and years and realising the untapped potential of our provinces,” Mr Jones says.

Gisborne/Hawke’s Bay: Tourism and forestry take centre stage

The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) will invest $8.6 million in Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay to immediately boost tourism and forestry opportunities, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones says.

Manawatū-Whanganui: Port and Rail boost

The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) will invest more than $6 million towards revitalisation of the Whanganui Port and upgrade of the town’s rail line, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones says.

Northland: Tourism and jobs at heart of economic development package

The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) will provide $17.5 million to help create jobs, address infrastructure deficits, diversify the regional economy and enhance the tourism opportunities that exist in Northland, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones has announced today.

West Coast: Future-proofing key to economic growth

The Provincial Growth Fund will invest in two cycle trails for the West Coast and work with the region to develop more proposals to be considered for funding, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones has announced.

Collaborative efforts towards the ambitious one billion trees target are well under way with the first areas of land needed for Crown Forestry planting this winter committed, Forestry Minister Shane Jones says.

Regional Economic Development Minister and Associate Transport Minister Shane Jones has today announced the first of many regional rail initiatives the Government is looking to support.

The future of the upper North Island ports, including whether Ports of Auckland should be relocated, will be considered as part of a wider transport and logistics strategy, Associate Minister of Transport Shane Jones has today announced.

The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) will provide up to $4.6 million towards a new cultural tourism experience in Opononi, Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis has announced.

Should a handshake be expected?

There has been some angst over an Iranian agricultural delegation in Wellington when they refused to shake the hands of Labour MP Jo Luxton.

Barry Soper:  Surely a handshake isn’t too much to ask

It should be a case of when in Wellington do as the Wellingtonian’s do, well in a political sense that seems to be the expectation.

So it was with great indignation that an Iranian agricultural delegation was greeted with when they refused to shake the hand of Labour MP Jo Luxton.

In retaliation her male colleagues refused to take the outstretched hands of the Iranians, they felt slighted on her behalf.

But should they have been?

We live in a country that respects many different religions and cultures and are usually tolerant, we’re a secular society after all.

In Iran men don’t usually shake the hand of a woman, unless the female proffers it and the man is willing to reciprocate.

In this case Luxton was warned off, just as the meeting was about to begin which she says made her feel uncomfortable.

Islam prohibits the non-essential touching and physical contact of a person of the opposite gender, except for their nearest and dearest, although in pubic they’re expected to keep pretty much to themselves.

But when they’re travelling to a western country, and particularly on what could be seen as a diplomatic mission, surely they could abide by the local culture.

We’re certainly expected to do that when we travel to their part of the world.

In Brunei a female colleague was once refused entry to one of the many Sultan’s opulent, golden palaces because her sleeves were too short.

When I went on a tour of Italy we were warned that uncovered shoulders in churches was disrespectful and if a female had bare shoulders they could be asked to leave.

So the point is, when they come here surely a handshake isn’t too much to ask, it’s not quite up there with a hongi.

I suspect there would be a few people handshaking, hongi-ing or hugging Donald Trump if he visited, and quite a few other international politicians.

I quite often don’t shake strangers’ hands if I don’t want to, and I’m not keen on hugging strangers (or even workmates where I think professionalism and prudence dictates a respect of personal space).

I think that personal contact should be an optional personal choice and not be demanded.

More on Labour advisers, lobbyists and conflicts of interest

A follow-up to Lobbyists and Labour advisers in Government – more coverage plus some interesting tweets.

The Spinoff: Conflict of interest concerns over lobbyist turned chief of Jacinda Ardern’s staff

The government lobbyist who served for several months as chief of staff to the prime minister as the new government took office says he didn’t do any work for the lobbying firm of which he is part-owner while working at the Beehive. Nor, he says, was he paid by the business.

In response to questions on potential conflicts of interest, GJ Thompson, who advised the prime minister for five months ending last Friday, told The Spinoff he “declared the potential conflict at the very outset” and that it was for the Department of Internal Affairs to manage any conflict.

Thompson did not directly respond, however, to questions put to him on why his name and personal telephone number remained on the front page of the lobbying firm’s website while he was in service at the apex of the new government, or what steps were taken to address any conflicts of interest.

hen Labour’s previous chief of staff, Neale Jones, left to become a lobbyist late last year, questions arose about conflicts of interest and the potential for disclosure of inside information.

But concerns over Jones’ move are dwarfed by those surrounding his replacement, GJ Thompson. Last Friday, Thompson concluded a five-month stint as Labour’s chief of staff. Before taking on the leading Labour position he was a partner at Thompson Lewis, the lobbying firm he founded in 2016. Having left the role, he has returned to Auckland and his firm to continue as a lobbyist.

His time advising Ardern leads in his promotional bio on the front page of the firm’s website, which boasts: “He spent five months as chief of staff to prime minister Jacinda Ardern, assisting the new government transition into the Beehive.” The firm’s blurb advertises its “strong political networks” and its partners’ “significant time in senior roles in Government and Opposition”.

The Spinoff got a limited response from the PM’s office and “no specific comment” apart from dates of employment from Ministerial Services.

The Spinoff asked Thompson about these circumstances and how any conflicts of interest were managed, including whether the disclosure was about his role at the firm generally, or relating to particular clients.

Thompson responded: “Your questions are best directed to DIA [the Department of Internal Affairs] given they were the employer. DIA manages any potential conflict of interest. I declared the potential conflict at the very outset of my short-term appointment.”

“While I was temporarily working as chief of staff, I took a leave of absence from Thompson Lewis and did not work for the business at all”, he said.

“Nor was I paid by the business. I stepped out of the business completely. My time in the Beehive was always on a temporary basis so we took careful steps to manage it.”

Thompson did not respond directly to questions from The Spinoff whether he had professional contact with his firm while he was chief of staff.

It remains unclear from the answers provided by Thompson, the prime minister’s office, and the Department of Internal Affairs whether Thompson disclosed his clients’ identities or simply that he was involved in Thompson Lewis, though that question was put directly to all three.

Without knowing who Thompson’s clients are, it would have been challenging for the department and the prime minister’s office to decide what steps should be taken to mitigate potential conflicts of interest, such as what information Thompson should have had access to, and whether he should have resigned his directorship of the firm.

Risks of corruption aside, political scientist Bryce Edwards, speaking to RNZ about his coverage of Thompson’s appointment, explained why he was concerned about changes in the lobbying industry: “There is increasing suspicion about what is basically a political class.”

“A lot of people — in especially the Wellington circles — that work in government departments, work in ministers’ offices, or are politicians, then work in the media, they work in PR, they work in lobbying. It’s all a bit too close, I think. It’s a very cohesive political class.”

Thompson told The Spinoff he has spent over 20 years as a journalist, working in parliament and for some of New Zealand’s largest companies. “During this time, I’ve developed long-standing contacts in media, politics and business.”

A fair question to ask. It does not appear to have been asked or answered at The Standard.

Some interesting responses to Manhire’s tweet:

“A relatively inexperienced outfit” does need “needs all the help they can get”, but not by compromising the integrity of political advice untainted by the interests of lobbyists paid to influence the Government.

Some responses from what I think are left leaning people: