Shooting In California: What Do We Know?

Details are still emerging about last night’s deadly shooting at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, California. At least twelve individuals were killed when an unidentified gunman entered the establishment and began firing into the crowd. Many of the victims are believed to be students from nearby universities as well as one law enforcement officer. The shooter, who was killed on the scene by law enforcement, is yet unidentified and his motives unclear. Here’s what is known so far:

An armed man dressed in black opened fire late Wednesday night inside a crowded country and western dance hall in Thousand Oaks, Calif., killing at least 12 people, including a sheriff’s deputy who had responded to the scene… Chyann Worrell, a junior at California State University Channel Islands, said she was at the bar to celebrate the 21st birthday of her friend Nellie Wong for a night of line-dancing with a live D.J. Shortly after 11 p.m., Ms. Worrell said, the gunman, wearing dark clothing and a dark baseball cap, drew his gun. He aimed it at a man near the front of the bar. Ms. Worrell ducked for cover and heard a barrage of bullets. As she ran out of the bar, she said, she saw several bodies sprawled on the floor. Hours after the shooting, she had still not heard from two friends who had been with her at the bar.

Authorities have not yet identified the gunman, who died in the incident, or any of the victims inside the bar. The gunman was dressed in black when he burst into the Borderline Bar & Grill, a country-music-themed venue that is popular with college students, around 11:20 p.m., according to Sheriff Geoff Dean. Authorities said Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus and a California Highway Patrol officer entered the bar first and were met with gunfire from the suspect, whose identity was not immediately known. Helus was shot several times and died at an area hospital early Thursday morning, according to Dean.

“The University has determined that multiple Pepperdine students were on site at Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks. At this time, the University is working to identify and provide support to those students,” Pepperdine said on Twitter. “Pepperdine officials are working with authorities and will provide updates as more information is available. The University offers its deepest condolences and is praying for everyone involved in tonight’s tragic events.” [.] The university is about about a half-hour drive from the bar, which was hosting a “College Country Night” for students, CNN reported. The bar hosts the night every Wednesday until 2 a.m., according to a flier from the event. It was 11 p.m. in California at the time of the shooting, police said, according to The New York Times.

Jeff Sessions Resigns. Is Trump Trying to End the Mueller Probe?

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has resigned his post (by request). Sessions landed on President Trump’s bad side when he recused himself from overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s campaign. That investigation has since been overseen by Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein. The investigation will now be taken up by Sessions’ chief of staff Matthew Whitaker in his capacity as Acting Attorney General. Some say that Trump is gearing up to end Mueller’s investigation once and for all by appointing Whitaker, whose adversarial opinions about the Mueller probe are well known. More at Fortune.

Matthew Whitaker, President Trump’s handpicked selection to replace Jeff Sessions as attorney general, is the wrong choice for the job at exactly the wrong time. Of course, from Trump’s point of view, that is the point. He ousts Sessions, whose alleged disloyalty Trump has bemoaned for months. Under the ordinary rules of succession at the Justice Department, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein would take over as acting attorney general until a successor is confirmed. But instead of allowing that to happen, Trump installs Whitaker, Sessions’s chief of staff and, more to the point, a lawyer who has expressed doubt about, if not outright hostility to, the investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

Sessions’ resignation will have no immediate impact on the Mueller investigation. That is my prediction. Yes, with Sessions out, and an Acting replacement quickly shuffled in, supervision of the Special Counsel investigation immediately transfers from the hands of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker. No different than everyone in Washington, Whitaker has an opinion, which he has expressed publicly… with Mueller not planning to charge criminally the President, Whitaker has cover to allow the investigation to proceed.

Mr. Sessions’ temporary successor will be the AG’s chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, who presumably will hold the job until a successor is nominated. It is important that the White House get this one right. The Attorney General shouldn’t fire Mr. Mueller, as the President essentially said himself at his Wednesday news conference. Mr. Trump needs an individual of stature and judgment who will have the trust of the department’s lawyers, who is capable of independence, but who also understands that the Justice Department is part of the executive branch and not a law unto itself.

How Will the Midterms Affect Israel?

Trump’s first two years as president earned him a reputation as Israel’s best friend. After the midterms, the American political landscape looks different. Republicans have lost the House majority, and many of the new Democratic faces are candidly critical of Israel. How will this affect America’s special relationship with Israel?

…the notion that Netanyahu’s tilt to the GOP will come back to bite him anytime soon doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Even under new management, politicians who are resolutely pro-Israel, and by no means unfriendly to the government in Jerusalem, will still lead the House. Nor will the Democrats be in any position to impede Trump’s Middle East policies that please Jerusalem.

The results of the midterm elections will make it more difficult for Israel to maintain bipartisan support among American politicians and the public, Deputy Minister and former ambassador to the US Michael Oren told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday… But the midterms can be a positive force to propel the peace process forward, he said, particularly if the Democrats have some success at blocking Trump’s domestic agenda.

The fight between Israel and Iran will move to Washington with the midterm elections. Just as Iran hopes for a Democratic victory, Israel wishes for a Republican win, which will allow Trump to continue his pressure on Iran and his pro-Israel moves. And so, the midterm elections’ results could have a significant impact on Israel’s security and welfare.

Should Beto O’Rourke Run for President in 2020?

Beto O’Rourke may not have won his Senate bid against incumbent Ted Cruz in Texas, but that doesn’t mean the Democratic party is done with him. O’Rourke came closer to victory than anyone would have expected of a Democratic candidate in a red state like Texas, and few can deny the charisma of his campaign. But is it enough to make O’Rourke a viable candidate for president in 2020? More at Bloomberg.

Maybe this was a failed campaign to the experts, but for a lot of people, myself included, there was a lot of good in it: a chance to see the Texas I’ve always known was there — a place where working people and immigrants still have the right to thrive alongside those with much more; a place where we aren’t so devastatingly divided; a place where people are energized by the political process because they saw a way to make a difference. Mr. O’Rourke gave Texans who have long felt disenfranchised a glimpse of what could be, and I hope they don’t take his defeat as a sign that victory is beyond their grasp.

The Democrats have some strong potential candidates already jockeying for position in advance of the 2020 Democratic primaries, but none capture the zeitgeist of a Clinton or an Obama quite like Beto does. The lanky, good-looking, perpetually restless former punk rocker has a way of always seeming seconds from a smile, an air guitar riff, or a road trip to see an indie band at a venue in Marfa. It seemed, during much of Beto’s 2018 Senate campaign, that he wasn’t just the guy everyone wanted to have a beer with, but the guy everyone wanted to be friends with. And that’s saying something—more importantly, it’s saying something that would resonate in all corners of the country.

After the midterm election results, future Democratic candidates in tough races might hope that the national media completely ignore their campaigns, lest they find themselves in the same position as Beto O’Rourke, Andrew Gillum, and, probably, Stacey Abrams… The media called O’Rourke “a rock star,” “Kennedyesque,” and “cool.” Yet Sen. Ted Cruz, universally reviled in Washington, handily won re-election… The national media can turn Democrats into stars. But it doesn’t win them races.

Can the Israeli Left and Right Unite Over Yitzhak Rabin?

Memorializing Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated by a right-wing fanatic, stirs a familiar political controversy every year. There are those on the right who are hostile to the leftist political tone of memorial events for Rabin. There are those on the left who are hostile to rightwing ministers who attempt to join these ceremonies. In a clear display of these dynamics, Yitzhak Hanegbi of the rightwing Likud party appeared at Saturday’s memorial event in Rabin Square to speak but was practically booed off the stage. More at Jerusalem Post.

We cannot ignore the right-wing incitement that occurred on the evening of Rabin’s assassination, nor can we ignore the continued incitement of the right. But the answer to incitement and intolerance of the right cannot be mutual intolerance by the left. Intolerance is a lack of readiness to respect the other’s view. On Saturday night the bitter truth emerged in Rabin Square: The educated left-wing masses who filled the square are intolerant, exactly like the vehement masses of the right so mocked by the left.

The right-wing settlers and their supporters stubbornly reject any responsibility for the vitriolic wave of incitement that preceded the murder and caused the murderer, by his own admission, to shoot a prime minister in the back… the very same people who led the campaign against those they dubbed “Oslo criminals” have also declared themselves its victims, generously aided by the silent majority… It fell to Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, a leading opponent of the Oslo Accords, to play the role of chief victim.

The bottom line of Abramovitch is that indeed we should unite – but only if the right wing beats its breast and takes all the blame for the assassination and all the ills of Israeli society, such as the “occupation.” Unfortunately, conservatives in Israel know that when the Rabin Assassination Festival Season sets in, they have to bury their heads deep in the sand and just wait until it blows over. No matter how much they wish that this day could be a symbol of Israeli solidarity, it is not to be.

Has the Tide Turned on Marijuana?

Marijuana legalization is a far less divisive topic today than it was ten or twenty years ago. Without even garnering much media attention, marijuana-related ballot initiatives performed well in both red and blue states. But beyond ballot initiatives, there are other political changes in Washington that may signal full legalization of recreational marijuana in the near future. More at Chicago Tribune.

Residents of the nation’s capital get no vote in Congress, but the Democratic takeover of the House may come with a consolation prize: recreational marijuana shops. D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), fresh off her reelection victory, said Wednesday she plans to introduce legislation early next year to legalize the sale of marijuana… with Republicans losing control of the House, local elected officials hope the federal restrictions against recreational marijuana will end and that full legalization can commence.

During a bitterly divided election, red states and blue states both embraced cannabis measures… Marijuana legalization was on the ballot in four states—voters in Michigan and North Dakota were faced with measures that would allow recreational legalization, while Utah and Missouri decided on medical marijuana. Beyond those big-ticket items, there were a handful of races that could play a role in the future of weed. In Texas, anti-weed Republican Congressman Pete Sessions, who helped block pro-cannabis measures, lost his seat to Democrat Colin Allred. Meanwhile, pro-legalization candidates like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and incumbent Earl Blumenauer of Oregon won easily, cementing the Democrats as by far the more pro-weed party.

Jeff Sessions is gone, and marijuana advocates—and the businesses that serve them—are celebrating. Forced out by President Donald Trump, Sessions tendered his resignation as the attorney general on Wednesday afternoon, and his departure has signaled the fall of a major political roadblock to more widespread legalization. In response, stock prices for cannabis businesses have leapt.

Today’s Hot Issues

Shooting In California: What Do We Know? Jeff Sessions Resigns. Is Trump Trying to End the Mueller Probe? How Will the Midterms Affect Israel? Should Beto O’Rourke Run for President in 2020? Can the Israeli Left and Right Unite Over Yitzhak Rabin? Has the Tide Turned on Marijuana?