Jolly Monday!

Blogger-friend Mary recently referred to my Monday morning posts as Jolly Monday, and I liked that, so it is today’s title.  A number of new readers have come to Filosofa’s Word in the past few weeks, so rather than have them wondering if I have completely lost my bloomin’ marbles with today’s post, I will explain about Jolly Mondays.  Mostly I write about socio-political issues, which of late tend to be rather dark.  At the behest of a friend some time ago, I decided to make my Monday morning post completely politic-free.  Since then it has evolved into basically a venue for humour, good news, cartoons, and most important of all, cute animal stories and pictures!  As most already know, and the rest of you will soon see, I am a sucker when it comes to furry critters … which explains our family of ten, seven of whom walk on all fours.  Soul-mate Herb was only mildly incredulous the other night when I told him I had spent ten minutes apologizing to one of our felines, after calling her a b—- for knocking my ashtray onto the floor.

So, it is Monday again dear friends.  I know you are all scattered ‘round the world, but I have to tell you about our weekend weather!  On Friday, we set a new record high of 76° F (24° C), and the next day, barely made it above the freezing mark (0° C), with snow, sleet and wind!  What a quick change, and not necessarily a welcome one!  Mother Nature is being contrary!

coffeecinnrollsGrab your coffee and pull up a chair … you have just a few minutes for a chuckle to start your work week out right, get in the right frame of mind to deal with whatever life throws at you this week …


A tale of courage

I first saw this story in the Guardian one-day last week, read the piece, had a chuckle, then moved on to more serious topics.  Later that afternoon, perusing the more serious sites I visit daily, it came back onto my radar in, of all places, Foreign Policy magazine!  Okay, I thought, obviously this guy not going off my radar until I write about him, so welcome to Filosofa’s Word, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, President of Iceland!

The latest population estimate for Iceland is 333,443 people.  Iceland does not appear to have much of a problem with immigrants, perhaps because if its climate.  As the name implies, it is somewhat cold in Iceland.  However, Iceland is not without troubles, but luckily they have a president who is not afraid to tackle even the toughest of problems:  pineapple on pizza!!!

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Jóhannesson was giving a speech at a local high school when a student asked whether he thought pineapple was a viable topping for pizza.  He said he was fundamentally opposed to the concept of pineapple as a pizza topping and if he had the power to do so, he would ban the practice entirely.  Well, wouldn’t you know that his remarks caused a virtual UPROAR!  People on both sides of this burning issue took to Twitter and Facebook, including frozen pizza king DiGiorno. In light of the potential divisiveness of the scandal, Jóhannesson issued the following statement on Facebook:

monday-pizza“I like pineapples, just not on pizza. I do not have the power to make laws which forbid people to put pineapples on their pizza. I am glad that I do not hold such power. Presidents should not have unlimited power. I would not want to hold this position if I could pass laws forbidding that which I don’t like. I would not want to live in such a country. For pizzas, I recommend seafood.”

It is to be hoped this puts an end to it and Jóhannesson’s approval rating, which stood at 97% prior to his remarks, will not be damaged.


Old McDonald had a … restroom?

monday-mcdonalsdsEver wonder where McDonald’s keeps their chickens until they’re ready to be turned into chicken nuggets?  Well, wonder no more!  A five-year-old boy in Cobough, Ontario, not far from Toronto, has found the answer.  While his mom was ordering his Happy Meal, the little boy went into the restroom to wash his hands and discovered … you got it … a live chicken!  He came running out to tell his mom, who didn’t quite believe him at first, but upon investigation by restaurant staff, sure enough … there was a live brown chicken bobbing around the floor of the restroom.

monday-chickenMcDonald’s spokesperson Michelle Yao confirmed staff contacted Municipal Animal Services to take the chicken. She also said officials are conducting an investigation to determine how the chicken ended up in the washroom. I’m not sure how one conducts such an investigation … DNA testing, perhaps? But more power to them.  Meanwhile, there is at least one chicken who will not end up as a McChicken!


You better slow down, else I will … dry you!

Imagine for a moment that you live in a small, peaceful village, but lately tourists have been speeding through the village on your quaint, cobblestone streets, endangering lives and disturbing your peace.  What do you do?  Well, duh … you get out the hairdryer, of course?  The place is the tiny village of Hopeman, Scotland, population approximately 1,720, where villagers ranging from elderly men to little girls have begun donning reflective vests and standing along the street, holding a hair dryer that they hope speeding drivers will mistake for a speed gun.  Don’t laugh … it would probably make me take my foot off the gas!  A matter for the police, you say?  Well, the police response is “We are aware of complaints regarding speeding in Hopeman, which we are continuing to address.”  Sounds like the stock-in-trade answer, don’t you think?  Hats off to the citizens of Hopeman for trying to keep their village safe!


The quokkas are back!!!

Remember on January 17th … yeah, me neither … when I included a blurb in my Monday morn post about the cute little animals of which I had never heard, quokkas?  Well, seems like you can go 65 years and never hear of something, then all of a sudden they are all over your radar!  So, the cute little quokkas are back in the news …

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Look at that smile … doesn’t it just melt your heart?

Campbell Jones was riding his bike on Rottnest Island, off the coast of Australia, when he passed a quokka alongside the roadway.  He did what any of us would, pulled over, got off his bike, and actually played with the quokka for a few minutes.  Then, as he was preparing to get back on his bike, the quokka, apparently not wanting his newfound friend to leave, leaped into his arms!  He (Campbell, not the quokka) was wearing a GoPro camera that just happened to capture the flying leap!  They say a picture is worth a thousand words … this one certainly is!


I usually sense if one of my posts is ‘good’, ‘not-that-great’, or ‘just-hit-the-delete-button bad’.  I sense this is not one of my better “Jolly Monday” posts, and for that I apologize.  For some reason, I am just not feeling particularly humorous tonight. But alas … I tried … and I shall top it all off with a few cartoons to make up for my lack.  So now, go scrape the ice off your windshields and have a safe journey to work this fine Monday morn.  Remember to share a smile, a chuckle, maybe even half your peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich today … we all need someone to smile at us once in a while.  Keep warm and safe … and have a GREAT MONDAY!

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Freedom of the Press — GOING, GOING … Part III

Turkey The United States, once held up as an exemplar of secular democracy in the Muslim western world, is now the world’s biggest prison for journalists. Since he came to power in 2014 2017, president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Donald Trump has slowly tightened his grip on freedom of expression, choking his critics.

There is always some inherent conflict between the president and the press … always has been, always will be … it is the nature of the beast.  But it is not normal for a president to declare all-out war on the press, nor is it a particularly brilliant move, to say the least.  And yet, that is exactly what Donald Trump has done, and continues to do.

On Friday, Sean Spicer, undoubtedly under orders from either Trump or Bannon, barred a number of legitimate media outlets from a press briefing:  CNN, New York Times, Politico, Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, Guardian, BBC, and others, while admitting those such as Breitbart, Fox, OneAmerica and the Washington Times, all of whom are known to pander to Trump.  This is only the most recent in a long list of speech and actions aimed at widening the chasm between the administration and the free press.  The Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ, has documented a few:

  • Journalists covering Standing Rock face charges as police arrest protesters
    • Several journalists are facing charges, including trespass and engaging in riots, after being caught in mass arrests as police cracked down on protests or tried to clear camps in recent months. CPJ is aware of at least 10 journalists covering the story who are facing charges.
  • CPJ Safety Advisory: US executive order on immigration
    • On Friday January 27, 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump issued an executive order making significant changes to the country’s immigration system.
    • It is important for all journalists crossing the U.S. border to be fully aware of their rights, and to know what to expect if they are stopped prior to entering the country whether they are citizens or noncitizens. CPJ has worked with lawyers from the New York law firm Debevoise & Plimpton to review President Trump’s executive order and other materials of interpretation and clarification to compile facts that directly apply to journalists working or looking to enter the United States.
  • BBC journalist questioned by US border agents, devices searched
    • Ali Hamedani, a reporter for BBC World Service, told CPJ that border agents detained him at Chicago O’Hare airport for over two hours and questioned him when he arrived in the U.S. on January 29 to interview a Persian singer. The journalist, who said he was traveling on a Media I Visa, told CPJ that agents searched his phone and computer and read his Twitter feed.
    • Customs and Border Protection officers should respect the rights of journalists to protect confidential information when subjecting international reporters to screening on their arrival to the U.S.
  • Journalists charged with rioting in Washington
    • Police arrested Evan Engel, a senior producer at the news website Vocativ, and Alex Rubinstein, a reporter with the Russian state-funded broadcaster RT America, near 12th and L streets in downtown Washington the morning of January 20, according to the Guardian news website. Police also arrested Aaron Cantu, a freelance journalist who has written for The Baffler, the website Truthout, and Al-Jazeera, according to police reports reviewed by CPJ.
  • Reporters must be allowed to protect their sources
    • In remarks before the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing for attorney general, Jeff Sessions said he was unsure whether he would commit to following guidelines adopted by Attorney General Eric Holder in 2015 that make it harder, though not impossible, for the Department of Justice to subpoena journalists’ records.

Those incidents, while disturbing, are a symptom of what seems to be a virulent disease spreading through the administration, fueled by Trump’s unrelenting attacks on the media in general, and a wide variety of outlets specifically.

Throughout his campaign and since taking office, Trump has emphatically and usually without cause attacked the press, most recently claiming them to be “the enemy of the people”.  The press may not always do their job well, they may pander to the masses in order to get ratings that draw advertising dollars, but when push comes to shove, as it has in recent weeks, the press are the people’s friends, not our enemies, and I want them around, free to do what they do.

The burning question is WHY?  Why would Trump continue to fan the fires of enmity between his administration and the press?  One theory is the Russian connection:  that the media outlets barred from last Friday’s press briefing were the ones that are most actively investigation the connections between Trump’s team and the Russian government.  While that may be a factor, it does not make sense that it is the sole reason for his fiery attacks or for barring such as the New York Times, CNN, etc.  It will only add fuel to the fire, and the majority of the public is now convinced that Trump has something to hide.

I think, and I state this as my own opinion only, that operating under the puppet strings of Steve Bannon, Trump is rapidly working his way toward dictatorship.  I do not say that to sound ominous, though it is an ominous prospect, but am basing my opinion on what I am seeing daily.  Go back and read the first paragraph of this post.  By simply changing the name and date, the lead to a story in the Guardian about Erdoğan becomes a story about Trump.

Steve Bannon, a white supremacist, neo-Nazi bigot who does not belong in the administration at all, made the statement more than once that the agenda of the Trump administration is, “deconstruction of the administrative state”.  And last week he said, “If you look at these Cabinet nominees, they were selected for a reason, and that is deconstruction.”  What more proof do we need that Trump & Co. seek to destroy the very foundation of our government and put the power, not in the hands of the people, but in the hands of a few men, or a single man?  And the first step that they must accomplish is to stifle the press, to tie their hands and force a cessation of investigative reporting that would otherwise inform the public of their actions.

The title of the Guardian article I quoted at the beginning of this post is “Erdoğan v free speech: how does it feel to live in Turkey right now?” 

“Editors of national newspapers now face life sentences for working “against the state”. People have been arrested for Facebook posts criticising the government and last week over 4,400 public servants were sacked in an act branded by critics as a witchhunt targeting the political opposition. If you live in Turkey we want to hear how the climate is affecting you.

Has the crackdown on expression affected your daily life? When did you notice that free speech was being compromised? Have you adjusted what you say and do online? And what advice would you give to other people around the world living under a similar style of leader?

Fill in your details in the form below and we’ll use some of your submissions in our coverage of freedom of speech in Turkey.

Please note that while we’d like to hear from you, your security is most important. We recognise it may not always be safe or appropriate to record or share your experiences – so please think about this when considering whether to get in touch with the Guardian.

IP addresses will be recorded on a third party webserver, so for true anonymity use our SecureDrop service, however anything submitted on the form below will be encrypted and confidential if you wish to continue.”

In the past few days, I have heard from a few who avidly applaud the barring of legitimate press from Friday’s press briefing.  Those people are fools.  They will sit and bask in what they consider their ‘moral righteousness’ and never see the freight train that runs them down until it is too late.  To them, I have nothing left to say, for my time and effort has too much value to waste.  For the rest of us, however, I urge staying informed, supporting the media, and contacting our representatives in Congress as often as possible. As one of the readers of this blog reminds me, posturing for the 2018 mid-term elections is already in process, and it is not too early to start working toward getting the trumpeters out of Congress. I do not wish to see the U.S. become another Turkey, Russia or Poland.

Le Président Français Obama

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“Barack Obama a achevé son deuxième mandat de Président des États-Unis le 21 janvier dernier, pourquoi ne pas l’embaucher comme Président pour la France ?”

Which, translated, says:

“Barack Obama has completed his second term as President of the United States on January 21, why not hire him as President for France?”

That’s right, folks … the French want President Obama for their own! I told my daughter tonight that if the French elect him, we are selling every single thing we own and moving to France!  She agreed.

A number of elections in Europe this year are proving to be contentious in the same vein as the U.S. election was last year, though none quite so toxic, since by nature, Europeans are more polite than Americans.  The next one will be the Dutch elections in March, with Geert Wilders playing the Trumpian.  Then in April, France will elect a new president, or if no candidate wins a majority, there will be a runoff election in May, much the same as the Austrian elections last year.

The three front-runners at the moment are far-right Marine LePen, of the National Front (FN) party, who is largely expected to win the first round, but not with a majority, and is not considered likely to win the runoff.  The other two front-runners, vying for 2nd in the first round, are Emmanuel Macron of the En Marche! Party (EM) and François Fillon of the The Republicans (LR).

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Thinking back to our own contentious election last year, when many people were not enamoured of either candidate and kept hoping for a better choice to magically appear, we can certainly appreciate the French wanting someone to “come in and clean up the mess.”  Over the past month, posters have begun appearing with a picture of Obama and sporting the slogan Obama17.  There is even a website  urging voters to sign a petition promising to vote for Barack Obama if he enters the race. Obama would be a good president for France, the website continues, as he has “the best résumé in the world for the job.” It’s not the first time French citizens have expressed longing for Obama’s leadership — at least two petitions were started last year — but it’s by far the most successful, with some 30,000 signatures thus far. Still somewhat shy of the one million they are seeking, but a good start nonetheless.

The French election season, like that of the U.S., has been plagued by scandal and upsets.  François Fillon was caught after hiring his wife for a non-existent position, paying her out taxpayer monies, to the tune of about $900,000!  He also hired his two children – no word on how much they were paid.  A few weeks ago, Fillon and his wife were questioned separately for five hours on Monday by anti-corruption officers in connection with the allegation. Needless to say, his poll numbers are down a bit now.

And LePen has not been without troubles either.  She has been told to repay the French government some $320,000 after it was determined that two of her aides on the French Parliamentary payroll were actually working for her campaign, but she has refused, saying she did nothing wrong.  And like Trump, she praises Putin and supports Russia’s annexation of the Crimea.

So is it any wonder that some look toward the grace, dignity and integrity of Obama for a solution?  But alas … I am sorry dear French brethren … it is simply not to be.  First, Obama is not a citizen of France, which is a requirement for the position.  He doesn’t even speak the language, though I am told that Michelle did study French at some point.  And to the best of my knowledge, though I do not claim to be in his inner loop, he has expressed no desire to move to France, or to once again have to contend with leading a nation.

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The Pointless Death of Srinivas Kuchibhotla

Their names are Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani.  Mr. Kuchibhotla is dead now, and Mr. Madasani is wounded.  51-year-old Adam W. Purinton, apparently did not like immigrants and believed it was his right, as a white male, to take their lives into his own hands.

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Srinivas Kuchibhotla and wife, Sunayana Dumala

It started in a restaurant in Olathe, Kansas where Mr. Kuchibhotla and Mr. Madasani were enjoying an after work drink before heading home.  The two gentlemen, originally from India, were both educated in the U.S., and both were engineers, employed by Swiss communication device company, Garmin.  Nonetheless, Mr. Purinton took umbrage at their very presence, and started spouting ethnic slurs, finally telling them to “get out of my country.”  Mr. Madasani finally tired of the verbal abuse and went in search of the restaurant’s manager to lodge a complaint.  When he returned to his table, Purinton was being escorted out, and everyone breathed a sigh of relief, thinking the episode was over.

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Purinton

But a few minutes later, Purinton returned, gun in hand, and opened fire. When the gunshots stopped, another patron, Ian Grillot, thinking the shooter had run out of ammunition, came out to attempt to subdue him, and for his heroic efforts was rewarded with a gunshot to the chest and hand. Meanwhile, Mr. Kuchibhotla lay dying, and Mr. Madasani was receiving CPR.  Their only crime was that they were not WASPs.  Mr. Purinton’s crime, however is a hate crime … it is a crime against ALL of humanity just as surely as is any terrorist attack.

Had the tables been turned … had an immigrant from ANY country shot a white man … you can bet your last dollar that Donald Trump would have tweeted until he had blisters on his tiny fingers.  But on this?  Not a single twit nor tweet.  Silence.  Silencio.  Nada. Zip. In fact, the only response from the administration in Washington came from Sean Spicer who said that any loss of life is tragic but it would be absurd to link the action to Trump’s stance on immigrants. I do not think it is ‘absurd’ at all, and neither does the Indian government.

Purinton was arrested later that day at an Applebee’s restaurant in Clinton, Missouri, where he told the bartender, “I’m on the run; I’m hiding out from the law. I shot those guys, and that’s why I’m hiding out from the police.”  Not only white and with a sense of entitlement, but also incredibly stupid. Apparently known as the town drunk, a neighbor said, “We always wondered if he might hurt himself, but we didn’t think he would hurt someone else.” Purinton has reportedly been charged with murder in the first degree and remains in jail pending a $100,000 bond.

Mr. Kuchibhotla’s widow, Sunayana Dumala, said in a press conference yesterday, “I, especially, I was always concerned, are we doing the right thing of staying in the United States of America? But he always assured me that only good things happen to good people.” Welcome to Trump’s America. The Hindustan Times carries a full transcript of her touching speech in which she seeks answers and ponders moving back to India.

The Indian Embassy in the U.S. has called for a speedier investigation and asked to be kept abreast of the investigation. Investigators have stopped short of calling this a ‘hate crime’, but I ask … what else can it be?  And, since the FBI is involved in the investigation, it is obviously being considered a hate crime. Hate crimes have become so predominant since Trump’s election that the New York Times now devotes a weekly column, titled ‘This Week in Hate’, to report and track them. This, Mr. Trump, is your legacy — a legacy of hate and inhumanity.

So where is all that anger over this crime?  Where is all that self-righteous, ‘moral’ indignation?  Where are all those indignant people who would be foaming at the mouth, including the so-called leader of the nation?  The incident has been reported, though not widely commented on, and the White House remains silent.  People get more angry and vocal when it comes to who can use which restroom than they do the murder of a good man. A life is a life.  One is no more important than another, yet it would seem that to the politicians and a large portion of U.S. society, Mr. Kuchibhotla’s life was of lesser value … hardly worth mentioning.  Is this who we have become?  Is this the same nation who once valued its immigrant population?  I do not recognize it, and I am deeply ashamed of it.

The Supreme Court — Our Best Hope

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Now that Congress has ‘fallen into line’ and is pandering to Trump’s every whim, licking his boots and kissing his posterior, there is one last bastion of justice remaining:  the United States Supreme Court. Last year, after the untimely death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the Republicans in Congress effectively blocked President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, by refusing to hold even preliminary confirmation hearings.  Thus, the position remained open when Trump took office, and it is now up to him to fill.  More about that in a bit.

scotusThe U.S. Constitution does not specify the number of Supreme Court Justices.  Article III of the Constitution established the Supreme Court, but left it to Congress to decide on the appropriate number of Justices.  The Judiciary Act of 1789 set the number at six: a chief justice and five associate justices. In 1807, Congress increased the number of justices to seven; in 1837, the number was bumped up to nine; and in 1863, it rose to 10. In 1866, Congress passed the Judicial Circuits Act, which shrank the number of justices back down to seven and prevented President Andrew Johnson from appointing anyone new to the court. Three years later, in 1869, Congress raised the number of justices to nine, where it has stood ever since. It has mostly worked well for 148 years.

Many of us are understandably concerned about the composition of the court these days.  There is already one vacancy for Trump to fill, a position for which he has nominated Neil Gorsuch.  But there are three other justices who are likely to retire from the court soon:  Justice Anthony Kennedy, a moderate-conservative who is 79, Justice Stephen Breyer, a liberal who is 78, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, also a liberal who will be 84 next month.  The problem arises when we consider the way these justices tend to vote. All three have voted consistently in favour of human rights, civil rights and social issues.  If Trump had the opportunity to fill all three of these positions, in addition to the one already vacant, the court would be comprised of 7 conservative justices and only 2 liberal-leaning.  This would spell disaster for the LGBT community, for African-Americans, for immigrants, for women … for all of us, really.

 

On a positive note, tonight I was reading about an interview Justice Ginsburg gave to the BBC this week where she said … well, I will let her tell you in her own words:

“I read the Washington Post and the New York Times every day, and I think that the reporters are trying to tell the public the way things are. Our legislature – which is the first branch of government – is right now not working. I am optimistic in the long run. A great man once said that the true symbol of the United States is not the bald eagle. It is the pendulum. And when the pendulum swings too far in one direction it will go back. Some terrible things have happened in the United States but one can only hope that we learn from those bad things.”

Of the Women’s March on Washington, 21 January, she said:

“I’ve never seen such a demonstration – both the numbers and the rapport of the people in that crowd. There was no violence, it was orderly. So yes, we are not experiencing the best times but there is reason to hope that that we will see a better day.”

But the important part was …

“At my age you have to take it year by year. I know I’m OK. What will be next year? I’m hopeful however, because my most senior colleague the one who most recently retired, Justice John Paul Stevens, stepped down at age 90. So I have a way to go.”

ginsburgAt an appearance at George Washington University on Thursday night, Justice Ginsburg said, “we are not as mindful of what makes America great.”  So very true! Ginsburg stopped short of mentioning Trump or his policies directly, as she got into some hot water for that last year when she gave an interview critical of Trump and was taken to task for her candor:

“I can’t imagine what this place would be — I can’t imagine what the country would be — with Donald Trump as our president. For the country, it could be four years. For the court, it could be — I don’t even want to contemplate that. He is a faker. He has no consistency about him. He says whatever comes into his head at the moment. He really has an ego. … How has he gotten away with not turning over his tax returns? The press seems to be very gentle with him on that.”

I always did like this woman!  She sees clearly the damage that is being done by the current administration, sees the unwillingness of Congress to stand against Trump, and is determined to try to stay on the court a few more years.  Let us hope that Kennedy and Breyer will do the same.  Though Kennedy is considered a moderate-conservative, he leans toward liberal in most social issues, so even if Gorsuch is confirmed, as is expected, we should still have a fairly well-balanced court.  For now. At least well-balanced enough to keep from overturning such important issues as voting rights, same-sex marriage, and Roe v Wade, which Trump has sworn to see overturned after 43 years.

gorsuchAs for Gorsuch, I suspect he will be conservative on most issues, but then so was Scalia.  But like Scalia, he is known for also being thoughtful and fair, so if Breyer, Kennedy and Ginsburg are able to stay in good health and willing to remain on the bench for a few more years, we should be alright.  But if one dies, retires, or otherwise vacates, all bets are off.  At present, all hope for maintaining the civil and social rights we have fought so hard for lies in the hands of the Supreme Court.

White House TRAMPLES Freedom of the Press!!!!

White House Bars Times and 2 Other News Outlets From Briefing

Reporters from The Times, CNN and Politico were not allowed to enter the West Wing office of the press secretary, Sean M. Spicer, for the scheduled briefing. Aides to Mr. Spicer allowed in reporters from only a handpicked group of news organizations that, the White House said, had been previously confirmed to attend.

Organizations allowed in included Breitbart News, the One America News Network and The Washington Times, all with conservative leanings. Journalists from ABC, CBS, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and Fox News also attended. 

Reporters from Time magazine and The Associated Press, who were set to be allowed in to the briefing, chose not to attend in protest of the White House’s actions. – New York Times, 24 February 2017


The White House made a very dangerous, very bad decision to dis-allow cameras in this morning’s press briefing conducted by Sean Spicer, and to bar a number of media outlets from the briefing.  A number of the barred agencies are the top purveyors of news between the government and the public, and THAT, my friends, is a huge problem.  As far as this writer is concerned, Donald Trump, whether it was his decision or Bannon’s, just bought himself a ticket out of the White House.  No president, no presidential advisor, has the right to withhold news from the public simply because those news agencies do not say nice things about him.  Period.

Two thumbs up to Time and the Associated Press for boycotting the event.  I hope others follow suit, and at the next press briefing, Sean Spicer finds himself all alone in the room!  But, of course those like Breitbart, Fox, The Washington Times, and other outlets that are already in Trump’s pocket, will be gleeful at this point.

Jeff Mason, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association issued the following rebuke to the administration:

“The W.H.C.A. board is protesting strongly against how today’s gaggle is being handled by the White House. We encourage the organizations that were allowed in to share the material with others in the press corps who were not. The board will be discussing this further with White House staff.” 

White House deputy communications director Raj Shah insisted this was all much ado about nothing.

Just hours before the ‘press’ briefing (I use the term loosely, as the right-wing organizations that were allowed in are not, in my book, legitimate press), Trump was on a tear about his favourite perceived enemy, the press, when he spoke at CPAC:

“A few days ago, I called the fake news media the enemy of the people, and they are. They are the enemy of the people.”

It is said that Steve aka Breitbart Bannon is the driving force behind much of Trump’s anti-press rhetoric, such as calling the press “the opposition party” and “the enemy”.  Here is what Bannon had to say in regards to the media at CPAC yesterday:

“It’s going to get worse every day for the media. If you think they are giving you your country back without a fight, you are sadly mistaken.”  I’m unclear as to what he meant by that last part, but it is obviously a gauntlet thrown down, and I hope the legitimate media are up for the challenge, for it is arguably the most important one of the day.

This is a shorter-than-usual post, as I do not have additional information at present, but I felt it was too important to sit on until tomorrow.  I will post more when I know more.

Collusion in the White House

The word for it is ‘collusion’.  When the White House Chief of Staff contacts the Assistant Director of the FBI and asks him to comment in a specific manner about an ongoing investigation into possibly illegal activities by White House officials, that is collusion.  It is illegal, improper, unacceptable behaviour by a government official.

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Reince Priebus

After a 14 February story ran in the New York Times stating that the investigation into the Russian hacking of the DNC last year had turned up conversations between Trump’s campaign aides and Russian officials, Reince Priebus contacted FBI Assistant Director Andrew McCabe, and asked him to de-bunk the Times story.  Allegedly, McCabe told Priebus that the story was inaccurate, at which point Priebus requested that McCabe announce that conclusion publicly.  McCabe later, presumably after speaking with his boss, FBI Director James Comey, contacted Priebus and told him that he could not make a public statement at this time, but that Priebus could cite “senior intelligence officials” as saying there was “nothing to” the Times story.

mccabe

Andrew McCabe

The intelligence community, including the FBI, obviously believe, and have stated, that there is something to the story, else they would not be investigating it.  Congress has launched its own investigation, thus they obviously believe there is something to the story.  Neither Priebus nor McCabe had any right to have that conversation, and both should be terminated.  Priebus took his show on the road on Sunday, when during an interview with Meet the Press, he said that the “top levels of the intelligence community” assured him the Times story was “not only inaccurate” but “grossly overstated” and “wrong.”

If White House officials, including Trump, Bannon, Conway, Spicer and Priebus spent half as much time doing actual work, doing what we, their employers, need them to be doing as they spend worrying about what people are saying about them, then people might not have as much to criticize.  As best I can tell, the entire past month has been a cluster of ‘he said, she said’, the press is the enemy, the Democrats are our enemies, the public is rude to us, and ranting over every perceived slight.

Trump only made matters worse this morning when he tweeted “The FBI is totally unable to stop the national security ‘leakers’ that have permeated our government for a long time. They can’t even find the leakers within the FBI itself. Classified information is being given to media that could have a devastating effect on U.S. FIND NOW.” 

A 2009 memo from then-Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department is to advise the White House on pending criminal or civil investigations “only when it is important for the performance of the president’s duties and appropriate from a law enforcement perspective.” When communication has to occur, the memo said, it should involve only the highest-level officials from the White House and the Justice Department.

The FBI is but one of 17 intelligence agencies in the U.S., all of whom have a role in this investigation.  One would think Director James Comey would have learned a lesson after his ‘October Surprise’ that cost Hillary Clinton her lead, and likely the election.  But apparently, commenting on ongoing investigations is the new normal for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and unfortunately, it casts a shadow on their credibility.

CPAC – Circus of Passé Alternative Clowns

CPAC – Conservative Political Action Conference.  It is an annual event attended by conservative activists and elected officials from across the United States. Its purpose?  It depends on who you ask, but for the most part, it has none.  It is a networking tool, much the same as business conferences, most of which are events where people go to make connections, to see and be seen.  This is not a policy-making event, nor is it an official GOP event.  It is more a social event, and in 2013, Republican Newt Gingrich said, “I don’t know what the purpose of CPAC is anymore.” The official purpose, stated by the American Conservative Union (ACU) is “combines ideas with action to leverage the strength of grassroots activists to break the resistance of Washington’s elites.”  See … little or no purpose … I told you.

Typically, a non-event such as this would not make it onto my blog, as I have no interest in social meet-and-greets for conservatives.  This year, however, is a bit different.  First, it began with controversy, and second, it may provide an opportunity for some conservatives to voice frustration or opposition to Trump & Co.  So, I have loosely followed the events.

The starting controversy came early this week when one of the scheduled speakers, extreme right-wing idiot Milo Yiannopoulos, was caught on tape “advocating for sexual relationships between ‘younger boys and older men.’”  The poop hit the fan, CPAC quickly backed away from Milo, as did Breitbart, where Milo was a writer/editor … note the use of the word ‘was’, as he was forced to resign his position on Tuesday. Publishing house Simon & Schuster rescinded a book deal with Milo.  But Milo apologized … not for his comments, but he said he was sorry for the way his comments were perceived.  Earlier this month, University of California at Berkeley canceled a speaking engagement of his because of intense protests, prompting Donald Trump to tweet, “If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view – NO FEDERAL FUNDS?”  If you feel so inclined, you can read more about Milo’s troubles here, but for now, let’s move on to CPAC.

CPAC is scheduled to last from 22 February thru 25 February, though for the life of me, I cannot imagine what the entire gaggle of right-wingers could possibly discuss for four days!

The big news of the day seems to have been a joint interview with presidential advisor Steve Bannon and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus – two men who have reportedly not exactly gotten along splendidly in the first weeks of the administration. The press has taken to referring to these two as “the odd couple,” while I prefer to think of them as the dysfunctional duo.  At any rate … the interview was conducted with American Conservative Union President Matt Schlapp. Here are a few ‘clippets’, along with Filosofa’s trademark snark:

SCHLAPP: And that’s what Donald Trump has done to so many of us around the country politically. And you guys have put together an amazing operation. You know, I know you all know this, but the last time a president came to CPAC in his first year, it was Ronald Reagan.

(APPLAUSE) St. Ronald in 1981. And you’ve put together this — the president has put together the most conservative Cabinet we’ve ever seen according to our CPAC ratings and I think a few of us are pretty happy about what looks like is going to happen on the Supreme Court too, so it’s a… (shoot me now!)

PRIEBUS: And it’s — it’s actually something that you all have helped build which is, when you bring together — and what this election showed and what President Trump showed, and let’s not kid ourselves, I mean I can talk about data and ground game and Steve can talk about big ideas, but the truth of the matter is Donald Trump — President Trump brought together the party and the conservative movement. (This from the man who did everything in his power as DNC chairman to stop Trump???)

And I’ve got to tell you, if the party and the conservative movement are together, similar to Steve and I, it can’t be stopped. And President Trump was the one guy — he was the one person and I can say it after overseeing 16 people kill each other (huh???), it was Donald Trump that was able to bring this — this party and this movement together. And Steve and I know that and we live it every day. Our job is to get the agenda of President Trump through the door and on pen and paper. (God save the queen!)

r, attacked me, you can’t spend the money on Trump, go give it to the Senate. (Now wait one cotton-pickin’ minute, Reince!  YOU were, as I recall, dead set against Trump and YOU wanted to more appropriately spend money on the down-ballots!!!  Don’t be a worm!)

SCHLAPP: He’s even — he’s even leaving bathrooms alone, that’s kind of a nice, refreshing thing for a lot of people as well. (No. Comment. From. Fiilosofa.)

Okay, I cannot deal with more, and there are a couple of other issues to cover, but if you wish to read the entire, bullshit transcript, you can do so here.

devos-clownThen there was Betsy DeVos … newly-minted Secretary of Education in the Trumpian regime, who was forced, earlier this week, to support anti-LGBT legislation or else resign.  She toed the line, albeit reluctantly.  At the CPAC, she shifted blame to President Obama, saying, “This issue was a very huge example of Obama administration overreach, one-size-fits-all approach to issues best solved at personal and local level.”  She does a nice job at parroting the party line, don’t you think? And “one size fits all”, Betsy?  Yeah, actually, when it comes to civil rights, one size DOES fit all … the size of full equality for all!

But the really big news concerns white supremacist, Bannon-pal, Richard Spencer, who was kicked out of the convention!!!  Read that last line again … kicked out!  Richard Spencer, a founder of the alt-right movement that seeks a whites-only state and that strongly backed Donald Trump for president, was expelled from the Conservative Political Action Conference after being criticized from its main stage, then giving interviews to a growing crowd of reporters.

“People want to talk to me,” Spencer told NBC News from outside the Gaylord National Harbor complex. “They don’t want to talk to these boring conservatives. They want to learn about ideas whose time has come, not whose time has passed.”  (And those would be ideas akin to … lynching?  slavery?  cotton plantations, white women fanning themselves and sipping lemonaide?  fat white men making the rules under which we should all live?)

Spencer was stopped by JP Sheehan, a CPAC attendee wearing a black-and-gold Make America Great Again baseball cap. “Praise kek!” said Sheehan, posing for a selfie with Spencer and repeating a meme that had been adopted by the alt-right. “He’s the coolest guy.” The growing crowd attracted more nervous attention from security, and after a few more minutes, they arrived to expel Spencer.

“I’m not welcome on the property?” Spencer asked. “I’m not going to debate this,” said the guard. “This is private property. They want you off the property.” After Spencer asked if he could stay if he would simply “stay out of trouble,” he said a hashtag — “Free Spencer” — into the cameras, and posed for another photo as he was taken outside. If ever there was a figure reminiscent of a Hitler-esque rally, it is Spencer.  Even the far right apparently realize he is toxic.

One important part of the CPAC is the annual straw poll vote which traditionally serves as a barometer for the feelings of the conservative movement. During the conference, attendees are encouraged to fill out a survey that asks questions on a variety of issues. I am eager to see the results of this one!

Last, but not least … would you like to attend the conference?  Sorry, you are too late this year, but there’s always next year.  Here is a price list, so you can start saving now:

“We offer several packages, ranging from our Platinum Package to the Day Pass.

Premium – Platinum – Call for Price

Premium – Gold – $5,000

Premium – Silver – $1,600

General Admission – $300

Senior – $150

Veteran – $150

Student – $85

One Day tickets – $150

CPAC is not much more than a convention of conservatives, a social gathering, but I thought it worth at least a single post this year, as this is … well, shall we just say ‘not your average year in politics’?  And now, I move on to topics that actually have relevance …

There’s a Name For That!

For about two-and-a-half months now, I have wondered what was wrong with me. I, who rarely cry, do so easily now. Usually patient, I have no patience with the human race these days. And I have felt out of sorts, as if I had … well … fallen down a rabbit hole. Thanks to my blogger-friend Elyse, blogging at FiftyFourAndAHalf, I now have a firm diagnosis, though not a cure, for that which ails me! I have PESD … I am so thrilled, that I just had to share her post! Please take a moment to read … and thank you, Elyse, for helping me to understand my disease! Now … can you cure me??? 🙂

FiftyFourandAHalf

Feeling down in the mouth?  Discouraged?  Hopeless?

You’re not alone.

When I’m suffering with something-or-other, it really helps to know that I’m not alone.  Since November 9, 2016, there’s been a veritable epidemic of misery sweeping the nation.  Relax, though.  Because your misery now has a name, an actual diagnosis:

‘Post-Election Stress Disorder’

We’re all suffering from PESD.  Although frankly, I don’t know why they needed a new diagnosis.  Because if the election of Donald Trump doesn’t represent a traumatic event, I don’t know what does.

The only treatment is action.

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Will Civil Rights Become Only A Piece Of History?

Civil Rights:  the rights that every person should have regardless of his or her sex, race, or religion

Civil Rights:  the rights of citizens to political and social freedom and equality.

Civil Rights:  rights to personal liberty established by the 13th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and certain Congressional acts, especially as applied to an individual or a minority group.

Civil Rights:  Personal rights acquired by an individual by being a citizen or resident, or automatic entitlements to certain freedoms conferred by law or custom. Certain civil rights (such as the right to equality, freedom, good governance, justice, and due process of law) are inalienable like human rights and natural rights, whereas others (such as the right to hold a public office) depend on one’s conduct and can be lost. Also called civil liberties.


By any definition, the civil rights of the LGBT community were trampled today.  Last May, the Departments of Justice and Education issued a Joint Guidance to Help Schools Ensure the Civil Rights of Transgender Students that was sent to schools across the country, advising universities and K-12 institutions to allow trans students to use the bathroom, changing room, and locker room that most closely corresponds with their gender identity, rather than the sex they were assigned at birth.  For some reason that is well beyond my comprehension, this has been the most controversial issue in the U.S. for the last 50 years, at least. Yesterday, Trump rescinded protections for transgender students that had allowed them to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity.

Admittedly, this is new territory for some, and there has been much confusion over how to protect the rights of all.  But … would somebody please tell me why people have a problem with this?  Let the kids, let adults, for that matter, go into whichever bathroom they feel most comfortable with!  Why not make all public restrooms “unisex”? This, folks, is not rocket science!  But it would seem that most states, particularly those south of the Mason-Dixon line, are appalled by the idea of equality for the LGBT community.  Their excuse is that they fear males, posing as transgender women, would invade women’s restrooms for the sole purpose of assaulting women.  Come on … seriously???  Assaults in public restrooms have been few and far between … you are much more likely to be assaulted in the mall parking lot than the restroom.  Can we use a bit of common sense here?

What does this mean, and what is likely next? In the most general sense, what it means is the Trump regime does not believe that civil rights protections should include transgender people.  According to Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “These young people already face incredible hurdles in their pursuit of education and acceptance. With a pen stroke, the Trump Administration effectively sanctions the bullying, ostracizing, and isolation of these children, putting their very lives in danger.”

But on the other hand, Chase Strangio, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), wrote on Tuesday:

“Rescinding the guidance does not change the rights of students under Title IX [the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in education and activities]. Trans students are protected from discrimination by federal law and the administration can’t change that.”

So what did Trump hope to gain, and what has the LGBT community lost?  Apparently the decision to rescind the guidance was the brainstorm of newly-minted, racist Attorney General Jeff Sessions, long-time foe of the LGBT community. Sessions was in a hurry to roll back the guidance because of two pending court cases that could have upheld the protections and pushed the government into further litigation. Interestingly, newly-minted Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, opposed the idea, but was told basically that she could either get on board, or resign.  She chose the former and agreed to go along, although she remained uncomfortable with it.

8-ballWhat does this mean for the LGBT community as a whole, going forward?  I have no magic eight-ball, but if I had to guess, I would say that states will have a somewhat easier time passing laws that enable discriminatory practices.  Those laws can still be challenged in the courts, but with Mr. Sessions at the helm in the AG’s office, and with Trump able to fill between 1-3 Supreme Court positions in the next year or two, the outcome for civil rights justice remains uncertain. The one thing that is clear, however, is that we are unlikely to see the same push for equal rights for the LGBT community that we have seen for the past several years, and that may well lead to setbacks in civil rights as a whole.