Chilling …

fake newsDonald Trump has stirred a hornet’s nest with his cries of “fake news” and the angry hornets are starting to leave the nest in search of victims.  In the current polarized political climate, with tempers running high, it is nothing short of criminal negligence for Trump to tweet and yell “fake news” on a daily, if not hourly basis, further adding to the divisiveness and angst.  Worse, endangering the lives of the very people who we rely on to keep us informed.

Yesterday, a young man named  Brandon Griesemer from Novi, Michigan, was arrested after threatening to murder numerous CNN reporters.

One day last week, the man called CNN no less than 22 times, issuing threats:

“Fake news. I’m coming to gun you all down.”

“I’m smarter than you. More powerful than you. I have more guns than you. More manpower. Your cast is about to get gunned down in a matter of hours.”

“I am coming to Georgia right now to go to the CNN headquarters to f—ing gun every single last one of you.”

Fortunately, the FBI were able to trace the call and arrested the man over the threats.  But this may be only the beginning, as Trump’s supporters seem willing and eager to believe his every word, and may be convinced that the legitimate press is, indeed, ‘the enemy’.

In addition to calling out CNN, The Washington Post, and the New York Times repeatedly for the past two years, remember when Trump tweeted a gif of himself tackling a man with the CNN logo?

To be sure, Mr. Griesemer obviously had some mental/emotional issues, but … that does not excuse Trump.  If the man had not heard the person at the helm saying ‘shoot the whales’, he would not likely have had the idea to shoot the whales. Washington Post writer Kathleen Parker says she has frequently received death threats after writing an article critical of Trump, and that she is not alone in this.

Why is it against the law to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater, or “Bomb!” aboard an airplane?  Because people will take it as a call to action and somebody will get hurt, or worse.  When Trump yells to a crowd that they should “get him out of here”, referring to a protester, it is seen as a call to action and the protestor is as likely as not to be injured.  When Trump yells “fake news!”, there are those who see this as a call to action, a directive from the president himself, to eradicate those who would be so cheeky as to denigrate the man they adore.

FILE PHOTO: MSNBC's Scarborough and Brzezinski arrive for the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner in WashingtonTrump has had a running feud with Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, co-hosts of NBC’s popular Morning Joe talk show, as evidenced by this tweet:

“Crazy Joe Scarborough and dumb as a rock Mika are not bad people, but their low rated show is dominated by their NBC bosses. Too bad!” – 8:20 AM – 1 Jul 2017

Come on, people, really?  Is this the language of an adult?  Any adult, let along the leader of a nation of 330 million people?  It is ridiculous, yes, but as we see from the CNN case, it is also gravely dangerous.

Trump’s position gives him immunity from many things that you and I would be sitting in a jail cell for right now.  But there must be standards of accountability, even for those at the highest levels.

Did you ever hear President Obama, Bush, Clinton, Carter or Reagan refer to the press as “fake media”?  No, you did not, for while each of those leaders sometimes had issues with the press, was often frustrated with the reporting, the ‘bad’ press, they understood the value and necessity of our free press.  And they were all professionals, while Trump is naught but an amateur dressed up to look like a leader.

62,984,825 adults voted for Donald Trump on 08 November 2016.  Surely they thought they were voting for an adult, but more and more they must be starting to realize that they, in fact, put an obnoxious teenager in the White House.  If a single journalist is maimed or murdered because somebody took Trump’s cries of “fake news” seriously, then Donald Trump is complicit and should be held accountable.  Must be held accountable, else we are edging ever closer to the Turkish and Russian models. Those of you who are still supporting Trump must make your voices heard and let him know in no uncertain terms that you, his base, will not tolerate the demeaning of our Constitutional rights, of our right to a free press. He listens to you … he does not listen to me.

I do not want to see even one journalist or writer murdered because of Trump’s foul mouth, for if so much as a single journalist is murdered, then our free press will also have been murdered.  Think about it.

Things You May Have Missed …

For the past two weeks, the spending bill and threat of a federal government shutdown has been the front page news … and the 2nd and 3rd page news.  The other big news was whether Oprah Winfrey might one day run for president, and the allegations that Trump paid $130,000 to a porn star, Stormy Daniels, to keep her quiet about an affair.  I have repeatedly upheld the rights to a free press, and will continue to do so as long as there is breath in this body, but I do wish that our legitimate press would find a way toward better balance.  So, here are a few snippets that you may have missed in the glare of the partisan bickering and trumpeting over the past two weeks.

Not a racist???

Kansas State Representative Steve Alford is a 75-year-old white Republican. Alford was giving a speech at a public meeting earlier this month, when he was asked why Kansas had not yet legalized marijuana as other states have done.  His response?

alford“What you really need to do is go back in the ’30s and when they outlawed all types of drugs in Kansas [and] across the United States. What was the reason why they did that? One of the reasons why — I hate to say it — it’s the African Americans, they were basically users and they basically responded the worst off those drugs just because their character makeup, their genetics, and that.”

Say WHAT???

Two days and much criticism later, Alford gave a tepid apology while claiming that he is not a racist …

“I was wrong, I regret my comments, and I sincerely apologize to anyone whom I have hurt.”

The fox guarding the henhouse …

U.S. Representative Patrick Meehan, a republican from Pennsylvania, is a member of the House Ethics Committee.

Ethics: moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or the conducting of an activity.

MeehanAs such, we would expect Mr. Meehan to abide by the highest standards, yes?  Well, don’t hold your breath, folks.  True, Patrick Meehan has been outspoken about the issue of sexual harassment in Congress, but he hasn’t exactly applied those standards to his own circumstances.  It seems that Mr. Meehan, age 62, took special interest in one of his aides who was decades younger than he.

Meehan professed his romantic desires for her — first in person, and then in a handwritten letter.  The aide rebuffed his overtures, and then he became ‘hostile’ toward her, according to several others in the office.  The environment became so toxic that the aide filed a complaint, but ultimately resigned from her position.

Eventually a settlement was agreed upon by Meehan and the aide, for an undisclosed amount, said to be several thousand dollars, and a confidentiality agreement was included.  And guess where the money to pay the settlement came from?  You guessed it … Meehan’s congressional office fund.  We The People paid because Patrick Meehan wished to let Wee Willie Winky out to play with younger girls.  I do hope the good people of Pennsylvania remember this in November when they head to the polls.

Putin joins the NRA …

putin-NraIn a report from McClatchy Publishing, it appears that the National Rifle Association (NRA) had more than one reason for supporting Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.  According to the report …

“The FBI is investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency, two sources familiar with the matter have told McClatchy.

FBI counterintelligence investigators have focused on the activities of Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA, the sources said.”

Thanks to the conservative attack on campaign finance restrictions (ie., Citizens United) and disclosure rules, the system has become much less transparent, in ways that enable those with resources — including, perhaps, hostile foreign governments — to influence the elections while keeping their tracks covered.

I don’t know about you, my friends, but I am beginning to feel as if I am living within a John le Carré novel.

North and South – Reunited …

On Wednesday (January 17th) it was announced that North and South Korea will march together under one flag to kick off the XXIII Winter Olympics opening ceremonies on February 9th in PyeongChang, South Korea. This will be the first time in twelve years that the two Koreas will come together since the 2006 Olympics in Turin.  It is far from a peace treaty between the two nations who have been at war for the better part of six decades, but it is a step in the right direction

North Korean Athletes Attend World Student Games In South KoreaMeanwhile, guess who wants credit?  You got it … the Great Divider, Donald Trump, who has added to the tension and concerns in the area with his constant threats and taunts against North  Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un.  On January 4th, during a phone call with South Korean President Moon Jae-in,Trump reportedly asked Moon to publicly give him credit for making the talks between North and South possible.  And then he tweeted …

“With all of the failed “experts” weighing in, does anybody really believe that talks and dialogue would be going on between North and South Korea right now if I wasn’t firm, strong and willing to commit our total “might” against the North. Fools, but talks are a good thing!”

No, Donnie, you don’t get credit for this one.

I’m sure there is more news behind the smoke screen of the government shut down, but this is all I have for this afternoon.  Stay tuned tomorrow for the return of Jolly Monday after its one-week hiatus.

How Far Is Too Far?

No president in modern times has escaped the criticism of the press.  It is a fact of life that if the press are doing their jobs, they will inevitably frustrate and even anger the president from time to time.  Most presidents, however, respect the Fourth Estate, realize that what they are doing is precisely what they are supposed to do, and try to work with them. Such is not the case with Donald Trump.

He has denigrated the legitimate press since long before he won the election, and has taken his press-bashing to new highs since taking office nearly a year ago.  But last week, he crossed yet another line of propriety.  His plan is to have a “Fake News Awards” presentation.

 “I will be announcing THE MOST DISHONEST & CORRUPT MEDIA AWARDS OF THE YEAR on Monday at 5:00 o’clock. Subjects will cover Dishonesty & Bad Reporting in various categories from the Fake News Media. Stay tuned!” – 8:05 PM – Jan 2, 2018

Apparently something came up that delayed his plans, possibly his feud on Sunday with the Wall Street Journal …

“The Fake News Awards, those going to the most corrupt & biased of the Mainstream Media, will be presented to the losers on Wednesday, January 17th, rather than this coming Monday. The interest in, and importance of, these awards is far greater than anyone could have anticipated!” – 3:35 PM – 7 Jan 2018

fake news awards.jpgCan you imagine President Obama, or even President Bush speaking in this manner? Now, obviously this is not only poor form and poor taste, but is so beneath the dignity of the Oval Office, the office of the president, that we must ask ourselves if his advisors were even consulted. Surely John Kelly could not have condoned this idiocy?

Even as far back as Thomas Jefferson, presidents have had complaints about the press. In fact, according to a February 17, 2017 Washington Post article …

Jefferson-free-press“Thomas Jefferson was as irritated with newspaper coverage as any public figure of his era. For all the talk of media bias today, it can’t compare to the overt partisanship and personal attacks appearing in papers in our nation’s early years. But Jefferson also knew that our democracy could only flourish with a free press that would keep an eye on people in power and help protect our freedoms. He understood that press coverage comes and goes, but freedom of the press must endure.” – Ken Paulson, president of the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center

Trump, on the other hand, has criticized the legitimate media since the day he threw his hat in the ring in June 2015, and I don’t think a single day has passed that we have not had to hear his cries of “fake news”, “lying press”, and worse.  He even went so far as to label the press “the enemy of the American people”. He has threatened on more than one occasion to ‘strengthen’ libel laws to keep the press from insulting him.  And this would all be a big joke, except …

Some people actually believe him.  He cavorts freely with Fox News and Breitbart, both homes of the conspiracy theorists, while shouting loudly about the ‘failing’ New York Times, and the ‘Amazon/Washington Post’.  In October, he called for the revocation of NBC’s broadcast license.  He has trod that fine line of trampling the constitutional right to a free press.  His minions have, more than once, criticized the press, not for getting facts wrong, for that is extremely rare, but for failing to agree with their boss.

The purpose of the press is to keep the public informed and hold those who serve in public office accountable for their actions, accountable to We The People.  Their job is not to be ‘yes-men’, always agreeing with the president.  In my opinion, they have treated him more kindly than I would have, or than I have, for that matter.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), is a non-profit organization that promotes press freedom and defends the rights of journalists around the globe.  They have responded to Trump’s ‘Fake News Awards’ with their own special awards …

From a January 8th Press Release:

CPJ recognizes global Press Oppressors amid Trump’s fake news awards

Acknowledging world leaders who attack and restrict press

New York, January 8, 2018–As U.S. President Donald Trump announces his “Fake Media” awards, the Committee to Protect Journalists names its global Press Oppressors–world leaders who use rhetoric, legal action, and censorship to try to silence their critics. The list features leaders from China, Egypt, Myanmar, Poland, Russia, Turkey, and the United States who have gone out of their way to attack the press and undermine the norms that support freedom of the media at a time when a record number of journalists are being jailed for their work.

“It’s staggering to see the extent to which some world leaders are so fearful of their critics and the truth,” said CPJ Advocacy Director Courtney Radsch, from Washington, D.C. “At a time when the number of journalists in prison globally is at a record high the failure of President Donald Trump and other leaders to stand up for press freedom risks weakening democracy and human rights.”

The Global Press Oppressors list includes four categories as well as an award for the Overall Achievement in Undermining Global Press Freedom:

Most Thin-skinned

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey

Runner-Up: President Donald Trump, United States

Most Outrageous Use of Terror Laws Against the Press

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey

Runner-Up: President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt

Tightest Grip on Media*

President Xi Jinping, China

Runner-Up: President Vladimir Putin, Russia

*This category excludes countries with no independent media, such as North Korea and Eritrea.

Biggest Backslider in Press Freedom

State Counselor and de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar

Runner-Up: President Andrzej Duda, Poland

Overall Achievement in Undermining Global Press Freedom

President Donald Trump, United States

Note to Editors: Copies of the Global Press Oppressors can be viewed at

Are Trump’s “Fake News Awards” legal?  For him, sure, because he has immunity from executive branch ethical standards.  His staff, however, are a different matter.  According to a number of experts, including former Office of Government Ethics director Walter Shaub, and Norm Eisen, former special counsel for ethics for President Barack Obama, if White House staff members were involved, they would be in violation of the executive branch’s Standards of Ethical Conduct.

I do not imagine that there will be any charges levelled at staff members, and I expect Trump’s little ceremony will be a fiasco that will be applauded by his 37% followers.  What I would liketo see happen, what I think absolutely should happen, but won’t, is for the press to boycott Trump’s little ceremony.  Let Fox and Breitbard cover it, and the legitimate media put up a wall of silence.  That would deprive Trump and his little game of any sense of legitimacy, and perhaps he would get the message that We The People are sick and damned tired of him playing elementary school-type games and would like to have an adult in the White House.

I know it won’t happen, for all the news outlets depend on revenue, and “if it bleeds, it leads”, so we will no doubt see this silliness ad nauseam on Wednesday and for the rest of the week.  And yes, I will likely succumb and write another post about it also.  But beware, my friends, for this is just one more step in Trump’s attempt to oppress our free press by convincing his followers that the mainstream media are ‘dishonest’ and ‘lying’, as he has been telling them all along.  Remember … Democracy Dies in Darkness.

Who is Joe Scarborough and Why Does He Matter?

Joe Scarborough is an American cable news and talk radio host. He is currently the co-host of Morning Joe on MSNBC, and previously hosted Scarborough Country on the same channel. Scarborough was previously a lawyer and a politician, and served in the United States House of Representatives from 1995 to 2001 as a Republican from the 1st district of Florida. Scarborough is also a visiting fellow at the Harvard Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He was named in the 2011 Time 100 as one of the most influential people in the world. (Note that he is obviously a smart guy)

Scarborough resigned from the House of Representatives five months into his fourth term, in order to spend more time with his children … (Note that he is obviously a good guy)

“The realization has come home to me that they’re at a critical stage of their lives and I would rather be judged at the end of my life as a father than as a congressman.”

In an op-ed for The Washington Post in August 2016, Scarborough argued that the Republican Party must “dump Donald Trump” as their presidential candidate. Scarborough wrote: “A bloody line has been crossed that cannot be ignored. At long last, Donald Trump has left the Republican Party few options but to act decisively and get this political train wreck off the tracks before something terrible happens.” (Note again that he is a smart guy)

In June 2017, Scarborough and his co-host/fiancée Mika Brzezinski were the targets of Trump’s tweets, in which, in response to their coverage of his administration, referred to him as “Psycho Joe” and called her “low I.Q. Crazy Mika”, while asserting that she was “bleeding badly from a face-lift” when he previously encountered her at Mar-a-Lago. What a class act is Mr. Trump, eh? On July 11, 2017, Scarborough announced, not surprisingly, that he was leaving the Republican party to become an Independent. (Note yet a third time that he is a smart guy)

Why am I giving you this brief background report on Joe Scarborough? Because this evening, an OpEd he wrote for The Washington Post crossed my radar and I felt it warranted sharing on Filosofa’s Word.  But first, I wanted to establish that this man has the credentials, that he knows of what he speaks, that he is not just another talk show host.  Having established that, at least to my own satisfaction, here, in its entirety, is Mr. Scarborough’s opinion titled …

A Storm is Gathering 

By Joe Scarborough  December 28 at 7:50 PM

A storm is gathering, and there is every reason to believe that 2018 will be the most consequential political year of our lives.

The reckoning upon us follows a year mercifully drawing to a close this weekend. Over that horrid year, President Trump has questioned the legitimacy of federal judges, used Stalinist barbs to attack the free press and cast contempt on the rule of law, while his campaign manager, his national security adviser and a foreign policy aide have been marched into federal courts. Those anti-democratic instincts were made all the more ominous by his praising of autocrats across the world as they were ruthlessly consolidating power in countries such as Russia, China and the Philippines.

It is difficult to pinpoint the nadir for a man who has savaged Mexicans, Muslims and Gold Star mothers while fat-shaming beauty queens and face-shaming female news hosts (disclosure: in the latter example, my own fiancee ). But the low moment in this presidency may have occurred four months ago, when Trump claimed a moral equivalency between neo-Nazis and those standing against them. Or perhaps it was three weeks ago, when the president told Americans to vote for an accused child molester who had called our country the focus of evil in the modern world and once suggested opposition to the constitutional amendments that ended slavery and gave women the right to vote.

Others would surely consider the president’s malignant idiocy in foreign affairs to be the most damning legacy of his first year. World leaders continue to watch dumbstruck as the United States retreats from organizations that were created following the allies’ victory over Hitler. Those same alliances that Trump now undermines with reckless tweets and discarded treaties carried the United States to victory in the Cold War. But this is a White House that heaps contempt on history. And so, America’s dangerous retreat from the world continues.

“On the morrow of the Republican success isolationist conceptions prevailed,” Winston Churchill wrote in “The Gathering Storm.” The British prime minister believed Hitler’s rise proved, above all else, “how absolute is the need of a broad path of international action pursued by many states in common across the years, irrespective of the ebb and flow of national politics.” But this president is ripping apart the carefully woven fabric of U.S. foreign policy that bound administrations together from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama, and across the American century.

“The Gathering Storm” is on my holiday reading list because of Republican strategist Steve Schmidt’s insistence to me that Churchill’s ominous warnings to future generations will be more relevant to 2018 than at any time since it was written in the years after World War II. While Trump’s eroding of U.S. prestige across the globe is disturbing, it is his administration’s undermining of democratic values that poses an even greater threat to our Constitution and country. Borrowing again from Churchill, America’s constitutional norms tremble in the balance as Trump unleashes furious attacks on First Amendment protections, independent counsels and law enforcement officers who refuse to be bullied. While the framers of the Constitution foresaw the possibility of a tyrannical president, they never let their imaginations be darkened by the possibility of a compliant Congress.

Again, Churchill: “The malice of the wicked was reinforced by the weakness of the virtuous . . . They lived from hand to mouth and from day to day, and from one election to another . . . The cheers of weak, well-meaning assemblies soon cease to echo, and their votes soon cease to count. Doom marches on.”

Schmidt is right. The storm is gathering. And how we respond in the months ahead may determine our fate for years to come.

One More Step Back Into Darkness …

You know how I sometimes say that a headline made me jaw drop?  This headline sent a very cold chill down my spine, and not in a good sort of way:

CDC gets list of forbidden words: Fetus, transgender, diversity

“The Trump administration is prohibiting officials at the nation’s top public health agency from using a list of seven words or phrases — including “fetus” and “transgender” — in official documents being prepared for next year’s budget.

Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were told of the list of forbidden terms at a meeting Thursday with senior CDC officials who oversee the budget, according to an analyst who took part in the 90-minute briefing. The forbidden terms are “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”The Washington Post, 15 December 2017  

Vulnerable?  They are not allowed to use the word “vulnerable”???  Or fetus?  Diversity?  This … this … takes my breath and leaves me without words.  We started down this path on 20 January, and I began predicting this then, began noting Orwell’s 1984 in a few posts on this blog.  But even I did not see such blatant censorship happening this quickly.

“Censorship was rampant throughout Nazi Germany. Censorship ensured that Germans could only see what the Nazi hierarchy wanted people to see, hear what they wanted them to hear and read only what the Nazis deemed acceptable.”History Learning Site /

To be sure, this is not the first incidence where Trump & Co have censored certain words from federal agencies.  Remember back in August when the U.S. Department of Energy requested that scientists no longer use the terms ‘climate change’ or ‘global warming’ in their research?  Or in January, almost immediately following his inauguration, when the White House removed all mention of climate change from its official website?

“The chief function of propaganda is to convince the masses, who slowness of understanding needs to be given time in order that they may absorb information; and only constant repetition will finally succeed in imprinting an idea on their mind………the slogan must of course be illustrated in many ways and from several angles, but in the end one must always return to the assertion of the same formula. The one will be rewarded by the surprising and almost incredible results that such a personal policy secures.” – Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf

And do you remember back in October when Trump decided to  withdraw from the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)? The mandate of UNESCO is to promote “the free flow of ideas by word and image [and] to foster free, independent, and pluralistic media in print, broadcast and online”.  The U.S. withdrawal is seen as making the world less safe for journalists, according to a joint statement by the Committee to Protect Journalists, and Reporters Without Borders.

And just this week, the repeal of not only net neutrality, which enforced internet equality, gave equal opportunity to websites large and small, and enabled us to search the web unfettered.  Now, our choices will be censored, not necessarily by government, but by the largest and wealthiest corporations around the globe.

Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps. Niemöller is perhaps best remembered for the quotation:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Bertolt Brecht was a German theatre practitioner, playwright, and poet who wrote the following, which was banned in Hitler’s Germany:

“There was once a nanny-goat who said,
In my cradle someone sang to me:
“A strong man is coming.
He will set you free!”

The ox looked at her askance.
Then turning to the pig
He said,
“That will be the butcher.”

Bertolt Brecht

Let us not be silent, friends.  Let us speak for our right to hear the truth. We cannot allow the government to turn everything we see, read or hear into ‘newspeak’, or ‘alternative language’.  Remember The Washington Post’s new slogan:  Democracy Dies In Darkness.

Integrity Is Not Dead

The word of the day is ‘scandal’ … at least in the halls of Congress, the White House, the senate race in Alabama, college sports (see Hugh Curtler’s post) and the entertainment industry.  I asked the question just a few minutes ago, while commenting on Hugh’s post, if ‘integrity’ had become a thing of the past, just another archaic word. But, there are two examples of integrity from the news of the past week that I think are important to point out. Both involved actions taken that were likely unnecessary, but were done to prevent any breath of scandal, any possibility of controversy, and I applaud the efforts.

First, Robert Mueller, Special Counselor leading the most important of all the investigations into the Russian interference in our 2016 election and the Trump campaign’s role in said interference, removed a top FBI agent, Peter Strzok, this summer from his investigation.  No, the agent had not been a leaker, had not compromised the investigation, but what he had done was sent text messages that were said to express anti-Trump political views.  Okay … and???  Well, ordinarily I would be jumping in defense of this agent, for even though he is an FBI agent, was part of Mueller’s team, he is still a citizen with the rights to free speech that we all have, and who among us have not texted or tweeted anti-Trump sentiments?  But this is different.


Peter Strzok (left) with Bob Mueller

Agent Strzok is considered one of the most experienced and trusted FBI counterintelligence investigators. He helped lead the investigation into whether Hillary Clinton had mishandled classified information on her private email account, and then played a major role in the investigation into links between President Trump’s campaign and Russia.

Mueller moved swiftly in the face of what could be perceived as bias by one of his agents amid a politically charged inquiry into Trump’s campaign and administration. In this day, with Trump grasping at any opportunity to screech and rant about “fake news” and airing his opinion that Mueller’s investigation is a “witch hunt”, it is imperative that Mueller and his team keep their noses squeaky clean, even extending to their personal lives. As much as I hate to see a valuable part of the team removed and re-assigned to a clerical job, it is necessary.

The second item involves ABC News and Brian Ross, chief investigative correspondent for ABC News since July 1994.  Early Saturday, on the heels of the news that Mike Flynn pleaded guilty to charges of lying to the FBI and would be cooperating with Bob Mueller’s investigation, I happened to catch wind of Brian Ross’ statement that Flynn would testify that President Trump had directed him to make contact with Russian officials while Mr. Trump was still a candidate.


Brian Ross

Now, note that this was not necessarily a falsehood, and in fact I suspect there may be a great deal of truth to it.  However, it was jumping the gun, for as officials at ABC News said, “We deeply regret and apologize for the serious error we made yesterday. The reporting conveyed by Brian Ross during the special report had not been fully vetted [emphasis added] through our editorial standards process.”

Mr. Ross, who reports on a number of ABC programs, including ABC World News Tonight with David MuirNightlineGood Morning America20/20, and ABC News Radio, has been suspended for a period of four months without pay.  Again, under normal circumstances I would be yelling “FOUL” at the top of my lungs and claiming this to be a strike against a free press.  But these are not normal circumstances.  There is a madman at the helm, and his potential reaction must always be considered.

Brian Ross is a professional who stands above all the rest.  His response to the suspension was this:

“My job is to hold people accountable and that’s why I agree with being held accountable myself.”

This, folks, is a man of integrity. This sets the standard for what journalism ought to be.  I give Brian Ross a two thumbs up for his most superior example.

The importance of Mueller’s investigation cannot be stressed enough.  He must get it right the first time, have every duck lined up straight, for there will be no second chances. Incidents such as the two above can only give the appearance of bias, and that appearance, at this juncture, is all-important.  Had Mueller not relieved agent Strzok from his team, it could have given an appearance of bias within the investigation, which would have no doubt been seized upon by Trump and his minions, compromising the faith of the public in the results.  Had ABC News not taken action against Mr. Ross, it would have played directly into the hands of Trump and those who loudly scream “fake news”.

It is a sad state of affairs that, in this new alternative universe with people of low character in charge of the nation, we must discipline people who are doing a good job, trying to keep us informed and get to the bottom of the crimes against our nation, but that is where we are today.  A portion of We The People screwed up royally on 08 November 2016, and now all of us must pay the price.  My only hope at this point is that Mr. Mueller’s investigation is not somehow de-railed, for I fully believe that at the end of the day, all the strands of this tangled web lead straight to Donald Trump, and I am looking forward to the day that result is made public, leaving no choice but to run the madman out of town on a rail.  Meanwhile, I am thankful for the integrity of Mr. Mueller, ABC News, and others that will be sure to follow in those footsteps.


Beneath the Surface Lies a Slippery Slope

After a discussion last evening with friend and fellow blogger John about whether it would ever be acceptable to place certain limitations on 1st Amendment freedom of speech, and if so, under what circumstances.  Now, it’s been a lot of years since my last ConLaw class, so I had to dig out some notes and texts, but let us review briefly, the history of free speech in the U.S..

The U.S. Constitution was signed and ratified in 1787, but the first ten amendments, commonly known as the Bill of Rights, was not ratified until 1791.  The first real curtailment of free speech came some seven years later, with the Sedition Act of 1798.  At the time, war with France seemed imminent, Congress and President John Adams feared treason by French sympathisers within the U.S., thus was born the Sedition Act of 1798, which required criminal penalties for persons who said or published anything “false, scandalous, or malicious” against the federal government, Congress or the president. The law expired three years later, but not before 25 citizens were arrested, including a Congressman who was convicted and imprisoned for calling President Adams a man who had “a continual grasp for power.”  Think about this for a minute, folks.  Would not every single person reading this today be in jail, for we have all said much worse than that about our current Idiot-in-Chief!

Then in 1917, Congress passed the Federal Espionage Act prohibiting false statements intending to interfere with the military forces of the country or to promote the success of its enemies.  Do you begin to see where that could come under a variety of interpretations?  And then in 1918, the law was expanded to prohibit any statements expressing disrespect for the U.S. government, the Constitution, the flag, or army and navy uniforms.  Think Colin Kaepernick and the NFL?

The first challenge to the law brought about the Supreme Court’s first case in free speech in the case of Schenck v. United States, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote the opinion of the unanimous Court, which sided with the government. Justice Holmes held that Mr. Schenck was not covered by the First Amendment since freedom of speech was not an absolute right. There were times, Holmes wrote, when the government could legally restrict speech.  Though it is a fascinating case, I won’t bore you with it here, for it is not what this post is about, but rather I use it only to lay a foundation.

Now, why did this come up now?  Because of this headline in the New York Times:

US Votes Against Resolution Condemning Nazi Glorification

Well, that sounds rather like the U.S. is planning to encourage Nazism, doesn’t it?  Sounds rather like the work of Bannon/Spence/Trump, eh?  The story, a short Associated Press piece, does little more to enlighten the reader, but there is more if one scratches a bit beneath the surface.

First of all, though the U.S. and Ukraine are the only two nations to vote directly against the resolution, there are 51 nations that abstained from voting.  Second, while I would love to blame Trump and come down hard, the fact is that this is an annual resolution that the U.S. has voted against since at least 2012, so it is really nothing new.

And lastly, perhaps most importantly, the primary reason we cannot support this resolution is the resolution calls on all UN member nations to ban pro-Nazi speech and organizations and to implement other restrictions on speech and assembly. Now do you see the problem?  But this, still isn’t quite the point of this post.  Yes, yes … bide your time, friends, for I am old and slow, but I am coming to the point.

Some in the media, notably Britain’s The Independent and our own Newsweek, have attempted to link the decision not to vote yea on the U.N. resolution to Trump’s failure to condemn Nazism after the deadly Charlottesville rally in August.  Perhaps, who knows?  But it doesn’t matter, for either way, we cannot afford at this time to open that potentially wide door to banning any part of free speech.

It is what’s known as a slippery slope, and you’ve heard me refer to it before.  A slippery slope is an idea or course of action which has the potential to lead to something unacceptable, wrong, or disastrous. Now, think back to the Sedition Act of 1798 for a minute.  You could get into big trouble for saying or writing anything “false, scandalous, or malicious” against the federal government, Congress or the president. Now, think how thin-skinned the person occupying the White House is.  Think how he threatened to use libel laws to stifle the press for saying ‘mean and untrue’ things about him. Think how he defines “truth”.  Think about this statement:  “Trump has no conscience, is not very intelligent, wears a bad toupee and has ugly rolls of flab.” I just made up that statement, but under the Sedition Act of 1798, I could spend up to ten years in jail for publishing that statement on this blog.

Now, we are not talking about a Sedition Act, but simply about banning Nazi speech.  Believe me, I dislike Richard Spencer and all the neo-Nazi thugs as much as anyone but … if we take away their rights to voice their opinions, we leave the door wide open for other constraints on free speech, such as insulting the president or a member of Congress.  Where is the line drawn, and more importantly, who draws that line? Congress?  So far, they have proven willing to lick Trump’s boots and play nice with him, for the most part.  An executive order?

I am not being an alarmist, so much as a cautionary. I do not trust Donald Trump.  He is a sociopathic narcissist who will stop at nothing to further his own desires, to further bloat his already massive ego. And he cares not one whit for this nation nor its citizens.  So, given half an opportunity, would he institute laws making it illegal to insult him?  Absolutely.  If we agreed to the U.N. resolution, it would crack open that door, and before you can bat an eye, he would have it open wide.  I, for one, am not quite ready to give up my rights to free speech, and while yes, I would like to see curtailments on hate speech, this may not be the right time. Meanwhile, we can and must punish anybody who takes Nazism a single step beyond speech and into action.

When we see a headline, hear an idea or opinion, it always pays to do a bit of digging, for often what we see and hear is but the surface, and the truth lies beneath the surface.

The Face of a Monster

A recent story in the New York Times has drawn more criticism than any I have seen for a long time.  I would recommend you read the story, but I will give you the Cliff Notes version, just in case.

Times reporter Richard Fausset was given the assignment after the deadly rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August, to interview at some length one of the participants in the rally, a man named Tony Hovater who lives in a suburb of Dayton, Ohio. The purpose was to try to understand … what causes a man to turn into a monster, and how do we recognize one? Fausset spoke with Hovater a number of times, and also his wife, got a feel for their lives, and the controversy arises because he did not go at Hovater guns blazing in a storm of fury, and further, he did not portray Hovater as a monster of the recognizable sort.

I might have passed over the story, had I not seen no less than three stories in other publications about the controversy.  Without reading those stories, I decided to check it out myself and then read about the controversy.  As I read the story, which I found quite informative, I thought I understood the disdain many might have, for the approach was almost as if to normalize this neo-Nazi, white supremacist hater.  It did annoy me, though at the same time I realized that if the reporter had gone into the first interview with the approach of planning to shred Hovater, he never would have gotten to first base.  A journalist must operate with an open mind, else he will not be a journalist for long.

The story portrays Hovater as a fairly average 29-year-old suburban middle class male, a welder by trade, recently married to the woman he loves, living in a small house with dreams to upgrade, to someday have children, and all the other normal things, even grocery shopping and dining at Applebee’s.  They even have cats! But then there is this whole ‘other’ side to Hovater.  The side where he is adamant that the races are better off separated, although he insists he is not racist. The side of Hovater that posted on Facebook a picture purporting to show what life would have looked like if Germany had won World War II: a streetscape full of happy white people, a bustling American-style diner and swastikas everywhere, commenting “What part is supposed to look unappealing?” And after Charlottesville, Hovater wrote that he was proud of the comrades who joined him there: “We made history. Hail victory.” In German, “Hail victory” is “Sieg heil.”

The original story ran on Saturday, 25 November, and the criticism was swift and harsh, so on Sunday, 26 November, the Times posted a response explaining and justifying their stance, and apologizing where appropriate.  In the words of Shane Bauer, a senior reporter at Mother Jones and a winner of the National Magazine Award, “People mad about this article want to believe that Nazis are monsters we cannot relate to. White supremacists are normal ass white people and it’s been that way in America since 1776. We will continue to be in trouble till we understand that.” I agree with Mr. Bauer. For me, the value of the story as written is that it shows we cannot recognize the monsters.  They walk and live among us, they shop in the same grocery stores we do, and their kids play on our kids’ soccer teams.  Their wives sit side by side in the hair salon and they work next to you, but you may never know it.  No, it is not right to normalize hate, but it is important for us to understand that there is no universal face of hate.

Still, I also understand the criticism, for at some point I found myself thinking … “hmmmm just an average Joe?”.  And I did bristle at what I first saw as an attempt to normalize white supremacy, racism, bigotry and hate.  So yes, I understand the criticism … but, I think it was far overdone, the outrage unhelpful and even counter-productive.  A few examples …

“How to normalize Nazis 101!”

“I’m both shocked and disgusted by this article,”

“Attempting to ‘normalize’ white supremacist groups – should Never have been printed!”

“Instead of long, glowing profiles of Nazis/White nationalists, why don’t we profile the victims of their ideologies?”

The Times, I think, handled the criticism in the best possible way, apologizing if people found the story offensive, but explaining the rationale …

“We regret the degree to which the piece offended so many readers. We recognize that people can disagree on how best to tell a disagreeable story. What we think is indisputable, though, is the need to shed more light, not less, on the most extreme corners of American life and the people who inhabit them. That’s what the story, however imperfectly, tried to do.”

Ted Bundy

Ted Bundy

No media outlet, no reporter, no blogger gets it right all the time.  The more we try, the more opportunities for failure, but also for success. After much thought and pondering, I think the Times story is spot on.  As I said, we need to understand that there is no universal face of evil.  Remember Ted Bundy?  Everyone thought he was a great guy … until … he turned out to be a serial killer, confessing to at least 30 extremely brutal homicides, even keeping the heads of some in his home.  He had a job, a seemingly normal life, yet he referred to himself as “the most cold-hearted son of a bitch you’ll ever meet”.

What the Times’ story did was show us that there is no ‘face of evil’. We cannot pick them out of a crowd.  We may chat with our neighbor over the fence daily, yet not know that he is spending his weekends planning neo-Nazi rallies.  I applaud the Times, both for their approach and for their sensitivity when under fire.

Lastly, Mr. Fausset published a second story about his meetings with Hovater, about trying to find the reason for his stance, for his ideology of hate.  Turns out, he began to change course for the same reasons that many are frustrated today:  the political system and its inner workings. “The first time I thought about how a system will protect itself, and its own interests, to protect what it is they really want.” Fausset was looking for an answer to the question: “What prompted him to take his ideas beyond his living room, beyond the chat rooms, and on to Charlottesville, where he marched in August alongside allies like the neo-Confederate League of the South and the Detroit-based National Socialist Movement, which bills itself as “America’s Premier White Civil Rights Organization”? Where was his Rosebud?”  And in the end, he does not feel he found a definitive answer.  Nor do I, but I think we need to continue asking the question.




More Bits ‘N Pieces from Filosofa’s Mind …

I had too many ideas piling up in my mind, and there simply wasn’t any more room to store them, so this morning I decided to do one of my Bit’s ‘N Pieces posts …

A Freudian Slip?

A Twitterer with the moniker of @ProudResister posted this tweet:

“The solution is simple. Roy Moore: Step down from the race. Al Franken: Resign from congress. Donald Trump: Resign from the presidency. GOP: Stop making sex ual assault a partisan issue. It’s a crime as is your hypocrisy.”

Nothing too unusual there, right?  But what is unusual is that it was re-tweeted more than 1,900 times, and one of those re-tweeters was by none other than the Department of Defense at the Pentagon!

PentagonPentagon spokesman Colonel Rob Manning said in a statement that an authorized operator of the Defense Department’s official Twitter site “erroneously retweeted content that would not be endorsed by the Department of Defense. The operator caught this error and immediately deleted it.”  Hmmmm … maybe … or perhaps it was a Freudian Slip?

@ProudResister, meanwhile, has seen unprecedented traffic on his Twitter feed and some fun comments:

  • When PROUD RESISTER 👊 calls for the President of the United States to resign and the Pentagon retweets it! #RESIST
  • Woah, @ProudResister, you got retweeted by the @DeptofDefense. The internet is forever, DoD. And yes, @realdonaldtrump should #resign.
  • Congrats to my friend, @ProudResister, for the pick-up today by the US military!
  • @ProudResister is my friend ffs. He is posing with me in my Twitter profile pic. Hey Pentagon RT this:#ResignTrump
  • .@ProudResister I’m sure you’re proud of yourself, and still laughing your ass off- I know I am DoD retweets his tweet calling for #ImpeachTrump Will they tell 45 that they were “just joking”?🙃

And on it goes, but you get the idea.  I still say it was no accident.

Did They Forget About Freedom of the Press?

Roy Moore has been headline news for weeks now, and it is much to my surprise that anybody continues to support him, but some do, including the religious leaders in his state. Faith2Action president Janet Porter introduced Moore at the start of a conference in Birmingham Alabama yesterday:

“Ladies and gentleman, I present to you the hero of the day, our valiant leader Judge Roy Moore.”

Somebody quick … bring me a bucket!  Has nobody told these people that Moore has not been a judge since he left the judiciary last year after being suspended for failure to uphold the law?

And this from Alan Keyes, chairman of Renew America and a former Senate and presidential candidate:

“I stand with Judge Roy Moore, because he never leaves God out. Roy Moore stands on the premise that when you come to strip away a man’s rights, you spit in the face of God. If that’s what they’re doing to him, if when the rights of your representative are stripped away, what is the logical conclusion? That you’re rights are stripped away, that your rights are gone.”

The speeches praising Moore and denigrating his detractors went on for a full two hours, and even a Rabbi got in on the act.  But what I find most galling is that the media was largely blamed for the accusations against Moore and told by religious leaders to “hush”!

Flip Benham, the evangelical leader of Operation Save America, told the media present during his address, “Your knee is gonna bow, and you’re gonna confess, you have no choice. Hell is a place you choose to go!”  Say WHAT???

At the beginning of the conference, the event planner informed reporters that organizers “have requested no questions about any of the allegations”. When the question and answer portion arrived, the first question came from a CNN reporter who asked Moore whether or not he had touched any of the women who have alleged he sexually harassed them in some way. Moore’s supporters yelled in anger. “He’s already answered that,” said one. “Hush,” said another. “Stop lying,” said yet another.

A second reporter asked a similar question, at which point Moore and his wife Kayla stood up and exited the room, and the press conference came to an abrupt halt. “You were told not to ask about that,” a woman supporting Moore said angrily to the CNN reporter. “You make me sick,” another woman said to him.

And then Alan Keyes jumped on his soapbox and berated the press:

“You refused to stop your abuse. Asked, and answered, again and again. He could answer that question a thousand times, and if a thousand accusations were made, he could answer every one a thousand times and you would prove yourself a liar.”

And a supporter, Ginger Barbee …

“You were asked to ask questions about the issues, the issues about our country. You were not asked to ask personal questions about Mr. Moore. We wanted to hear what he had to say about the issues, and you did not allow it because you are the fake, lying news from the swamp.”

Ahem … excuse me, people, but is not the job of the press to ask the tough questions?  And is not Freedom of the Press covered under the very same Constitutional Amendment as Freedom of Religion?  Enough evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Moore exists to convince even the Republican National Committee to withdrew their support of Moore, and both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan have requested that he step down. Mr. Moore’s blind-faith followers may know a lot about their religious tome, but they need some lessons on the Constitution!

And if I had any doubts whether he still had a loyal following, I guess those doubts have been put to bed.

A List Too Long …

Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak appearing in a television interview with state-owned Russia-1, stated that he would not even attempt to name all of the Trump officials he met with because … wait for it … the list is so long that it would take him more than 20 minutes.  I leave you to draw your own conclusions.


Sergey Kislyak

A Large Unemployment Check …

On October 29th, Juli Briskman was photographed giving the middle finger to President Donald Trump’s motorcade during a weekend bike ride in Virginia.  The photo went viral and on the following Monday morning, Briskman, who worked for a federal contractor, Akima, felt that she ought to give a ‘heads up’ to her boss, since she was spattered over much of the internet.  Her honesty earned her a termination of her employment.

girl on bikeShe says she does not regret what she did and stands by her actions.  Good for her!!!  It is not against any law that I am aware of to flip off a jerk who just happens to be in the White House.  But, the reality is that Ms. Briskman is a single mother of two and needs income.

Enter a man named Rob Mello, of Hudson, Massachusetts. Mello created a GoFundMe campaign to support Briskman and her family.  As of Wednesday afternoon, the account had raised over $100,000 from over 4,000 donors and had been shared more than 10,000 times!

Hmmmm … I wonder if I ….

And thus concludes another episode of the bits ‘n pieces from my mind.  I think you can see that it is rather like a messy closet in there, yes?  Have a great day, friends!

silly grin


Nothing To See Here Folks … Nothing At All

His name is Michael Christopher Estes … a name few of us have ever heard, even though he planted a bomb in the Asheville, North Carolina airport just over a week ago, on October 6th.  Now why do you think you’ve never heard of Michael Christopher Estes and his attempted bombing?  Look at his picture and see if you can guess.

estesIf you guess that this event was under-reported because he is a white man, you would be right.  Had he been Muslim, of Middle-Eastern, Hispanic or African-American ethnicity, this news would have played 24/7 on all of the major media outlets.  Trump would have been screaming ‘terrorism’ at the top of his lungs, claiming it supports his call for a Muslim ban and a border wall, and the name Michael Christopher Estes would, by now, be a household word.

You can read the details of the story on NPR, for it is not my purpose to re-tell the story.

This is not the only one this year that we likely didn’t hear about:

  • In February, a Florida man named Mark Barnett allegedly created improvised explosives to plant in Target stores along the East Coast as part of a profit-driven bomb plot. Someone he allegedly attempted to recruit to his plot turned Barnett into authorities and he was charged in federal court; his federal case is ongoing.


  • In July, Luke Mullen was arrested after allegedly making bomb threats against the Colorado Springs Airport; police say he had four explosive devices and a machete inside his vehicle.


  • Also in July, a blast outside the Bixby Air Force Recruitment Office in Oklahoma caused property damage but no injuries. Benjamin Roden, a former airman, was arrested and is facing federal charges in connection with the incident.

Super Bowl 50 - Carolina Panthers v Denver Broncos

  • In August, Elijah Blankenship in Ohio was arrested and charged with creating multiple homemade explosives. His arrest came shortly before an anti-racist vigil in honor of the victims of the Charlottesville, Va., attack, but court records don’t indicate whether there was a connection to the event.


  • In September, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced that Douglas Kennedy of Tifton, Ga., was charged with manufacturing explosive devices after a bomb went off in the parking lot of the Tift Regional Medical Center; no one was injured. Kennedy had allegedly constructed and detonated at least three other bombs, none of which hurt anybody.


For the most part, these stories were only reported locally, did not receive national attention in the media, and received no mention from anybody in the Trump administration.  Even the conspiracy theorists Jones, Hannity, Limbaugh and their ilk were silent on this one! The case of Estes would still lie buried in the archives of the Asheville Citizen Times newspaper if it were not for civil rights activist Shaun King, writing for The Intercept.  Since King’s article was published on October 11th, the story has been picked up by the mainstream media, including the New York Times, USA Today, Salon, NPR, Fox News, CBS News and others.  Nearly a week after the fact.  Would any of these outlets have published the story were it not for Shaun King’s article? I think we know the answer.

White males committing acts that might otherwise be labeled ‘terrorism’ do not elicit the attention of Donald Trump, and these days if Donald Trump does not have something to say about an event, then it is not newsworthy.  White males committing crimes is of no interest to Trump because it does not fit his agenda.  I get that, and I have low expectations of Trump anyway. But frankly I expect better out of our press.  I expect our press to push these stories, to inform the public so that Trump’s blind-faith followers can no longer deny that most acts of terrorism in this country are actually committed by white citizens, not Muslims, not Latinos, but white, male citizens.

I have come out in defense of our free press many times in recent months, and I will continue to do so as long as I have breath, for I firmly believe that the freedom of press to investigate and report, to keep us informed, is the very core of our democracy.  I believe that if we allow government to place constraints on the media, we will too soon become much like Turkey – a democracy in name only.  However, with that freedom comes a responsibility to act as a free press, to report all the news, not just the news that has Trump in the headlines, or about which Trump is tweeting. By ignoring these stories, the press is playing directly into Trump’s hand.

Fortunately, the bomb that Estes left in the Asheville airport was found and defused by police before it could do any harm, but that and the other cases I mentioned had the potential to cause serious harm, injuries and even death.  When he was arrested the following day, Estes told police that he was “preparing to fight a war on U.S. soil” and that this bomb was but one part of that war. That, folks, should frighten us a lot more than the refugee from Syria, the laborer from Mexico. How is that not newsworthy, yet every word that spews from the mouth of Donald Trump, is ‘breaking news’?

I understand that the mainstream media are for-profit organizations, that they are in business to make money, and that as such they must use their resources to report the stories they believe the people want to see.  But to ignore these stories, to give them less attention simply because it was a white male rather than a Syrian or a Mexican who committed the crime, is wrong.  We must hold the press accountable to report all the news, not to cherry pick and report only what Trump is doing.