Skewed Priorities …

Today, as more than a thousand people are injured and at least 52 dead in the Gaza Strip due to the opening of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, and the violence continues, the following was the only “Breaking News” update to cross my screen this afternoon:

“Breaking News: Melania Trump, the first lady, had a surgical procedure for a kidney condition. It was successful, and she will stay in the hospital to rest.”

I received this notification from three separate media entities, but not a single one about the violence in the Middle East.  Yep, folks, our priorities are seriously skewed.

A New Assault on Freedom of Press …

Department of Homeland Security.  Their job?  To protect us with their 229,000 employees and their $40.6 billion budget.  Its stated missions involve anti-terrorism, border security, immigration and customs, cyber security, and disaster prevention and management.

Now tell me how the following fits into their stated goals?

Homeland Security to Compile Database of Journalists, Bloggers

Feel that chill creeping down your spine, my fellow-bloggers?  Fellow citizens who still believe in the First Amendment?  Journalist friends?

While I feel the chill in my spine, I am more incensed than anything.  HOW DARE THEY???

According to Bloomberg Law …

“The U.S. Department of Homeland Security wants to monitor hundreds of thousands of news sources around the world and compile a database of journalists, editors, foreign correspondents, and bloggers to identify top “media influencers.””

Threats to the freedom of the press began emitting from Trump & Co long before the election, and haven’t slowed since.  For the past two weeks, Trump has been railing against The Washington Post because he doesn’t like the way they report on him, and has even suggested they be forced to register as a lobbyist group.

Last October, Indiana State Representative Jim Lucas, proposed a bill that would require professional journalists to be licensed by the state, pay a $75 fee, and submit fingerprints.  Lucas is a nutcase who was claiming that if “his” 2nd Amendment right to ‘bear arms’ required a license, so should the press’ 1st Amendment right, but even so …

According to an article in Columbia Journalism Review yesterday …

“… liberal journalist Greg Palast announced on his blog that he and fellow producer Matt Pascarella have become subject to a Department of Homeland Security criminal investigation for filming the exterior of an Exxon Mobil refinery [emphasis added] near New Orleans while working on a documentary entitled New Orleans: Big Easy to Big Empty.”

It should be noted that ExxonMobil is a corporation, not a top-secret government facility.

And now DHS is seeking a contractor that can help it monitor ‘traditional news sources as well as social media and identify “any and all” coverage related to the agency or a particular event’, according to a request for information released April 3.  But it is in the details that we see a darker intent, for they outline a plan to gather and monitor the public activities of media professionals and ‘influencers’, those of us who disperse information to the public.

Since John Kelly left the Department of Homeland Security to become the White House babysitter, the agency has been led by Kirstjen Nielsen, who was confirmed by the Senate and sworn in on 06 December 2017.  Nielsen is a Trump sycophant (one of many) who claims he did not make the comment about “shithole countries” (he did) and who claims the threat along the U.S.-Mexican border is real (it isn’t).  And now she wants to spend precious DHS resources to monitor journalists all over the world, as well as here at home, even those of us who write humble little blogs.  What could possibly go wrong, right?

Freedom of the Press is under attack in many areas of the world, including some led by the very autocrats that Donald Trump appears to nearly worship, such as Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, The Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte, and of course let us not forget Russia’s Vladimir Putin.  Journalists who tell too much or criticize the regime are jailed and silenced.  “But surely that cannot happen here!”, you say.  How much are you willing to bet on that?

The rules have changed and they are frequently re-written as per Donald Trump.  Agencies now spend their allotted budgets to do the bidding of Trump, rather than to meet the stated goals of their agencies. And the media are under attack daily by the bombastic ‘man’ sitting in the Oval Office.  What could go wrong?  Imagine, if you will, that Nielsen decided to actually run DHS in the proper way and said to Trump that no, the agency’s priority at this time is not to monitor the activities of journalists.  She would be out within a week, and a different sycophant would take her place.

According to ThinkProgress …

“One of the other points that DHS wants to be able to search is the ‘sentiment’ of a story. Was a writer’s take on events pro-America or not? Did a columnist write an op-ed that looked on President Trump’s latest policy trainwreck unfavorably?”

To which Tyler Q. Houlton, on behalf of DHS responded:

“Despite what some reporters may suggest, this is nothing more than the standard practice of monitoring current events in the media. Any suggestion otherwise is fit for tin foil hat wearing, black helicopter conspiracy theorists.”

Oh no, I don’t think so, Mr. Houlton.  When asked to clarify what, precisely, he meant by ‘standard practice’, he replied …

“You are embarrassing yourself with these questions and wild conspiracy theories. Just like you monitored the media to find this story, DHS does the same. Enjoy your weekend.”

Not a very professional response, if you ask me.  And remember that WE pay his salary.

I have long sensed that Trump took office believing that the entire federal government, including all its agencies, Congress and the Judiciary were his toys to play with and use as he wishes.  This is not the case, and for an agency to even be considering infringing on the 1st Amendment freedoms of press and free speech simply because not all of us admire him or choose to dance to his tune, is unconscionable.

Again … What could possibly go wrong?

Freedom of the Press … Abused!!!

Turn on the television, grab your coffee and cozy up to watch the news before bedtime.  Thanks to the U.S. Constitution and the 1st Amendment of said document, you can be assured that your favourite newscasters are free to bring you a relatively fact-based newscast and you will come away informed and enlightened, right?  Well, guess what, folks … we have, once again, been duped.  By whom, you ask?  That is a question with more than one answer, but let us start with the nefarious campaign to elect Donald Trump in 2016.  And from there, we move on to the nation’s largest operator of local television stations, Sinclair Broadcast Group, operating 193 stations in over 100 cities.

What links the Trump campaign and Sinclair?  According to Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, the campaign and Sinclair struck a deal whereby Sinclair would be given extended access to Trump in exchange for Sinclair-owned stations broadcasting all speeches by Trump sans commentary.  In other words, unlike CNN and others, no criticism allowed.  In and of itself, this may not seem like such a big deal, but …

One of Sinclair’s stations, an ABC-affiliate KOMO-TV in Seattle, Washington, tells us Sinclair is forcing its reporters to air pre-scripted segments about fake news media, in an attempt to undermine non-Sinclair stations.  Below is the script that was sent to all stations to be read on air:

Hi, I’m(A) ____________, and I’m (B) _________________…

(B) Our greatest responsibility is to serve our Northwest communities. We are extremely proud of the quality, balanced journalism that KOMO News produces.

(A) But we’re concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country. The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media.

(B) More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake stories… stories that just aren’t true, without checking facts first.

(A) Unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think’…This is extremely dangerous to a democracy.

(B) At KOMO it’s our responsibility to pursue and report the truth. We understand Truth is neither politically ‘left nor right.’ Our commitment to factual reporting is the foundation of our credibility, now more than ever.

(A) But we are human and sometimes our reporting might fall short. If you believe our coverage is unfair please reach out to us by going to KOMOnews.com and clicking on CONTENT CONCERNS. We value your comments. We will respond back to you.

(B) We work very hard to seek the truth and strive to be fair, balanced and factual… We consider it our honor, our privilege to responsibly deliver the news every day.

(A) Thank you for watching and we appreciate your feedback.

Some of it actually sounds fair, sounds like the right thing to say, but it gives the appearance that they and only they are the ones trying to provide honest and unbiased reporting.  Knowing that they have an agreement to present Trump and his agenda in a most favourable light makes me question their actual intent. We have all asked ourselves how it is that the 37% or so that still say Trump is doing a good job can actually believe it.  I have put forth a number of theories over the past year or more, ranging from lack of education, apathy, selfishness, ignorance, etc.  But in light of this story, I have done some thinking.  I have sufficient time to spend several hours a day trolling the news, checking and double checking to make sure I understand and have the facts straight.  But most people don’t have that luxury.  When I still worked 10-12 hour days, I didn’t have time.  At 11:00 each night, I watched the news on my local station and really had no choice but to rely on them to give me correct facts and tell me what I needed to know.  That was all the time I could spare, that half-hour.  The vast majority of people are in that boat today, and what they are being fed is not always the truth, not always unbiased.  I have always known Fox News was biased, leaned heavily conservative … how could it be otherwise with Rupert Murdoch at the helm.  But I’ve long had a fair amount of trust in the “Big Three” – ABC, NBC, CBS.  I now know that trust was misplaced. Of the stations owned by Sinclair, 33 are ABC affiliates, 27 are CBS, and 22 are NBC.  43 are Fox affiliates.  You can find which of your local stations are owned by Sinclair here.

Sinclair regularly runs disinformation segments favorable to President Trump and packaged as actual political analysis and news coverage. Sinclair is currently awaiting approval on its proposed purchase of Tribune Media, which owns or operates 42 broadcast television stations in 33 markets, according to its official FCC filing. If the purchase is approved, Sinclair will be able to broadcast to at least 70 percent of American households.

Take a look at this John Oliver clip addressing Sinclair and it’s schemes:

The Constitution guarantees freedom of the press, but it does not guarantee that the press will operate with integrity.  It is up to We The People to hold the media outlets accountable, to find ways to verify, to confirm what they tell us, and to call them out when they get it wrong, ultimately finding other sources if amends and changes are not made.  WE are the customers and WE must demand they provide unbiased, straight journalism. With Trump’s handpicked Ajit Pai serving as director of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), we can no longer afford to wait for the FCC to deal with this situation, as they once would have.  Today, with the Internet, we have a vast amount of information literally at our fingertips, but sometimes there is so much that it is difficult to know what to believe.  I find it unconscionable that any media outlet would be willing to support the agenda of a single political group or individual to the exclusion of others.  They are letting us down and frankly they are making a mockery of the 1st amendment.

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 https://cpj.org/blog/2018/01/press-oppressor-awards-trump-fake-news-fakies.php

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.

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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.

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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.

trump-russia-1

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.