Filosofa Is Angry …

Anger can be a good thing, when it motivates and inspires you to do something to change events or circumstances.  If, that is, that which makes you angry is something over which you have at least a modicum of control or influence.  But, when you must simply sit and watch the idiocy around you, anger becomes self-destructive and leads to depression.  I took a break from blogging yesterday, except for my music post, because everything I tried to write was beyond a snarky snippet, was even beyond a rant, but sounded like the ravings of a madman with more expletives than a trucker would use! rantI’m still angry, but I have, hopefully, corralled the worst of it.  Crises bring out the best in some people, the worst in others.  What we see every time we log onto any of the news media are the examples of the very worst of the human species.  And, of course, our own government is making a muckety mess of it all, doing everything exactly wrong, and … we have no control.  It is frustrating, at best, and I won’t say what it is at worst.  So … prepare for a bit of a rant … “Ranty Snippets”?


The bitch …

Gerrity’s Supermarket is a small family-owned chain in northeastern Pennsylvania. Like grocers nationwide, it has been deluged with orders and has struggled to keep basics such as chicken breasts and toilet paper on the shelves. Employees have been working overtime, pausing only for five-second breaks to wipe everything down with disinfectant wipes.

Two days ago, on Wednesday afternoon, a woman entered the store, proceeded to the produce section where she intentionally coughed all over every bit of the produce in the store!!!  ON PURPOSE!!!  Two weeks I tried to buy a damn green pepper and this woman, in a single malicious act, destroyed some $35,000 worth of food … food that we have been struggling to buy!

The store’s co-owner Joe Fasula said that they had no choice but to toss every bit of the produce.

GerritysIt didn’t take long for employees to realize what the woman was doing, and they quickly escorted her out of the store and called police.  Turns out, the woman is known to the local police for having caused problems in the community before.  WHY, in these times of so much grief and trouble, would anybody be so cruel???  But, this isn’t an isolated incident.

  • A New Jersey man was charged with harassment and making terroristic threats after purposely coughing on a Wegmans grocery store employee and saying he had coronavirus.
  • A Carlisle, Pennsylvania man is facing multiple charges after deliberately coughing near an elderly citizen wearing a medical face mask.

There have been hundreds of such reports.  The Carlisle man was 57 years old, and the New Jersey man was 50 … not some teenagers pulling a prank that they thought funny, but full-blown adults!  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.


First Amendment is still alive, yes?

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

I understand that for three long years and two long months, Donald Trump has been trampling the U.S. Constitution.  However … we will not allow him to completely remove, destroy, reverse, or otherwise restrict our 1st Amendment rights!!!

The latest …

Donald Trump’s re-election campaign sent cease-and-desist letters to local television stations on Wednesday, threatening them with legal action and potentially their broadcast licenses if they continue to air an ad from a Democratic group, Priorities USA.  The ad plays audio of Trump downplaying the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic over a chart of the mounting number of cases in the U.S. — now at more than 85,000 — but the Trump campaign objected only to one clip, of Trump saying “this is their new hoax.”

That quote comes from a Feb. 28 rally at which Trump repeatedly called his handling of the epidemic “one of the great jobs” and compared the Democrats “politicizing” of the coronavirus to the Russia investigation and Ukraine scandal.  HE SAID IT!  There’s no denying that it is a fact, it is the truth, it is on tape for all to hear!  The president’s re-election campaign does not have the right to stifle free speech or free press!  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.


The loons are coming out of the woodwork! 

Rick Wiles is an American far-right conspiracy theorist and non-denominational senior pastor at Flowing Streams Church in Vero Beach, Florida.  Mr. Wiles claims that God is spreading the coronavirus in synagogues because he is “dealing with those who oppose his son, Jesus Christ.” And here is where those epithets really, really want to come out, but I am biting my tongue in the interest of professionalism and of not stepping on any toes.  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

While schools and college campuses around the country remain closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Liberty University is set to allow the return this week of up to 5,000 students. The plan was announced by the private evangelical university’s scandal–plagued president, Jerry Falwell Jr., an ally of President Trump.  Falwell’s ‘University’ is located in Virginia, a state that recently closed all schools for the rest of the school year.  Members of the community are not happy with Mr. Falwell, but he claims their concerns are ‘overblown’.  Nevertheless, the campus is said to resemble a ‘ghost town’.


Say WHAT???

On a final note, before I throw my laptop at the nearest wall, as of midnight tonight, Trump’s overall approval rating has reached an all-time high of 45.3%.  His previous high was reached on February 18th at 44.9%. 538 pollWould somebody PLEASE tell me what this jackass has done that people are approving of???  Since we first heard of the coronavirus back in January, Donald Trump has risked our lives every single bloody damn day by taking every single wrong turn he could take!!!  WHAT THE HELL are people approving of???  Oh … is it that whopping $1,200 check?  Well friends, guess what?  You will pay that back in spades.  Oh yeah … YOU the taxpayer will pay it back.  The United States does not have $2 trillion … it is effectively bankrupt.  It is borrowing that money and the day of reckoning will come.  Remember, the wealthy and corporations don’t pay their fair share in taxes, so you, the average taxpayer, will pay that $1,200 back with interestGrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.


And now, my heart rate has once again traveled into that danger zone, so I shall stop for tonight.  Hope you are all well and safe, my friends.  Stay tuned this afternoon for Part XI of mine and Jeff’s project, Discord & Dissension.

The 1st Amendment vs Donnie Trump

Imagine, if you will, President Barack Obama, ready to give a press conference, telling his aides that only people who agree with him completely are to be allowed in.  Or, better yet … imagine George W. Bush giving a televised address to the nation after 9/11, but insisting that media companies black out his address to all democratic households.  Fantasy, right?  Silly at best.  And yet, that is exactly what Trump has tried to do.  His preferred venue for communicating his … er, um … thoughts … is Twitter.  I honestly think he must spend 4-5 hours per day tweeting from his throne (bet there’s no shortage of toilet paper there!) 

In 2017, within months of taking the Oath of Office (remember that oath, Donnie?) Trump began blocking Twitter users who dared to disagree with him.  Seven of those users felt that if that is the only means by which he is going to communicate, then We the People must be able to question and yes, even disagree with or criticize him.  And so, those seven convinced the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University to file a lawsuit on their behalf.  Well, the wheels of justice turn pretty darn slowly sometimes, and the case was first heard by Judge Naomi Buchwald in May 2018.  Her 75-page ruling, in a nutshell, said that,  “No government official — including the President — is above the law.”  Hmmmm … perhaps Attorney General William Barr could learn something from her.

Well, Trump and his cadre of lawyers, naturally, appealed the case and in July 2019, a New York-based appeals court upheld Judge Buchwald’s ruling, saying that public officials who take to social media for official government business are prohibited from excluding people “from an otherwise open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees.”

Judge Barrington D. Parker wrote for a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit …

“In resolving this appeal, we remind the litigants and the public that if the First Amendment means anything, it means that the best response to disfavored speech on matters of public concern is more speech, not less.”

Justice Department lawyers defending Trump said in court that @realDonaldTrump is a personal account on a privately owned digital platform and that Trump may block followers he “does not wish to hear.”  Sounds rather like censorship to me.

And … sigh … of course the lawyers picked up their briefcases and headed back to court to file yet another appeal.  Yesterday, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit denied the Trump administration’s request to revisit the July 2019 ruling.  Of the nine judges who considered the Trump administration’s request, only two said they would have revisited the earlier decision.  The two are both Trump appointees, Judge Michael H. Park and Judge Richard J. Sullivan.  Judge Park wrote in his dissenting opinion …

“The First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech does not include a right to post on other people’s personal social media accounts, even if those other people happen to be public officials.”

Sea ditz.

The last sentence of the article I read … “The Justice Department is reviewing the ruling, a spokeswoman said.”  Translate that as … Trump’s legal eagles will file yet another appeal to a higher court — United States Supreme Court.  Remember something, folks … you and I are paying for all the time these lawyers are wasting, we are paying the judges salary and all their clerks who must review and type their 75-page rulings, we are paying for both legal teams … we are paying through the nose for Trump to have his hand slapped time and time and time again.  And, what happens when the case reaches the U.S. Supreme Court?  Well, let’s see … there are the two Justices he leads around using the rings in their noses – that would be Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch.  Then there is  Chief Justice John Roberts who, ever since a few private tête-à-têtes in the Oval Office, has been just as much a Trump boot-licker as Kellyanne Conway.  So, I give you three guesses.

Now, Filosofa, though no legal scholar, is going to weigh in on this one just for a minute.  In the first ruling on this case, Judge Buchwald said that no one, not even the president, is above the law.  And yet, Attorney General William Barr has said that as long as Trump’s fat arse is sitting in the Oval Office, he is above the law.  My best guess is that this will be the argument the high-paid DOJ lawyers will use at the Supreme Court level, and because Bill Barr said it’s so, then … gasp … of course it must be so.

But back to the starting point.  Trump’s attorneys argue that @realDonaldTrump is a private account.  However, I would argue that by default it has become a government account, since Trump conducts nearly all communication with his portion of the public, his 62 million Twitter followers, via Twitter using that account.  The 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives We the People the absolute right to speak out against our government officials.  If I attend a speech in another venue, I certainly can express my own opinion, so … why not on Twitter.

If the case goes to the Supreme Court and if the Court rules in Trump’s favour, We the People must engage in a very forceful protest.  Coronavirus be damned … this is the future of all Americans that is at stake here, for centuries to come.  We simply cannot let him continue chipping away at our Constitutional rights, my friends … it’s really all that remains between us and a full-blown dictatorship.

Sneaky

This, my friends, is how democracies die …

“The Justice Department has quietly [emphasis added] asked Congress for the ability to ask chief judges to detain people indefinitely without trial during emergencies — part of a push for new powers that comes as the coronavirus spreads through the United States.

Documents reviewed by POLITICO detail the department’s requests to lawmakers on a host of topics, including the statute of limitations, asylum and the way court hearings are conducted.

[…]

The move has tapped into a broader fear among civil liberties advocates and Donald Trump’s critics — that the president will use a moment of crisis to push for controversial policy changes. Already, he has cited the pandemic as a reason for heightening border restrictions and restricting asylum claims. He has also pushed for further tax cuts as the economy withers, arguing that it would soften the financial blow to Americans. And even without policy changes, Trump has vast emergency powers that he could legally deploy right now to try and slow the coronavirus outbreak.

The DOJ requests — which are unlikely to make it through a Democratic-led House — span several stages of the legal process, from initial arrest to how cases are processed and investigated.”

You can read the rest of the article here, but let’s talk a bit about what this could mean.

This could mean, if somehow either Congress passed it, or failing that, Trump took his ‘executive power’ to an unprecedented level, that you might be arrested for any or no reason.  Say your state is under a mandated “lock down” (something that is outside of the law to begin with), and you are out for a walk in your neighborhood.  A police car is patrolling the area, sees you, stops and the officer arrests you simply for being outside.  He couldn’t do that under normal circumstances, and if he did, you would be able to appear before a magistrate, explain the situation, and almost certainly be released immediately.  But, if this suspension of constitutional rights were to fly, you could be arrested, tossed in jail, and not go before a judge “until this crisis is over” … possibly months or even as long as a year.

That scenario is frightening enough, but let’s project a bit.  If allowed to suspend constitutional rights, what other areas of our civil liberties might be affected?  The one that worries me the most is the 1st Amendment, our rights to freedom of speech and freedom of the press.  Already, our right to peaceful protest has been suspended by default with the ruling that no more than ten people are allowed to gather in one place.  What next?  Could it become unlawful to … say, speak against our government, to call Trump out on his lies and ignorance?

I don’t know where this will go, and I hope that the Democratic-majority House of Representatives will put a stop to such nonsense, but I do not have a crumb of trust in our government at this time – not Donald Trump, not William Barr and his Department of ‘Justice’, not the Republican-led Senate under Mitch McConnell.  I don’t trust our law enforcement agencies, nor our Departments of Labour, Education, Health and Human Services … none of them.  They are led by people who do not care about the people of this nation but will do almost anything to enhance their own profits and power.  Just something to think about.  Let’s keep our eye on the ball and hope our free press does the same.


And just one little snippet that I found humorous in a macabre sort of way …

“In Rhode Island, among businesses cited for ignoring social-distance warnings was Wonderland, a strip club, where customers were still receiving lap dances last weekend.”

Gotta get your priorities straight, y’know!

Trump vs The 1st Amendment

Since the U.S. Senate handed Donald Trump the keys to the castle and told him to “have fun” and promised that “we’ve got your back” no matter what he does, he has been on quite a spree.  Last week, it was the firing of qualified career people within the administration and their replacement with highly unqualified people.  Then came the news that any non-loyalists, any not willing to basically swear an oath of fealty to Trump, would be fired and replaced with those loyal to the king Trump.

All last week, I waited for the other shoe to fall.  What ‘other shoe’ you ask?  The press, my friends.  Ever since the day he threw his hat in the proverbial ring in mid-2015, Trump has been denigrating the press, referring to them as “the enemy of the people”, attempting to revoke press passes of those like Jim Acosta who had the unmitigated gall to ask him the uncomfortable questions he didn’t want to answer.  And remember how, during his first year in office, he often threatened to change federal libel laws to make it more difficult for the free press to report the truth?

Yesterday morning it was announced that the Trump re-election campaign is filing a libel suit against the New York Times in the New York state court.  Their claim is that the Times had intentionally published a false opinion article that suggested Russia and the campaign had an overarching deal in the 2016 U.S. election.  The suit accuses the times of “extreme bias against and animosity toward the campaign,” and cited what it called the Times’ “exuberance to improperly influence the presidential election in November 2020.”

The New York Times responded with a statement:

“The Trump Campaign has turned to the courts to try to punish an opinion writer for having an opinion they find unacceptable. Fortunately, the law protects the right of Americans to express their judgments and conclusions, especially about events of public importance. We look forward to vindicating that right in this case.”

Interestingly, the Times had not yet, at that point, been served official notice of the case, but rather had learned of it through media reports.

The case relates to a March 27, 2019, opinion article written by Max Frankel, a former executive editor of the Times who left the paper in 1994.

You may remember that the New York Times was involved in a landmark 1964 Supreme Court ruling that has served as a safeguard for media reporting on public figures. In the case New York Times v. Sullivan, the court decided that the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment protection for freedom of the press allows even statements that are false to be published as long as the publication was not done with “actual malice.”  Thus, the suit, according to the draft copy released by the campaign, accused the newspaper of a “malicious motive” and “reckless disregard for the truth.”

Now, note that this OpEd was written just under a year ago, and two years after Trump took office, and just under three weeks before the redacted version of the Mueller report was released.  The Mueller report documented Moscow’s campaign of hacking and social media propaganda to boost Trump’s 2016 candidacy and harm his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. It also documented numerous contacts between people associated with Trump’s campaign and Russians.  What it did not do, as Trump claimed, was ‘exonerate’ him.

A portion of Frankel’s piece stated …

“Collusion – or a lack of it – turns out to have been the rhetorical trap that ensnared President Trump’s pursuers.  There was no need for detailed electoral collusion between the Trump campaign and Vladimir Putin’s oligarchy because they had an overarching deal: the quid of help in the campaign against Hillary Clinton for the quo of a new pro-Russian foreign policy, starting with relief from the Obama administration’s burdensome economic sanctions. The Trumpites knew about the quid and held out the prospect of the quo.”

All of which is, in this writer’s opinion, proven true.  And, although it took him two years, Trump did lift the Obama administration’s sanctions on Russia in January 2019.

A spokesperson for Trump’s campaign said yesterday …

“The statements were and are 100 percent false and defamatory. The complaint alleges The Times was aware of the falsity at the time it published them but did so for the intentional purpose of hurting the campaign, while misleading its own readers in the process.”

Well … seems to me the statements were true, but either way, it was an opinion piece written by somebody who was not on the Times’ staff.  Thing is, Trump has just been itching for an excuse to shred the “freedom of press” portion of the 1st Amendment since even before taking office.  Now that he is feeling newly emboldened, feeling invincible and that he can do anything he pleases, this is but his first step in the process of attempting to rein in the media.

Stuart Karle, an adjunct professor of media law at Columbia Journalism School, told Forbes the lawsuit is “an abuse of the court system and completely inappropriate.”  Karle said he didn’t think Trump’s campaign expects to win the case, and believes it was filed for political reasons: “It’s using the courts to argue with their critics.”

I don’t see how he could possibly win this case, but … it feels very much like a portent of things to come.  It feels very much as if this is designed to send a message to the media as a whole.  I don’t like it … not one bit.  At the very least, he is wasting taxpayer dollars, tying up the courts.  At the very most, he will gain the attention of his faithful followers who will, of course, be more convinced than ever in the months leading up to the election, that the press is against Trump and that they should not believe a word that is said about him unless it comes from his chosen Fox “News”.

Keep your eye on this ball, friends …

First Amendment Run Amok

Rick Wiles is an American non-denominational senior pastor at Flowing Streams Church in Vero Beach, FL, radio host and pundit. He is the founder of TruNews, a website known for promoting racist and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

Mr. Wiles came onto my radar yesterday when I saw this …Wiles-tweetHe went on to say …

“If they take him [Trump] out, there’s gonna be violence in America. That’s all there is to it. However he leaves, there’s gonna be violence in America. I believe there are people in this country, veterans, there are cowboys, mountain men, I mean guys that know how to fight, and they’re going to make a decision that people who did this to Donald Trump are not gonna get away with it. And they’re gonna hunt them down. The Trump supporters are going to hunt them down. It’s going to happen, and this country is going to be plunged into darkness and they brought it upon themselves because they won’t back off.”

Yes, before you beat me to the punch, I know this is just ignorance and hatred talking, I know that Mr. Wiles is but a gnat on the posterior of humanity.  But … I propose that his speech is classified as hate speech and as incitement to violence and must be stopped.

I’ve said this at least a thousand times before on this blog … ‘Rights’ come with responsibilities.  Rights are not unconditional.  Those who cannot use their rights judiciously, who continually abuse them, who cause harm to others by invoking their own rights, must lose those rights.  I’ve spouted endlessly about the Second Amendment, how it does not give the right to unfettered and unconditional gun ownership, nor the right to own an unlimited number of guns with the capability of killing hundreds within minutes.  I don’t think the gun advocates or NRA supporters have heard me, but … know that someday, somehow, somebody will figure out how to shut the gun lobby down and inject common sense into the interpretation of the amendment.

The First Amendment is no different.  Contrary to popular belief, it does not give people the unlimited right to say whatever pops into their mind, in any venue, and at any time.  Mr. Wiles is a public figure, and as such, he has even more responsibility than the rest of us.  He has a history of racism and anti-Semitism.  He frequently referred to President Obama as a “demon from hell”.  He has asserted that the effects of Hurricane Harvey on the city of Houston, Texas resulted from Houston’s LGBT community; has described Judaism and Islam as “the Antichrist”; has called Central American immigrants a “‘brown invasion'” being used by God to punish American whites because of abortion; has claimed that the Las Vegas massacre was conducted by government death squads; has asserted that Antonin Scalia was murdered; and, in July 2018, predicted an imminent coup that would result in the nationally televised decapitation of the Trump family on the White House lawn.

There are those who would say all of the above fall under the protections of the First Amendment right to free speech.  I disagree.  Remember when Alex Jones claimed that the Sandy Hook school shooting was all a hoax and that the grieving parents were paid actors?  Some parents are still being threatened by the fools who bought into his theory. Remember when the same Alex Jones bought into the theory that Hillary Clinton and John Podesta were dealing in human trafficking and child sex slavery in the basement of a local pizzeria?  Yes, folks, words have consequences.

Do you seriously believe that the framers of the Constitution would endorse or support a man calling for the death of members of a political party solely because that party followed the mandates of the Constitution?

I think we have long passed the point where we need to codify the limitations on certain ‘rights’, starting with both the First and Second Amendments.  For far too long, it has been open season … people claiming that they have a right to say whatever they wish, whenever and wherever, and damn the consequences.  Mr. Wiles presents a clear and present danger to all of us who do not sing the praises of the Oaf in the Oval, and this is not … I repeat … THIS IS NOT the idea upon which this nation was founded.  The right to free speech was intended to provide people the ability to engage in political discourse, to state opposing viewpoints without fear of repercussions.  It was never ever intended to be a tool given to those who would incite violence for any reason.  This nation was once a hell of a lot better than it is today.  Think about it.

Where Do We Draw A Line?

The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, and in recent times that has been challenged and the limits sorely tested.  It is a slippery slope, one fraught with the danger of going a step too far in censuring free speech, but it is the opinion of this writer that there must be a line … somewhere.  Last night I came across one of the right-wing pundits who I believe has crossed the line no matter where the line is.  His name is Josh Bernstein, and he is an online commentator.  His online show is called, predictably, the Josh Bernstein Show.  His bio says he is an anthropologist, writer, news anchor, political analyst, and more, but I rather doubt most of that, and don’t have time to spend trying to confirm or deny.

What brought him onto my radar was his call for Trump to “sharpen up them guillotines” to use on special counsel Robert Mueller in response to Mueller’s comment during his public statement on Wednesday that “If we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.”  Bernstein went into attack mode, accusing Mueller of taking bribes.josh-bernstein.png

“How much were you paid to do that press conference? All of you are just disgusting, despicable excuses for human beings and, honestly, I hope you all go down. Treason. President Trump said treason. Guess what? I agree with that. … You know what they do for treason? U.S. Code 18 § 2381. They put you to death, that’s what they do. Let’s sharpen up them guillotines, let’s bring out Old Sparky, let’s make sure that those lethal concoctions are ready to go, because you people deserve it!”

Now, we’ve all become used to the hate speech that emanates from both sides of the political spectrum, but most viciously from the far right, and most of us take it with a grain of salt these days.  But I sense a more ominous tone here.  The danger is not in him saying it, but in people hearing it, and some people hearing it as a call to action.

If this were an isolated episode in Mr. Bernstein’s hate speech, I might be more inclined to chalk it up to the ravings of a lunatic and move along, but it is one of many.  In January, he had this to say about democrats …

“Democrats don’t care about Americans, they don’t care about their security, they don’t even care about their paychecks.  The bottom line is, and I hate to say this, these are the types of people that Americans fought against in World War II. These are the ones who should be sterilized so we can start over.”

In October, after Alex Baldwin made a statement that through the electoral process, we need to effect a change in government, Bernstein called him treasonous and said he should be banned.  He went a bit further, though …

“These idiot liberals, these morons that want to bring us down to a third-world level, these people should be locked up for treason. Liberals like to say, ‘Well, it’s very patriotic to say something nasty about your own country.’ You know what? No it’s not. It’s treasonous.”

He has called for all Muslims to be ‘eradicated’ …

“These people need to be eradicated from Western Europe, they need to be eradicated from the United States, they need to be eradicated, I would say, pretty much from everywhere, because they have shown time and time again—whether you’re a peaceful Muslim, whether you’re a radical Muslim—you’ve shown time and time again that you just cannot deal and cope with being in a civilized society. So we’ve got to do something about it.”

I could go on and on, but you get the idea.  Why is this man allowed to say these things on the airwaves?  Because of the 1st Amendment right to free speech.  I think by now you all know that I fully support the right to free speech and freedom of the press.  But, I’ve said more than a few times, with every right comes an accompanying responsibility to use that right with conscience.  Josh Bernstein is taking his right, but not exercising his conscience.

Picture a white supremacist, or a hater of gay people, or an Islamophobe sitting at his computer one night, watching one of Bernstein’s videos calling for the execution of President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Robert Mueller, or just ‘liberals’ in general.  The man has a few guns, maybe a few beers under his belt, and decides to take up the gauntlet.  I don’t need to paint the picture, do I, for we’ve seen it far too many times already.

Remember last October when Cesar Sayoc sent pipe bombs through the U.S. mail to a number of prominent Democrats and Trump critics, as well as CNN?  Fortunately, he was stupid, the bombs were discovered, and nobody was hurt.  But, what about next time, or the time after?  Remember the mosque shootings in Philadelphia last year and New Zealand this year?  What inspired those killers?

I think that the time has come to draw a line somewhere.  Alex Jones’ conspiracy theories about the Sandy Hook school shooting has had terrible consequences for the families of children who died in that horrific event.  In December 2016, Edgar Maddison Welch entered Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C., armed and planning to kill whomever he came across.  His inspiration was the conspiracy theory that would become known as Pizzagate.

Words have consequences.  While I would not wish to stifle the ability of the press or anyone else to speak freely and offer an opinion, I think we must draw the line at calling for the death of another.  Mr. Bernstein just happened to cross my radar, but how many more are out there calling for the death of an individual or a group that we don’t know about?  I think that when you allow a right or a privilege to be abused, it ultimately ceases to be a right.  Think about it.

Don’t Look Now, But …

It is the job of the free press to keep the people of this nation informed.  In order to do so, they must be given access to our government, they must be allowed to ask questions and expect to receive honest answers.  Yesterday, that freedom was cut short by Donald Trump, the bully-in-chief.  It would be a mistake to let this slide, for it is not the first time, nor is it likely to be the last, that Trump has curtailed the freedom of the press.

It all began with a photo op with Trump and Kim Jong-un when a reporter for The Associated Press, Jonathan Lemire, asked Trump to comment on the congressional testimony of Mr. Trump’s former lawyer, Michael D. Cohen.  Another reporter, Jeff Mason of Reuters, had asked Trump a question about his commitment to de-nuclearization.  Note that this is common practice and every president in modern history has submitted to such questions.  But Donald Trump took umbrage.

As a result, mouthpiece Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced that reporters from Reuters, Associated Press, Bloomberg News and the Los Angeles Times would not be allowed to attend the dinner with Trump and Kim.  Sanders said that only photographers and television-camera operators would be allowed in … in other words, the American public would be allowed to see, but not hear.  Lauren Easton, spokeswoman for the Associated Press objected …

“The Associated Press decries such efforts by the White House to restrict access to the president. It is critically important that any president uphold American press freedom standards, not only at home but especially while abroad.”

Trump eventually allowed one reporter in … a reporter from The Wall Street Journal, owned by Trump’s good buddy Rupert Murdoch.  Whoopee.  Olivier Knox, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, called foul …

“This summit provides an opportunity for the American presidency to display its strength by facing vigorous questioning from a free and independent news media, not telegraph weakness by retreating behind arbitrary last-minute restrictions on coverage.”

Methinks the American presidency has no strength to display, as became obvious when the summit became a bust and Trump flew home with his tail tucked between his legs, for he refused to compromise.  But that is a story for another time, as today the more important story is this one, the curtailment of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment by Donald Trump.

In recent months, the White House has sharply reduced the number of press briefings it gives and has cracked down on reporters who call out questions during the president’s public appearances. Reporters have publicly and privately been warned by White House aides that it is inappropriate to ask Trump questions in that context.  No, Sarah … No, Donald … it is NOT inappropriate!  There has been so much secrecy, so many blatant lies told to We the People, that reporters must work twice as hard to dig a rare gem of truth from this administration.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution reads …

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Denying access to an important … nay, crucial … summit meeting is an abridgement of the right to freedom of the press.  Hand-picking reporters who will be allowed to attend that aforementioned meeting is an abridgement of the right to freedom of the press.  Donald Trump and his mouthpiece Sarah Huckabee Sanders have stomped on our right to know what our government is doing.  We cannot … we simply cannot ignore this!

This is a clear-cut case of retribution and revenge taken on reporters for asking legitimate questions of the ‘man’ who is tasked with leading the nation.  Asking those questions was not harassment, but rather an attempt to get answers that We the People need, want and deserve.  Throughout history, the only presidents who have attempted to curtail the right of a free press have been those who had something to hide, such as Richard Nixon who, in 1971 attempted to prevent the New York Times and Washington Post from publishing materials belonging to a classified Defense Department study regarding the history of United States activities in Vietnam.  The Supreme Court, by the way, ruled against the government and in favour of the free press in that case of New York Times v. United States.

To wrap it up, I direct your attention to the 2018 World Press Freedom Index.  A brief excerpt …

“More and more democratically-elected leaders no longer see the media as part of democracy’s essential underpinning, but as an adversary to which they openly display their aversion. The United States, the country of the First Amendment, has fallen again in the Index under Donald Trump, this time two places to 45th. A media-bashing enthusiast, Trump has referred to reporters “enemies of the people,” the term once used by Joseph Stalin.”

Need I say more?

A Child … Just A Child

It seems to me that this nation places too much value on rites and rituals and not enough on substantive issues.  When an eleven-year-old child is arrested … yes, arrested by police … for exercising his right to free speech by refusing to recite the pledge of allegiance, something has gone awry with our values as a nation.

It all began on the morning of February 4th, when a young boy at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Polk County, Florida, refused to stand for the pledge of allegiance.  The boy had refused to stand for the pledge for the entire school year, and had written permission from his mother to do so. But on this day there was a substitute teacher, Ana Alvarez.  When Ms. Alvarez asked the boy why he didn’t stand, he told her he believes the pledge represents racism.  Ms. Alvarez’ responded …

“Why if it was so bad here you do not go to another place to live.”

And when the boy replied, “They brought me here,” Alvarez said …

“Well you can always go back, because I came here from Cuba and the day I feel I’m not welcome here anymore I would find another place to live.”

Perhaps Ms. Alvarez forgot she was talking to an 11-year-old child who has neither the autonomy nor the means to choose his own place to live?

“Then I had to call the office because I did not want to continue dealing with him.”

A school resource officer with the Lakeland Police Department eventually responded to the classroom and arrested the boy.  Arrested a child.  An African-American child who did not break any law.  According to a statement by Polk County Public Schools, the child “became disruptive” and “refused to follow instructions.”  Excuse me, but the boy is eleven years old!  He was no doubt frightened and felt threatened!  He was not an adult who might have been able to understand and deal with the situation in a moderated voice!

This case, naturally, brings to mind that of Colin Kaepernick who was unduly ostracized and penalized for exercising his first amendment right to refuse to stand for the national anthem.  If Colin Kaepernick had been Caucasian, would the results have been different?  If this 11-year-old boy had been Caucasian, would the results have been different?  We will never know for sure, but my best guess is that yes, in both cases the refusal to stand would have been largely overlooked.

On Tuesday, Brian Haas, the state attorney for the 10th Judicial Circuit in Florida, said that his office would not prosecute the boy despite statements by the police that he had made threats after disrupting class. “The case is closed,” Mr. Haas said.

However, the boy’s mother, understandably, is not satisfied, nor is the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).  Dhakira Talbot, the lad’s mother, declined an offer from prosecutors on Monday to drop the case if the boy completed a so-called diversion program, which could include a fine and community service.  She has obtained an attorney who plans to file a civil-rights complaint with the federal Department of Education this week.

A personal note here.  Throughout my childhood I refused steadfastly to stand for the pledge or to engage in the morning prayer that was requisite in the Catholic schools I attended.  The nuns did not like it and more than a few times I was smacked on the hands and even the head with the metal edge of a ruler (Catholic schools in the 1950s were notorious for corporal punishment).  But, being the stubborn girl I was even back then, I did not give in.  AND … I did not get arrested.  I seriously doubt that calling the police ever crossed their minds!

According to the New York Times article from February 19th

Across the country, black students are disciplined more often and face harsher consequences than their white peers. At Lawton Chiles Middle Academy, black students made up 17 percent of the student body last school year but represented 39 percent of disciplinary actions, according to data from the Florida Department of Education.

Systemic racism.  Perhaps the biggest shame of this nation.  And an 11-year-old boy has suffered an experience he will never forget.  He has been shown, first-hand, that black people are treated with less respect, less dignity than those with pale skin.  What lasting effect will this incident have on a young child’s life?  There is no way to know, but we can rest assured that it will colour his views for the rest of his life.

Trampling the Constitution …

“I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

These words are the presidential oath of office that every president takes upon being inaugurated into the office of president.  On 20 January 2017, Chief Justice John Roberts administered the above oath to Donald J. Trump.  In the past 24 hours, the same Donald Trump has threatened to break his oath not once, but twice.Constitution-1The first came on the wave of his rage over the Bob Woodward book, Fear, that is to be released next Tuesday.  Trump repeated his call for stricter libel laws … a threat he has made before.  What Trump is actually calling for, however, is a change in the very definition of the word ‘libel’.

Defamation is defined as the communication of a false statement that harms the reputation of an individual, business, product, group, government, religion, or nation.  Defamation falls under two categories:  slander & libel.  The difference is simple: slander is verbal or by gestures, whereas libel is written or printed.

There are several things a person must prove to establish that libel has taken place. In the United States, a person must prove that 1) the statement was false, 2) caused harm, and 3) was made without adequate research into the truthfulness of the statement. These steps are for an ordinary citizen. For a celebrity or public official, a person must prove the first three steps, and that the statement was made with the intent to do harm or with reckless disregard for the truth.

Trump has been referring to the legitimate press as “the enemy of the people” while at the same time praising Fox News and even Breitbart, neither of whom are known for fact-based, honest reporting.  And now, he wants Congress to enact stricter libel laws, by which he simply means, by his definition, anything printed that is critical of him.  This is not how it works, and it would be a blatant disregard of the 1st Amendment if it were.  As long as what the press prints is factual, or to the best of their belief was factual, they are well within their rights.

Despite the fact that Congress has been bowing to the wishes of Trump since day #1, I cannot imagine that they would even consider such a bill, so I am not concerned that the press will ultimately be shuttered from reporting anything critical of Trump.  However, that he even threatens it is very concerning, for it is but one more indicator of his intent to rule rather than lead.  To bring the government into the realm of autocracy.  Such disregard for the Constitution goes against his oath.constitution-2The second and equally concerning threat was made as a response to protests against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Tuesday.

“I don’t know why they don’t take care of a situation like that. I think it’s embarrassing for the country to allow protesters. You don’t even know what side the protesters are on.”

Now, the statement in itself is disturbing enough, and taken in conjunction with his rants about Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protest against police killing unarmed black men, it makes an even more chilling thought.  “I think it’s embarrassing for the country to allow protestors.”  Again, I direct attention to the 1st Amendment that protects freedom of speech, including peaceful protests.  And again, I remind you that he referred to white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia last year as “very fine people”.  He did not suggest shutting down their freedom of speech.

What is, perhaps, almost as bothersome as what he said is to whom he said it.  He made the statement during an Oval Office interview with the Daily Caller.  Now, in case you aren’t familiar with the Daily Caller, it is a conservative website co-founded by Tucker Carlson of Fox News fame.  Mr. Carlson has more controversies under his belt than can even be tallied.  To give you one small example of his idiocy, he is against seat belt laws.  Like its co-founder, the Daily Caller is laden with controversy and is definitely not a legitimate source of news.  A few examples:

  • In 2017, The Daily Caller published a story claiming that a “peer-reviewed study” by “two scientists and a veteran statistician” found that global warming had been fabricated by climate scientists. The alleged “study” was a PDF file on a WordPress blog, and was not peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal.

  • In March 2013 The Daily Caller posted interviews with two women claiming that New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez had paid them for sex while he was a guest of a campaign donor. The allegation came five days before the 2012 New Jersey senate election. News organizations such as ABC News, which had also interviewed the women, the New York Times, and the New York Post declined to publish the allegations, viewing them as unsubstantiated and lacking credibility. Subsequently, one of the women who accused Menendez stated that she had been paid to falsely implicate the senator and had never met him. Menendez’s office described the allegations as “manufactured” by a right-wing blog as a politically motivated smear. A few weeks later, police in the Dominican Republic announced that three women had claimed they were paid $300–425 each to lie about having had sex with Menendez.

Carlson Tucker is not much different than Alex Jones, it would seem, and anybody who reads and believes the Daily Caller should come see me about a bridge I have for sale.  For Donald Trump to treat the Daily Caller as a legitimate news source, while denigrating the 141-year-old Washington Post, and the 167-year-old New York Times, is an indicator of his intelligence, or lack thereof.

So, we have a president who, as I have said from the very beginning, is not satisfied with the office of president, but seeks to undermine the foundation of the Constitution by chiseling away at the rights and privileges that document gives us in order to expand and extend his power.  Surely Congress will stop him, right?  Um … well …

**  Endnote:  While I am writing a post, I rarely check news other than to verify facts or look up something pertaining to the post I am writing at the time, lest I lose my focus.  Thus, I was not aware of the anonymous letter from a senior administration official that was published in the New York Times late yesterday afternoon until I had finished writing this post.  I will have more to say about that later, once the dust has settled just a bit, but Trump’s comment that “the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!” sends chills and signals another potential attempt to undermine the Constitution.  

The Senate Stands Up To The Bully …

“We swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution, including the First Amendment. Today, every senator upheld that oath by sending a message that we support the First Amendment, and we support the freedom of the press in the face of these attacks.” – Senator Brian Schatz, 16 August 2018

We should not need a Senate resolution to declare that the free press is not “the enemy of the people”.  It is rather akin to needing a Senate resolution to declare that parents should not beat their children to death, or men should not sexually abuse women.  It is already the damn law!  The U.S. Constitution protects the free press, so why do we need a Senate resolution to acknowledge the law?  Why?  Because we have a buffoon instead of a president who has, for 71 years, gotten what he wants by bullying, and he thinks he can still do that in the White House.

press-enemy-NixonSo, while we should not need the Senate to confirm that the press is not the enemy of the people, it is comforting to know that the Senate unanimously voted to confirm, for the sake of the madman in the Oval Office and his blind-faith followers who hang on his every word.

“Resolved, that the Senate affirms that the press is not the enemy of the people; reaffirms the vital and indispensable role that the free press serves to inform the electorate, uncover the truth, act as a check on the inherent power of the government, further national discourse and debate, and otherwise advance the most basic and cherished democratic norms and freedoms of the United States; and condemns the attacks on the institution of the free press and views efforts to systematically undermine the credibility of the press as an attack on the democratic institutions of the United States; and it is the sense of the Senate that it is the sworn responsibility of all who serve the United States by taking the oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States to uphold, cherish, and protect the entire Constitution, including the freedom of the press.”

The resolution mentions a number of former leaders who have spoken on behalf of freedom of the press:

  • Benjamin Franklin in 1722 wrote, ‘‘Whoever would overthrow the Liberty of a Nation, must begin by subduing the Freeness of Speech.’’;

  • Thomas Jefferson in 1786 wrote, ‘‘Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.’’;


  • James Madison in 1789 introduced the freedom of the press in the Bill of Rights to the Constitution of the United States;


  • James Madison based the freedom of the press on the Declaration of Rights of the Commonwealth of Virginia, which in 1776 declared, ‘‘The freedom of the Press is one of the greatest bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained but by despotic Governments.’’;


  • President Ronald Reagan proclaimed August 4, 1985, as Freedom of the Press Day, stating that ‘‘Freedom of the press is one of our most important freedoms and also one of our oldest.’’;


  • President Reagan also said, ‘‘Today, our tradition of a free press as a vital part of our democracy is as important as ever. The news media are now using modern techniques to bring our citizens information not only on a daily basis but instantaneously as important events occur. This flow of information helps make possible an informed electorate and so contributes to our national system of self-government.’’;


  • Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in International Soc. for Krishna Consciousness, Inc. v. Lee, 505 U.S. 672 (1992), ‘‘The First Amendment is often inconvenient. But that is beside the point. Inconvenience does not absolve the government of its obligation to tolerate speech.’’;


  • The United States Supreme Court also affirmed the history and intent of the freedom of the press in New York Times Co. v. United States, 403 U.S. 713 (1971), stating, ‘‘In the First Amendment, the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.’’;


  • Tyrannical and authoritarian governments and leaders throughout history have sought to undermine, censor, suppress, and control the press to advance their undemocratic goals and actions; and


  • The United States, including the long-held commitment to and constitutional protection of the free press in the United States, has stood as a shining example of democracy, self-government, and freedom for the world to emulate.

That this resolution was passed unanimously without a single dissenting vote even among the boot-lickers on the right side of the aisle, speaks volumes.  It tells us that even Mitch McConnell and all the rest are disturbed by Trump’s denigration of the press, and that they understand that the press is the only thing standing between a ‘president’ and a dictator.  However, it should be noted that this is only a non-binding resolution, meaning it does basically nothing more than send a message to Trump & Co saying that the Senate supports the free press and does not agree with Trump calling them the enemy of the people.  The law already exists in the form of the Constitution … we just need Congress to enforce that law upon the president.