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.

And So It Begins …

The headline caught my eye immediately …

E.P.A. Cancels Talk on Climate Change by Agency Scientists

Needless to say, the headline alone made creepy music begin to play in my head and shades of 1984 ran through my mind. Red flags flew up and alarm bells sounded. Funny how two years ago I would have thought nothing of this headline.

The event at which three scientists were scheduled to speak is the State of the Narragansett Bay and Watershed program in Providence, Rhode Island, and is hosted by the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program. The conference is designed to draw attention to the health of Narragansett Bay, the largest estuary in New England and a key to the region’s tourism and fishing industries. The three scientists who have been barred from speaking at the conference helped research and write the 400-page report on the state of the bay. Among the findings are that climate change is affecting air and water temperatures, precipitation, sea level and fish in and around the estuary.

Much of the conference was to revolve around climate change.  Instead of the three scientists presenting the results of their scientific research, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt, is scheduled to speak.  You will remember that Scott Pruitt is a climate change denier who, as Oklahoma attorney general, actually sued the very agency he now leads more than a dozen times.

The three scientists, Autumn Oczkowski, Rose Martin, and Emily Shumchenia, were to speak on an afternoon panel entitled “The Present and Future Biological Implications of Climate Change.” Given Mr. Pruitt’s and Mr. Trump’s views on climate change, and their unwillingness to accept responsibility for reducing carbon emissions in order to slow the effects on the environment, this stifling of data, or open discussion should come as no surprise.

EPA spokesman, John Konkus said that the three scientists would be allowed to attend the program, but not the morning news conference.  Perhaps Mr. Pruitt fears the scientists might comment. No surprise, but very disturbing.  We The People are not to be allowed access to facts, only to the ‘alternative facts’ that Trump & Co decide upon.  1984. Newspeak.

Since August, all EPA grant requests have gone through Mr. Konkus’ office for review. Konkus served on Trump’s campaign before he was appointed deputy associate administrator in the EPA’s Office of Public Affairs. At the time, agency officials said they were ensuring agency funding is in line with “Mr. Pruitt’s priorities”.  And we all know what those are … $$$$$$$$$$$$$$

The Narragansett Bay Estuary Program is funded through the EPA’s approximately $26 million National Estuary Program. It funds 28 state-based estuary programs and delivers about $600,000 annually to the Narragansett Bay program. Mr. Pruitt’s proposed budget for 2018 would eliminate the national program. Eliminate.  Think on that one for a minute.

The EPA has removed most mentions of the words “climate change” from its website. Pruitt has declined to link carbon dioxide emissions to global warming, and in an interview with Time magazine last week said he intended to assemble a team of independent experts to challenge established climate science because, Mr. Pruitt asserted, it has not yet been subject to “a robust, meaningful debate.”  Nor is it likely to be under the “leadership” of Mr. Pruitt.

In other environmental news, the EPA is loosening regulations on toxic chemicals that may affect the quality and toxicity of drinking water, among other things that pose a threat to the health of people and the planet as a whole.  And Trump’s proposed budget includes funding for drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The refuge is an untouched region of Alaskan wilderness, supporting the habitat of caribou, wolves, polar bears and hundreds of species of migratory birds. I will have more about these topics in a future post.

I think we all anticipated these moves and more, but to wake up one morning and see in bold print that blatant censorship of real information is happening is sobering, to say the least. Censorship. The withholding of information robs us of the ability to decide for ourselves what to believe or disbelieve.  Trump & Co would have us believe only what they tell us to believe.  They would turn us into sheeple who have no need to think, for we are told all that we need to know by the likes of Trump, Pruitt, Sessions and the rest.  We The People will not stand for it, for I still have faith in our independent spirit.  I sincerely hope that the three scientists who were barred from speaking will speak out in other venues, will help the public understand the results of their research in spite of Big Brother.

Alternative facts … a lie by any other name is still a lie.

Cub Scout Den Banishes 11 Year Old For Daring To Ask Legislator About Gun Control

Today I read a story that truly enrages me, and I must share it. I will leave it to my friend Gronda to tell you the story, for she has done so well and her words need no introduction from me. Many thanks, Gronda, for bringing this abomination to our attention, and for your generous permission to share it.

Gronda Morin

AMES MAYFIELD

A precocious 11 year old Cub  Scout, Ames Mayfield dared to ask his Colorado State Senator Vickie Marble, some tough but pertinent questions. He is involved in his school politics because this has become a passion for him. He did an outstanding job but the questions were critical. As a consequence, he was kicked out of his cub scout den.

Here is the rest of the story… 

On October 20, 2017, Samantha Schmidt of the Washington Post penned the following report, “A Cub Scout pressed a lawmaker about gun control. Then his den kicked him out, his mother said.”

Excerpts:

“When Ames Mayfield’s Cub Scout den met with a Colorado state senator last week, the 11-year-old came prepared with a long list of typed-up questions. He excitedly raised his hand to ask his first one.”

Image result for PHOTOS OF Ames Mayfield’ DENVER

“Ames pressed the Republican state senator, Vicki Marble, on an issue he…

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White House’s Censorship Of Climate Change Reports

As I have said before … words matter. One’s choice of words matters. Months ago, we were introduced by the Trump administration to the concept of ‘Alternative Facts’, and those included, as we discovered, an alternative vocabulary. Now the (S)White House has added to the ‘dictionary of alternative words’ by dictating to federal agencies what words they are and are not to use. Guess what, folks? “Climate Change” is no longer allowed. Blogger-Friend Gronda has the details for you, as well as a link to the Annual Climate Change Report, which will likely be altered before it is released to the public. Please take a few moments to read this important information! Thank you, Gronda, for an excellent post and for permission to share!

Gronda Morin

Here is link to the 2017 Climate Change Report sponsored by the US government, and published by the NY Times: Read the Draft of the Climate Change Report – The New York Times 8/7/17 (A draft report by scientists from 13 federal agencies, which has not yet been made public, but was obtained by The New York Times, concludes that Americans are feeling the effects of climate change right now. The report was completed this year and is part of the National Climate Assessment, which is congressionally mandated every four years. )

Because of the republican President Donald Trump’s administration’s disdain for climate change issues, many are concerned whether this report will be shared with the American taxpayers, and if it is, how heavily censored the report will be, and thus, we have this latest leak.

Here’s the rest of the story…

On August 7, 2017, Oliver Milman…

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Guard Our 1st Amendment From Trumps

Although I am merely a blogger, a small-time blogger at that, I try to speak the truth.  I research information, tediously at times, which is why I write 8-10 hours a day and produce little.  If I see a story that piques my curiosity on a lesser-known or extremely partisan site, I go in search of further detail on more reliable sites.  If I don’t find it, I keep the story on my radar, but on the back burner, awaiting better, more reliable verification.  I probably do not need to be this tedious, as only a few read my blog faithfully, but a) I have a compulsion to maintain my integrity, and b) I have no money and cannot afford a lawsuit.  Sometimes I sit on a story because I simply sense there is more, much more, to come, such as is the case with Roger Ailes, who is in line for the IOTW award, but not just yet.

More than once, I have gotten a “fact” wrong.  It happens to the best of us.  I apologize if apropos.  All of us, whether George Will of The Washington Post, Nicholas Kristoff of the New York Times, or we of the Blogosphere, respect and cherish the 1st  Amendment of the Constitution that guarantees us the freedom to write what we see, what we think, and what we believe to be true without governmental censure.  It is a right that journalists and even bloggers do not enjoy in all countries.  Think of what has happened in the past year in Turkey, for example.  And if we treasure that right, it is up to all of us to safeguard it.  In large part, by safeguarding, I mean writing responsibly, not simply passing along information because it is interesting, controversial, or appealing to our readers, but verifying facts, refusing to publish falsehoods.

Which brings us to the headline that caught my eye and set me down this path of introspection:

  • Donald Trump’s latest act of media intimidation sets an alarming precedent – The Washington Post, 22 August 2016
  • Melania Trump threatens to sue several news outlets over reports she worked as an escort – Los Angeles Times, 23 August 2016

My initial reaction was that she follows in the footsteps of her husband, planning to sue every time a journalist writes something negative, and, as Trump has threatened, “open up” libel laws and curtail the freedom of the press.  Then I went “in search of …” and found that, while I do not think she has a leg to stand on as regards a lawsuit, I think that irresponsible reporting may have opened a can of worms that was not necessary.  And for what?  To discredit Trump through his family?  Granted, Melania Trump made herself a “public figure” when she spoke at the Republican National Convention on his behalf.  Granted, her entry to the U.S. may be questionable.  And granted, her former career as a nude model is open to speculation. As a public figure, she is subject to more intense scrutiny and somewhat looser reporting standards than the average political family member.  But even so, there are standards of truth, of fact vs. fiction to be upheld.

The story, in short summary, is that apparently a Slovenian magazine, Suzy, published a front page story claiming Melania’s modelling agency in New York also operated as an escort agency for wealthy clients. From there, the Daily Mail, a British tabloid, picked up the story as a part of a bigger story about Melania’s past, albeit with some disclaimers about the veracity of the source.  Still, it left questions unanswered, and the smaller, less reliable and more partisan outlets, including Liberal America, BipartisanReport, and Inquisitr, got on the bandwagon. All three of the small, independent sources have issued retractions or apologies, although at this time the threat of a lawsuit is just that, a threat. Liberal America, a small, independent and extremely partisan on line source had the most interesting apology, starting with, “This is being written under duress because I don’t have enough money to fight a legal battle against the Trump machine.”   You can read the entire ‘apology’ here .

The Washington Post, who noted that the facts are sorely lacking and refused to comment on the veracity of the original story, makes a valid point however:

Trump has vowed to “open up” libel laws to make it easier to sue media companies that print negative stories about public figures such as himself, even if they are true. Right now, it is difficult for public figures to win libel cases — in the United States anyway. Proving a news outlet got a story wrong is not enough; Trump would have to show that journalists knowingly published a false story or acted with reckless disregard for the truth.

But the point of suing is not always to win. If Trump … is willing to bankroll lawsuits against news outlets — or at least threaten to do so — they could have a chilling effect on the press.

This, then, is the point —  not only to those of us who write, whether for a living or for hobby, but to the general public who rely on being able to hear or read uncensored news every day.

Understand that I have no problem whatsoever with mocking da trumpeter, or even Melania, based on things they have actually said or done. I have, and will continue to critique and criticize Trump for his incessant ignorance, vitriol and bigotry.  I have also made mention, and reserve the right to continue to do so, of Melania and her former career as a nude model.  I stop short, however, of writing as a truism something that I have gleaned from only a Facebook meme without reliable verification.  That is just the standard to which I hold myself, and would do so even without threats of a lawsuit.  Frankly, I long for the day that my blog comes into da trumpeter’s radar and he actually reads one of my snarkier posts about himself!  It is the stuff of my dreams!  And it is a dream I hope I can keep on having, rather than end up as Cam Dündar, jailed for speaking my mind, for speaking the truth.

Even though Donald Trump is unlikely to be the next President of the United States, and Melania is equally unlikely to succeed Michelle Obama, they have opened doors and raised questions about just how far our 1st Amendment rights can go.  Let us guard them as we would a cherished antique, lest they become an antique.