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.

A New Batch Of Snarky Snippets … Grrrrr

There are a number of relatively minor things that have cropped up in the last couple of days with seemingly the sole purpose of stirring my ire.  So … you know what that means … it must be time for some snarky snippets, yes?


Let’s start with Nikki Haley, former governor of South Carolina, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and some speculate next vice-presidential running mate for Trump in 2020.  As governor, I had a great deal of respect for Ms. Haley.  As ambassador, I had less, for she fell in line with Trump’s ideology, if he can be said to actually have one.  She became one of his sycophants, and I lost much of my respect for her.Nikki-Haley.jpgSo, why is she raising my hackles today?  Well … last Friday she was being interviewed in a podcast on conservative Glenn Beck’s radio program.  One segment of the podcast was about Dylan Roof who, in June 2015, opened fire in an African-American church, killing nine people.  Roof was an avowed white supremacist who had posted pictures of himself posing with the Confederate flag prior to his attack.

dylan-roof-confederate-flagMs. Haley said …

“Here is this guy who comes out with his manifesto, holding the Confederate flag and had just hijacked everything that people thought of. We don’t have hateful people in South Carolina. There’s always the small minority who are always going to be there, but people saw it as service, sacrifice and heritage. But once he did that, there was no way to overcome it.”

Let’s call a spade a bloody shovel here.  The Confederate flag never stood for “service, sacrifice and heritage”.  It has always stood for a lifestyle that included slavery, the ownership of other human beings simply because of the colour of their skin.  Period.

Ms. Haley’s argument was that the Confederate flag was noble until Dylan Roof made it appear to represent white supremacy.  IT DOES represent white supremacy, fool!  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Michael Steele, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, shot back on Twitter …

“Really, Nikki?! The Confederate Flag represented ‘service, sacrifice and heritage’? To whom? The black people who were terrorized & lynched in its name? You said it should never have been there. Roof didn’t hijack the meaning of that flag, he inherited it.”

Racism, folks … it’s alive and well in the United States of America.


Seema Verma has flown beneath my radar since she was appointed by Trump, then confirmed by the Senate in March 2017 to the position of Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).  This is the agency that oversees Medicare, Medicaid, and the insurance markets.Seema-verdaNow, Ms. Verma came into the job with some conflicts of interest, and had the Senate done its job, she likely would not have passed muster.  She is the founder and previous CEO of SVC Inc., a health policy consulting firm, which was acquired by Health Management Associates (HMA) just prior to Verma’s nomination to head CMS.

One of her first actions was to send a letter to the nation’s governors urging them to impose insurance premiums for Medicaid, charge Medicaid recipients for emergency room visits, and encourage recipients to get jobs or job training.  In her role as CMS administrator, Verma spent more than $2 million of taxpayer funds on Republican-connected communications consultants and other expenses to boost her visibility and public image.  She has made numerous speeches and attacks against the concept of Medicare-for-All … enough so that she is now the defendant in a lawsuit claiming she is in violation of the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal officials engaging in political activity.

But what placed her on my radar was a trip she took back in August.  She claims that jewelry, clothing and other possessions, including a $5,900 Ivanka Trump-brand pendant (that she owned one speaks volumes about her character, in my book) were stolen from her luggage during that business-related trip.  Okay, fine … if that were me or you, we would file a claim against the airline and maybe, if we were lucky, get reimbursed for some small portion of it.

But, Ms. Verma decided that We the Taxpayers ought to reimburse her for what she claims was the value of her ‘loss’.  To the tune of $47,000!!!  More than most of us make in a bloomin’ year!  And what sort of a numptie (been listening to my Brit friends too long) takes things of that value on a business trip anyway?  And why is it my fault or yours?  And why should we pay for her ignorance???  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Her claim included $43,065 for about two dozen pieces of jewelry, based off an appraisal she’d received from a jeweler about three weeks after the theft.  Who takes 24 pieces of jewelry on a business trip, then fails to insure them?  And the claim further included $2,000 to cover the cost of her stolen clothes, a $325 claim for moisturizer and a $349 claim for noise-cancelling headphones.  My entire wardrobe does not consist of $2,000 worth of clothing.  My moisturizer costs $4.99, and my headphones are Skullcandy, $29.99 at Best Buy!  Just one more alligator in the huge swamp that Trump built.

Not to worry, though, for the federal health department that oversees her agency decided to reimburse her for only $2,852.40 of OUR money.


owen-shroyerOwen Shroyer … ever heard of him before?  Neither had I.  He’s a host on Alex Jones’ Infowars program, which I thought had long since met its timely demise since being banned from Apple, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.  Apparently, they still exist somewhere on the fringes.

It would seem that there is no screening process for entrance to the impeachment proceedings, for Mr. Shroyer managed to get in yesterday.  Moments after Representative Jerry Nadler, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, opened the hearing, Shroyer rose from his seat in the packed hearing room and shouted …

“Jerry Nadler and the Democrat Party are committing treason against this country! Trump is innocent!”

owen-shroyer-2Police quickly removed him from the room, during which time he was livestreaming to his personal Twitter account and yelling at the top of his lungs …

“So I’m being arrested right now for disrupting Congress. I’m a criminal for my First Amendment rights.”

Is there any doubt in anybody’s mind that Alex Jones was behind this, that it was naught more than a publicity stunt?  At what cost?

Oh, and by the way, Mr. Shroyer actually called for President Barack Obama to be lynched just this past June …

“Barack Obama is a treasonous…he belongs in jail. He belongs in Guantanamo Bay. I mean look, I’m not saying this should happen but Barack Obama, you know, find the tallest tree and a rope.”

All my life I have been a proponent for 1st Amendment rights to free speech, but in the past year, maybe two, I have begun to re-think it.  It has been abused so much, by so many unsavouries such as Mr. Shroyer, Mr. Jones, Mr. Carlson and a few thousand others, that I’m coming to believe there must be limits.  As our friend Roger said to me the other evening, “Free speech is not a right; it is something which has to be earned.” I’m not so sure the people of this nation have earned it. Rather a damn shame for the rest of us who use our rights responsibly, don’t you think?


I had one more, but … I shall stop here and give you a chance to breathe.  Make America great again, says Mr. Trump?  I think not … I think he has placed the United States in the worst light it has been in in all of its 232 years.

Do you have standing?

I have often questioned why some people think they have the right to inflict their beliefs on others, why it matters to others who someone falls in love with, what their religion is or for that matter whether they have one. The short answer is that it shouldn’t, and legally, it doesn’t. Our friend Keith has stated this case far better than I could have, so today I am sharing Keith’s words of wisdom with you. Thank you, Keith, for this excellent post!

musingsofanoldfart

Do you have standing? What does that mean? It is a legal term that asks whether you are personally impacted by what you perceive as a slight.

Before the US Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage was a protected right, it first ruled on California’s Proposition 8. This state law banned gays and lesbians from marrying. What was interesting is a conservative and liberal attorney joined together to fight this injustice. The key part of their argument was do people who marry have any impact on other people? They argued successfully that other folks do not have standing to prevent such marriage.

If what I do with my life does not impact you whatsoever, even though you may not like it, you do not have standing. And, vice versa. I have no standing in what you do, as long as you are not harming me. If you choose to have…

View original post 359 more words

A Conversation Starter …

Late last week, my friend Brian, who I have mentioned before as being my sensible & sane republican friend, sent me the following message:

Hey Jill.  Someone posted this on a conservative news site.  I am not sending this because I believe all this, but most Conservatives appear to have this view about the Left.  Would love to hear your views.  Again… I didn’t write this. 😎.   Please forgive the insulting name. “DEMONUTS CHECKLIST 1Let the criminals out. 2Let illegals in. 3Mainstream media 100% gospel. 4Let boys in the girls bathrooms. 5Condemn police officers. 6Don’t care about the veterans. 7Eradicate history if offensive. 8Believe Healthcare is a Constitutional right.9Kill the unborn-10Stomp on and burn the American flag. 11Accept barbarity in the name of Islam- 12hugs,love and no borders will stop terrorism. 13Protect the Sanctuary cities. 14Black lives only matter. 15Coddle the lazy.16Encourage hate crimes. 17Call for the assassination of our president, 18talk of overthrowing ourgovernment. 19Burnbusinesses, attack innocent bystanders, destroy City property, 20call for, and try to incite a civil war. 21Refuse freedom of speech on others, while  their own political and government obstructionists.”

I tried to find information about the creator of this checklist, but all I could find is that it was created by a woman named Beverly Gibbs, and a visit to the Facebook account where this originated left me feeling ill.  However, the point here is that the ‘great divide’ as I have been calling it, has its roots in this very type of rhetoric.  People like Beverly and her followers, Trump’s followers, do not truly understand what the liberal left believe in or stand for.  Perhaps the reverse is also true.  So, I took this as an opportunity to correct the views expressed in the “Demonuts Checklist” in hopes that my responses might open some back and forth conversation whereby a few people make an effort to understand others’ views.  It’s worth a shot anyway.  I apologize for the length of this post, but I hope you find some value in it.

My responses:

  1. Let the criminals out – This is rather vague, so I am unclear what exactly is meant, but I am going to assume it refers to the fact that democratic presidents historically have commuted sentences at a greater rate than republicans. Barack Obama has now commuted the sentences of more than 1,000 people in prison for drug crimes We are not talking, necessarily about releasing the prisoners, merely reducing their sentences in most cases.  And, most importantly from my point of view, these are non-violent drug offenders.  Doesn’t it make more sense to attempt rehabilitation than to keep them in prison where they may well be exposed to more violent criminals and come out with harder attitudes than they went in?  It is, of course, a slippery slope and we must ensure that violent offenders serve their full sentences.  But the guy who was caught with a few ounces of pot in his car?  Let him out and place him in supervised rehab.

  1. Let illegals in – This is one I could write a book on, so I will try to condense my thoughts. First, the term ‘illegals’ is a misnomer.  They are humans.  They may be here against the law, but they are humans, not illegals.  Now, the objections to these immigrants appear to fall into two categories:  1) that they will take jobs away from U.S. citizens, and 2) that they may be terrorists.  They are not taking jobs that Americans want … they are taking the low paying (often below federal minimum wage) jobs that Americans do not want.  And they are not terrorists.  Terrorists typically fly into the U.S. with legal Visas.  I address terrorism in #12.  Now, to the greater point as I see it.  This nation is based on opening our arms to the persecuted, to those in need of safe harbour.  The immigrants that come here from the Middle East have been living in danger, fearing for their lives, for years and seek only a safe place to raise their children and have a better life.  Granted, there must be some limits, but simply to send these people back into chaos, turmoil and danger is unconscionable in my book.  Other nations are doing their share, and we must also.  As I said, I could write a book, but the above summarizes my thoughts in a nutshell.

  1. Mainstream media 100% gospel – While the mainstream media do sometimes make mistakes, for the most part what they report is fact-based and verifiable. We all make mistakes, as we often have less than perfect information.  As a writer of political analysis, I have made my share, but, like the reporters of the mainstream media publications, I recant my error as soon as it comes to my attention.  They/we must do that, lest we lose credibility.  As a rule, reporters report facts and leave the subjective material to the OpEd writers like myself. If you do not trust the U.S. media, turn to the overseas publications like BBC, Reuters and der Spiegel or The Guardian, for they report on U.S. events as much as on those of the EU. More to the point, why are some so willing to believe every conspiracy theory, no matter how unlikely, put forth by the likes of Alex Jones, Rush Limbaugh and their ilk?

  1. Let boys in girls’ bathrooms – Personally, I would like to see all public restrooms be unisex. People typically go to the restroom to relieve themselves and/or wash their hands, not for wanton sex. It is the 21st century, not the 14th. I do not see an issue here, and perhaps if adults would stop being so narrow-minded when it comes to matters of gender and sex, we might have fewer teen pregnancies and therefore need fewer abortions.  Teach children the anatomical differences between males & females, teach them right from wrong, and then trust them. There are so much more important issues in the world than which restroom a person uses.

  1. Condemn police officers – Most all of us have the utmost respect for our police force, and hold them in high regard. In fact, I grew up in the 1960s when it was not at all uncommon to hear the police referred to as ‘pigs’, but I do not know a single person who would say that today. However, when police treat blacks differently, when they use excessive force and even shoot to kill unarmed black men simply because they are black, then those particular officers are not deserving of respect.  When Middle-Easterners, Latinos and African-Americans are subjected to racial profiling, it lowers our respect, for we look up to our law enforcement community, we hold them to a higher standard, one which some are not living up to.  When we condemn the police, it is for their actions, not a sign of disrespect for the badge.

  1. Don’t care about veterans – I have no idea where this notion even comes from, so I have no response other than to say that I have never heard a single person of either party disparage veterans. Having come of age during the Vietnam War, and having lost more than one friend to that war, I well remember the disdain toward Vietnam veterans in the 60s and 70s, however I have seen nothing along those lines since.

  1. Eradicate history if offensive – I assume this point is in reference to the removal of confederate monuments. Admittedly I have mixed thoughts on this issue.  On the one hand, yes, they are pieces of history, but on the other hand, we are currently in an era of growing racism and an expanding white supremacist movement that are using the existence of those monuments as a sort of shrine to their purposes, stirring emotions and creating hate.  The other point is that the monuments themselves were not erected, for the most part, immediately following the Civil War, which would have made them truly historic, but were instead erected during the Civil Rights Era as an endorsement of the “southern cause”.  The southern cause, by the way, was in fact nothing more nor less than slavery.  The compromise solution I would like to see is to remove the monuments to Civil War museums, for perhaps they should not be destroyed, but neither do they belong on public property.

  2. Believe health care is a Constitutional right – No, I realize that it is not written into the Constitution that every person should have access to affordable healthcare, but it is inarguably a human right. Would you see a child die of a disease that could have been cured, simply because the parents could not afford medical treatment?  Perhaps the right to health care should be a Constitutional amendment.  Many other nations, including the UK, and Canada have decided it is the right of all people to be able to obtain health care, so why are we willing to allow people to die for a lack of? I support universal health care for the U.S., for it is an abomination that a rich person receive nothing but the best, while a poor child dies.

  1. Kill the unborn – While I am not a fan of abortion, I do support a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body. First, there may be medical issues that would threaten the life of the woman.  But on a practical side, if the woman realizes that she is, for whatever reason, incapable of taking care of a child, then to bring the child into the world is cruel.  That child may come into a life of abject poverty, or worse, be neglected or abused.  There are, on average, some 428,000 children in foster care on any given day in the U.S., with more than 600,000 spending time in the system at some point during the year. On average, 500 children are murdered by a parent each year in the U.S. And about three times that many die as a result of abuse or neglect at the hands of parents.  When parents are unprepared to be parents, the result is disastrous.  That foetus is much likely better off never being given life.  The argument about when life begins is better left to science that politics, but it is a slippery slope argument and who’s to say that the egg and the sperm weren’t already considered to be a life?  Where does one draw the line?

  1. Stomp on and burn the American flag – I find no evidence of any spate of recent flag burnings in the U.S., and since the Supreme Court ruled it legal as a form of free speech in 1989, it would be rather a moot point anyway. I have not heard either party call for flag burnings nor stompings en masse.

  1. Accept barbarity in the name of Islam – There are radicals within the religion of Islam, just as there are within Christianity. It is always a mistake to judge an entire group by the actions of a few.  Having a number of Muslim friends, I can tell you that Islam is every bit as much a peaceful and peace-loving religion as is Christianity, and it is more tolerant of those outside Islam than Christianity is of outsiders. The few radicals within Islam are the squeaky wheels that get the oil, the violent ones who act in the name of their religion, but not within its teachings.  As many Christians might say, “judge not, lest ye be judged”.

  1. Hugs, love and no borders will stop terrorism – Since 11 September 2001, nearly every terrorist act perpetrated within the U.S. has been committed by white U.S. citizens. Most Terrorists In The U.S. Since 9/11 Have Been American Citizens Or Legal Residents [Infographic]

  1. Protect the Sanctuary cities – see #2

  1. Black lives only matter – The acronym BLM stands for Black Lives Matter. The word ‘only’ is neither included nor implied.  White people in this nation have never had the need to question whether their lives mattered, but even post-Civil Rights era, black people are still treated as 2nd class citizens in many areas, including in law enforcement.  White supremacist groups, that have a growing following, have stated that they believe Hispanics and African-Americans are less intelligent than whites.  THIS is what prompted the BLM movement.  Blacks are not asking for anything more than to be treated as equals, which they are, and given equal opportunities.

  1. Coddle the lazy – Rather vague, but I am assuming this refers to social welfare programs for the poor. First, it is wrong to assume that poor = lazy, for that is not true in the majority of cases.  Poverty may be a result of many things, and we believe it is wrong to condemn people to homelessness and starvation simply because they are poor.  I have no problem at all paying taxes that help feed, shelter and clothe the poor.  Granted, some safeguards need to be built into the system to ensure that people are not taking advantage, using social welfare programs as a substitute for a job, but I would rather err on the side of humanity than to see a single child cold and hungry.

  1. Encourage hate crimes – Now I find this one quite interesting, for the Richard Spencers, Christopher Cantwells and Tom Metzgers, leaders of the Neo-Nazis, KKK and white supremacist groups are the ones inciting ‘hate crimes’ in the U.S. and to the best of my knowledge, every one of them are republicans. The point?

  1. Call for the assassination of our president – there has been no call for an assassination of Trump. There have been a few scattered threats by individuals, as there have been in every presidency since that of George Washington.  Assassination threats and plots against President Obama exceeded the norm, likely because of his skin colour, and some were even against his wife and daughters. I can find no evidence nor record of organized or politicized assassination threats against Trump, however.

  1. Talk of overthrowing our government – I am not aware of any such talk, nor can I find evidence of any. There is rumour of a republican-backed plan called the Overthrow Project, intended to radically shrink all three branches of the federal government, however I am not able to verify at this time, and I do not make a habit of speaking until I have verifiable facts.

  1. Burn businesses, attack innocent bystanders, destroy city property – This is not a practice that is condoned. Anybody who injures another human, intentionally damages property – public or private – is in violation of the law and should be treated accordingly.  Party affiliation is irrelevant in this case.  It happens … on both sides … and it shouldn’t.  I do not know of a single person, democrat or republican, who condones this behaviour.

  1. Call for, and try to incite a civil war – Every threat of a civil war that I have heard has come from the right. Jim Bakker and Roger Stone immediately come to mind, for in recent months, both have threatened that there would be civil war if efforts were made to impeach Trump.  These are both uber-conservatives.  Trump supporters and evangelical Christian leaders are the only ones from whom I have heard this threat.

  1. Refuse freedom of speech on others – This is one that requires more than a short answer. While I am a staunch supporter of freedom to speak, or the 1st Amendment, I am also a student of history, and the speeches by white supremacists and neo-Nazi groups frankly chill me to the bone.  I have studied Hitler’s speeches in the mid-to-late 1930s and the similarities are haunting.  I have an internal conflict here, as do many of my democratic friends.  I direct you to a recent post I wrote on this topic for a more in-depth analysis The Argument Between Me, Myself and I

These are my opinions alone, and if any readers would like to also respond to any or all of the points, please feel free to do so!  The more who engage in this conversation, the better.

The Argument Between Me, Myself & I …

“To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.” – Frederick Douglass


“One of the problems with defending free speech is you often have to defend people that you find to be outrageous and unpleasant and disgusting.” – Salman Rushdie


“You would argue with a fence post!”, my mother used to say.  She was right … I loved nothing more than a good debate.  While other kids were whining, pouting or throwing a temper tantrum, I was on my feet, logically arguing, making my points which just seemed to pop into my head unbidden.  I often wore my parents or teachers down and when they couldn’t come up with a better argument, I got the cookie, extra hour until bedtime or whatever prize I was arguing for.  Not much has changed … I still like a good argument, even if it is with my own self.  I was recently telling a friend that I argue with myself, and that sometimes three of me get in on the argument:  me, myself and I.  I have even been known to smack myself in the head from time to time.  Just last evening I was having quite a debate with myself (me was not feeling well and sat this one out) about Ohio State University and Richard Spencer.

The backstory in a nutshell …

“Officials at Ohio State University won’t allow noted white nationalist Richard Spencer to rent space on campus, citing safety concerns after several of his supporters opened fire on counter-protesters at the University of Florida.

In a letter from an attorney representing Ohio State sent on Friday, the lawyer noted the university was concerned that hosting Spencer would pose a “substantial risk to public safety, as well as material and substantial disruption to the work and discipline of the University.”

Now, the University of Florida is left with a $600,000 bill for the increased security — one that will ultimately trickle down to taxpayers — required for Spencer’s appearance on campus. Hundreds of police officers, as well as SWAT teams and snipers, mobilized at the school to help keep the peace.

Georgia State University student Cameron Padgett, currently organizing a speaking tour for Spencer on college campuses across the country, has already announced his intention to sue Ohio State for denying his request.

Padgett also sued Penn State University on Friday for making a similar decision earlier this year. Shortly after the violence in Charlottesville, Penn State’s president decided that Spencer was “not welcome on our campus” because his events posed “a major security risk to students, faculty, staff and visitors to campus.

The University of Cincinnati, on the other hand, was also under threat of legal action from Padgett’s lawyer but decided it will allow Spencer to proceed with booking event space on its campus.” – ThinkProgress, 21 October 2017

And then …

“An associate of white nationalist Richard Spencer is suing Ohio State University after university officials refused to rent space for Spencer to speak on campus.” – The Hill, 22 October 2017

And now begins the debate.  On the one hand, as a humanitarian, a supporter of human and civil rights, I do not want to see Spencer in any public venue.  First, his message is one of hate, it is one of white supremacy, arrogance and intolerance. Second, whither goeth Richard Spencer, violence is sure to follow.  Violence that will likely leave people injured, perhaps some dead, and property damaged.  Third, the cost of providing security falls, ultimately, on the taxpayer and frankly I think we have better things to spend our money on.  That is the one hand that speaks from mainly the right side of my brain, the side that is more intuitive, thoughtful, and subjective.

Then there is the other hand, the hand that spent nearly two years studying Constitutional Law, the hand that keeps a pocket copy of the United States Constitution by its bedside and another by its computer.  The hand that is attached to the voice that speaks loudly for the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution, including freedom of speech.  This hand says that it is not up to the government or its institutions to restrain or curtail any free speech.  The aforementioned schools are public institutions, and therefore government entities, thus they fall under the 1st Amendment without question.  This hand speaks from the left side of my brain, the side that is more logical, analytical, and objective.

constitution-2Is there a middle ground, a compromise?  Surely safety concerns and cost to taxpayers for the benefit of a very few are legitimate concerns?  But let’s be honest … the reality is that most college administrations do not want Richard Spencer and his ilk anywhere near their campuses because of his message.  It is the message that offends and insults.  If the Pope wished to visit Ohio State University, the cost of security would be equally high, if not higher, yet the University would welcome Pope Francis with open arms.

Then we must also consider this:  I have always believed and supported the idea that a university is a marketplace of ideas, and as a marketplace of ideas, students should be exposed to all different viewpoints, even on subjects that might offend them or even with viewpoints they might find offensive or disagreeable. And isn’t it the case that what one person may find offensive, another person will not?  In the 1971 Supreme Court case Cohen v California, the court ruled in essence that one man’s vulgarity is another’s lyric. How do we define what is offensive? What is disagreeable? Some people are going to love what he says and others won’t, and is not the government’s job to be in the business of drawing that line?

constitutionBut, given what happened in Florida last week, is it not reasonable to say that his message is incitement to violence?  The Supreme Court has made it clear that speech that is directed to inciting or producing imminent, lawless action and is likely to result in violence, can be censored before the violence actually happens. But all of those conditions must be satisfied. It must be provable that his intent is for his followers to commit violence against others.  Does he do this?  I suspect he walks a fine line, but typically stays within the law.

I end where I began, with one hand wanting him barred from speaking in any public venue, but with the other hand knowing that by law, by our Constitution, he has as much right to a public voice as do I. And now, dear friends, I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

 

Fellow Countrymen … CEASE AND DESIST!

I am known for being an ardent defender of the right to freedom of speech, freedom of the press.  I am also known, however, for being against bigotry in all its many forms.  Today, I am torn between those two.  In life, my friends, everything is not black-and-white, but there are many grey areas … and today’s post is about one of those grey areas.

Freedom of speech, as it has many times been interpreted by the Supreme Court, the highest law of the land, includes the right to protest.  That is as it should be.  But yesterday, Americans in 30 cities across the nation shamed themselves and all of the United States by abusing that right, for they were not protesting bad government, they were not protesting the rise in price of celery.  No, they were protesting against all members of one of the world’s major religions, Islam.  To anyone who joined in, supports or applauds these protests:  WHAT IN THE SAM HELL ARE YOU THINKING????

The protests were not large, and in some cities, the counter-protests organized by Civil Rights groups were actually better-attended. However, the principle remains the same.  Islam is a religion of peace and love.  There are some terrorist groups that commit horrific crimes in the name of Islam.  Christianity teaches peace and love.  There are some groups of Christians who commit horrific crimes in the name of Christianity.  What is the difference?  There is none, but can you imagine the reaction of the masses if anti-Christian groups staged protests against Christians?

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Brigitte Gabriel, founder of Act for America – a hate group

The rallies were organized by Act for America, which claims to be protesting about human rights violations but has been deemed an anti-Muslim hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Act for America calls itself “the NRA of national security”.  Need I say more? The founder of the organization is one Brigitte Gabriel who claims to be “one of the leading terrorism experts in the world”, yet the sum total of her educational background seems to be a one-year business administration degree from the YWCA. Seriously????? I must, then, be a real expert, for I have taken two semester-long courses in terrorism as a part of my (unfinished) quest for a Ph.D. in International Relations!

Gabriel has said that “the Arab world was characterized by ‘evil’ and ‘barbarism’”, and a snippet from the group’s website reads …

“Throughout its existence, ACT has stayed true to its mission by working to advance anti-Muslim legislation at the local and federal level while flooding the American public with wild hate speech demonizing Muslims … The difference, my friends, between Israel and the Arabic world, is a difference between civilization and barbarism. It’s a difference between goodness and evil. And this is what we’re witnessing in the Arabic world — they have no soul, they are dead-set on killing and destruction.”

Remember last July, during Trump’s phobic election campaign, when he belittled Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of a slain Muslim soldier who had strongly denounced Mr. Trump during the Democratic National Convention?  Well, Ms. Gabriel had this to say about it …

“A practicing Muslim cannot, with good conscience, hold the Constitution and say that he abides by the Constitution and lives by the Constitution, because according to Sharia law — which every devout Muslim follows — the Constitution is a man-made law and it cannot be followed.”

An ignorant statement by an ignorant woman.

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March AGAINST Human Rights

Act for America counts among its supporters a number of high-profile political figures. New York Congressman Peter King, in particular, has taken part in the “Act for America Show” on YouTube, and Senator Ted Cruz has spoken at their annual Legislative Briefing in Washington D.C. Former national security adviser Mike Flynn has been a member of the group’s Board of Advisors, and Trump campaign spokesperson Katrina Pierson is scheduled to speak at AfA’s annual conference in October 2017. In March 2017, Gabriel was invited to the White House for a meeting with a member of the Trump administration’s “legislative staff.” Why am I not surprised?

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Counter-Protesters

People … we do NOT need this. These types of rallies do nothing but promote fear and hatred under the guise of free speech. If we wish to keep our nearly unlimited right to free speech, arguably the most important right we have in this country, then we must protect and cherish it, we must use if for good rather than evil, and we must not use it to propagate fear and hatred, to personify evil.  We must use it wisely and responsibly, and that is not what those involved with yesterday’s rallies did.  They shamed themselves, though they are too stupid to realize it, and they shamed our nation.

I do not want the government, nor the police, to take away our right to speak freely, nor do I want them to take away our right to protest, to hold rallies and marches.  But that is what will happen if we do not police ourselves.  We must unite against hate and bigotry, for both are dividing this nation, causing splits that may take decades to heal. If citizens of this country continue to act as wild boar hogs, then eventually we will all be treated as such.   Think about it.

Once Again … We Have Met The Enemy …

Those of us who write, who share our words, thoughts and ideas with the public, have a responsibility.  That responsibility is to get our message out with respect, without crossing certain lines of integrity.  In 2009, a picture spread across the internet depicting President Obama taking the oath of office seen through a rifle scope with the President in the crosshairs.  That crossed the line.  Many, many other disturbing, disgusting and downright grotesque memes have been created, pictures shared, and articles written that crossed the line.  That is one of the downsides of free speech, but since we cherish and protect our right to free speech, we must also use good judgement.  We must police ourselves so we do not open a door for somebody else to do so.

I’m sure you have all seen the photo of Kathy Griffin holding a prop that is supposed to represent the bloodied head of Donald Trump.  I will not place that picture on this post, nor on any other, as it so blatantly crossed a line that it does not belong anywhere, certainly not on this blog.

Ms. Griffin has since apologized, whether with sincerity or not, I do not know.  It does not matter.  There are some things that cannot be fixed with an apology, and this is one of them.  Words spoken in hate can never be unheard, and images such as this one cannot be unseen.  With the far-reaching, long lasting capabilities of the internet, apology or no, this image will be around for a long, long time.  And children will see it and have nightmares.  Donald Trump’s 11-year-old son Barron was reportedly quite upset … understandably.

In order to post such a heinous photo, in order to imagine the idea of doing so, one must possess a warped mind, one without the filter of a conscience.  I neither know nor care who thought of the idea, whether it was Griffin herself, or a publicist, or Joe down at the pool hall … it was wrong.  It is equally wrong for anybody to share that photo on social media, yet some are doing so.

In a conversation this morning about this photo, I said that anybody who shares this photo is wrong, but then, the more I thought about it, I concluded that anybody who does not condemn this behaviour is, in their silence, tacitly approving.  I do not mean that everyone has to post on their Facebook account that they condemn Kathy Griffin and the photo.  However, for myself, since my blog is all about culling out instances of injustice and cruelty, and shining a light on them, how can I ignore this? If I speak against the hate of people like Wayne Allyn Root and Jeremy Christian, then I must also speak out against Kathy Griffin and those who assisted her in creating such a terrible image and spreading it far and wide.

I have no love or respect for Donald Trump, as you all know by now.  However, this really wasn’t about Donald Trump … this was about respect for society as a whole.  How many people have pulled up their Facebook account only to have that image in their face?  Thousands?  Hundreds of thousands?  Millions?  How many of them were children?  How many were disgusted?  How many laughed?  How many shared the image with even more people?

Griffin is a stand-up comedienne who has released six comedy albums, all of which received Grammy Award nominations. She was, until a few minutes ago, slated to co-host CNN’s coverage of the annual New Year’s Eve program with Anderson Cooper, but early this afternoon, CNN announced that they have terminated their agreement with her.  She has basically thrown a lucrative career in the trash bin … and for what?  She lowered her standards and will pay the price, which is as it should be.  Perhaps if she had bothered to think about what she was doing …

I do not feel sorry for Trump, though I’m sure some will.  I do not feel sorry for Griffin.  I do feel sorry for those of us who have to see this sort of trash every day, and I feel sad that some people have completely lost respect, lost compassion for others.  There are so many more important issues, but stupid things like this distract our attention. Democrat or Republican … everyone should find this type of behaviour unacceptable.  Yes, we have freedom of speech, but let us use some good judgement and common sense, let us not forget about respect for others.

Two Blows Against Freedom of Press/Speech Today

We are all familiar with this image

connection-timed-out-2Technically, what it means is that a server is taking too long to reply to a data request made from another device, typically your computer, cell phone or tablet. The reasons can vary from the wrong IP address being typed in to a hardware problem to a problem with WiFi services.  Typically, if the IP address is valid, it is a temporary problem easily solved by clicking the refresh button or resetting a router.  But today, Turkish people throughout the country are seeing this message and it is not going to be a simple fix.  For today, the Turkish government, i.e. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has blocked Wikipedia from Turkish internet users.

“After technical analysis and legal consideration … an administrative measure has been taken for this website,” the BTK telecoms authority said in a statement on its website. It cited a law that allows it to block access to individual web pages or entire sites for the ‘protection of public order, national security or the wellbeing of the public’.  We are talking about Wikipedia, folks, not a subversive website, not a porn site … an educational, informational site.  Such is the state of freedom of speech and freedom of press in Turkey today.

Meanwhile, across the pond here in our own backyard, there is this:

epa-website.png

“EPA wipes its climate change site day before march on Washington. Visitors to the website on Saturday found it was ‘undergoing changes’ to reflect the agency’s ‘new direction’, as thousands protest climate inaction.”

The US Environmental Protection Agency’s main climate change website is “undergoing changes” to better reflect “the agency’s new direction” under Donald Trump. The announcement, made late Friday evening, left empty what was previously the “official government site” providing “comprehensive information on the issue of climate change and global warming”.

“As EPA renews its commitment to human health and clean air, land and water, our website needs to reflect the views of the leadership of the agency.  We want to eliminate confusion, by removing outdated language first and making room to discuss how we’re protecting the environment and human health by partnering with states and working within the law.” – JP Freire, an associate administrator for public affairs

Previously, the website housed data on greenhouse gas emissions from large polluters and reports on the effects of climate change and its impact on human health.

While I could go on for thousands of words about my outrage over the EPA and it’s anything-but-protecting-the-environment approach, this post it about freedom of speech and press, so I shall save the EPA commentary for another post.

Yesterday, in the wake of the European Press Prize awards, Peter Preston of The Guardian, wrote a very short piece:

“A final word on the European Press Prize as, awards delivered, a new season begins. The winners were all terrific. Congratulations to your Serbian investigators, young Romanian reporters, digital wizards from Bellingcat. Congratulations to three sensational writers from Stern and Spiegel. (Gosh! the Germans still invest mightily in good journalism). And more than a tip of the cap to Fintan O’Toole of the Irish Times (and Guardian and Observer) for his scintillating takes on Brexit.

But one thing that sets these awards apart for me is a sense of danger – for Yavuz Baydar and his Turkish colleagues as democracy closes down, of a Warsaw government running amok and of Hungary’s Orbán defying the whole European idea. The dangers the Serbian winners raised as many marched in Belgrade, fighting for press freedoms lost.

Who can be complacent about Europe, its struggles, its future? When journalists meet, they hear a knocking at the gates.”

Even in the UK, freedom of the press is not what it once was.  There are new laws permitting generalized surveillance, as well as a proposal for a new espionage act that could criminalize journalists and whistleblowers as spies.  Both the UK and the U.S. dropped two points in the past year on the Reporters Without Borders (RWB) World Press Freedom Index in the past year. Even so, I do not see Prime Minister Theresa May approaching dictatorship, as I do in the cases of Erdoğan and Trump.

Earlier this month, Turkey held a vote on a referendum that consolidated significantly more power under Erdoğan.  At the time, Donald Trump called President Erdoğan to offer congratulations. Today, Trump himself is talking about consolidating his own power. In an interview with Fox News that aired Friday night, Trump dismissed the “archaic” rules of the House and Senate — using that word four times — and suggested they needed to be streamlined “for the good of the country.”  A few excerpts:

“We don’t have a lot of closers in politics, and I understand why: It’s a very rough system. It’s an archaic system.”

“You look at the rules of the Senate, even the rules of the House — but the rules of the Senate and some of the things you have to go through — it’s really a bad thing for the country, in my opinion. They’re archaic rules. And maybe at some point we’re going to have to take those rules on, because, for the good of the nation, things are going to have to be different.”

“You can’t go through a process like this. It’s not fair. It forces you to make bad decisions. I mean, you’re really forced into doing things that you would normally not do except for these archaic rules.”

“I think, you know, the filibuster concept is not a good concept to start off with.”

Trump is frustrated with the pace of legislation after 100 days, and his answer is that he wants to change the rules … the very rules that were designed to safeguard against any one individual in government amassing too much power and shifting the foundation of a democracy into one of an autocracy. And it all starts with stifling the voices of the press and of the people.  Today, Trump effectively stifled the voice of what is arguably one of the most important agencies in the federal government, the EPA.  Today Erdoğan stifled the voice of knowledge in his country.  What is the future for these two nations under these authoritarian leaders?  Think about it.