Sigh … More Snarky Snippets …

Some nights the mind bounce simply does not allow me to focus on my more in-depth projects … I have three of them in-process at the moment … and so nothing will do but a few snarky snippets.  Sorry, folks … I simply cannot help myself.  Sigh.


Underpaid???

I want you to get out your box of tissues and don your sympathy hats, for this one’s a real tear-jerker.  Members of Congress have not had a pay raise … not even so much as a cost-of-living increase … since 2009 – ten years!!!  The horror!  I mean, the majority of them only earn a paltry $174,000 per year!  How on earth are they managing?  So, two republican representatives, Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise, have quietly proposed a pay increase … just about a 2.5% increase … ballpark $3 million per year in total … nothing to break the bank.

But wait!  The minimum wage rate of $7.25 also has not been raised since 2009.  The full-time minimum wage worker earns $15,080 per year.  Um … that is a mere 8.67% of what those members of Congress are earning.  All of which might not cause a raised eyebrow except … back in March there was a bill in Congress to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour in increments by 2024.  Guess what?  The bill ran into a bit of a snag, with every single republican, including Representatives Scalise and McCarthy, committed to voting against it, and even some democrats refusing to support it, saying it would place an “unfair burden” on small businesses.  Unfair burden?  Unfair burden???  What about the burden of all those people working second jobs just to survive???

The very people who are poised to grant themselves a $4,500 per annum pay increase, would deny the minimum wage worker an increase. The bill hasn’t garnered the 218 votes needed to pass the House, and even if it passes the House, Mitch McConnell has indicated that he will not bring the bill to a vote in the Senate.  And even if it passed both the House and the Senate, in all likelihood Trump would veto it.

Think about that one … the people who are making 11.5 times as much as minimum wage earners, most of whom are already millionaires, want a raise for themselves, but none for the man or woman who is struggling every day to feed their children, pay the rent, pay the doctor’s bills, and keep the electricity from being shut off.  My answer to the members of the U.S. Congress is do what the minimum wage earners are having to do … take a second or even third job!!!


Ignorance

In year’s past, a president might be applauded for a brilliant speech, or criticized for one that wasn’t so good, but it tells you all you need to know about Don Trump when he is praised for not veering off-script.  The speech he gave at the ceremony for the 75th anniversary of D-Day was praised by two of Trump’s media antagonists, Jim Acosta and Joe Scarborough, not for it’s content (Trump didn’t write it) or sincerity (there was none), but because he stayed on script and didn’t go off on a tangent as he is prone to do.

“This is perhaps the most on-message moment of Donald Trump’s presidency today. We were all wondering if he would veer from his remarks, go off of his script but he stayed on script, stayed on message …” – Jim Acosta, CNN

“I’m also glad the president chose to have the discipline to stick to script …” – Joe Scarborough, MSNBC

Sorry, guys, but given that he spent three full days making an ass of himself and of this nation while visiting our allies, he gets no kudos from me for managing a few minutes reading from a paper without veering off course.  Two and a half years in office, and this is his crowning achievement – being able to read a speech that somebody else wrote???  That’s sad.  That’s really, really sad.


Truer words have never been spoken than these by President Dwight David EisenhowerD-Day


Th-th-that’s all f-f-folks

bugs bunny

Snarkier Than Usual Snippets — Part I

A few stories I read last night truly made my blood boil and make me want to punch somebody.  As I am a kind and generous person who believes in sharing everything with my friends, I am sharing these stories with you so that you, too, can experience the rage that I felt.


A truly WTF moment …

There have been very few times in my life that I have actually wished something bad to happen to somebody, but this is one of those times.  No, it isn’t Trump this time … it is a man named Dave Johnson.  Dave is the Republican Party Chairman for Columbiana County, Ohio.  He owns the Spread Eagle Tavern in Hanoverton, a regular stop for politicians running for office in Ohio, and served as a delegate to the 2016 Republican National Convention.

Last Sunday, Dave posted the following meme to his Facebook page …Dave Johnson Calif fires meme

“God’s punishment to Liberal California”???  WTF???  

In the Camp Fire that destroyed the town of Paradise, California, the death toll is so far at 80 people and expected to rise.  As of this writing, 699 are still unaccounted for.  The fire has burned some 151,000 acres and destroyed approximately 15,000 homes and businesses.  And that is only one, albeit the worst, of the many, deadly fires that have plagued California this year and last.  And this excuse for a ‘man’ calls it “God’s punishment to Liberal California”?  Hey, GOP … really, is this the best you’ve got to offer???

As you might imagine, the outrage was immediate and ol’ Dave took the post down later the same day, but in an interview, he stands by what he said.

“Look, that’s a meme. And it’s how I feel about liberals, but did I mean that God is going to punish everyone who lives in California? No. It’s a figure of speech, and I probably shouldn’t have done it. But I did, and it doesn’t change how I feel about what’s happened in California.”

Somebody put this man out of our misery!


Unfit to parent …

Meet Emily Scheck …Emily-Scheck.pngEmily is 19 years old, a sophomore and cross-country runner at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York.  One day at the beginning of the school year, Emily received a series of angry text messages from her mother … her mother had found pictures of Emily and the woman she is currently dating on a social media site and was horrified.  Emily had not come out to her parents, knowing how they would react, but now the cat was out of the bag.

Emily’s “Christian” parents insisted that she would quit college and they would seek conversion therapy for her, else they would write her out of their lives.  Say what???  How does a parent just … poof … write their own child out of their life???

Emily refused to leave school and made it quite clear that she has no interest in any form of therapy.  Good for her!  The next day, her father traveled the 85 miles to the Canisius campus, unceremoniously dumped all of Emily’s belongings into her car and proceeded to remove the license plate from her vehicle, for he had already removed her from the family’s insurance policy.  He even included her birth certificate.  Her mother’s final text message was …

“Well, I am done with you. As of right now, declare yourself independent. You are on your own. Please don’t contact us or your siblings.  Because you disgust me.”

As it was the beginning of the term, Emily hadn’t yet bought her books, and now she couldn’t afford to, so she was reduced to borrowing friends’ books.  She managed to get two campus jobs and somehow squeeze them in along with her classes and athletic practices.  Before long, one of her friends came up with an idea and started a GoFundMe page, hoping to collect $5,000 to help Emily pay for licensing her car, getting insurance, buying books, and buying food!  Well, long story short, the GoFundMe quickly went to $58,000!!!  Yes, you heard me right!  About a year’s pay for most of us!  But … the NCAA has rules, and one is that its scholarship students cannot get outside contributions.  Emily would have to give the money back to the donors, or risk losing her scholarship.

Eventually, the NCAA relented in light of Emily’s special circumstances, and Emily was able to keep the money, which will help her get through the next three years of school.  Isn’t it a damn shame, though, that two parents can just disown their child for no reason at all other than their religion tells them to hate gay people?  Damn shame.


Jim Acosta is back … BUT …

AcostaYesterday, Jim Acosta had his full White House press credentials returned to him, and as a result, CNN has dropped their lawsuit.  I was a bit surprised, glad for Acosta, but in one sense, leery of CNN having dropped the lawsuit.  It seems to me that until this is stamped “Paid”, the issue is likely to rise again and again.  But then …

Later in the day, the White House released Trump’s new set of ‘rules’ by which the press must play.  They are as follows:

Please be advised of the following rules governing future press conferences:

(1) A journalist called upon to ask a question will ask a single question and then will yield the floor to other journalists;

(2) At the discretion of the President or other White House official taking questions, a follow-up question or questions may be permitted; and where a follow up has been allowed and asked, the questioner will then yield the floor;

(3) “Yielding the floor” includes, when applicable, surrendering the microphone to White House staff for use by the next questioner;

(4) Failure to abide by any of rules (1)-(3) may result in suspension or revocation of the journalist’s hard pass.

My opinion?  This is a blatant attempt to curtail the freedom of the press.  However, given that neither Sanders nor Trump never … NEVER … answer any of the questions that are important, the White House press briefings have become a joke, and his press conferences even more so.  I would love to see the mainstream media boycott the press briefings for about a week, for the really important things will be found out by other means anyway, not from Ms. Sarah Huckabee Sanders.  The press will, as they have been forced to do for nearly two years now, have to rely on those ‘anonymous’ and ‘insider’ sources, for that is the only way that We The People will have any idea what our paid government officials are up to.

I look for Sanders/Trump to seize on any excuse to pull the creds of reporters who don’t “play nice”, those who, like Acosta, ask the tough questions, hold the prez accountable.  When that happens, I hope to see lawsuits by any and all of the media outlets.  SOMEBODY needs to hold Donald Trump’s feet to the fire, and if our free press cannot do it … then who can?  Who will? Think about that one.


And since I have more, but am already over 1,000 words, I shall quit for now and produce Part II a bit later.  No need to thank me for sharing my angst … ’twas my pleasure!

Score One For The Freedom Of The Press …

I awoke yesterday morning to the little blue light flashing on my phone … breaking news from both The Washington Post and the New York Times.  Jim Acosta and CNN had won round #1.  I did a gleeful cackle.  Earlier in the week, after Acosta’s press credentials were revoked by the White House for no real reason other than that Acosta held Trump’s feet to the fire, asked a damn uncomfortable question, CNN filed suit against the White House. 

The case, CNN v. Donald J. Trump, has come to symbolize the dysfunctional dynamic between the White House press corps and a president who denigrates its work as “fake news” and refers to it as “the enemy of the people”.

Yesterday morning, Judge Timothy J. Kelly of United States District Court in Washington ruled that the White House had behaved inappropriately in stripping Mr. Acosta of his press badge and ordered that his credentials be restored.  It is a small victory and a temporary one, for it is pending the outcome of the trial which could drag on for months, or even years.  BUT … the part that gave me cause for glee was that Judge Kelly was appointed by none other than Donald Trump! There may be some Trump appointees who are so grateful to Trump that they will sacrifice justice to please him (think Brett Kavanaugh), but obviously there are some who still believe in the letter of the law and in upholding the Constitution.

Judge Kelly criticized the administration for its false claim that Mr. Acosta had placed his hands on a White House intern during the news conference. The judge called it “likely untrue and at least partly based on evidence of questionable accuracy.”  He also said that the White House’s decision-making was “so shrouded in mystery that the government could not tell me … who made the decision.”

Acosta has had widespread support among the media.  More than a dozen news outlets — from the Associated Press to USA Today, The Washington Post and Politico, and even Trump’s own Fox News have filed friend-of-the-court briefs to support CNN and Jim Acosta’s lawsuit against President Trump and several top aides.  Fox went further than most other media companies on Wednesday, issuing a statement that said, “Secret Service passes for working White House journalists should never be weaponized.”  CNN and Fox have been rivals, sometimes bitterly so, for two decades — but Jim Wallace, president of Fox News, said this case is about the free press.

And you might ask how the White House responded to the news …

“We will end up back in court, and we will win.” – Donald Trump

“We support a free press, but freedom of the press doesn’t mean freedom to be disruptive, freedom to be rude, freedom to interrupt and impede the ability of colleagues from actually being able to do their jobs, as well as White House staff being able to do theirs.” – Sarah Huckabee Boot-Licker Sanders

Sarah’s daddy, Mike Huckabee, a once-respected politician (governor of Arkansas), was asked to fill in for Sean Hannity on the Sean Hannity show on Friday.  His guest?  None other than his own daughter, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.  Take a look …

Now, I have no problem with expecting a certain level of civility and ‘decorum’ if you will, but … I’m scratching my head here, for it seems to me that the person who has been most bombastic, most disrespectful and uncivil, most … horrifyingly cruel and vicious … is none other than Donald Trump himself!  I have thrice watched the segment of the press conference that cost Jim Acosta his credentials, and have not found a single sentence of disrespect from Acosta.  Trump, on the other hand, was crass and rude.  So … who should have his access to the White House revoked?

Every president in history has, from time-to-time had difficulties with the press.  It is nothing new or unusual.  Other presidents, however, have always understood that the U.S. Constitution guarantees the press the right to do their job, to inform the citizens of the U.S. about the actions of their government.  Trump forgets … or plain doesn’t care … that we have a right to know.  Trump once, long ago, promised to ‘drain the swamp’, and to make government more transparent.  Instead, he has brought in a new, especially virulent breed of swamp critter and instead of transparency, he is attempting to put up black-out shutters on the White House.  He has threatened to revoke the credentials of any reporter who isn’t nice to him.  He and Sarah speak of ‘respect’ and ‘decorum’, but neither of them treat the press or the public with respect or decorum.  

The first round in what may be a long and ugly battle has gone to CNN, and I hope they persevere, but there isn’t a doubt Trump will fight to the bitter end, because he believes he has the right to control what the people of this nation can know.  Foreign Policy magazine recently published an article titled “10 Ways to Tell if Your President Is a Dictator”.  Number one on the list, the very first thing, was “Systematic efforts to intimidate the media”.  Let us hope that Judge Kelly continues to rule with the Constitution in mind and does not bend under pressure from Trump & Sarah.  We have a right … both moral and legal … to know what our government is doing and why, and our only avenue to gain such knowledge is a free press.  We must keep the press free … free from being stifled, free from being harassed, free to tell us what our government is doing.  Keep your eye on the ball, folks, for this was only round #1.

And So It Continues …

Yesterday I wrote a post, And So It Begins, about the White House, aka Donald Trump, suspending the press credentials of CNN’s Jim Acosta simply because Acosta had the temerity to ask Trump the tough questions that we should all be asking.  Later in the day, the White House released a manipulated video that attempted to prove their point that Acosta had grabbed the arm of the intern who was trying to take his microphone away from him.  The video was immediately exposed as having been ‘doctored’ by experts and Trump and Sarah Huckabee Sanders were left looking like even bigger fools than before, though I doubt they realized it.

Today, Trump threatened to revoke the credentials of more reporters if they didn’t “treat the White House with respect”.  Anybody feel a chill in the air?  But he didn’t stop there.  No, he went on to hurl criticisms at other reporters … completely unfounded and untrue criticisms.

Of April Ryan, also a CNN reporter, he said …

“You talk about somebody that’s a loser; she doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing. She gets publicity and then she gets a pay raise or a contract with, I think, CNN. But she’s very nasty. And she shouldn’t be. She shouldn’t be. You’ve got to treat the White House and the office of the presidency with respect.”

Might I remind Donald Trump that ‘respect’ is something that must be earned?  In his 22 months in office, not once has Donald Trump treated the press (other than state-run Fox News) with any respect, but rather has taunted and harassed them at every opportunity.  The office of the president was once respected, but frankly Donald Trump has not earned any degree of respect from the press and is well along in the process of sullying the office and the White House.

In response to a question by another reporter, he said …

“What a stupid question that is. What a stupid question. But I watch you a lot — you ask a lot of stupid questions.”

The question was not at all stupid but was concerning whether the Mueller investigation would be ‘reined in’ with the appointment of Matthew Whitaker as Acting Attorney General.  A valid question and one which we are all asking.

Yesterday, in response to my post about Acosta’s revoked press credentials, a reader commented with the following quote by President Franklin D. Roosevelt:

“Freedom of conscience, of education, of speech, of assembly are among the very fundamentals of democracy and all of them would be nullified should freedom of the press ever be successfully challenged.”

Now do you feel the chill in the air?

And So It Begins …

Acosta

Jim Acosta

Jim Acosta, one of CNN’s most astute reporters, has had his press pass, his access to the White House, revoked “until further notice”.  Why?  Because he was doing his job, he was asking questions.  The same as Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs was doing when then-candidate for the U.S. Congress, Greg Gianforte, took umbrage and knocked Mr. Jacobs to the ground and proceeded to beat him.  A year later, Donald Trump praised Gianforte for his actions, and now Trump has barred Mr. Acosta.

Jim Acosta was doing his job … he was asking Trump questions like why he lied about the migrant caravan, calling it an ‘invasion’, asking why he was demonizing immigrants.  He was, in other words, doing precisely what we want our free press to do … holding the president accountable for his words and actions.  See for yourself …

As you can see, an intern attempted to take the microphone from Acosta and he did nothing but hold onto the microphone and turn slightly to keep her from taking it from him, for he had not gotten an answer to his question about the highly controversial, racist ad that Trump ran at the end of the mid-term campaign.  Trump put an end to Acosta’s questions, calling him a “rude, terrible person”, and the microphone was removed from Acosta’s hand by a White House staffer.

Later in the day, Acosta attempted to return to the White House for a scheduled program with Anderson Cooper, but was stopped outside the White House by Secret Service agents, one of whom blocked his way, and another of whom asked Mr. Acosta to hand over his press credentials, which he did without argument.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders lied … blatantly lied about the interaction between the intern and Mr. Acosta, saying …

“President Trump believes in a free press and expects and welcomes tough questions of him and his Administration. We will, however, never tolerate a reporter placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern. This conduct is absolutely unacceptable.”**

CNN Producer Allie Malloy responded to Sanders via Twitter: “This is a complete lie. The woman grabbed Jim’s arm repeatedly. He never once touched her. In fact at one point @Acosta tells her politely ‘pardon me, mam’ as she’s yanking on his arm.”  As you saw in the video, Acosta did not “place his hands” on the intern.

Ryan

April Ryan

The news conference lasted one hour and 26 minutes, and Acosta was not the only reporter denigrated by Trump.  April Ryan, also with CNN, attempted to ask a question about voter suppression concerns, when Trump said to her …

“Sit down please. Sit down. I didn’t call you, I didn’t call you, I didn’t call you.”

Alcindor

Yamiche Alcindor

Toward the end of the event, Yamiche Alcindor, a correspondent for PBS “NewsHour,” asked Trump about the widely shared view that his rhetoric has emboldened white nationalists.  Trump’s response was to tell her that it was a ‘racist question’ and then proceeded to tell her (falsely) that he had the highest poll numbers ever among African-Americans.  Watch …

The White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) issued the following statement in response to Acosta’s press credentials being suspended:

“Journalists may use a range of approaches to carry out their jobs and the WHCA does not police the tone or frequency of the questions its members ask of powerful senior government officials, including the President. Such interactions, however uncomfortable they may appear to be, help define the strength of our national institutions. We urge the White House to immediately reverse this weak and misguided action.”

Friends, this is the most egregious abuse of power, the most blatant attempt to shut down the free press, that we have seen from Donald Trump to-date.  This cannot go unnoticed, cannot be allowed to pass without comment.  Please ask yourself this question:  What next?  The answer should scare you … it scares the hell out of me.

**Here is the full White House statement:

“President Trump believes in a free press and expects and welcomes tough questions of him and his Administration. We will, however, never tolerate a reporter placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern. This conduct is absolutely unacceptable. It is also completely disrespectful to the reporter’s colleagues not to allow them an opportunity to ask a question. President Trump has given the press more access than any President in history. Contrary to CNN’s assertions, there is no greater demonstration of the President’s support for a free press than the event he held today. Only they would attack the President for not being supportive of a free press in the midst of him taking 68 questions from 35 different reporters over the course of an hour and a half — including several from the reporter in question. The fact that CNN is proud of the way their employee behaved is not only disgusting, it is an example of their outrageous disregard for everyone, including young women, who work in this Administration. As a result of today’s incident, the White House is suspending the hard pass of the reporter involved until further notice.” — Sarah Sanders

Who ARE These People???

Trump supporters are such a class act; don’t you think?  Just look …trump-supporters-rally.jpgtrump-supporters-rally-2.jpgTrump supporters-rally-3Aren’t they a lovely bunch?  Such class.  The above pictures were taken at a rally in Tampa, Florida on Tuesday night.  CNN Reporter Jim Acosta was trying to report, but couldn’t be heard over the jeers and chants of the crowd screaming “CNN Sucks”.  Such professional, dignified people, don’t you think?

The Trump klan (spelling intentional) was so proud of these followers that Eric Trump tweeted this video with the description, “WATCH: Supporters of President Trump Chant ‘CNN Sucks’ During Jim Acosta’s Live Spot at Florida Rally.”

And then Papa Trump re-tweeted it.  Boy, they sure are proud of their followers, aren’t they?

But you know what, folks?  There isn’t a damn thing to be proud of here.  This feeding frenzy is going to lead to violence against journalists, and the blame for it falls squarely on the shoulders of the ‘man’ who should be setting a positive example for this nation, the man who is supposed to be bringing people together, not stirring them to harm their fellow countrymen.

Jim Acosta, in a later interview on CNN said that “It didn’t feel like we were in America anymore”.  I completely concur.  When I watched that video, I cried.  This is not who we are supposed to be.  The people who attended that rally are not, in my book, human beings with values or consciences.  I don’t know what they are, but they are not people I would even want to be near, not people who belong in the same society in which the rest of us live.

Acosta said he tried to talk to a few of them, ask them why they are so down on the press.  The answers he got were along the lines of “why don’t you ever say anything positive about Trump?”  Acosta was nicer than I would have been, for he took the time to point out that they do report on the low unemployment numbers and reported on the increase in GDP last month.  Personally, I would have said, “If he ever does something positive, I’ll report on it.”

I do understand that these people are only a small sampling of republicans, and I try to remind myself not to judge all republicans by the example set by these few, but frankly it gets harder by the day.  When I hear that some 80% of republicans still support the ‘man’ who is nearly inciting the ‘crowds’ to violence, I have to question the intelligence of that 80%.  If republicans do not wish to be viewed in this light, it is time for them to stand up and loudly disavow this sort of behaviour.

What Trump is doing, having discovered that he doesn’t have the power to simply shut down the reporters he doesn’t like, is attempting to delegitimize them.  Calling them ‘fake news’, refusing to answer their questions, and encouraging his supporters to heckle and harass are all means of attacking the press and their credibility.  As we can see from the video, this has potentially ominous consequences and I think it is only a matter of time before a journalist is injured … or worse.

Think back, folks … can you remember any president ever treating the press in such a juvenile, mob-mentality manner?  I cannot.  Every president has had problems from time to time with the way in which the press reported on them and their actions, but every other president in history has handled those problems in a mature and respectful manner.  We do not have an adult in the White House … we have the schoolyard bully whose solution to every problem involves foul language, raised voices, raised fists, and threats.  And yet … some 40% of the adults in this nation see nothing wrong with it.

Last night I rather stumbled into a discussion on Facebook and somebody asked the question:  What happens if we don’t take back Congress in November?  My answer was that we have three choices:  We either accept living under a dictatorship, we start a revolution and overthrow the evil regime, or we move to Canada.  Think about it, for truly, if we lose our free press, those will be our only choices.

Free Press — Going, Going …

The press, the media, are NOT the enemy of the people.  Period.

Two news items this week have left me literally shaking with rage.  The first you have likely already seen and heard multiple times, but the second was less publicized and you may have missed it.

First …Trump-tweetIt is reminiscent of February 2017 when, shortly after taking office, he called the press “the enemy of the people”.  Since then, hardly a day has gone by that he didn’t refer to CNN, the New York Times or The Washington Post as “fake news”.  As if all that weren’t quite enough, his 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale tweeted …parscale-tweet-e1529091270137.pngThis, folks, is intolerable.  No modern American president has publicly spoken this way about the press.  Is this what Trump’s followers find so admirable about him?  Is this what they mean when they say he “tells it like it is”?  If so, then they need to understand that what he is doing is chipping away at the very heart of the 1st Amendment.  As Jim Acosta replied, “Dictatorships take away press credentials. Not democracies.”

Second …

You may not have heard that cartoonist Rob Rogers was fired from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after more than 25 years as the paper’s editorial cartoonist.  Why?  Let me show you …Rob-Rogers-1Rob-Rogers-2Rob-Rogers-3Rob-Rogers-4Turns out that the recently-hired editorial page editor, Keith Burris, and the publisher, John Robinson Block, are Trump supporters.  As such, they took umbrage with Rogers’ cartoons.  They began by blocking any of his cartoons that were critical of Trump, and when he was ordered to draw cartoons extolling the virtues(?) of Trump, he refused and then was fired.

Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto’s statement:

“The move today by the leadership of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to fire Rob Rogers after he drew a series of cartoons critical of President Trump is disappointing, and sends the wrong message about press freedoms in a time when they are under siege.

This is precisely the time when the constitutionally-protected free press – including critics like Rob Rogers – should be celebrated and supported, and not fired for doing their jobs. This decision, just one day after the President of the United States said the news media is “Our Country’s biggest enemy,” sets a low standard in the 232-year history of the newspaper.

I’ve known Rob a long time. That has never stopped him from publishing cartoons that are critical of me, of my policy positions, or of my actions (or inactions) in office. He’s even made fun of my weight. But he is one of the best in the world at his time-honored craft, and I know people of all political persuasions stand with me in support of him, even if the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette regrettably does not.”

These two incidents are not to be taken lightly, folks.  These are direct hits on our freedom of the press, and make no mistake, but a free press – one able to criticize without fear of reprisal – is our only hope of knowing what our government is doing.  Without the Post, the Times, CNN, ABC, Time, and a host of others, we are in the dark and will be spoon-fed only the propaganda of Fox, Breitbart, Hannity and Jones.  We will be told only what Trump & Co want us to be told.  I would ask every person who still supports Donald Trump – are you okay with that?  Will you be happy to live in a tunnel, in a dictatorship where you have no voice?

A few days ago I was on the phone with my friend Herb, but we kept getting cut off every few sentences.  On about the 4th attempt to continue the conversation, he jokingly said that it was probably Trump punishing me for all the things I have written about him.  We laughed about it.  That was 2 days ago.  Today I am no longer laughing.  Think about it.

Stop The Presses??? NEVER!!!

“The liberty of the press is essential to the security of freedom in a state: it ought not, therefore, to be restrained in this commonwealth.” – John Adams

“The moment we no longer have a free press, anything can happen. What makes it possible for a totalitarian or any other dictatorship to rule is that people are not informed; how can you have an opinion if you are not informed? If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer. – Hannah Arendt

“… the press serves and was designed to serve as a powerful antidote to any abuses of power by governmental officials and as a constitutionally chosen means for keeping officials elected by the people responsible to all the people whom they were selected to serve.” – Supreme Court Justice Hugo L. Black

stop-pressThere is little love between the current administration and the press, but the buildup of rhetoric from the White House as well as Congress has the potential to seriously harm the all-important freedom of the press.  It is considered a significant enough threat that the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has addressed the issue:

“Last week, Republicans on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs released a report on leaks to the media. The report, which was led by Chairman Ron Johnson, asserts that “an avalanche” of leaks under the Trump Administration is harming national security. It lists at least 125 news articles and their bylines – meaning a group of Senators has publicized the names over 100 reporters whom they allege have harmed U.S national security.

… the report was sent on July 6 to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has repeatedly threatened to find and prosecute leakers. “Whenever a case can be made, we will put people in jail,” Sessions said in April. He has since said that multiple investigations are underway.: – CPJ, 10 July 2017  

The report is available from Politico in .pdf format, (link provided) but a few things stood out that I wish to include here (my commentary in blue italics):

  • “Leaks with the capacity to damage national security flowed about seven times faster under President Trump than during President Obama’s and President George W. Bush’s first 126 days.” One might ask why this is … if one surrounds oneself with fools, this is what you get. However, from everything I can tell, there was no leaked information that compromised national security, only the security of Trump’s fragile ego and his continued term in office.

  • “The majority of leaks during the Trump administration, 78, concerned the Russia probes.” The issue here is that national security was breached last year by Vladimir Putin, with assistance from Trump & Co.  The only way the public is going to get any information is in this manner, as there is zero transparency from the White House.   

  • “Many stories presented President Trump in a negative and often harsh light, with some seemingly designed to embarrass the administration. For example, a Mother Jones article detailed a memo telling intelligence analysts to keep President Trump’s daily briefings short and to avoid nuance; a Reuters piece reported on how the National Security Council frequently puts his name in briefings so he will keep reading.” When a national leader acts like a bumbling 5-year-old, he deserves any ridicule he gets. In no way is this a breach of national security.  The public needs and deserves to know what a fool they put into the White House.

In the Appendix, the report lists every single leak, its nature, the publication in which it first appeared, and most importantly, the name of the reporter(s) who penned the article.  This is an abomination.  CPJ outlines four major areas:

  1. The report’s methodology is not scientific and at times seems baldly political
  2. The report creates a false paradigm between national security and the free flow of information
  3. Listing individual reporters who allegedly harmed national security is something that illiberal nations do
  4. On the bright side, the report compiles some excellent arguments in favor of the free flow of information

I certainly understand that there are matters of national security that cannot and should not be made public information.  However, in the nearly six months since Trump’s inauguration, there has not been a single leak to the press that compromised national security.  The only information made public that compromised our national security came in the forms of tweets ‘n twits from Trump himself! If AG Sessions wants to put somebody in jail, he need look no further than the Oval Office.

My biggest concern is that this report leads us down a path similar to Turkey and Erdoğan’s crackdown on journalists, with some 152 journalists still imprisoned and 173 media outlets shut down. More than 2,500 journalists have been laid off and 800 have had their press cards revoked. If Jeff Sessions is given free rein to act on this ridiculous report, drafted by Republicans on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, our 1st Amendment right to a free press may well be crushed under the boot heel of a increasingly insecure and autocratic regime.


In other news related to freedom of the press …

White House Press Briefings:

Cameras were once again barred from the White House press briefing on Monday.  In recent weeks this has happened increasingly, and Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s weak excuse has always been that Trump was giving some speech or address on the same day and he (Spicer) decides on those days that “the president’s voice should be the one that speaks and iterates his priorities.”  But on Monday, Trump had no speeches planned, and in fact no events to attend … nothing.  So what is the excuse now?  None has been presented thus far, but it is yet another curtailment of the press, and thus the public’s access to what our government is doing.

It is interesting to note that the days no cameras and no recording devices are allowed, are typically days when some new information damaging to the Trump regime has surfaced.  For example, over the weekend came the information that Don Trump, Jr., along with Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner had actually met with a Russian lawyer seeking damaging information about Hillary Clinton last year.  No doubt we the public would like much more information from the regime, but … it seems unlikely that there will be any, with the severely limited press briefing.

In fact, most of the recent press briefings have been nearly useless, with Sean Spicer and Sarah Huckabee Sanders dodging questions, or simply saying they do not know the answers.  I can imagine that at the end of each press briefing they go into the Oval Office and sit up and beg for their pets and treats.  An interesting aside …

Asked last month why there have been more off-camera briefings, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon texted a journalist at The Atlantic, “Sean got fatter.”  And then … and then … get this … and then, Chelsea Clinton scolded Bannon for ‘fat-shaming’ Spicer!!!

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Hey … I gotta have a little bit of fun with all this!

White House Assaults Individual Reporter(s):

Jim Acosta of CNN has been, perhaps the most vocal of Trump’s detractors.  His frustrations are many, his complaints legitimate.  Almost every White House reporter shares his frustrations, but Jim is more outspoken, and he is paying a price for that.

He has said on the air that White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s unresponsive answers were rendering him “just kind of useless” as a credible source; that the ever-briefer briefings have become “basically pointless”; that covering this White House has at times been like “covering bad reality television.”

He has repeatedly needled Spicer on Twitter, too: “I can’t show you a picture of Sean,” he tweeted, over a photo of his ankles, during a blacked-out briefing on June 19. “So here is a look at some new socks I bought over the wknd.”

Some, even within the Fourth Estate, have questioned whether Acosta is being too outspoken, taking the feud between Trump and CNN too far.  Acosta’s reply to that is …

 “I think I’m just covering a story, honestly. When the president of the United States calls the press ‘fake news’ and ‘the enemy of the American people,’ I think that’s when you have to get tough and ask the hard questions.”

I tend to agree, however, his stance may be counter-productive.  Sean Spicer has, himself been vitriolic toward Acosta:

“If Jim Acosta reported on Jim Acosta the way he reports on us, he’d say he hasn’t been very honest. I think he’s gone well beyond the role of reporter and steered into the role of advocate. He’s the prime example of a [reporter in a] competitive, YouTube, click-driven industry. He’s recognized that if you make a spectacle on the air then you’ll get more airtime and more clicks. . . . If I were a mainstream, veteran reporter, I’d be advocating for him to knock it off. It’s hurting the profession.”

CNN has become Trump’s whipping boy, and apparently Jim Acosta has become Sean Spicer’s personal whipping boy.


We must keep a diligent eye on the ball that is our freedom of the press.  Once it begins to slip away, it will be harder to get back, and without it, we are destined to see other freedoms erode until eventually we find ourselves in a dictatorship.  I shall return with more … stay tuned!

 

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Thoughts On “What next?”

“Once they succeeded in ending democracy and turning Germany into a one-party dictatorship, the Nazis orchestrated a massive propaganda campaign to win the loyalty and cooperation of Germans. The Nazi Propaganda Ministry, directed by Dr. Joseph Goebbels, took control of all forms of communication in Germany: newspapers, magazines, books, public meetings, and rallies, art, music, movies, and radio. Viewpoints in any way threatening to Nazi beliefs or to the regime were censored or eliminated from all media.”United States Holocaust Memorial Museum 

Under Trump, “The Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be privatized, while the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities would be eliminated entirely.” – Alexander Bolton, The Hill, 19 January 2017

“Speaking from the lobby of CIA headquarters in Langley, before a wall of stars honoring intelligence officers who died in service, Trump declared, “I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on earth, right?” – Donald Trump speaking at Central Intelligence Agency headquarters, Saturday, 21 January 2017

Robert B. Reich is the chancellor’s professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley and former secretary of labor under the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the 10 most effective Cabinet secretaries of the 20th century. He recently wrote an article titled, “Trump’s Seven Techniques to Control the Media: Tyrants always try to suppress a free press; here’s Trump’s playbook.” The Seven Techniques are:

  • Berate the media
  • Blacklist critical media
  • Turn the public against the media
  • Condemn satirical or critical comments
  • Threaten the media directly
  • Limit media access
  • Bypass the media and communicate with the public directly

Historically, these seven techniques have been used by demagogues to erode the freedom and independence of the press. For the full article, click here   I think we can all agree that Trump has done each of the seven listed here.

Daily White House press briefings are under scrutiny as Mike Pence says they are “giving some consideration to finding a larger venue on the 18 acres in the White House complex to accommodate the extraordinary interest.” While there could be some logic to that, as the current briefing room has seating for about 50, and standing room for another 35 or so, the press corps is not happy with this move, saying that it “will fight to keep the briefing room and West Wing access to senior administration officials open. We object strenuously to any move that would shield the president and his advisers from the scrutiny of an on-site White House press corps.”  Some speculate that the additional capacity is nothing more than an effort by Trump to pack the audience with his own supporters in order to cheer his announcements and shout down any reporters that ask difficult questions, thus turning the White House briefings into yet another rally. Still others wonder if the Trump team is considering getting rid of the daily press briefings altogether, expecting us to rely solely on Twitter communiques for our information.

A recent Twitter exchange (how else does anyone in the current regime communicate???), White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, NBC’s Chuck Todd,  and CNN Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Schiutto:

Spicer: Regardless of party, @acosta behavior was rude, inappropriate and disrespectful. He owes @realDonaldTrump and his colleagues an apology

Todd: There’s nothing in the first amendment about being polite (hashtags removed for clarity)

Spicer: Your right Chuck, I wasn’t quoting the constitution and didn’t bring up 1st Amend. Sad you defend this tho

Schiutto: CNN’s @Acosta reports Trump spokesman @seanspicer told him he’ll be kicked out of future press confs if he presses hard for ques again

Spicer: Not true, but par for the course in terms of the false reporting

The bottom line and crucial question is this: Could the White House, i.e. Trump, suspend the press passes for individual journalists or media outlets.  The simple answer is that yes, in all likelihood they could, but it is seen as unlikely, as it would not be a smart move.  But then … look who we are talking about.

“Because administrations generally don’t want to be seen as deciding who is or isn’t a qualified journalist, it’s unheard of for a reporter to be suspended for the quality of his or her reporting or behavior, though there are a few notable cases of reporters being barred for security reasons.” – Foreign Policy

Adolph Hitler took power in Germany in 1933.  Book burnings began that same year. During the first weeks of 1933, the Nazi regime deployed the radio, press, and newsreels to stoke fears of a pending “Communist uprising,” then channeled popular anxieties into political measures that eradicated civil liberties and democracy.

We are not to that point … yet.  Let us not allow our nation to get there.

“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” –  Martin Luther King, Jr.