You’re FIRED!

There was never anything that deemed Kellyanne Conway qualified to sit on the U.S. Air Force’s Board of Visitors.  She has no military experience at all and her appointment to that position by the former guy can only be said to have been a political favour.  Okay, every president has likely meted out such favours, and the next president most often reverses them if they aren’t qualified.

On Wednesday, the White House told 18 officials who had been appointed by the former guy to serve on the boards of U.S. military service academies to resign or be dismissed.  Of the 18, only one that I’m aware of was even remotely qualified for the positions to which he had been appointed:  former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster.  Among the least qualified were former Trump advisor and one-time campaign manager Kellyanne Conway and former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.  Neither had a shred of qualifying experience for the positions to which they were assigned.

A sample of one of the letters from White House assistant Catherine M. Russell read …

“On behalf of President Biden, I am writing to request your resignation as a Member of the Board of Visitors to the U.S. Naval Academy.  Please submit your resignation to me by the close of business today.  Should we not receive your resignation, your position with the Board will be terminated effective 6:00 p.m. tonight.  Thank you.”

And the fight was on … naturally it was, for anything that President Biden says or does is food for the Republican gristmill.  And naturally, Kellyanne’s was the loudest voice of dissent, tweeting …

“President Biden, I’m not resigning, but you should.”

Former Press Secretary Sean Spicer, whose claim to fame was his ridiculous and disproven claim about the size of the former guy’s inauguration crowd in 2017, is also flapping his wings and crying “Foul!”.  Again, not surprising but also neither mature nor professional.  Spicer, in fact, has threatened to sue current White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki for her remarks when asked to comment on the terminations …

“I will let others evaluate whether they think Kellyanne Conway, Sean Spicer and others were qualified, or not political, to serve on this board.  But the president’s qualification requirements are not your party registration. They are whether you are qualified to serve and whether you’re aligned with the values of this administration.”

And so, while wildfires are raging throughout the West, while floods are crippling the northeast, while more than a thousand people per day are dying in the U.S. alone as a result of COVID, while voting rights and women’s rights are being decimated on a daily basis, this … the removal of highly unqualified individuals from positions they never earned, will be in our faces, cost the government wasted time and money, and give more fuel to the GOP fires already burning out of control.  What’s next, I wonder?  The quality of food served in the U.S. Capitol?  Not up to Republican standards?  🙄

Today’s ‘Toons!!!

The cartoonists have been working overtime ever since Trump took the Oath of Office (an oath he never understood nor intended to keep) on 20 January 2017.  I have to hand it to them, they do one heck of a job!  I wish I had their talent.  Let’s take a look at a few of this week’s toons.


With the Global Climate Strike yesterday, and the United Nations’ Youth Climate Summit today, and the UN Climate Action Summit on Monday, needless to say climate change is on everyone’s mind this week.  The U.S., specifically Donald Trump, is working hard to add fuel to the fires of the global climate crisis by rolling back environmental regulations, trashing the Clean Water Act, and attempting to forbid states from enacting their own, stricter emissions standards.  To add insult to injury, while world leaders from around the globe travel to New York for the UN Summit on Monday, Trump has announced that he will be too busy at some religious conference to attend the Climate Summit.  So it is only right and proper that the cartoonists have made the U.S. and Trump the brunt of their humour.

climateclimate-1climate-2climate-3climate-4climate-5climate-6climate-7climate-8climate-9climate-10


It’s been just three weeks since the last mass shooting in the U.S., and the subject of gun regulations is never far from most of our minds.  We the People (at least the sane majority of  us) have been calling for gun legislation for … forever, I think.  Expanded background checks and a ban on assault weapons is a good place to start, but when you mention either of those, the gun nuts in this country go so crazy that you’d think we were asking them to give up their wife and kids.  Well, actually I think some of them would give up their wife and kids with less argument than they would give up their guns!

gunsguns-2guns-3guns-4


Ol’ Brett Kavanaugh, the only person I’ve ever seen who can make even uglier facial expressions than Donald Trump, is back in the news this week, as a new book, The Education of Brett Kavanaugh:  An Investigaton, by two New York Times reporters, Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, was released on Tuesday.  The two reporters covered Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing and they say that the “foundational mission” of the book was not just to learn more about the allegations against Kavanaugh but to get “a much better context for who he was as a person and what his educational years and career were like, and who is the man who has been portrayed in these two starkly polarized ways.”  I haven’t read it, and am not sure that I can stomach reading an entire book about such a horrible excuse for a human.

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Recently, Ivanka was asked what she had gotten from her parents, and she said that from her father she got her moral compass!  🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

Ivanka


You’ll remember Trump’s juvenile antics, re-drawing the path of Hurricane Dorian on an official map, with a Sharpie?  When you do something that bloomin’ stupid, you gotta expect it to catch the eye of the cartoonists for quite a while …

sharpieweather


Lies.  Trump lies.  Most every time he opens his mouth, he lies.  Need I say more?

trump-lieswhistleblower


And I end with just a bit of humour at the expense of former White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer.  Sean-Spicer


Have a nice weekend!

 

Are You Tired Of Snarky Snippets Yet?

I have a few in-depth pieces I’m trying to work on, but lately all these little things keep cropping up that aren’t quite enough to fill an entire post, but that are important.  If Donnie could just be locked away for a day or two, perhaps in a subterranean storeroom under the White House, then the news cycle might slow down enough for me to catch  my breath!


Donnie didn’t get his way this time …

As we’ve heard ad nauseam for the past week or so, Donald Trump has told Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell that he wants him to cut the interest rates … “to zero or below”.  To do so would be extremely foolish, but then … look who’s asking.

Yesterday, Mr. Powell announced a 0.25% cut in the interest rate, bringing it to between 1.75% and 2%.  A good portion of the members of the central bank’s rate-setting committee felt the move was unnecessary.  I am not an economist, nor do I pretend to be, but based on my understanding, I agree that it was unnecessary and likely would not have been made were it not for Trump’s bullying.  But, is Trump satisfied?

Of course not!

“Jay Powell and the Federal Reserve Fail Again. No ‘guts,’ no sense, no vision! A terrible communicator!”

Ahhhh … such professionalism, eh?  Now, if another person in the Trump administration displeased him so, that person would likely be packing up their desk today, but fortunately in the case of the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, ol’ Trumpie cannot just yell, “You’re Fired!”  Of course, he may not yet realize that, for back in June, when he was annoyed with Powell for the same reason, he said …

“I have the right to demote him. I have the right to fire him.”

Not quite true.  The Chairman can be fired only ‘for cause’, according to the Federal Reserve Act.  Historically the courts have not interpreted that to include policy differences.  Now, Trump could demote Powell if he so chose, but again, it would likely end up in a court battle that would almost certainly have an impact on the stability of the economy.  I applaud Mr. Powell for having the courage to stand up to the bully in the Oval Office and for doing what he believes to be the proper thing.


A ‘credible and urgent threat’ – but WHAT???

On Monday, The Washington Post reported that last month Trump had some interaction by phone with some foreign leader and promised that foreign leader something. Vague enough for you?  Whatever it was he promised to whomever he promised it set off alarms for at least one official in the U.S. intelligence community to file a formal whistleblower complaint with the inspector general for the intelligence community on August 12th.

Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson reviewed the complaint and determined that the complaint was credible and troubling enough to be considered a matter of “urgent concern,” a legal threshold that ordinarily requires notification of congressional oversight committees.  But … acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire has refused to share details about Trump’s alleged transgression with lawmakers.

Last week, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff subpoenaed Maguire for the complaint, accusing him of violating whistleblower law by failing to have notified the committee.  In his letter to Maguire, Schiff wrote …

“The committee — and the American people — must know why, in violation of law, a whistleblower complaint is being concealed, whether the underlying conduct involves the president or those around him, and whether the White House is involved in trying to cover up this authorized disclosure.”

To add insult to injury, Maguire consulted with the Department of Justice, ie., Trump’s main boot-licker William Barr, which is, at the very least, unorthodox, and leads to questions as to whether there is an attempt to cover for some wrongdoing by Trump.

Atkinson is scheduled to appear at a closed hearing of the Intelligence Committee on Thursday morning and Maguire has agreed to testify before the panel in open session a week later.  This whole thing is troubling, folks.  Obviously, Donald Trump has promised some foreign leader … Putin?  MbS?  Kim? … something that is very troublesome, and people are going to great lengths to keep it from being properly investigated or made public.  This is NOT how our government is supposed to operate.  Trump has declared himself to be above the law, and this is yet further proof that there are those in our government who are willing to sacrifice their integrity to allow it.  Stay tuned …


Is it Sean, or a giant chicken???

And, because I think you guys need a bit of humour, I share with you this short clip of none other than former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer in his debut on Dancing with the Stars.  I’m not sure, but I think that’s a fluffy chicken costume he’s wearing!

United We Stand … Divided We ???

Sean Spicer … remember him?  The first to claim that Trump’s less-than-stellar inauguration had drawn bigger crowds than Obama’s in 2009, he soon tired of being forced to tell so many lies on behalf of Trump that he resigned his position as White House Press Secretary and returned to private life.  So, what’s he doing now, you ask?  Why, he’s Dancing with the Stars, of course!DWTSThat’s right, folks, Sean is going to be paid between $125,000 and $295,000, depending on how long he remains on the show … as compared to the $180,000 per annum he earned as Trump’s mouthpiece.  Now, the show’s host, Tom Bergeron, is not at all pleased with Sean’s gig, and put out the following statement:Bergeron-statementNew York television critic James Poniewozik also sees it as a bad … really bad idea …

“To treat Spicer, and his reason for notoriety, as a harmless joke is to whitewash the harm of what he did, which was to say things so absurdly false that he invited his political side to join him in denying their own eyeballs, to encourage people to believe that facts don’t matter if they hurt your team.”

But Sean sees it differently.  He claims his appearance(s) on DWTS will “bring the country together” …

Sean Spicer Visits "Extra"

“My overall hope is that at the end of this season that Tom looks at this and says, bringing people together of very diverse backgrounds, whether it’s in politics or other areas, and allowing them to show America how we can engage in a really respectful and civil way, is actually a way to help bring the country together as opposed to bring it apart.”

Which brings me to my topic of the day: the divisiveness in this nation.

In any nation at any time, there will be conflicts, issues that divide the pro-business right and the pro-humanitarian left.  It has always been so, and that isn’t going to change, probably ever.  Most often, this is a healthy thing, leads to the best possible solution, a meeting of the minds.  But, today that divisiveness, which I have often enough referred to as ‘the great divide’, is at the highest level since the end of the Civil War in 1865.  Having a highly controversial political figure on an entertainment show is not going to change that.  And make no mistake, Sean Spicer is still lying for Donald Trump, as a senior advisor and spokesman for a pro-Trump super Political Action Committee (PAC) called America First.great-divideToday, there is no middle ground … the right has gone to the extreme right, and the left has moved further left than ever before.  There is no room for moderates, no tolerance for bipartisan lawmaking, and very little civil discourse taking place.  You’re either with us, or you’re ‘agin us’. Social media is a large part of the culprit here … sites like Facebook and Twitter could be venues for respectful, meaningful dialog, searching for answers to better understand ‘the other side’, but instead people have turned these sites into a venue for spewing hate and ugly reactions.

While I fully support the 1st Amendment right to free speech, there are times that unfettered freedom of speech does far more harm than good.  Conservatives and liberals, right and left, will never completely see eye-to-eye, will always be ideologically divided, but the state of affairs we see today cannot endure.

On June 16, 1858, President Abraham Lincoln gave an address after accepting the Illinois Republican Party’s nomination as that state’s US senator.  An excerpt from that speech is apt today …

“A house divided against itself, cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.”

The situation was different then, the ideology different, but in some ways not so different after all.  Then, as now, there were some who believed that people with darker skin had less value.  That, certainly, is one of our issues today, but others are more complex.  Today, we fight over whether there is more value in large corporations having nearly-unlimited profit margins, or in protecting our environment and rescuing all life on earth.  Today, we fight over whether it is the role of government to assist those who cannot, whether temporarily or permanently, meet their own financial needs, or whether those people should simply be left to die.

Today, we fight over whether health care is a right for everyone, or a privilege for only the few.  Today, we fight over whether or not every Tom, Dick and Harry should have access to guns that were meant for one purpose only:  to kill.  Today, we fight over whether LGBTQ people are to be afforded the same civil rights as the rest of society, or whether they should be looked down on and treated as ‘sub-human’.  And today, despite the mandate for a separation of church and state in the U.S. Constitution, we fight over whether one specific religion has the right to impose their beliefs, their will, on all in this secular nation.

The above are only a few of the issues dividing this nation, but they are highly-charged, emotional issues, and they are leading us down a path that can only end in disaster.  Shortly after Lincoln’s speech, we ended up in a Civil War.  In that war, there was a line of demarcation – there can be none this time, for on any given street in this country, you will find people on both ends of the spectrum.  In the Civil War, the north wore blue and the south wore grey … in this war, everybody looks essentially the same.  The civil war divided families, brother fought brother.  This ‘war’ has already divided families, destroyed decades-long friendships, and led to bloodshed.

Sadly, the people who we have elected to govern this nation, are only widening the divide.  It is in their power to bring the two sides together, to ‘reach across the aisle’ and set an example for the people of this nation.  It is their responsibility and duty to do just that, but they have chosen to shirk those duties, to help widen the gap, to breed even more hatred and division across the nation.  Unless things at the top change drastically, this is not going to end well, my friends.  Sean Spicer is not an ambassador for good will, but rather is as much a part of the dividing wedge as any.  Watching him tap dance and likely end up on his arse is not the cure for what ails this nation.

I offer no solutions, for if I were that smart, I would be sitting in the Oval Office, or have an office on Capitol Hill.  I only know that we must do something soon, else the United States will be torn asunder, and likely end up in tatters.  All I ask is that you … think about it.

Facts Are Facts … Or Are They?

Fact:  A thing that is known or proven to be true.

When is a fact not a fact?  When it is uttered by virtually anyone in the U.S. Federal Government.

It all started, you may remember, two years ago … January 20, 2017, when then-Press Secretary Sean Spicer claimed that the number of people attending Trump’s inauguration was much higher than those who had attended President Obama’s inauguration four years earlier.  It wasn’t true, there are numbers from DC Metro to show that the number of attendee’s at Trump’s inauguration were the lowest of the past four presidents.  Only about 61% as many attended Trump’s inauguration as attended Obama’s.  And if that weren’t proof enough, the pictures speak no lies …

inauguration crowds.jpg

Inauguration crowds … Trump’s (left) Obamas (right)

Two days later, Kellyanne was making the rounds and made an appearance on Meet the Press with Chuck Todd.  When Todd, armed with facts and pictures, asked Kellyanne why Spicer would “utter such a provable falsehood”, Kellyanne herself uttered the sentence that would re-define language as spoken by anyone in the Trump administration:

“Our press secretary, Sean Spicer, gave alternative facts to [these claims], but the point remains that…”

And we knew right then that we would never be able to trust a single word that came from anyone in the Trump camp.

Alternative facts, also known as ‘lies’, have come to be what we expect when Trump, Kellyanne, or Sarah open their mouths.  For example, just one week after the lies about the size of the inaugural crowd, Kellyanne told another whopper …

“I bet it’s brand-new information to people that President Obama had a six-month ban on the Iraqi refugee program after two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalized, and were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green Massacre. Most people don’t know that because it didn’t get covered.”

Just to set the record straight, there never was a “Bowling Green Massacre”.

The lies, or ‘alternative facts’ have continued almost daily for two years, and we’ve mostly learned to ignore them, perhaps roll our eyes and shake our head, but overall we look through them and dig for whatever kernel of truth we may be able to find.  But there comes a point when the lies are so blatantly stupid that our jaws drop.

Yesterday, Trump spoke to reporters, futilely attempting to garner support for his ego-wall on the southern border between the U.S. and Mexico, when this jewel slipped from between his lips …

“Everybody knows that walls work. You look at different places, they put up a wall, no problem. You look at San Antonio, you look at so many different places, they go from one of the most unsafe cities in the country to one of the safest cities, immediately, immediately.”

San Antonio?  Does he mean the San Antonio in Texas, the one that is some 150 miles north of the border?  The one where the Alamo is the major tourist attraction?  Ain’t no bloomin’ wall in San Antonio, folks.  We have a ‘man’ sitting in the Oval Office who flunked geography in high school!  Folks on Twitter had some fun with it, though …

“Is he talking about the Alamo, clearly, the only wall I know of in San Antonio? Has he forgotten how poorly that walll protected its occupants?”

“For the love of God…. can SOMEONE please get @realDonaldTrump a map? His shocking level of ignorance is absolutely frightening.”

“I believe the #BowlingGreenMassacre lead to the creation of the great #SanAntonio wall. ….i could be wrong. Im really just looking for a #SmockingGun. #hamberders”

“Geography is hard.”

And this from the mySanAntonio.com website …

“A quick search (consisting of looking out the window and then checking Texas Department of Transportation traffic cameras) found no walls barring anyone from San Antonio. In fact, the city is often known as one of the most welcoming and friendly cities in Texas.”

Proving once again that Donald Trump is a bad joke … a horrible joke … and that facts in our government have become completely meaningless.  And on that note, I must don long underwear, coat, hat and gloves and go shovel about a foot of snow from daughter Chris’ parking space so that she can park when she gets home from Kansas City late tonight.  Kansas City, by the way, has no walls either … just in case you were wondering.

By the way … Today is National Cheese Lover’s Day, so enjoy a few bites …cheese.jpg

Hope Hicks – Fame & Fortune

I had to laugh when I read this CNN headline …

Hicks named permanent White House communications director

One word caught my eye:  permanent.  Can anything really be said to be ‘permanent’ in the current administration?  And of all things, the communication director, of which there have been three before Hicks?  She is the fourth in just seven months!  Permanent?  I think not.

hicks-4So, who is Hope Hicks and how did she come to be the new White House communications director?

Just short of 29 years of age, Hope Hicks graduated from Southern Methodist University with a degree in English in 2010.  Her association with the Trump clan began two years later when, working for the public relations firm of Hiltzik Strategies, she was assigned to the Ivanka Trump clothing line.  In 2014, Ivanka hired Hicks away from Hiltzik Stragegies.  Five months later, in January 2015, Donald Trump called her into his office and, in Ms. Hicks’ words, “Mr. Trump looked at me and said, ‘I’m thinking about running for president, and you’re going to be my press secretary.'”

Although she had no prior experience in politics, no degree in communication, she joined Trump’s campaign before there even was a campaign (Trump did not officially declare his intent to run until June 2015, five months later) and has been an adoring lap puppy ever since.  During the campaign, her main role seemed to be that of guard dog, deciding on a daily basis who among the media would be allowed access to Trump.

hicks-3It is said that Hicks also took dictation from Trump for his tweets, and then sent the text to another person in the Trump organization who actually sent out the tweets from Trump’s official account. Now, I have to question … Trump’s tweets are notorious for spelling errors and poor grammar.  If Hicks has a degree in English, and if she was twitting his tweets … ???

Last year, the New York Times dubbed Hicks as ‘the woman who totally understands Donald Trump’.  I seriously doubt that she understands him, for his mind is a tangled web of frayed filaments.  However, she seems perfectly willing to support him in all things, and to defend his position even when she likely does not understand either the issue at hand or his position.  Take, for example, a statement she issued on 29 May …

“President Trump [sic] has a magnetic personality and exudes positive energy, which is infectious to those around him. He has an unparalleled ability to communicate with people …. He has built great relationships throughout his life and treats everyone with respect. He is brilliant with a great sense of humor … and an amazing ability to make people feel special and aspire to be more than even they thought possible.”

Oh please … did she really say “treats everyone with respect”?  Has she not heard how he calls Mexicans ‘rapists and murderers’?  Did she not hear him mock a disabled reporter?  Has she not heard the names he calls those in his own party when they fail to worship the ground he walks on?  Does she not hear the names he calls democrats, the press, judges, and most of all, Hillary Clinton?

And so, we begin to see at least part of the reason that she has now been named White House Communication Director and rewarded for her efforts, whatever they may be, with an annual salary of $179,900. While some, if not most, in Trump’s inner circle see their jobs as being to try to protect Trump from himself, to rein in his unfiltered speech and reduce the controversy, Hicks apparently views her job as to build an ego that is already far too large.

Like Kellyanne Conway, Hicks has sometimes been referred to in the press as the “Trump whisperer”.  My take, not that it matters, but just for the record, is that she is a young gold-digger and will do whatever is required of her, as long as it leads to fame and fortune.

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With fellow boot-licker, Kellyanne Conway

Communications to the press from the White House have been poor since the day Trump took office.  As much as I mocked and sometimes railed at Sean Spicer, frankly he was probably the best of the bunch, for at least you could tell when Sean was lying.  Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Sean’s replacement as Press Secretary, never comes off as being either sincere or insincere, but rather always seems impatient and disgusted with all the media.

Now, with Ms. Hicks implanted as communications director, the team of Hicks/Sanders is sure to deliver nothing more than the party line, in other words, “Donald Trump is wonderful and everything he says is right”. I would not believe either of these women if they told me that water is wet.  Congratulations, I suppose, to Hope Hicks … I hope that years from now she still thinks it was worth whatever she had to do for her fame and fortune.

Another One Deserts The Trump-tanic

He said he hoped to last a year, but he made it only half that long.  His resignation quite probably saved his life, or at the very least, his sanity.  Today, 21 July 2017, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer resigned.  Sean was out of his league, over his head from day #1 and anybody watching could tell the megalomaniac chaos in the White House was taking a toll on him.  I do not think Sean quite knew how to cope with the chaos and backstabbing that he had to contend with every day. I sincerely wish Sean Spicer the best of luck, and frankly I hope he begins tonight writing a book!

Scaramucci

Anthony Scaramucci

Mr. Spicer reportedly cited two reasons for his decision:  the continual chaos in the regime, and Trump’s appointment of Anthony Scaramucci as communication director.  Just who, you ask, is Anthony Scaramucci?  For starters, as you may have guessed, he is yet another in the pool of billionaires that inhabit the upper echelons of our “democratic” government.  His qualifications for the job?  Apparently only his $1.5 billion net worth (though there seems to be some dispute about that), for he has no background nor education in either journalism or communications, unless one counts the time he spends cheering Trump on Fox News. Oh yes … three other qualifications:  1) he is white, 2) he is male, 3) he compliments Trump.

Scaramucci began his career at the infamous Goldman-Sachs in 1989.  He left Goldman Sachs in 1996 to start Oscar Capital Management. In 2005, Scaramucci founded SkyBridge Capital, a global alternative investment firm. He sold the company a few days before Trump’s inauguration in January in anticipation of joining Trump’s regime as director of the office of public liaison, but the Office of Government Ethics recommended against the appointment due to conflicts of interest related to Scaramucci’s overseas investments.

Other tidbits about Mr. Scaramucci:

  • In 2011, he received Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur Of The Year – New York Award in the Financial Services category.
  • In 2015, Scaramucci was ranked 91 in Worth Magazine’s Power 100: The Most Powerful People in Global Finance.
  • He is the author of three books:
    • The Little Book of Hedge Funds
    • Goodbye Gordon Gekko: How to Find Your Fortune Without Losing Your Soul
    • Hopping Over the Rabbit Hole: How Entrepreneurs Turn Failure into Success

But perhaps the thing tells us the most about the character of the man is the 180° change in his attitude toward Donald Trump.

Scaramucci was actually a supporter of President Obama in 2008, but critical of Obama’s Wall Street policies, switched to the Republican Party in 2012.

In 2015, speaking of Trump“That’s another hack politician. He’s probably going to make Elizabeth Warren his vice-presidential nominee, with comments like that. It’s anti-American, it’s very, very divisive. And, I’ll tell you who he’s going to be president of. You can tell Donald I said this. The Queens county bullies association. You gotta cut it out now and stop all this crazy rhetoric, spinning everybody’s head around.”

And …

“I don’t like the way he talks about women. I don’t like the way he talks about our friend Megyn Kelly. And you know what? The politicians don’t want to go at Trump because he has a big mouth, and he’s afraid he’s going to light them up on Fox News and all these other places. But, I’m not a politician. You’re an inherited money dude from Queens county. Bring it Donald.”

And in 2017“If the president says it … my guess is there’s probably some level of truth to that.” And, “I don’t see this guy as a guy that’s ever under siege. The president’s a winner and what we’re going to do is we’re going to do a lot of winning.”

So … surprise, surprise … Mr. Scaramucci is not an honest man!  GASP!!!

surprise

In January, just a few days before the inauguration, he is on record as saying …

“… the other thing I have learned about these people in Washington … is they have no money. So what happens when they have no f—ing money is they fight about what seat they are in and what the title is. F—ing congressmen act like that. They are f—ing jackasses.”

And this is the man who will now oversee all White House communications. Our best hope from this point forward for getting real information from the White House is the ‘leakers’.  Not that Sean Spicer ever told the truth, but at least with him, one could tell when he was lying or uncomfortable with what he was saying.  Sarah Huckabee Sanders, now the White House Press Secretary, is a much more accomplished liar and not nearly as personable as was Spicer.

We have an idea how future communications to the press will go with Scaramucci’s own words:

“I think there’s been, at times, a disconnect between the way we see the president and how much we love the president and the way some of you perhaps see the president. I certainly see the American people probably see the president the way I do. But we want to get that message out there.”

The press has its job cut out for it, trying to sift through the muck that is certain to come out of the White House in the coming weeks/months.  And Melissa McCarthy may be looking for a new job.

spicer-mccarthy

Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer – Saturday Night Live (SNL)

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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Press Briefing … No Sound, No Picture … No Information

Sometimes I pass over a story that I might normally be expected to tackle.  First, I can only manage to write two posts a day, sometimes not even that.  Second, I try to be sensitive and some topics just really ought to be left alone.  Third, some topics get old after a few posts and one finds oneself being repetitious.  There is, however, one topic that I will always tackle when I see it, and that is free press/free speech issues.  Today, it is back on my radar.

Reporters were barred from recording video or audio footage during Monday afternoon’s White House press briefing. The reason for this aberration?  Who knows?  The excuse Press Secretary Sean Spicer gave was that Trump had already given a comment earlier in the day and would be making another comment later in the day, thus … “there are days that I’ll decide that the president’s voice should be the one that speaks and iterate his priorities.” Who knew that we are limited to two comments per day?

CNN’s senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta said, “Make no mistake about what we are all witnessing. This is a WH that is stonewalling the news media. Hiding behind no camera/no audio gaggles. It just feels like we’re slowly but surely being dragged into what is a new normal in this country where the President of the United States is allowed to insulate himself from answering hard questions.”

Even when cameras and recorders are allowed in, the press briefing has become a Cliff Notes version, yielding little, if any, useful information.  Spicer’s briefing on Monday may have set a record for brevity — he took questions for less than 11 minutes. Among his responses to 22 questions, he cited previous presidential statements, deferred answering or said he didn’t know 11 times.

“One major change [from previous administrations] is the hostility emanating from the administration for certain members of the press,” said April Ryan, who has covered the White House since President Bill Clinton’s last term. Ryan said Mike McCurry, Clinton’s press secretary, once described the White House’s interactions with the media as “a friendly adversarial relationship. Nowadays the friendly has been dropped from that analogy.”

Larry-Sabato

Larry Sabato

Larry Sabato, the director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, whose opinion I generally respect, says that perhaps the daily press briefings no longer have value:

“Particularly in this administration, most of what you hear in a press secretary’s press conference, in that daily briefing, is misrepresentations, outright lies, and propaganda. And, on the whole, I think people would do better without that.”

I certainly agree with the first part of his statement, but disagree that we would do better without them.  The press briefings are the chance to at least attempt to pin down the administration, to hold them accountable. Martha Kumar, a professor who studies White House communications, also disagrees with Sabato, saying …

“The briefing is an opportunity to hold people accountable, and just knowing that reporters are going to ask questions, that becomes part of policy thoughts and discussions within an administration.”

The level of secrecy within the administration is unprecedented.  According to a Washington Post article this evening, in addition to the secrecy surrounding the senate health care bill, numerous federal agencies are refusing to share internal documents with Congress, Trump is still refusing to release his tax returns, visitor logs are no longer released by the White House, and Trump even refuses to admit whether he played golf on the weekends.  “More and more in the Trump era, business in Washington is happening behind closed doors. The federal government’s leaders are hiding from public scrutiny — and their penchant for secrecy represents a stark departure from the campaign promises of Trump and his fellow Republicans to usher in newfound transparency.”

Even outgoing Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz said, “I see a bureaucracy that doesn’t want documents and the truth out the door . . . and just flipping the middle finger at Congress.”

I already believe Trump and his White House staff are guilty of gross abuses of power, lies, secrecy and deflection.  Can you imagine how much worse it could be if there were no oversight by the press?  If nobody had to answer, or at least pretend to answer the tough questions?  Once we take away oversight by the press, we have opened the door for far more corruption than currently exists.  We have opened the door from which our democratic freedoms will exit.

Trump vs WE THE PEOPLE

Da trumpeter has now begun blocking people who disagree with him or criticize him from his Twitter account @realDonaldTrump.  This has Constitutional law scholars pondering and debating the constitutionality of such a move.

Although he has likely blocked others, The Washington Post reported this morning on two specific individuals who were blocked:

Holly O’Reilly tweeted a GIF at the end of May to President Trump on his @realDonaldTrump account. The image displayed an awkward-looking moment between the president and Pope Francis with the caption, “This is pretty much how the whole world sees you.”

Joe Papp had a similar experience about a week later, when he tweeted a question to Trump. “Why didn’t you attend your #PittsburghNotParis rally in DC, Sir?” he asked, adding “#fakeleader.”

Both were blocked from Trump’s account within minutes of sending their tweets.  Once blocked, they were neither able to see his tweets nor any related comments.  Now, you may wonder what the big deal is.  Well, Twitter is, for the most part, the only source Trump uses to communicate to the public.  I personally do not follow his Twitter account, but have been known to dash off a 140-character tweet to him on occasion.  I have sent him links to some of my posts, and critiqued some of his more absurd statements and actions.  As a citizen, taxpayer, and voter, that is my right.  I call it 1st Amendment right to free speech.

To add fuel to the fire, just yesterday White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that Trump’s tweets are “considered official statements by the president of the United States.” Spicer is an authorized representative in speaking on behalf of Donald Trump.  And We The People have the right to hear (read) what the person we elected is saying about issues that concern us and our lives.  So …. Is it a matter of constitutionality or not?

Most legal scholars agree that it would be a tough case to make, mainly because @realDonaldTrump is Trump’s personal account, not the official @POTUS account.  In fact, he posts only a small portion of his tweets on the official account which, it appears, is actually managed by his staff.

Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University sent a letter to Trump reading, in part …

“Your account constitutes a designated public forum. It is a forum for expression in which you share information and opinions relating to government policy with the public at large and in which members of the public can engage you, engage one another, and sometimes elicit responses from you. Your Twitter account is a designated public forum for essentially the same reasons that open city council meetings and school board meetings are.”

UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh views both sides of the issue, saying …

“On the one hand, my sense is that the @RealDonaldTrump account — though run by Trump on government time and from government property — is the work of Trump-the-man … just as it was before November, and not Trump-the-president. His decisions about that account are therefore not constrained by the First Amendment. [But] what if I’m mistaken, and it’s viewed as run by Trump in his capacity as a government actor, and thus subject to the First Amendment? Can he then block users?”

Okay, so it’s a thorny issue and not one that is likely to be pursued at length based on Trump’s blocking of a handful of citizens.  But it is not without relevance and I think needs to be monitored.  My take is that no user who chooses to view his account should be blocked.  My reasoning is simple … it is his main venue for communicating public policy.  Just this morning we found out that he has nominated Christopher Wray for the position of FBI director.  He did not hold a press conference to announce this decision, he tweeted it from his ‘personal’ account, @realDonaldTrump.

If he wishes to retain the right to block people from his personal account, then he must use it as a personal account, not a public forum.  He has access to the official public forum Twitter account, and that is the appropriate place for him to make public announcements.  It is rather a shame that the press and citizens must get their information from a Twitter account at any rate, but to have information withheld because we do not agree with him is a disgrace.  Either his account is a public forum, in which case he cannot block a single user, or it is private, in which case he must learn the meaning of the word ‘private’.

Interestingly, the @POTUS account has only 18.6 million followers, while his @realDonaldTrump account has 31.5 million … more than 10% of the entire population of the country!  As I said, I refuse to become a ‘follower’, but nearly every journalist in the country is … they have to be, as that is the only forum from which they can get information directly from him.  And what happens if he decides to start blocking reporters from his account?  Then it becomes, I think, a very slippery slope indeed. This is not a major issue, but it is one more straw on the camel’s back, one more instance of Trump vs. We The People.