Hey! What Happened To MY Freedom Of Speech???

Well, folks, I suppose it was only a matter of time until I was banned from Twitter, and last night it happened.  I don’t get on Twitter much … once or twice a day when I receive a notification that I have a message or that my work has been re-tweeted.  When I do get on, however, if I see something really annoying by either my representative in Congress, Trump, or somebody else, I am not above replying with a short, snarky tweet of my own.  Well, when I got on yesterday evening to reply to a message from a friend, the first thing I saw was this tweet by Ann Coulter …

“The country has been lost.  However I am determined to go down swinging by ruining soccer for as many people as possible.”

Now, you guys know that I’m not ‘into’ sports, and all I knew about soccer recently was that the U.S. Women’s team had won some big event, and that one of the team’s members is Megan Rapinoe who is a member of the LGBT community.  As I said, I do not follow sports and none of it meant diddly-squat to me.  Until I saw Coulter’s comment which I assumed was in reference to Ms. Rapinoe’s gender identity.  Turns out that is part of it, but there’s more … I’ll get to that in a minute, but I shot off a tweet in response to her comment …

 “My, but you are a stupid, bigoted woman.  An outright Bimbo, by my reckoning.”

Apparently, she took umbrage, for it was less than an hour until I received this email:

Coulter-tweet

I actually had a good chuckle over it.  According to Twitter, if I gave them my phone number and took down the tweet, my account would only be inactive for 12 hours, after which time all would be restored.  Or, if I felt that their decision was unfair, I could appeal and they would review the situation.  I wrote to them and explained that a) I spoke only the truth, b) there was no threat to Ms. Coulter, and c) I did not use any vulgar language, not so much as a single “f-bomb”, which I have seen countless other people do on Twitter.

Twitter wrote back an hour or two later, saying that they had “reviewed my appeal” and concluded that I was still in the wrong and in order to restore my account, I would have to give them my phone number and then remove the tweet.  Now, I will likely do that in a day or two, for I do have Twitter friends, and my posts all go to Twitter where they are often re-tweeted, but I’m leaving the tweet stand for now, for I am a stubborn wench and frankly, I’ve made worse tweets than that to Donald Trump and Warren Davidson, neither of whom attempted to take away my 1st Amendment rights!

Turns out that Coulter’s complaint about the women’s soccer team is homophobic, but it is also a result of the fact that two of the women on the team, the aforementioned Rapinoe and another team member, Ali Krieger, have said that they would not pay a visit to the White House, for the have (understandably) no respect for its occupant.  Apparently, there has been a back-and-forth Twitter battle between Rapinoe and Trump, complete with name-calling.  Surprise, huh?

Rapinoe has a history of civil protest, having taken a knee during the national anthem before a game, shortly after Colin Kaepernick did the same, saying …

“Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties. It’s important to have white people stand in support of people of color on this. We don’t need to be the leading voice, of course, but standing in support of them is something that’s really powerful.”

Though I had never heard of Ms. Rapinoe until last week, I admire her, just as I admire Mr. Kaepernick, and much more than I admire Donald Trump.  No doubt we have not heard the last of the battle between Rapinoe and other team members vs Donald Trump, which is a pathetic statement of our nation and the man who is called “president” by some.

But, I think my right to free speech has been violated by Twitter.  If Ann Coulter can say that “the country has been lost” simply because a gay woman who doesn’t like Trump helped her team win the World’s Cup, and if she can threaten to “ruin soccer for as many people as possible”, why is it wrong for me to say she is stupid and bigoted, both of which are true, and call her a ‘bimbo’, which is a lot nicer than most of what she has called Ms. Rapinoe?

Is ‘freedom of speech’ now limited to only those who support Donald Trump?  Will Facebook or WordPress be next to try to stifle what I have to say?  Ann Coulter has, throughout her career, referred to immigrants as pedophiles, called LGBT people ‘mentally ill’, praised white supremacist Richard Spencer, calling him the white people’s answer to #BlackLivesMatter, and much more.  Her right to say those things is upheld, but my right to call her a bigot and a bimbo is not?  Actor Richard Belzer referred to Coulter as a ‘fascist Barbie doll’ … perhaps I should have tried that term.  She has called the French “a bunch of maggots”, and said that only property owners should be allowed to vote in the U.S.  And this is the woman that Twitter defends?  Something is seriously mucked up in this country.

Apologies And Thoughts …

My apologies, but there can be no Saturday Surprise today.  In light of the terrible Ethiopian Airlines crash on Sunday, then the tragic mass shootings at two mosques in New Zealand by a white supremacist on Friday, I simply could not get into ‘fun’ mode and felt that perhaps it would be inappropriate anyway.  Saturday Surprise will, hopefully, return next Saturday.

I am deeply disturbed and saddened by both of the aforementioned events.  Each took the lives of innocent people, and each was preventable.  And, while the causes of the two may seem to be completely different, they really aren’t all that different.  They both track back to arrogance and a sense of entitlement.  Today I would like to share a few of my own thoughts about the two aforementioned events with you.

First, the crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302.  I’ve already written about this at some length and won’t repeat what I’ve already said.  But this crash could easily have been prevented.  Boeing knew that the 737 Max 8 had a flaw, and one crash had already occurred, Lion Air flight 610 on October 29th, 2018.  Boeing was negotiating with the FAA for a software fix when the government shut down and talks came to a halt for 5 weeks.  And the rest is history.

This, my friends, is a tragic example of capitalism run amok.  Corporate greed.  Profit vs people’s lives.  We live in a corporate world, where governments pander to rich industrialists such as Boeing, Smith & Wesson, Exxon, General Motors and many others.  People are put on the back burner.  People’s lives take a backseat to the bottom line.  189 people lost their lives on the Lion Air flight and 157 people lost their lives on the Ethiopian Airlines flight.  346 people died because Boeing was more interested in their profits than in those 346 lives.  How many lives will be lost due to the burning of fossil fuels, because coal and oil companies care more about profit than lives?  How many will be lost due to the spraying of known toxic chemicals on the food we eat, because ‘Big Ag’ cares more for its bottom line than your life or mine?  The time has come … actually came long ago … to rein in capitalism, to impose strict safety regulations on every company doing business.  Will it happen?  Probably not, for those corporations buy our politicians about as easily as we buy a can of peas.

There is a lot of blame to go around for the killings at the Al Noor mosque and the Linwood Islamic Center, it would seem, for everyone seems to be pointing fingers.  Many blame the internet and social media, and yes, there is an element of blame there, since the killer had apparently been posting images of weapons and a “manifesto” for his actions online.  Some blame right-wing leaders, such as Trump, who have given voice to and even encouraged and emboldened the white supremacists, and certainly they must share a portion of the blame.

But, the reality is that the internet is … us.  It is people, expressing their opinions, their hopes, sharing family moments, keeping up with sports, communicating, and in some cases, promoting hate.  People.  Trump and other right-wing personas exist only because they are given a voice … by people.  Who is to blame?  The man, Brenton Tarrant, who planned and carried out the massacre, and any associates who may have helped him, certainly carries the lion’s share of blame.  Perhaps he got his ideas from radicals and white supremacists on the internet, but who put those ideas out there?

I propose that there is enough blame to go around for most all of us.  Sure, Donald Trump opened a can of really nasty worms with his hate speech, his call for a Muslim ban, his denigration of all races other than Caucasian.  But people did not have to fall in line behind him.  They did, because they chose to, not because he forced them to.

But here’s the other thing, and it is, as I think about it, the main reason I write this blog:  We have an obligation to speak out, nay … to SHOUT out … about the injustice of Islamophobia, of homophobia, of misogyny, of white supremacy.  It is not enough for those of us who know it is wrong to just shake our collective heads and roll our collective eyes when these things happen!  It is NOT enough to send “thoughts and prayers”!  Unless we wish to keep seeing bastards like Brenton Tarrant shooting up mosques, shopping malls, movie theaters and schools, then we need to use our voices.

Remember that oft-quoted quotation by Martin Niemöller?

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

We need, more than anything, to have conversations, not screaming matches, not hateful speech on social media sites.  We need to speak to and treat each other with respect.  It is okay to disagree, but we are getting absolutely nowhere by demeaning others and shouting at the tops of our lungs.  But speak we must, for to remain silent is to ensure that tragedies like those from this past week will be ever prevalent.  Freedom of speech is not only a right, but also a responsibility. Will we sit quietly by and allow bigots to rule the world in which we live? Think about it.

We Have Met The Enemy …

… and it is us.

This is an OpEd written by former Nightline host and journalist, Ted Koppel, in The Washington Post yesterday.  His words ring true, predictive, and if so … we are our own worst enemy.  The “enemy of the people” may well be … the people.


ted-koppelOn July 21, 2016, just hours before he accepted the Republican presidential nomination, Donald Trump and I sat down for an interview. What he said on that occasion would serve as a remarkably candid foreshadowing of how Trump would handle his relationship with the media in what, on that day, seemed the unlikely event that he would actually become president.

“I don’t need you guys anymore,” Trump told me.

He pointed to his millions of followers on Twitter and Facebook, explaining that the days of television anchors and commentators acting as gatekeepers between newsmakers and the public were essentially over. Without discernible acrimony, Trump trotted out one of the early versions of what would eventually become a leitmotif of his presidency: The media was made up of largely terrible people trafficking in fake news. There was nothing personal in the observation. It was the unsheathing of a multipurpose device, one he used adroitly in tandem with the endlessly adaptable political vehicle provided by social media during the election campaign and now during his presidency.

Is there any reason to believe that what worked for Trump before he was elected and while in the White House won’t be equally effective after he leaves office?

There is a disarming innocence to the assumption that whether by impeachment, indictment or a cleansing electoral redo in 2020, President Trump will be exorcised from the White House and that thereby he and his base will largely revert to irrelevance.

It imagines that, for some reason, Trump in defeat or disgrace will become a quieter, humbler, more restrained presence on Twitter and Facebook than heretofore. It assumes further that CNN and Fox News and MSNBC, perhaps chastened by the consequences of their addictive coverage of Trump the Candidate and Trump the President, will resist the urge to pay similar attention to Trump the Exile.

Let the record show that Trump has launched the careers of numerous media stars and that expressions of indignant outrage on the left and breathless admiration on the right have resulted in large, entirely nonpartisan profits for the industry of journalism. Why anyone should assume that Trump and those who cherish or loathe him in the news business will easily surrender such a hugely symbiotic relationship is hard to understand.

It is all but inevitable that whoever succeeds Trump in the White House will be perceived by 30 to 40 percent of the voting public as illegitimate — and that the former president will enthusiastically encourage them in this perception. Whatever his failings, Trump is a brilliant self-promoter and provocateur. He showed no embarrassment, either as candidate or president, about using his high visibility to benefit his business interests. Untethered from any political responsibility whatsoever, he can be expected to capitalize fully on his new status as political martyr and leader of a new “resistance” that will make today’s look supine.

The dirty little secret about the United States’ relationship with Trump is that we have become addicted to him. His ups, his downs, his laughs, his frowns are (as the lovely song from “My Fair Lady” once put it in another context altogether) “second nature to [us] now, like breathing out and breathing in.”

When he fails to tweet for even a few hours, Trumpologists search for meaning in the silence. Hours are devoted on cable television, each and every day, to examining the entrails of his most recent utterances. Has there been a day in the past two years without a Trump-related story on the front page of every major U.S. newspaper? How does the president lie to us? Let us count the ways. And we do, endlessly, meticulously.

Do you believe for a moment that Americans are ready to give that up merely because, for one reason or another, Trump has been obliged to reoccupy Trump Tower full-time?

A President Pence would not satisfy that hunger. Nor, for now at least, is it easy to discern within the growing ranks of potential Democratic candidates a man or woman with a matching aura of glitz, a similar degree of shamelessness, a comparable pairing of so much to be humble about with a total lack of humility.

A new president may provide a sense of relief and normalcy. But he or she will not satisfy our craving for outrage. Trump’s detractors are outraged by him. His supporters are outraged with him. He is a national Rorschach test. Love him or hate him, you can’t ignore him. One way or another, Trump will be renewed for another season.

The Real ‘Fake News’

“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”

It’s unclear who first said this.  It has been attributed to Sun Tzu and sometimes to Niccolò Machiavelli or Petrarch, but there are no published sources yet found which predate its use by “Michael Corleone” in The Godfather Part II.  But to the point … it is why I do sometimes pop over to such uber-conservative sites as The Daily Wire, from whence came the inspiration for this post.  ‘Inspiration’ may not be quite the right word …

I was first appalled, then infuriated by the headline I saw last night …

Democrat Calls For Gun Confiscation, Suggests Nuking Americans Who Fight Back

The story put forth by The Daily Wire, Fox News, MSN and others is this …

“Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) caused a firestorm on Friday when he suggested using nuclear weapons against American citizens who oppose his far-left gun control agenda, which includes forcing Americans to give up their semi-automatic weapons.”

Now, if that were the truth, it would be quite a “WOW” moment and I would have to ask myself if Mr. Swalwell had gone and lost his bloody marbles!  Turns out there’s more to the story that the aforementioned news outlets conveniently left out … or perhaps didn’t understand.

This is yet another example of taking a sentence out of context and giving it an entirely different meaning than the speaker ever intended.  The danger is that some people will look at that headline, believe it without ever giving it a thought or checking on its veracity, and will be all in a fizz,  running inside, grabbing the old rifle, and sitting on their porches waiting for the band of merry democrats to show up to try to take their guns!

Let’s look at a few of the comments from Representative Swalwell in response to the madness:

  • We should ban assault weapons by buying them back or restricting them to ranges/clubs.
  • Don’t be so dramatic. No one is nuking anyone or threatening that. I’m telling you this is not the 18th Century. The argument that you would go to war with your government if an assault weapons ban was in place is ludicrous and inflames the gun debate. Which is what you want.
  • It’s sarcasm. He said he’s going to war with America if gun legislation was passed. I told him his government has nukes. God forbid we use sarcasm.

And finally, his nutshell summary of the entire situation:

America’s gun debate in one thread.

1) I propose a buy-back of assault weapons

2) Gun owner says he’ll go to war with USA if that happens

3) I sarcastically point out USA isn’t losing to his assault weapon (it’s not the 18th Century)

4) I’m called a tyrant

5) 0 progress

Sigh.  C’mon, folks … get real for a minute, will ya?  Mr. Swalwell was far more generous than I would have been, or than he should have been, in offering a buy-back program.  In my mind, assault-type weapons that were designed for only military use do not belong in the hands of civilians.  Period.  No argument.  Ban ‘em.  Confiscate ‘em.  Destroy ‘em.  They do not belong in your hands, Joe Cracker!!!

No, nobody is going to nuke you, and frankly if I had my wishes, and if there were a safe way to do so, every nuclear weapon on the planet would be destroyed.  Mr. Swalwell’s comment was rather like one that I myself make every so often, when I hear of somebody who has an arsenal in their basement or garage, just waiting for that day when the military ‘comes for mah guns’.  Says Joe Cracker … “Just let ‘em try … hworf, hworf, hworf (picture Beavis & Butthead here) … I’ll blast ‘em into the next county”.  Say I … “Oh really … and when that tank rolls right on through your arsenal, taking most of your house with it …???”

There is this concept these days in both political parties that we must always look for the ulterior motive, the hidden threat in every word that is uttered by “the enemy”.  Why must we be enemies?  Because we cannot be bothered to take the time to understand one another!  Republicans haven’t bothered to ask themselves why the democrats feel as strongly as they do about gun control.  Well, dear right-wing, conservative friends, even though you didn’t ask, let me tell you …

BECAUSE WE ARE SICK AND DAMN TIRED OF SEEING INNOCENT PEOPLE KILLED AT THE HANDS OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE NO BUSINESS OWNING A BLOOMIN’ GUN!!!

Eric Swalwell is not a bad guy, folks.  During his congressional career he has advocated to increase spending on education, for renewable energy jobs creation, to raise the cap on the Social Security payroll tax so that wealthier Americans would pay more into the program, and he has argued against legislation that would allow people to bring knives on airplanes.  He is a strong supporter of LGBT people and is staunchly pro-choice.  In other words, he is in favour of policies to protect and enhance the common people – people like you … and me.  And he wants to see a curtailment of guns in civilian hands.  Most of us do want that.  Those who don’t?  Explain it to me, please, Mr. Joe Cracker?

The far-right and far-left media outlets play on our fears, our sympathies, our desires.  The headline at the beginning of this article is but one example.  Fox News, Breitbart and others do it every day.  The trash that can be found on Twitter and Facebook is astounding.  Americans need to grow up.  They need to learn to distinguish between news and rhetoric.  They need to learn to do their own digging, to separate the bullshit from what is real.  The Great Divide just keeps getting wider and wider … it is to the advantage of people like Trump and his minions to keep us divided, to keep as many as possible in the dark.  Are you willing to let them win?  Are you willing to believe the myth?  Or do you still care about truth?

Just for a chuckle …

I’m sorely in need of a laugh … okay, I’ll settle for a chuckle … and figured perhaps you are too, so just for a laugh at the end of the day, I give you … Andy Borowitz …

Putin Loses Control of the House

Voter Apathy — Part I

An article in New York Magazine’s Intelligencer caught my eye yesterday.  The headline?

12 Young People on Why They Probably Won’t Vote

Say what???  In the wake of the Parkland school shooting last February, I thought young people were energized, I thought they were determined to make their voices heard, to make a difference.  According to the article, however, more than half of American adults plan to cast ballots in November, but only a third of people ages 18 to 29 say they will. What happened?  I had to know, so I read the article.  Here are some of the highlights …

  • 2016 was such a disillusioning experience. Going into the election, I was so proud to be in this country at this moment, so proud to be voting for Hillary Clinton. I had my Clinton sweatshirt on all day. I was on Twitter telling people that if they didn’t vote they were dead to me — like the whole thing. Watching the results come in, it was just disheartening. My faith in the whole system was crushed pretty quickly.

  • I think there’s a way to be an informed nonvoter. I’d rather have an informed nonvoter than an uninformed voter going in and making a choice they don’t understand.


  • There are things that I’m aware of where I’m certain I’m right. But for most things, although I feel strongly, it’s very probable that there’s some aspect of this that I don’t understand. Somebody provides a new avenue of thought, and it changes the way I think about something. I never felt certain enough to vote.


  • I tried to register for the 2016 election, but it was beyond the deadline by the time I tried to do it. I hate mailing stuff; it gives me anxiety. I don’t remember seeing voter-registration drives, no. I’ve seen a lot more the past two years. I’m sure there must have been stuff. I just don’t remember it.


  • I guess I still thought, Okay, my vote is largely symbolic in this election because I’m in Texas. Even if Texas went blue, I’m pretty sure my vote wouldn’t matter anyway. Austin is very liberal, but it’s very gerrymandered.


  • I have ADHD, and it makes it hard for me to do certain tasks where the payoff is far off in the future or abstract. I don’t find it intrinsically motivational.


  • I rent and move around quite a bit, and when I try to get absentee ballots, they need me to print out a form and mail it to them no more than 30 days before the election but also no less than seven days before the election. Typically, I check way before that time, then forget to check again, or just say “F*** it” because I don’t own a printer or stamps anyway.


  • I feel like the Democratic Party doesn’t really stand for the things I believe in anymore. Why should I vote for a party that doesn’t really do anything for me as a voter? Millennials don’t vote because a lot of politicians are appealing to older voters. We deserve politicians that are willing to do stuff for our future instead of catering to people who will not be here for our future. I’m a poli-sci major …


  • I look at it this way: That report just came out the other day about global warming, talking about how we have 12 years, until 2030, for this radical change unlike the world has ever seen. And The Hill newspaper just put out that article about how the DNC does not plan on making climate change a big part of their platform, even still. I just do not understand why I would vote for a party that doesn’t care about me in any way. They can say, “Sure, we’ll lower student interest rates.” Well, I don’t give a shit about student interest rates if I’m not going to live past 13 more years on this planet.


  • Most people my age have zero need to go to the post office and may have never stepped into one before. Honestly, if someone had the forms printed for me and was willing to deal with the post office, I’d be much more inclined to vote.


  • I vote when I feel like I have to. But I mostly consider it something that sucks a lot of people’s time and energy away from actually building power with the people around them.


  • For a while, I thought it was an immoral act to vote. It means that we’re giving our approval to a system that I totally do not want to validate.


  • My parents are of the generation where they actually watch the news, and they know about candidates via the news. Where my generation, the millennial generation, is getting all their news from social media like Twitter or Instagram or Facebook, and that is not always the best. Reading things through social media is snippets, and it’s not the whole details on everything, you know? It’s a wild theory, but setting voting up so that it’s all on social media, putting all that information in just an Instagram Story, in a Snapchat filter or whatever — bulleted-out, easy-to-read, digestible content — would encourage me to vote.

As you might guess, the article left me torn between a sense of intense fury, seriously wanting to go smack a young person, and one of “we are doomed, folks … these are that ‘next generation’ we’ve been counting so heavily on!”  Who’s to blame here?  Perhaps we all are, but offhand I am angry with parents who have not bothered to instill a sense of responsibility into these young people, and our schools who somewhere along the line decided it was more important to teach them to program a computer than to teach them how our government works and how very important each and every vote is. vote-3

On Being Found Wanting

Today, our friend Roger wrote a post that I have to share with you all. In the politically divided world we find ourselves in today, it is altogether too easy to wake up one morning and find that ‘we’ have become ‘they’, that our own voices are just as toxic as those with whom we disagree. Several times in the past year I have written a post, then scrapped it after a 2nd reading, realizing that it was more vitriolic than informative. Roger’s post speaks of his own struggles to remain above the fray, and his words, spoken from his heart, have value for us all. Many thanks, Roger, for sharing your thoughts and for your kind permission to re-blog.

Google … The Latest Target

fly-honeyIt would seem that Donald Trump has only three modes:  threaten, bully, and attack.  He has never, obviously, heard the expression that you “catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”(An irrelevant aside here … when I was little, I thought they were saying you “kill” more flies with honey, so I grew up believing that flies had an allergy to honey and would die if they ate it)

Perhaps he is satisfied with his 35% – 40% of the flies and cares not about the rest.  Frankly, it is beyond old and tiresome, but there is no sign that he is prepared to soften his method of operation, or m.o.

To name only a few, he has attacked every ethnic group except his own, every single one of our allies, every organization to which the U.S. belongs or did belong, every religion outside his own, democrats en masse, the legitimate press, women, and the list goes on.  It is sorely tempting to let the latest go unnoticed, for it is ridiculous and petty and we are tired of all the b.s.  However, there is a danger here in complacency.  When we become so worn down, so tired of it all that we simply roll our eyes, sigh a deep sigh, and move on without comment, then he has accomplished exactly what he set out to accomplish.  I am unwilling to give him that win.  And so, I pull up my sagging shoulders, straighten my aching back, take a deep breath, and I write …

On Tuesday, Trump apparently decided to Google himself to see what he could find out.  I’ve done soul-searching before, but I never used Google to learn about myself … hmmm … perhaps I should try that?  He was not pleased with the results. But, of course, he found people to blame …

“Google search results for ‘Trump News’ shows only the viewing/reporting of Fake New Media. In other words, they have it RIGGED, for me & others, so that almost all stories & news is BAD. Fake CNN is prominent.”

Love that good grammar – “stories & news is BAD.”  He added that “they are controlling what we can & cannot see. This is a very serious situation-will be addressed!”  And later told reporters, “We have tremendous, we have literally thousands and thousands of complaints coming in. And you just can’t do that.”  Now seriously, folks … how many people, if frustrated by the results of a Google search, are going to complain to the White House???  Is there a toll-free hotline for that?

The basis for Trump’s claim, in addition to his own search, seems to come from Lou Dobbs, a host on the Fox Business Network.  Need I say more?  Media experts disagree with Trump.  According to Jason Kint, the chief executive of Digital Content Next, an online publishing industry group …

“The industry should have plenty of concerns with Google, particularly antitrust and data collection practices, but this isn’t one of them. The president’s tweets this morning are flat-out absurd.”

‘So what’, you ask?  If he isn’t ranting about “Crooked Hillary” or the “enemy of the people” or our trade partners “robbing us blind”, then it’s something else.  Isn’t this just another of those things that will be old news by next week?  Well … maybe, but maybe not.  Trump has ordered his economic advisor, Larry Kudlow, to “take a look” at whether, and how, Google should be regulated by the government.  Now, I’m no fan of Google, although I do use it multiple times daily, for I have found it to be the most reliable and efficient search engine of the ones I’ve used.  And under certain circumstances, if there were credible evidence that Google’s algorithm was set in such a way as to intentionally skew search results, I might be inclined to agree with a degree of government oversight.  BUT … there is no credible evidence that there is any wrongdoing in this case, AND … more to the point … I have no faith or trust in the federal government today.  The government actually had a degree of oversight with Net Neutrality, but Trump repealed that.

All that said, I am not overly concerned at this point, for I cannot imagine this idea would have widespread support, and given the chaos within the Trump administration, it is doubtful they could come up with a coherent plan.  But … I do see some potential dangers from Trump’s attack.

Trump’s rants may fire up his base to strike out at the tech industry.  It may be coincidence or not, but one day after his Google rant, the following news story was published:

Dozens at Facebook Unite to Challenge Its ‘Intolerant’ Liberal Culture

What Trump fails to understand, I think, is that the reason the top search results for his name produce articles critical of him is that his rhetoric, bullying, actions, and policies are the thing that nightmares are made of.  He actually seems to seek that negative attention by his bluster and rants.  In truth, there is very little, if anything, positive that a credible news source could find to print.  If you told me today that I must write a post that is favourable to Trump, I could not do it.

Any attempt to control or regulate the criteria Google uses to return results to a particular search can easily be construed as a 1st Amendment violation, and the first step toward stepping on freedom of the press.  As you can see from his tweet, he used his rant against Google to once again denigrate the legitimate press.

Again, I am not being an alarmist and jumping in on this one willy-nilly, but I do think it bears watching, lest one morning Trump wakes up and decides to sign another of his ‘executive orders’ to force search engines to provide an equal number of results leading to ultra-conservative sites such as Breitbart or Fox, as legitimate news sources.  Just keep your eye on the ball so it doesn’t roll into a sand pit.

First Amendment Run Amok?

We all remember last August, when white supremacist groups held a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on the pretext of protesting the removal of a Civil War statue of Robert E. Lee.  At least, that was what we were told was the purpose of the rally.  One of the organizers let it slip that the real purpose of the rally was to unify far-right hate groups including white nationalists, white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the KKK.  The rally ended in tragedy when 19 people were injured and a counter-protester, Heather Heyer, was murdered by James Alex Fields, who drove his car viciously into a crowd.

Charlottesville-KesslerWell, guess what, folks?  The primary event organizer, one Jason Kessler, wants to do it again this year – he wants to hold an “anniversary celebration”.  Interestingly, other white supremacist groups are not on board with the idea.  Last November, Kessler applied to the city of Charlottesville, but his request was denied, citing “danger to public safety”.  Kessler, of course, wasn’t about to take that lying down, so in March he filed a lawsuit against the city, claiming it was denying his 1st Amendment rights.  Legal experts say it will fall on the city to prove that police would be unable to adequately protect protesters and citizens.

Why are other white supremacist groups on the bandwagon with Kessler’s idea? Both Richard Spencer and neo-Nazi Mike Peinovich say they will not attend if Kessler holds his rally.  Their stated reason is they fear attacks by “antifa thugs”.  But the reality, it seems, is that the entire “alt-right”, the collective term for white supremacist, nationalist and other such groups have been in a state of flux.  After the August Charlottesville disaster …

“Web companies finally started taking action against the white supremacy that had been allowed to fester on their platforms. The Daily Stormer, for instance, was dropped by domain provider GoDaddy for inciting violence in the wake of the rally, and has since bounced around the internet looking for a permanent home. Spencer’s fundraising efforts have collapsed, his legal counsel deserted him and, this week, he even had his credit card declined when he tried to buy a $4.25 shot of bourbon.”ThinkProgress, 11 May 2018

Kessler, however, is undaunted by the lack of support from the other groups and claims that …

“I do have a backup plan, for people who have been asking, and that is going to be in front of the White House. If Charlottesville denies our permit for any reason, it’s not safe, we’re going to get in vans and we’re going to go to Lafayette Park in front of the White House.”

Somehow, it sounds like a lot of hot air to me, BUT … it brings me to a point.  Is it, perhaps, time for some tweaks and adjustments to the U.S. Constitution?  The document was written and ratified in 1787, more than 230 years ago, and it has served quite well ever since.  But times change, and as we have seen in other areas, sometimes the document needs to be adjusted to reflect those changes.

The freedom of speech that is guaranteed in the 1st Amendment was never intended to be a mechanism for violence against the innocent, but today it is used just so.  I have alluded to this before, but largely stay away from the suggestion to ‘amend the amendment’, for it is a slippery slope and there is the fear that we might actually put restrictions on the very sorts of speech that should … must … be protected in order to maintain our free republic.  And it’s a sad shame that we need to even consider restricting the right to free speech … a shame that we, as human beings, do not have the good sense to temper our speech in the interest of respect, dignity and common sense.  But, welcome to the 21st century.

Other nations have found ways to limit speech that infringes on the rights of others, that incites violence, without sacrificing the right to speak out when government is making poor decisions, or abusing its power.  The UK and many other European nations have laws against

  • Threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior intending or likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress or cause a breach of the peace.

  • Sending any article which is indecent or grossly offensive with an intent to cause distress or anxiety.


  • Incitement, incitement to racial hatred, incitement to religious hatred, incitement to terrorism including encouragement of terrorism and dissemination of terrorist publications, glorifying terrorism, collection or possession of a document or record containing information likely to be of use to a terrorist.


  • Treason including advocating for the abolition of the monarchy or compassing or imagining the death of the monarch.

hate speechHow, I ask you, could anybody argue against any of those exceptions to freedom of speech?  In a nutshell, the concept is that you have a right to your opinion, and you have a right to express your opinion, but you do not have a right to try to rile people to the point of violence and you do not have the right to cause people, with your speech, to feel intimidated or distressed.  It’s just common sense!  As a number of readers have expressed in the past, and as I have also said, “your rights end when they infringe upon anothers”.  I feel similarly about religious freedom:  you have the right to believe as you wish, to practice whatever religion you choose or none at all, but you do not have the right to attempt to force others to abide by your beliefs.

By definition, freedom of speech is the concept of the inherent human right to voice one’s opinion publicly without fear of censorship or punishment.  Voicing one’s opinion can certainly be done in a manner that does not incite violence.  It can be done without raised voices, without wearing hooded robes, without guns, and without KKK symbols and swastikas.  I would never wish to place limits on voicing one’s opinions … as long as it is done calmly and respectfully.  Over the past 3 years, I have blocked three readers from this blog because they could not manage to comment without using slurs and vulgarity, without being disrespectful.  The same rules ought to apply in a public venue, I should think.

If Jason Kessler and his band of white supremacist thugs are allowed to hold another rally in August, I hope that a few common sense precautions are taken, such as a “no firearms beyond this point” rule, a “no motorized vehicles beyond this point” rule, and automatic arrest for anyone who hurls racial epithets or attempts a show of physical force.  Also, KKK hoods and Nazi symbols need to be banned.

If we ever plan to work toward healing the great divide in this nation, we must first learn to treat each other with respect.  If we do not want any adjustment to the 1st Amendment, then we must all learn to police ourselves, to curtail our speech when needed.  We need to think before we speak, especially in public. If we cannot or will not do that, then I fully support an ‘amendment to the amendment’, for the current level of hate in this country simply cannot continue.i

Entertainment?

Our friend Hugh, aka the Professor, is a deep thinker, as one would expect of a former professor of philosophy. Today (actually a few days ago) Hugh delves into the effects on society, on humanity, of television and other electronic media. It is something we often don’t think much about, but … we need to … we really need to. Please take a few minutes to read Hugh’s post, for it is, as always, food for thought. Thank you, Hugh, for both this post and permission to share it!

hughcurtler

I have suggested on occasion, sometimes generally sometimes pointedly, that the entertainment industry has been one of the more pernicious influences on the development of such things as intelligence and character that have been seen of late. It’s influence is felt everywhere and since we know that animals, including the human animal, learn from imitation it follows that the ubiquitous television and the social media (of late, especially) have had a tremendous effect on the development of young minds and hearts.

Robert Hutchins once pointed out that the invention of  television held out the greatest of possibilities for humankind. It could be an educational tool like none other and could bring about the elevation of minds and the enlargement of experience among all those touched by it. But we know that has not happened. Not only does public television — which was the last bastion of hope — struggle against…

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