STOP IT!!! JUST STOP IT!!! 🛑

Early this morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco home was broken into and her 82-year-old husband was brutally beaten. Speaker Pelosi was in Washington at the time. This past summer, Senator Susan Collins of Maine had windows broken out in her home.  Many members of Congress have received hate mail and death threats recently.  As I read aloud the story about the attack on Paul Pelosi with my voice cracking and tears threatening to make a trail down my cheeks, I turned to my daughter and said, “This is NOT who we are!!!”  And then, after a pause, I thought, but maybe it is now.  Maybe the racism and greed and bigotry that have become such a part of this nation since its inception is turning us into monsters.

Senator Collins recently stated that “I wouldn’t be surprised if a senator or House member were killed. What started with abusive phone calls is now translating into active threats of violence and real violence.”  Consider these instances …

  • In Seattle, a man who had sent an angry email to Representative Pramila Jayapal repeatedly showed up outside the lawmaker’s house, armed with a semiautomatic handgun and shouting threats and profanities.
  • In Queens, a man who had traveled across the country waited in a cafe across the street from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s office to confront her, part of a near-constant stream of threats and harassment that has prompted the congresswoman to switch her sleeping location at times and seek protection from a 24-hour security detail.
  • In the months since the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, which brought lawmakers and the vice president within feet of rioters threatening their lives, Republicans and Democrats have faced stalking, armed visits to their homes, vandalism and assaults.

The man who attacked Paul Pelosi had an online presence that should have thrown up red flags if anybody had been paying attention.  He had posted memes and conspiracy theories on Facebook about Covid vaccines, the 2020 election and the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol.

And now, just hours after the attack, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin apparently thought he was being funny when he said at a rally, “Listen, I want to stop for a minute and — listen, Speaker Pelosi’s husband — they had a break in last night in their house and he was assaulted. There’s no room for violence anywhere, but we’re gonna send her back to be with him in California. That’s what we’re gonna go do. That’s what we’re gonna go do.”

It is said that the attacker entered the home screaming, “Where’s Nancy?”, and yet one Fox host claims that perhaps it was a random break-in, not necessarily intended for Speaker Pelosi.

The attacker, who I shall not name, is being charged with attempted homicide, assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse, burglary and “several other additional felonies,” according to Police Chief William Scott.

A number of lawmakers have said they are ‘horrified’ by the attack on Mr. Pelosi, and outgoing Senator Ben Sasse said, “every single American needs to be lowering the temperature. This is increasingly obvious: Disturbed individuals easily succumb to conspiracy theories and rage — the consequences are bloody and un-American.”  While I fully agree with Senator Sasse, I also hold certain members of Congress, as well as a former president and his followers, for inciting the violence that is tearing this nation apart and threatening lives of innocent people.

JUST STOP IT – EVERYONE!!!  JUST STOP IT!!!  BE BETTER THAN THIS!

Note to Readers: “Paul Pelosi underwent surgery at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital after sustaining a skull fracture and serious injuries to his hands and right arm. The surgery was successful, and he is expected to make a full recovery, said Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi.”

Concerning The Inconsistencies of Social Media Algorithms

I know of nobody who can make a point with humour quite as well as our friend Roger does! Today, he takes on algorithms, those mysterious bits of so-called ‘artificial intelligence’ that determine such things as who should be targeted for certain marketing scams, or who should be sent to Facebook jail. Take a look at Roger’s latest … I promise you will laugh! You might even find yourself scratching your head and saying, “Hmmmm … this sounds familiar” Thank you, Roger … great post!

Writing Despite Computers and Programmes

Red warning content disclaimer tv show background design. A responsible heading when dealing with controversial topics.

A good friend of mine (whose name is withheld to avoid them having to suffer further censure) when producing a politically themed post on a social media platform suggested certain politicians and pundits of strong and controversial views might have their perceptions improved by a bracing dive into a large natural body of water,

Jump in a lake 2

no doubt working on the basis that such a refreshing immersion would clear away their ill-humours, latent dyspepsia and possible heart damaging frenetic outlooks. The social media platform upon which this was posted (the name is withheld to spare The Well-known International company being subject To abusive or satirical comments turning up on their site) banned my friend for 12 hours for allegedly encouraging suicide.

This action puzzled me, for the actual activity is a popular one, often social groupings and bondings, all very…

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Foot-Stomping MAD!

It’s been over a year-and-a-half since thousands joined forces to attack the U.S. Capitol in a failed, but nonetheless bloody coup attempt.  The violence on that day, the calls to ‘hang Mike Pence’, still makes me sick to my stomach.  The fact that the attempted coup was approved of by the ‘man’ who called himself ‘president’ still gives me nightmares.  Violence seems to follow Donald Trump wherever he goes, and he seems to incite a great deal of it.  Since that fateful January 6th, violence and calls for violence have increased … even more so in response to a search warrant that was executed to retrieve national security documents Trump illegally stole from us and possibly shared.

Threats of political violence and actual attacks have become a steady reality of American life such that some days I feel we’re living in Somalia instead of the United States.  And the violence isn’t all political … there have been 27 school shootings so far in the first 7 ½ months of 2022!  School children!!!  Yes, 27!  No, you haven’t heard about all of them, for the media only makes a big deal if a relatively large number of children are killed such as was the case in Uvalde, Texas in May, but in total, 83 people, mostly children, have been shot in those 27 school shootings this year.  Can’t blame these directly on politics, but you can sure as hell can blame the politicians who have consistently blocked any form of gun legislation such as banning assault weapons or far more stringent background checks.  So, their answer is to arm all teachers … put even more guns into the hands of people unqualified to have them!

The political violence, however, is out of control and the feeding frenzy isn’t helped by social media, certain mainstream media outlets, and the politicians who keep telling people that the ‘other’ party is the one responsible for all of our woes.

A man named Garrett Ziegler, a former aide to Donald Trump, posted the names and personal information of the FBI Agents who assisted in the execution of the search warrant to retrieve classified documents from the home of Donald Trump.  He even included the social media account of one of the agent’s children!  Within minutes, the families of these agents began receiving death threats.  DEATH THREATS … against the families of law enforcement agents who were merely doing their jobs!

After the brutal murder of George Floyd in 2020, there were numerous Black Lives Matter protest that were, for the most part, peaceful.  What little violence there was, was property damage, not lives threatened.  But people were up in arms because the protests existed.  Yet some of the same people who hated on Black Lives Matter protestors are the very ones cheering those who are threatening civil war, threatening to execute Merrick Garland!  So … apparently they aren’t against violence at all, but are just against Black people, against LGBTQ people, and against anyone who attempts to hold the ‘man’ they have put on a pedestal accountable for his actions.  And speaking of the LGBTQ community …

In late June, a former Marine stepped down as the grand marshal of a July 4th parade in Houston after a deluge of threats that focused on her support of transgender rights. A few weeks later, the gay mayor of an Oklahoma city quit his job after what he described as a series of “threats and attacks bordering on violence.”  A five-year-old girl was evicted from her kindergarten because her parents are gay.  As I reported a week or so ago, a town in Michigan will shut down its library because the library refuses to ban books by LGBTQ authors or about LGBTQ people or issues!

The judge who signed the warrant to search Trump’s home for the missing classified documents is now receiving death threats, as is his family after some on social media called for a “rope around his neck”.  Then Fox “News” exacerbated the situation by posting a photoshopped fake picture of the judge sprawled out with Ghislaine Maxwell giving him a foot massage.  These are the kinds of things that stir the masses and get people KILLED!!!

Political violence, racial violence, school shootings … what the Sam Hell has this nation turned into???  What are we humans turning into???  Have we sold our humanity downriver, traded it for bigotry, hatred and violence???

I don’t have any answers, my friends.  We can … we must … each do our part by controlling our own tempers, by shutting down any conversations where someone is speaking of or calling for a violent act, but that isn’t going to be enough to solve the problem.  We can report those we see on social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook, but that still won’t solve the problem.  I think the answer lies in a direction none of us particularly want to go, but that perhaps we must go, and that is to put some limitations on the 1st Amendment right to free speech.  I don’t like it anymore than you do, but as I’ve long said, every right comes with an accompanying responsibility, and the people of this nation have abused the right without accepting the responsibility.  It is highly irresponsible, criminal even, to call for violence, to call for someone’s ‘execution’ just because you don’t like what he says or does.  We absolutely MUST start holding social media outlets and mainstream news accountable to a higher standard than they currently observe.

And … I’m sure you’re tired of hearing me say this, but we must have some gun control laws that do something more than pay lip service!!!  Ban assault weapons altogether!  Deny a gun to anybody who has even a single incidence of violent behaviour.  Raise the gun ownership age to 25!  Yes, 25!  And make gun ownership a “one strike, you’re out” thing.  We have to do this!!!  And we must make the punishment for any violent act so harsh that it actually serves as a deterrent!  Every person who was in the Capitol on January 6th without authorization should automatically be serving a 5-year prison sentence.  Those who had weapons or harmed anyone should be in prison for 20 years, no exceptions.  If the price of violence is high enough, people will think before they mouth off or worse yet, grab their guns and go on a shooting spree!

I’ve said it enough times, but I’ll keep on saying it … VIOLENCE IS NEVER THE ANSWER!!!  We are truly, and this is not hyperbole, turning into a third-world nation where random shootings are becoming the norm, where even children are targets, and where nobody is quite safe anywhere anymore.  Write to your Senators and Representatives and tell them that THEY have the power to make changes and they damn well better do it NOW!!!  I really don’t know what more we can do, but we better start doing something.

Close The Road From Senate To Oval Office?

There are a few conservative journalists who speak with a rational, intellectual voice and George Will is among them.  He left the Republican Party in 2016, for reasons that should be obvious to us all.  In his latest piece, he suggests we need a constitutional amendment to bar senators from ever running for president.  I’m not sure that I agree completely with him, for if our presidents don’t come from the Senate, then where?  But, he makes some valid and interesting points, and it does often seem that members of Congress spend more time campaigning for their next job than they spend doing their current job. Take a look and see what you think …


Amend the Constitution to bar senators from the presidency

By George F. Will, 27 April 2022

To conserve the reverence it needs and deserves, the Constitution should be amended rarely and reluctantly. There is, however, an amendment that would instantly improve the legislative and executive branches. It would read: “No senator or former senator shall be eligible to be president.”

Seventeen presidents were previously senators. Seven of them – Harding, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Obama, Biden — became senators after 1913, when the 17th Amendment took the selection of senators away from state legislatures. The federal government’s growth, and the national media’s focus on Washington, has increased the prominence of senators eager for prominence, although it often is the prominence of a ship’s figurehead — decorative, not functional. As president-centric government has waxed, the Senate has waned, becoming increasingly a theater of performative behaviors by senators who are decreasingly interested in legislating, and are increasingly preoccupied with using social media for self-promotion.

In Jonathan Haidt’s recent essay for the Atlantic, “Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid,” the New York University social psychologist says social media users by the millions have become comfortable and adept at “putting on performances” for strangers. So have too many senators. Haidt says social media elicits “our most moralistic and least reflective selves,” fueling the “twitchy and explosive spread of anger.”

The Founders feared such incitements, long before social media arrived.

Politicians, and especially senators with presidential ambitions and time on their hands, use social media to practice what Alexander Hamilton deplored (in Federalist 68) as “the little arts of popularity.” Such senators, like millions of Americans, use social media to express and encourage anger about this and that. Anger, like other popular pleasures, can be addictive, particularly if it supplies the default vocabulary for social media.

Today, the gruesome possibility of a 2024 Biden-Trump rematch underscores a Hamilton misjudgment: He said in Federalist 68 there is a “constant probability” of presidents “pre-eminent for ability and virtue.” Banning senators from the presidency would increase the probability of having senators who are interested in being senators, and would increase the probability of avoiding:

Presidents who have never run anything larger than a Senate office. Who have confused striking poses — in the Capitol, on Twitter — with governing. Who have delegated legislative powers to the executive — for example, who have passed sentiment-affirmations masquerading as laws: Hurray for education and the environment; the executive branch shall fill in the details.

And who have been comfortable running the government on continuing resolutions (at existing funding levels) because Congress is incapable of budgeting. There have been 128 CRs in the previous 25 fiscal years — 41 since 2012. Why look for presidents among senators, who have made irresponsibility routine?

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee debate on Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court on April 4. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

The 328 senators of the previous 50 years have illustrated the tyranny of the bell-shaped curve: a few of them dreadful, a few excellent, most mediocre. Although Josh Hawley, Missouri’s freshman Republican, might not be worse than all the other 327, he exemplifies the worst about would-be presidents incubated in the Senate. Arriving there in January 2019, he hit the ground running — away from the Senate. Twenty-four months later, he was the principal catalyst of the attempted nullification of the presidential election preceding the one that he hopes will elevate him. Nimbly clambering aboard every passing bandwagon that can carry him to the Fox News greenroom, he treats the Senate as a mere steppingstone for his ascent to an office commensurate with his estimate of his talents.

The constitutional equilibrium of checks and balances depends on a rivalrous relationship between the executive branch and houses of Congress that are mutually jealous of their powers. “The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place,” and government will be controlled by “this policy of supplying, by opposite and rival interests, the defect of better motives” (James Madison, Federalist 51).

This institutional architecture has, however, been largely vitiated by party loyalties: Congressional members of the president’s party behave as his subservient teammates; members of the opposing party act as reflexive opposers. This changes the role of the House, whose members are generally not so telegenic and are more regimented, less than it does the role of the Senate, which degenerates into an arena of gestures, hence an incubator of would-be presidents.

One of today’s exemplary senators, Mitt Romney, surely is such partly because, his presidential ambitions retired, he nevertheless wants to be a senator. Were all persons with presidential ambitions deterred from becoming senators, this probably would improve the caliber of senators, and of presidents, and the equilibrium between the political branches.

Facebook’s ban on the Former Guy Must Remain

Tomorrow, Facebook will announce whether the former guy will be allowed back on. If he is, I will be closing my Facebook account on that same day, for it would show me the lack of values, lack of integrity of that outlet. Our friend Jeff over at On the Fence Voters weighs in on the topic, and I am 100% in agreement with him. Thanks, Jeff!

On The Fence Voters

Here’s hoping the Facebook Oversight Board (FOB) does the right thing tomorrow and keeps the indefinite ban on the disgraced former president. American democracy eagerly awaits the decision.

For those of you who might not know it, Facebook created the Board to weigh in on certain moderation decisions made by the company and make sure that those decisions were “made according to its stated values.” Whatever decision they reach tomorrow cannot be overruled – even by Zuckerburg himself.

The Former Guy is seeking reinstatement of his Facebook and Instagram accounts. Currently, his accounts on YouTube, Snapchat, and Twitter remain suspended. All social media giants responded when the mob of thugs tried to overthrow our government on January 6. The Former Guy’s reprehensible promulgation of the Big Lie that the election was stolen from him directly resulted in the events of that day.

The media companies did the right thing then…

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It’s Not Over Yet …

Three days ago, Trump supporters stormed the Capital building in Washington, destroyed public property, and caused the deaths of five people.  They were a mob, they fit every definition of domestic terrorists.  A few were arrested, and dozens more have since been identified and arrested, including the jerk who so proudly posed for a photo with his feet on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk.  Many have lost their jobs, as their employers saw their pictures or were informed of their unconscionable acts.  However, Wednesday was not the end, the movement has not been stopped or even slowed by the public condemnation or the relatively few arrests.

Yesterday’s headline …

terrorism

According to the article

Parler, Telegram chat rooms and the platform TheDonald.win were all used to plan and coordinate the Jan. 6 rally that turned into a riot. Posters explicitly stated their intentions to “occupy” the Capitol. QAnon conspiracy theorists and people associated with militia groups had a visible presence in Wednesday’s crowd.

“Round 2 on January 20th. This time no mercy. I don’t even care about keeping Trump in power. I care about war,” an anonymous person posted on the platform TheDonald.win, which is filled with comments posted by people who lauded those who rioted Wednesday as “heroes.”

Law enforcement is scrambling to identify those who broke into the Capitol building, and are worried about the inauguration as another target.

“There is growing concern that violent extremists are emboldened by the breach of the Capitol, which means the clock is ticking on taking down the most influential incites of violence before they act again,” said Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI assistant director and NBC News national security analyst.

The Secret Service, which is supervising security for the inauguration, could not immediately be reached for comment. The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Secret Service, referred NBC News to the Secret Service.

According the National Park Service, which handles permits for rallies in D.C., there are seven First Amendment permit applications in process that overlap with the inauguration date, one of which is clearly for Trump supporters.

Over the years, I have often argued that the time has come to put some limitations on the First Amendment right to free speech.  Every ‘right’ comes with an associated responsibility, in this case the responsibility to act peacefully.  Those who would come to Washington to do harm, to kill and destroy, are taking their ‘right’ to free speech several steps too far and must be stopped within the next 11 days, else the eagerly anticipated inauguration day will become a bloodbath and the start of an internal war in this nation.

My first question is, if the organizers of Wednesdays riots were communicating their plans on the aforementioned websites, then the FBI and Department of Homeland Security surely knew of their plans, so why wasn’t there a heavy law enforcement presence surrounding the Capitol, rather than only a handful of Capitol Police, some of whom were actually seen helping the terrorist enter the building?  This is a question that MUST be answered … immediately!  Did Donald Trump somehow interfere or stop law enforcement from interrupting the plans of the terrorists?  Is the leadership in our security forces as corrupt as that at the head of our government?  We need to know, and somehow the plans for Joe Biden’s inauguration must be changed, must be made as secure and as private as possible.

If our own security forces have been compromised, as I believe may be the case, then who can we turn to for help?  I’ve lived on this earth for 69, almost 70 years now, and I’ve learned that fear is immobilizing, better to be angry than afraid.  And I am angry, but today I am also afraid.  I am afraid that in less than two weeks, this nation may be shattered like the windows of the Capitol were on Wednesday.  I’m afraid that our government is no longer functional, can no longer maintain a nation of law and order.  In fact, it would seem that many within our government are a part of the movement that seeks to overthrow it.

There are many who must share the blame for what happened Wednesday and what may yet happen in the coming two weeks, but the time for blame and punishment will come later.  Right now, it is time to work to ensure the safety of the incoming administration, of our lawmakers, and of the people of this nation.

For some time now, I have hoped that this nation could be reconciled, that the Great Divide between right and left could somehow begin to heal, but today I see no common ground to work with.  In my book, those who would destroy this nation with their racist, bigoted views are not of the same species as the rest of us and I think this nation may well be beyond repair.

Discord & Dissension — Part VI — Disinformation

This is the sixth installment of mine and Jeff’s project, and in case you’ve missed any of the previous posts, we will also be publishing a Table of Contents in just a few minutes that we will keep updated and link to at the end of each future post.  As I mentioned last month in the introduction to the project, as situations change, we will roll with the punches and adjust our focus.  The last 9 days have brought about great change … Trump was acquitted by the Senate, basically being told that whatever he chooses to do, they have his back.  He turned the State of the Union address into a three-ring circus, fired a military hero and a devoted ambassador for no reason other than they did their duty by speaking the truth under oath, has interfered with the rule of law in the sentencing of Roger Stone, has proposed a budget that rewards the wealthy while punishing the disadvantaged, and who knows what tomorrow brings.

The point being that … in the hundred or so comments I answer each day, I sense your frustration, your discouragement, and believe me … Jeff and I have both been there in the past several days.  But we cannot allow ourselves to focus on the negativity, cannot allow ourselves to lose hope or lose sight of the goal.  If we stop fighting, then we lose automatically, without ever knowing if we might have made a difference.  So, join us in picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves off, and going on to fight the good fight for just short of nine more months.

A few weeks ago, I tried to answer the question, “Where do we go from here?”  I concluded that the goal is two-fold:  vote Trump out of the Oval Office and begin to heal the ‘great divide’.  Neither of these goals are going to be easy, folks, and the GOP and others’ propaganda machines are going to make it even harder.

The GOP, or Republican Party, has been actively working to skew the odds in their favour since before the 2016 election.  The Russian interference that triggered Robert Mueller’s investigation was not, as Trump would have you believe, a ‘hoax’ nor a ‘witch hunt’, but was rather a coordinated effort on the part of Russian President Vladimir Putin to launch a propaganda machine demeaning and denigrating Hillary Clinton, while giving rise to Donald Trump.  The Russian propaganda machine has not taken a break since the 2016 elections.  According to FBI Director Christopher Wray …

“That is in some ways an even more challenging area, not the least because it never stopped. It happened in 2016 and it’s been continuing ever since then. It may have an uptick during an election cycle, but it’s a 24/7, 365-days-a-year threat.”

Election security bills were passed by the House of Representatives, but have since languished in the Senate, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to even bring them to the Senate floor for consideration.

But it isn’t only foreign influence that we have to worry about, for much of the propaganda comes directly from the GOP and a plethora of conservative groups.  Consider this example:  The day before the February 3rd Iowa caucuses, Judicial Watch, a conservative advocacy group, put out a report claiming that “Eight Iowa counties have more voter registrations than citizens old enough to register.”  It was a lie, one quickly debunked by Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, but not before the lie had been spread via Fox News’ Sean Hannity and other right-wing media sites.

Iowa-Hannity Iowa-Facebook

Voter fraud is a recurring myth favored by right-wingers, but there are other tactics, such as finding a chink in a candidates armour, real or made up, and using it repeatedly, embellishing on it, to denigrate that candidate.  Of the top candidates, we’ve already seen what Trump’s accusations against Joe Biden … accusations that have long since been debunked … have nonetheless played a role in Biden’s polling plunge.  Bernie’s chink, of course, is that he is a democratic socialist, which will play well with those who do not even understand the concept of democratic socialism.

Politics has always been a dirty game … smear campaigns, mudslinging and outright lies are certainly nothing new.  But, with the rise of social media, these tactics are magnified a million-fold, and every time you log onto Facebook or Twitter, you are likely to be exposed to some form of disinformation.  Facebook collects data on you, based on your friends, what you post, what you comment on, and any personal data you include in your profile, and then they use that data to target what advertisements you see.  My advice is to include nothing in your personal profile, and to use a strong ad blocker at all times, but especially when spending time on any social media site.  There is an app called Facebook Purity that will quite effectively block any and all ads, along with other annoying things Facebook throws in your face.  I highly recommend it.

While, after the fiasco that was the 2016 election, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook promised to do a better job of monitoring political ads and false accounts, he backtracked last year when he plainly said he would allow false and misleading ads to continue on the platform, arguing that his company shouldn’t be responsible for arbitrating political speech.  Facebook-trump-adsMy earliest memories are of political advertisements in newspapers and on television in the early 1950s, and more recently social media has become the platform of preference, but this year there’s yet another venue … your cell phone.  Yep, folks, this year, according to Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale, texting will be at the center of Trump’s reelection strategy.  I highly recommend you install a call blocking program if you don’t wish to be disturbed multiple times a day.  Mine is set to block all calls that don’t come from a number on my contact list, and since my contact list includes only 4 people, I no longer get many such calls.  I do, however, see a list of the ones blocked, and I notice the number has increased of late.

Besides being a major annoyance, though, the disinformation campaign, the propaganda machine, poses a significant hurdle to a fair and honest election.  You are savvy enough to know, if you see an ad or what appears to be an actual news story saying that Elizabeth Warren has a harem of young males she keeps locked in the attic of her home for her personal pleasure, it’s fake.  But some will believe it.  Remember Pizzagate, where the rumour was spread that Hillary Clinton and John Podesta were running a human traffiking and child sex ring in the basement of a pizzeria, Comet Ping Pong?  Someone believed it enough to go shoot the place up!

Remember my post from yesterday with the Founding Fathers singing a song to the tune of American Pie?  Creative use of technology, wasn’t it? Well, that was harmless, but some aren’t.  Take a look at this simple, doctored photo of Stacy Abrams that was used by her opponents in the Georgia 2018 gubernatorial race …

Just as social media has increased the spread of disinformation, technology has taken it to a new level.  I would ask that you take just a few minutes … 8 of them, to be precise, to listen to this interview on NPR radio (there is a transcript attached, if you prefer to read the interview)  with McKay Coppins, a writer for The Atlantic, about an article he published earlier this week on the topic of the GOP propaganda machine.  It is very enlightening, and if you would like to read his entire article, which is lengthy, but well worth the time, you can do so here .

As Mr. Coppins said in the interview, even he found himself questioning what was real and what wasn’t, so I think it’s important … nay, crucial … for us all to be hyper-aware of the information that bombards us from all directions most every waking moment these days.  If something sounds off … check it out, don’t just assume it’s correct, even if it’s from a credible source.  Let’s all help stop the flow of propaganda … this election will be enough of an uphill battle, without people being manipulated.

Next week, Jeff will be back with Part VII of our project … stay tuned!

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.