Monday, January 20, 2020

My Pet Goat- how to lose an election that nobody can lose....


Democrats have an unerring ability- except in the 2018 midterm House elections- to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Given a set of circumstances that, were the situation reversed, the Republicans would pounce on and use to their great political advantage, the Democrats inexplicably drop the ball. Case in point: in 2001, under a Republican President, George W. Bush, we suffered the greatest terrorist attack in the country's history. During the month leading up to that attack, the President of the United States took a vacation on his "ranch" in Crawford, Texas. During that time he received a Presidential Daily Intelligence Brief that specifically warned him that Osama Bin Laden was determined to attack inside the United States. The President blew off the briefer and did nothing. During the attack itself, the President was filmed sitting on a chair in a first grade classroom in Florida, reading a book, "My Pet Goat," after- AFTER- he had been told by his chief of staff, Andrew Card, that the nation was under attack after the first tower fell in New York City. Did he jump up, leave the room, go meet with his staff, take any action at all? Nope. He sat there for seven minutes, frozen like a deer in headlights. Listening to "My Pet Goat." Doing nothing. It's all highlighted in Michael Moore's film, Fahrenheit 9-11.

Bush, as it turned out, had been a war dodger during Vietnam, securing a stateside gig in the Texas Air National Guard and avoiding being put in harm's way in Vietnam. Then he got a transfer to the Alabama Air National Guard, from which he promptly went AWOL and was never seen at a drill for a year.

Running against Bush in the next election was John Kerry, an American who had not ducked service. Who had gone to Vietnam. Who was wounded there.

So here you had it: a cowardly man who went AWOL from his unit in Vietnam, who blew off a CIA briefer warning of an attack within the United States by Osama Bin Ladin, who spent a month cutting brush in Crawford, Texas while the final plans for the 9-11 hijackers were being taken to fruition, who froze, paralyzed with fear into inaction after being informed that the nation was under attack. And his opponent was a respected United States Senator who had actually served in Vietnam and been wounded there.

So who won the election- rather handily? The AWOL, war dodging, ineffectual coward who abdicated his most important responsibility- looking after the nation's security- and who allowed the country to suffer the worst terrorist attack in history, forever changing the course of this country. Who took a surplus national budget and turned it into the greatest annual deficits in the nation's history.

Why? Because Democrats can't stand winning. They can't take advantage of the opportunity handed to them on a platter. They can't even muster the ability to use truth- facts- instead of the incredible lies that the Republicans must rely on to win election and re-election.

The lie in 2004? Dick Cheney said it: you must re-elect us because we kept you safe, and we don't want to suffer another awful terrorist attack, which can happen if you vote for the other guy.

Seriously: they ran against Kerry's war record- wearing Purple Heart bandaids to mock Kerry during the Republican convention, as they praised the coward who had gone AWOL and who had let the nation down in 2001 when it needed an active, competent, brave leader the most.
And they won. Because Kerry never ran the first campaign ad decrying Bush going AWOL, first, during Vietnam, and second, during the terrorist attacks on 9-11-01. Not. One. Single. Ad. Had the situation been reversed, the Republicans would have run every ad on that subject, 24 hours a day. And their candidate would have won all 50 states.

And here we are, in 2020, about to do it again. The worst human being in history is happily ensconced in the White House, eating cheeseburgers and french fries while watching Fox and Friends. Who takes his intelligence briefings from Sean Hannity, and not the CIA or FBI. Who, while being impeached, can't stop talking to campaign rallies about imaginary water regulations that require flushing toilets 10 or 15 times (who? who does that?) and pushing buttons repeatedly to run a dishwasher 10 or 15 times to get the dishes clean (again, who? who does that?) while his brain damaged cult followers somehow manage to cheer the absurd, as this man devolves before their eyes. The man so scared of Joe Biden that he abused the power of his office to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to an ally to get an announcement- not an investigation- an "announcement" of an investigation into his most feared political opponent.

Someone who has repeatedly abused the people who voted for him. By trying- and failing by one vote in the Senate- to take away their health insurance. By wrecking their family owned farms with absurd tariffs. A man who has managed to take a wrecking ball to virtually every part of the federal government, who has appointed some of the most ignorant, incompetent, and venal cabinet members and agency heads in history. A man who took a nominee to the Supreme Court credibly accused of attempted rape and turned him into a cause celebre among his right wing supporters, warning them that their sons and brothers could be accused of sexual assault if they didn't support this disgusting, temperamental, privileged, narcissistic, misogynistic nominee.

And if we fucking lose to this guy- again- we will deserve the country we will get. Our children and grandchildren who are under the age of 18 won't. But the rest of us will.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Meet the Press: You can do better....

Liz Cheney and her father, Darth Vader... spreading the darkness and blowing up planets....


to Mr. Charles David (Chuck) Todd
Meet the Press

RE: December 29, 2019 show on lies and disinformation

Dear Mr. Todd,

Although I enjoyed and appreciated your special Meet the Press program on lies and disinformation and journalism's responsibility, I have a few bones to pick.

First and foremost: you had the Executive Editor of the New York Times on your program, yet you failed to raise the most serious and tragic lie of the last 50 years- probably the worst since the Gulf of Tonkin "attack" back in 1964, that led to a Congressional authorization, the vast expansion of the War in Vietnam, 58,220 American dead, untold Vietnamese casualties, and a war that transformed this country. That lie was the infamous "weapons of mass destruction" canard that the Bush Administration used to get us into a war in 2003 that has transformed America and the Middle East. It was not "faulty intelligence" that got us into that war. That war was ginned up by the Bush Administration- you only have to read the stories on The Project for a New American Century which had been promoting an invasion of Iraq since the Clinton years, and whose members ended up in the highest positions in the Bush Administration, including the Department of Defense and the Vice President's office.

https://buildabettermousetrap.blogspot.com/search?q=pnac

"The fundamental essence of PNAC's ideology can be found in a White Paper produced in September of 2000 entitled "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century." In it, PNAC outlines what is required of America to create the global empire they envision. According to PNAC, America must:

* Reposition permanently based forces to Southern Europe, Southeast Asia and the Middle East;

Vice President Dick Cheney is a founding member of PNAC, along with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Defense Policy Board chairman Richard Perle. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz is the ideological father of the group. Bruce Jackson, a PNAC director, served as a Pentagon official for Ronald Reagan before leaving government service to take a leading position with the weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin.

PNAC has recently given birth to a new group, The Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which met with National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice in order to formulate a plan to "educate" the American populace about the need for war in Iraq.

The PNAC plan calls for the US to take control of the Gulf region with overwhelming and deadly military force. "While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification," the PNAC document explains, "the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein." In other words, Saddam is little more than an excuse for "maintaining global US pre-eminence... and shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests." After the PNAC document was leaked to the Sunday Herald, Tam Dalyell, the British Labor MP, hit the nail right on the head when he declared, "This is garbage from right-wing think-tanks stuffed with chicken-hawks -- men who have never seen the horror of war but are in love with the idea of war. Men like Cheney, who were draft-dodgers in the Vietnam war.""

The lies told by the Bush Administration were swallowed whole by The New York Times, and there was a spectacular fail on the part of their "WMD" coverage reporter, Judith Miller.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-reporters-defense-of-her-flawed-reporting/2015/04/09/5bf93f14-de15-11e4-a500-1c5bb1d8ff6a_story.html

And you had the Washington Post's Executive Editor, whose paper wrote the above story in 2015, debunking Judith Miller and her credulous WMD reporting in The Times. That same story contained the following mea culpa:

" (Full disclosure: The Washington Post editorial board admitted that it had been “insufficiently skeptical of intelligence reports” in its pro-war editorials.)"

So the upshot is that you committed the same sin of insufficient journalism with both editors that you have been committing for years with the lying liars (mostly Republican politicians, others, like Hugh Hewitt and other Republican "operatives" masquerading as the "press" on your panels): you failed to take them to task for their lies or their failure to discern lies in their reporting.

The difference? When Trump lies, it's to feed or protect his ego. When Bush lied, it led to the deaths of 4,571 American servicemen and women, the wounding, some permanent, of tens of thousands more, the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, the rise of ISIS, and the permanent destabilization of the Middle East.

The second bone? You had Congresswoman Lynn Cheney on your program in March of 2019, and you let go by unremarked the following bald statement she made to your face: "The Democrats have been in charge for about 2 1/2 months in the House. In that time, they’ve been the party of anti-Semitism, the party of infanticide, the party of socialism."

https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr2=piv-web&p=lynn+cheney+on+meet+the+press+democratic+platform+of+infanticide&hspart=att&hsimp=yhs-att_001#id=1&vid=bf521e412abdef5454a4e8bbbe82f604&action=view

Just because she said it quickly, in the middle of a paragraph, near the end of her segment, was no excuse to let those breathtaking lies go unchallenged. Take it apart: she is claiming that Democrats murder live babies. I haven't heard that slander since the Cossacks slaughtered Jews for allegedly killing Christian children on Passover. You should have stopped her cold and told her:

"Unless you have proof that Democrats are killing babies or that their "platform" urges the killing of live babies, you will have to admit that this is a gross and disgusting slander. And although I'm sure that proof will not be forthcoming, but I'll reserve a slot on next week's show for you. If you don't have it, then we'll rerun your comment and allow experts in Nazi propaganda to appear and explain your "Big Lie" tactic. Same goes for claiming that the Democratic platform is anti-Semitic. Given that the leading lights in the Democratic Party- including Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders are Jewish, and given that polls consistently show that a majority of Jews self identify (and vote for) as Democrats, that was also a bald faced lie. But I'll give you a chance to come back and prove that the official Democratic platform- not a few quotes taken out of context from Congresswomen from Minnesota or Detroit- has as its official policy "anti-Semitism." And if you can't do that, we'll rerun your quote and have some top Jewish lawmakers- including Senators Sanders and Schumer, and Congressmen Nadler and Raskin- appear and debunk your lie."

https://www.jta.org/quick-reads/half-of-american-jews-identified-as-democrat-in-2018

The "socialism" comment has been thrown around on your show as well by every Republican politician and most of their "press" commentators, and you have never bothered to press them to define the term. The term "socialism" means the government owning the means of production (i.e., steel mills, cell phone plants, car manufacturers). It doesn't mean allowing more persons to buy into Medicare, although that is a "social program." Here's Merriam Webster's definition of "socialism":

"1. any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods

2a: a system of society or group living in which there is no private property
b: a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state

3: a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done"

There is no Democratic candidate for president who advocates any of those things- not Bernie Sanders, not Elizabeth Warren, not Andrew Yang. There is no Democratic "platform" that advocates it. So how about correcting your panelists and your politicians, or at the very least, ask them to crack open a dictionary (you can provide it) and have them read the definition to the audience. Tell them that if they want to make up their own definition, they will have to publish a dictionary that is generally accepted by the public and by English teachers. Then tell them that the term is banned from your air until they use it properly.

That's about it. I'm available if you ever need any advice on how to cross examine a witness. I'm a trial lawyer with 43 years of experience and more jury trials- civil and criminal- than I can remember. My reputation is sterling (better than I deserve, actually).


Lying Liars and their attempts to change reality... on our TV's

So...... Chuck Todd did a special show on Meet the Press this morning about "truth" and "facts" and "disinformation." He led off with the clip of KellyAnne Conway and her infamous "alternative facts" explanation for Sean Spicer- and Trump- lying about Trump's crowd size at his inauguration. He had on the two executive editors of the New York Times (Dean Baquet) and the Washington Post (Martin Baron).

It was a decent show, and explored the sources of disinformation and a brief history of the lying we have endured from political leaders.

But..... But, it's hard to imagine being a producer of that show and leaving out two huge omissions: (1) "Weapons of Mass Destruction." and (2) the role of the late night comedy hosts in fighting the war against bad journalism and the lying liars in politics.

First: the fact is that the New York Times played a role in the 2002-2003 dissemination of an easily dismantled lie that helped get our nation to swallow the Bush Administration's claims that Iraq posed an imminent military threat (it didn't- far from it) and that it was assembling "weapons of mass destruction" (it wasn't). Prominently among the Times reporters was one Judith Miller, but it was the overall failure of the media- led by the Times- to expose the fabrications of the Bush Administration BEFORE the invasion was launched.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/…/5bf93f14-de15-11e4-a500-1c…

It was also the failure of prominent Democrats in the Senate with presidential aspirations- Hillary Clinton, who to this day has never admitted why she, along with John Kerry (the 2004 nominee) and John Edwards (also appearing in the primaries) voted to authorize Bush to use force against Saddam Hussein in 2002. The real reason Clinton voted that way was because of her presidential aspirations- not "faulty intelligence." My buddy Glenn and I, sitting in my living room in December of 2002, knew that the claims were lies and that it would be a disaster to invade Iraq. But the senators- including Clinton- who voted to authorize the use of force did so just before the 2002 mid-term elections (it didn't save Georgia's Max Cleland when he made that vote). Clinton knew that if she voted against the use of force, that vote would be thrown in her face later when she ran for president as evidence of her unfitness- her unwillingness to use our military to confront a brutal dictator, as a sign of "weakness" that no woman running for high office could afford to display. She wanted to show that she was just as much a "man" as the other guys willing to use our military to show off how macho they were. And the "faulty intelligence" was a joke, easily unmasked (by anybody who used the most basic logic and had even a smattering of knowledge of Iraq and its ruler). But Clinton still refuses to admit that it was a lie, and she knew it was a lie, that Iraq posed any kind of imminent threat to anybody. Our military had the country surrounded (troops in Kuwait to the south and Turkey to the north). That had an implacable foe- Iran- on its eastern border. And our air force ruled the skies over Iraq.

The other thing Chuck Todd missed was how often his program has been a platform for repeated lying liars: how can he explain the numerous appearances of Lindsey Graham, Ron Johnson (Wisconsin senator) and John Kennedy (Louisiana), and their repeated, conscious lies- and Todd's unwillingness or inability to confront them with their lies while they are on his air.

Meanwhile, late night "comedians" like Trevor Noah and Stephen Colbert (I don't watch Kimmell or Conan O'Brien, but I assume they are just as good) do the heavy lifting that the so called "news" shows fail to do: putting up the video of the same lying politicians saying the exact opposite of what they said that day- or, showing numerous liars repeating the same lies with the same words, on Fox News and elsewhere. And mocking them mercilessly for it. Over and over.

Well, at least it's a start. But Todd and the other Sunday morning news shows and their nightly news shows should realize that they are in a war. A war agaainst facts and truth. And they need to fight back. With immediate Pinocchio awards and the unmasking of the lies.

So the next time a Lynn Cheney (Congresswoman from Wyoming, head of the RNC's campaign for Republicans for Congress and daughter of Darth Vader) shows up and says that Democrats' platform is "socialism, infanticide, and anti-Semitism" in the middle of a paragraph, Chuck Todd needs to stop everything else he is doing and call out the lying liar. He just had a member of Congress claim that the Democratic platform is to murder living babies after they are born. That Democrats hate Jews (the large majority of Jews, myself included, ARE Democrats- including Chuck Schumer and Bernie Sanders and Michael Bloomberg- a recent "convert" to the Democratic Party). And Chuck needs to patiently explain what "socialism" is, and if he doesn't understand it, pull out an expert (like Woody Allen with Marshall McLuhan in Annie Hall). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wWUc8BZgWE

https://www.realclearpolitics.com/…/liz_cheney_democrats_ha…

Saturday, December 28, 2019

A Bridge to the Third Decade of the 21st Century


Here's a serious question: Trump is going to be gone, one way (impeachment) or another (election, hamberder, resignation). After he's gone, then what? We had toxic politics long before he arrived. You can go back to Nixon (his infamous "Southern strategy " followed by a series of crimes for which he was about to be impeached when he resigned), or Reagan (kicking off his campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi for a call for "States' Rights" near the murder site of Goodwin, Cheney, and Schwerner by the Klan), or George H. W. Bush ("Willie Horton," the "Pledge of Allegiance" "card carrying member of the ACLU.") George W. Bush (Karl Rove, the push-poll in South Carolina that asked voters how it affected their vote that John McCain had a black child (he and his wife had adopted a baby from Bangladesh, but voters weren't told that). The godawful 2000 election and the "riot" of Brooks Brothers suited Republican operatives in Miama to shut down the counting. 5-4 Bush v. Gore.

The 1994 New Gingrich GoPAC memo to Republican candidates to call their opponents "traitors," among other things.

The Ken Starr investigation (Monica Lewinski hadn't even been hired as an intern at the White House when that investigation launched).

And then there was Sarah Palin. In 2008. A celebration of know nothingism who called the question by Katie Couric "what do you read to get your news" a "gotcha question (!!!)" A poor man's Joe McCarthy: "I'm glad to be here in "Real America." Talking about Obama "palling around with terrorists." Cause the rest of us aren't "real Americans" in the Republicans' playbook.

So Donald Trump wasn't an aberration. He wasn't a bug. He was a feature. And the party fell into lock step, even those he grossly insulted and who denounced him (Ted Cruz- Trump claimed Cruz's wife was ugly and his father had helped assassinate Kennedy (!); Lindsey Graham). He was a culmination of decades of the Republican Party cultivating ignorance, stupidity, hate, tribalism, spreading lies, confusing truth when the profit margin might suffer (cigarette companies and the killing effects of tobacco carcinogens; energy companies and pollution and global warming, and so on).

So what do we do when Trump is gone? Here's one observation: Donald John Trump has done America a huge service. He's personified every awful thing about modern Republican politics and exaggerated it to the nth degree. And that has energized the good people. The real "silent majority," which isn't so silent anymore. He's energized the participation of women, as voters and candidates and as elected officials, like no one ever had before.

So here we are. On the cusp of the third decade of the 21st century. We don't have jet packs, flying cars, or a colony on the moon. We do have devices in our homes we can talk to that control the environment and our electronics (that's a cool thing).

And as for our politics? First and foremost: we need comprehensive campaign finance reform, getting all private money out of policians pockets and defanging the PAC money used to influence elections without compromising the First Amendment. (I've already written how that can be accomplished. https://buildabettermousetrap.blogspot.com/search?q=toxic

Once we do that, everything else is possible... If we can do two things: eliminate the electoral college (no Constitutional amendment is necessary, just enough States to pass legislation joining the popular vote compact to require their electors to vote for the winner of the popular vote) and get all private money- contributors, lobbbyists, et al.- out of the pockets of elected officials, the modern Republican Party will be dead. A new party will have to arise- one party politics is bad for the country. Competition is good, and you don't have to go back very far (1993-1994) to see what happens when a "do good" party controls all three branches of government yet somehow can't manage to pass any meaningful legislation, including an expansion of Medicare. We can call it the "New Republican Party." Hopefully, they will get the lying liars out of it.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Impeach the Motherfucker....


(Kristin Anderson told The Washington Post that Trump put his hand up her skirt to her underwear in the early 1990s. In other words, he did exactly what he bragged he did in the Access Hollywood video a few years later).

This is for cousin Larry, who asked how I managed to write such a brief letter (in today's New York Times). The answer is: I didn't. I got an e-mail from the NYT letters editor, who seems like a very nice lady (she had also called my office, but I was in court all day past 6:00 p.m.), who asked me a series of questions, including whether or not I was ok with the editing she had done. I think she did a pretty good job- when I wrote, the House Judiciary Committee had not yet submitted articles of impeachment, and there was some question as to whether they would add the obstruction charges from the Mueller report regarding the Russia investigation.

Anyway, for Larry, below was the original. I only wish the Democrats would pay attention to the forest, as they seem to be only aware of the tree in front of them. The big picture is getting him out of office, while at the same time letting the country know that his behavior is unacceptable and that he will forever bear the stain of being only the third president impeached-- and the third to survive a trial in the Senate, absent some amazingly stupid and catastrophic move by Trump himself that will put the Republicans in the Senate in an impossible situation. You know, like raping someone on the White House lawn or shooting somebody dead on Fifth Avenue. Of course, he'd still have Jim Jordan and Louie Gomert's votes in the House (!)

"Dear Editor:

The House Democrats are, as usual, about to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by wrapping up a narrow impeachment inquiry, impeaching the President on only a scintilla of the crimes he has committed- omitting emoluments violations, campaign finance felonies, ties to the Russian Mafia and money laundering, fraud felonies by Trump University and the Trump Foundation charity, and sex crimes including felonies up to and including rape. Sadly, they will send the Senate impeachment articles based solely on the Ukraine scandal, but possibly including obstruction of justice from the Mueller investigation, where the trial will end quickly and be long forgotten by next November, just as the month long government shut down, the children in cages at the border, and the mass murders committed in the name of anti-immigration hate inspired by Trump, are all distant memories.

Instead, Democrats in the House should take advantage of the spotlight, hold evidentiary hearings lasting months, understanding full well- as Trump did when he sought an announcement of a corruption investigation of Biden, not an actual investigation (which would have revealed no criminal activity or corruption)- that it will be the allegations, not the conviction, that will do in Trump. If there was a month long hearing of just the emoluments violations, followed by another month of woman after woman who was sexually assaulted by Trump- also including those who were illegally paid off with hush money in violation of federal campaign finance laws, Trump will continue to lose his grip, and his re-election campaign will be stymied by his inability to focus on anything other than the impeachment hearings.

Instead of wrapping hearings up quickly before the New Year, Democrats should patiently build a case for impeachment that will include every crime committed by Trump, both before he took office and after, and continue building that case all the way to the Republican convention next August.

Then, send it to a trial in the Senate after the Republicans have made him their nominee. And instead of campaigning for President, as the Democratic nominee will be doing, he'll be defending himself in a trial that will last months, as every single item of evidence is presented to the Senate. Because there is not a chance in hell of getting a conviction in the Senate. But that doesn't mean that Democrats can't get every one of his crimes in the public spotlight during the election campaign."

Monday, September 09, 2019

GETTING SERIOUS ABOUT GUN CONTROL...


Scenes of the aftermath of the carnage in Las Vegas where 58 were murdered and 500 injured in 2017 in America's worst mass shooting- so far.

On the subject of gun control, here are some proposals to try to reduce the mayhem that Americans inflict on each other- and themselves, via suicide and accidents- with firearms:

* Complete background checks that require all gun sales or other transfers to be banned if the purchaser or recipient is a convicted felon or a person with any kind of court order prohibiting their possession of firearms.

* Red flag laws that allow private persons or law enforcement to seek a court order- which would allow the gun owner to have notice and a hearing- to prohibit a dangerous person from possessing firearms. These are routinely incorporated into conditions of a bond for release in criminal cases or civil cases where acts of domestic violence are alleged or in divorce cases where a spouse has a credible fear of harm.

* Gun licensing laws that require any prospective gun owner to take and pass a course in responsible gun safety, and which would require periodic renewals, the same as we do with motor vehicles.

* Banning "assault" type weapons, guns easily converted to automatic, and high capacity magazines. Gun aficionados claim that there is no such thing as an "assault weapon" and it can't be defined. Somehow, states managed to ban obscenity even without being able to accurately define it (former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously said: "I can't define it, but I know it when I see it!")

* Banning high velocity, high kinetic energy ammunition, designed to penetrate bulletproof vests and designed to cause maximum damage to human beings. Of course, there is no legitimate reason to own or use such ammunition.

* Requiring gun manufacturers to put the same safety features on guns that exist on smart phones- codes or fingerprints to unlock them (this was a supposedly fictional feature on James Bond's gun in 2012's Skyfall, but there was a prototype in another Bond film in 1989, License to Kill).

* Removing all tort protection from gun manufacturers and sellers, and requiring them to create a fund to compensate without fault any person injured by a firearm- unless that person was committing a criminal act at the time and was not himself or herself the victim of a crime (i.e., it's not legal to shoot a 12 year old shoplifting).

* Eliminating all concealed carry laws for civilians (I've never understood the necessity of making this practice legal for civilians).

* Banning all civilians from carrying firearms at any public gathering, retail store, bar, church, or any commercial property unless the owner specifically consents, in writing, with that information posted where the public can be made aware.

* If we ever get really serious about eliminating the majority of firearm deaths, we will ban all handguns, require all ammunition manufactured or possessed to be reduced to non-lethal muzzle velocities and kinetic energy, and require that any possessor of a long gun (the only legal weapons) be a part of a well regulated militia that will drill on the town square or its equivalent every Saturday afternoon (Sundays for Orthodox Jews).

Saturday, August 31, 2019

"FAKE NEWS" in the era of TRUMP


One of the unfortunate side effects of the Trump era is that the phrase "fake news" has taken on the opposite meaning of what it used to mean. It used to mean that someone or some organization had put out a false news story- such as those put out by the Russian government's disinformation campaign during the 2016 election to damage Hillary Clinton. One of the most infamous was the wild and false allegation that Clinton and her campaign manager were running a child slavery sex ring out of the basement of a Washington pizza parlor, which provoked an armed man to arrive to try to free the fictional child sex slaves.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/police-man-with-assault-rifle-dc-comet-pizza-victim-of-fake-sex-trafficking-story/

(It can't be seriously argued that the Russians were trying to engineer the election of Donald Trump- not even Trump thought he was going to win. The Russians just wanted a weakened and embattled Hillary Clinton presidency.)

But Donald Trump has single handedly turned the phrase "fake news" around. Now the phrase "fake news" when uttered by Trump or members of his administration means a legitimate news story, based on sound reporting, that is well sourced, factual, and true- but one that makes Donald Trump look bad. Even when it's just video of Trump saying something wild, incoherent or obviously untrue (like his July 4th speech about the Revolutionaries attacking airports), Trump labels it as fake news. And now when Trump says something is "fake news," we can almost count on it being true.

Unfortunately, the rise of Trump has also led to a massive decline in awareness of current events by a significant minority of the U.S. population, as his cult followers have taken his lead and now refuse to accept or consider stories written or reported by mainstream, legitimate news organizations which follow journalistic ethics. Trumpers routinely reject news coming from organizations which try to report accurately, source their stories, not take accusations at face value without double and triple checking them, and which quickly try to correct the few errors that occur so they can get the record straight. Many if not most of Trump's cult followers are probably unaware that many of the reporters for these organizations came from respected schools of journalism (Columbia's School of Journalism founded by Joseph Pulitzer, Medill School at Northwestern, my alma mater's Annenberg School of Communications, etc.). In fact, they are probably unaware that there is such a phrase as "journalistic ethics" and could not understand what that phrase means if they have heard of it. Because the Trump cultists have been exposed to an unrelenting stream of lies, disinformation, and wild exaggerations, all intended to sow the seeds of fear, distrust, and hate from professional prevaricators like Rush Limbaugh (who really is a brilliant man who knows exactly what he is doing), Fox News (Fox & Friends, Hannity, Carlson, Ingraham, Piro, Dobbs, etc.), Breitbart, and who knows what else.

So now Trump cultists routinely discount anything coming from a flagship television news organization, unique in its inception circa 1980, CNN (which was attacked by Trump so often that one of his rabid cult followers mailed that organization a pipe bomb last year). They won't believe stories reported by The New York Times or The Washington Post. Things have gotten so bad that when Fox News (not the Hannity propaganda division) accurately reported that polls showed that Trump was being hammered by all of the leading Democrats in one on one matchups, Trump freaked out and lashed back at their disloyalty.

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1154752797637783552

Later, when Trump complained that Fox wasn't doing what he wanted, Brit Hume responded (somewhat incorrectly) that "Fox News isn't supposed to work for you."

https://www.thewrap.com/fox-news-brit-hume-hits-back-after-trump-attacks-terrible-coverage-fox-news-isnt-supposed-to-work-for-you/

A recent example of Trump cultists being unable to accept a news story because of its source was a denizen of The Albany Chronicle who could not make the effort of checking the facts himself on the story about the Trump Administration's decision to pull the plug on life saving medical care for immigrant children previously given a medical clearance to remain in the United States to receive the care they need to stay alive. Here was his comment:

"Trey Dunbar: Your source is the same network that recently had to retract a story that they decided to air without any evidence to verify its authenticity. When your "news" agency leads a story with "If this is true...", they have no journalistic integrity. If you're truly interested in robust debate (instead of polemical trollings), starting with verifiable facts from impartial sources would probably go a long ways in proving your sincerity."

Here was my response:

"There is a wonderful tool called a "search engine." It works in conjunction with "The Internet." Try entering into a search engine the phrase "Trump Administration pulls the plug on immigrant children in Boston hospital." I got 771,000 hits. The story ran on the front page of the New York Times, in the Boston Globe, and in the Miami Herald. Hell, it was probably on Fox News. Here's the story that ran on the Fox television station in Boston. Took me 5 seconds to find it:

"BOSTON – A sudden policy change by President Donald Trump’s administration means hundreds of sick immigrant children could be deported, including many patients at Boston Children’s Hospital, WBZ reports.

Sixteen-year-old Jonathan Sanchez is battling cystic fibrosis and needs the help of a vibrating vest, nebulizer and special medication to stay alive. His family came to the United States legally from Honduras in 2016. They are part of a program that allows immigrants to receive life-saving treatments for up to two years.

But the Trump administration just changed that policy; the family was sent a letter telling them to leave the country by next month or be deported.

While wearing his New England Patriots shirt, Sanchez made his opinion on potentially leaving the country clear.

“The letter, in the words, it said that we need to leave the country in 33 days. But in my perspective, it’s making legal homicide,” he said in an interview with CBS This Morning."

https://fox2now.com/2019/08/30/immigrant-teen-at-boston-childrens-hospital-could-be-deported-after-trump-administration-policy-change/

It's going to take years to clean up the mess that Trump will have left behind. A good start will be making sure that in the future children in public schools learn out to learn- how to gather accurate information, and, more importantly, how to discover what "disinformation" is and how to unmask it. And when the right wingers try to avoid allowing their children to be exposed to actual knowledge by home schooling them or putting them in sketchy religious schools, the public will be served by ensuring that they don't receive an accreditation until they can show that their students have a cogent awareness of American history, civics, and the analytical ability to discern the difference between truth and propaganda.

Sunday, August 25, 2019


(I wrote this on Facebook a few hours after I found out that my neighbor- as in, lives in my neighborhood and I would encounter him walking his dog as I trekked to Lake Loretta- Stephen S. Goss had died that morning.)

"I know it's early to write this, but the City of Albany and the State of Georgia had a great loss and a real tragedy with the death of Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Stephen S. Goss. I knew Steve as a young lawyer with one of the "silk stocking" firms in town (Watson Spence) but he became a Juvenile Court Judge around 1995 when Herb Phipps was appointed to a newly created third Superior Court Judge position in the Dougherty Judicial Circuit.

Steve did a tremendous job as a Juvenile Judge for about four years (it was part time then and became full time in 2005 under the current judge, Herbie Solomon). He was appointed to the Superior Court of the Dougherty Judicial Circuit in 1999, once again to replace Herb Phipps, who was appointed to the Georgia Court of Appeals.

In the 19 years Steve was on the Superior Court bench here, he accomplished far more than pretty much any other judge in the State. He wasn't just an excellent judge- he treated everybody with respect and courtesy, researched every case, read every pleading, and worked incredibly hard to try to reach the right decisions in his cases- but he created the first mental health court, which became a mental health and drug court. It became a model not just for Georgia, where it now exists in every circuit, but nationally. As one Atlanta lawer put it during a bar meeting here a couple of years ago, at national conferences on the subject Steve was "a rock star."

Speaking purely selfishly on my part, I was really sorry to see him appointed to the Court of Appeals last year, although I knew how much he wanted the job, because I felt that we were losing a tremendous judge here.

I appeared before him numerous times over the years, and I can honestly say that even when I strongly disagreed with his rulings (and that happened a few times) I always respected his process and I knew that he was trying to be fair and reach the right conclusion.

He was an extremely strong advocate for children (that is actually part of a judge's responsibility in domestic cases) in the sense that he tried to keep their interests first and foremost.

Having said all that, I know that no formal conclusion has been reached as to the cause of death, and although I'm fairly sure I know what happened and I have a pretty good idea as to why, probably very few- if any- will know the real reasons why.

I do know that he will be missed. But his ideas and the concept of treating people with mental health problems and drug issues as something other than criminals will live on after him."

POST SCRIPT: I published this on a Facebook site called "The Albany Chronicle" where I had received almost unrelenting personal attacks- one guy regularly called me a "Communist" and "Traitor" and some were worse (!)
And the reactions were 100% positive 92 "likes" and 16 positive comments."

One other thing: there are very few judges I have ever praised to their faces. As a rule, I don't suck up to judges, and during my career I've filed probably 10 different civil rights lawsuits spanning four decades against sitting judges. But I can think of two off the top of my head that I praised near the end of their careers. One was a former Cordele Judicial Circuit Superior Court judge, former Georgia Supreme Court Justice, Hardy Gregory. It was after he had announced his retirement from the Georgia Supreme Court. I don't recally how it was we ended up in a phone conversation (we had met a few times decades earlier when he was a relatively young Superior Court judge) but I told him what I thought of him and his career- all positive. And he, knowing me and where I was coming from, really appreciated it. The other was Steve Goss, after he was wrapping up his Albany career as a Superior Court judge and getting ready to head to Atlanta. I told him how much I had appreciated him and how he was the hardest working judge I'd ever known (all true). And now I'm glad I said that, since I would not have had the opportunity if I had waited until the end of his judicial career on the Court of Appeals.

WELCOME TO THE PARTY.... VERY LATE


Looking eerily like Jeffrey Epstein, Republican Tea Party Congressman (one term) and right wing talk show host Joe Walsh announces he's challenging Trump- for all of the reasons he never should have supported him in the first place.


I'm sceptical that we should somehow heap praise on people who were willfully blind, or who signed on to a shit show to get what they wanted, then finally came to realize that they had made a bad bargain with the devil. Witness the announcement this morning that a former Tea Party Republican Congressman, Joe Walsh (I thought he was with the Eagles?) is going to try to challenge Trump in the primaries next year.

George Stephanaopolous rightfully pointed out that this was the same guy who had spouted outrageous lies about Obama (he called him a Muslim- which shouldn't be outrageous in a religiously tolerant society, but was meant to be pejorative and was, Walsh admitted, a lie).

""I'm running because he's unfit; somebody needs to step up and there needs to be an alternative. The country is sick of this guy's tantrum -- he's a child,"

"I helped create Trump, and George, that's not an easy thing to say, I went beyond the policy and the idea differences and I got personal and I got hateful. I said some ugly things about President Obama that I regret."

"Did you really believe [Obama is] a Muslim?," Stephanopoulos asked.

"God no. And I have apologized for that," Walsh said. "I'm baring my soul with you right now on national TV. We have a guy in the White House who's never apologized for anything he's done or said."

When asked, Walsh also told ABC News' chief anchor that invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office for being unfit should be "looked at" because "we've never had a situation like this. You can't believe a word he says."

Throughout Sunday's interview, Walsh used harsh, inflammatory language to describe the president — calling him "incompetent," "nuts," "erratic," "narcissist," "bully," "coward," "completely unfit," "disloyal," and "un-American."



https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/exclusive-joe-walsh-announces-republican-primary-challenge-president/story?id=65122073

In the same vein was this Washington Post column Friday by Megan McArdle:

"By Megan McArdle
Columnist
August 23

The left had an easy time settling on its attitude toward President Trump’s supporters: a mixture of horrified outrage and sneering contempt. For many of us on the right, though, it hasn’t been so easy. The president’s boosters aren’t our natural enemies; they’re former and hopefully future allies. For three years, we’ve been struggling to find some way to discuss Trump.

We don’t want to destroy Trump supporters but to convince them — that Trump’s main life achievements before the presidency lay in the fields of getting publicity, cheating people less powerful than himself and having a rich, politically connected father who could grease his way into the real estate business, rather than negotiating, managing or building; that impulsive, thin-skinned and belligerent people might be a great deal of fun to watch on television or Twitter but are rarely much good at their jobs; that Trump’s inexperience and lack of interest in policy have made him remarkably ineffective at pursuing even his stated political goals; and that the cost of his inexperience, his indifference to the day-to-day work of the presidency and his bitterly divisive rhetoric are not worth the transient joy of watching liberals have conniptions.

I wish I could say our attempts at persuasion have worked. Some of our former comrades agree with the indictment but argue that the liberal establishment’s radicalism has left them no choice but to support the race-baiting vulgarian. The religious right, in particular, senses an existential threat from a combination of overweening government and “woke capitalism,” and feels compelled to throw in with anyone who promises to fight on its side. Others simply write off our dismay as Trump Derangement Syndrome, or a desire to finally fit in at the proverbial Georgetown cocktail party.

Many days I wonder if I shouldn’t just concede defeat. And then … Greenland. Once more unto the breach.

This is a president who canceled a state visit because the prime minister of Denmark declined to sell part of Danish territory to the United States. Can you really look at that sort of behavior and think Trump’s critics have the derangement problem?

It’s not particularly odd to want to add Greenland to U.S. territorial holdings. President Harry S. Truman thought the same thing and tried to buy it from Denmark in 1946, because the massive island is in a strategically valuable location. What’s bizarre is thinking that the way to go about it was to openly discuss the matter — successful real estate moguls generally try to buy up land as quietly as possible, not float their plans to any random dinner companion who might run to the media, driving up the asking price.


It is odder still to cancel a long-planned state visit simply because the Danish prime minister called the idea “absurd” — which, as deal rejections go, is fairly tame. Besides, if Greenland is so strategically valuable, you’d think Trump would want to deepen the U.S. relationship with the government with which the territory is associated. Or at least you’d think this if you believed that Trump cared more about U.S. interests than about his own fragile vanity.

This is not normal. And I don’t mean that as in, “Trump is violating the shibboleths of the Washington establishment.” I mean that as in, “This is not normal for a functioning adult.”

I’m not trying to perform some sort of amateur diagnosis of Trump as a narcissist, or a psychopath, or an early-stage dementia patient. I’m not Trump’s doctor, and I don’t know what’s wrong with him. Very possibly, it’s simply a terminal case of “billionairitis,” a well-known condition where very rich people slowly lose the ability to tolerate anything except the most obsequious flattery.


But I don’t need a diagnosis to know that the symptoms are pretty worrying. If your company’s owner abruptly pulled out of a conference with an important joint-venture partner just because the other CEO said something mildly unflattering, would you try to defend it as some sort of cunning N-dimensional chess move? Or would you start looking for another job? If your mother canceled a family visit because your cousin wouldn’t sell her the bedroom, would you get mad at your cousin for slighting your mother’s honor? Or would you try to arrange a neurological consult?

Hopefully, you wouldn’t just smile and say, “No, really, everything’s fine,” when it’s very obviously not. The longer you humor people who have clearly gone off the rails, the more time they have to damage themselves and those around them. Moreover, the damage is usually fiercest to the people closest by — which in Trump’s case means the folks who have been standing loyally behind him for the past three years."