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YOUR FRIENDS AT THE NRA: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 21, 2018 at 12:03 am

Among the major accomplishments of the National Rifle Association:

  • The NRA has steadfastly defended the right to own Teflon-coated “cop killer” bullets,” whose only purpose is to penetrate bullet-resistant vests worn by law enforcement officers.

  • The NRA and its lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, is responsible for the “stand-your-ground” ordinances now in effect in more than half the states. These allow for the use of deadly force in self-defense, without any obligation to attempt to retreat first.
  • In 2012, the NRA rushed to the defense of accused murderer George Zimmerman, the self-appointed “community watchman” who  ignored police orders to stop following 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and ended up shooting him.
  • Police did not initially charge Zimmerman because of Florida’s “Stand-Your-Ground” law, which the NRA had rammed through the legislature.

George Zimmerman

  • On February 26, 2012, Zimmerman shot unarmed Trayvon Martin, who was wearing a “hoodie.” In March, the NRA issued its own version of a “hoodie”–the Concealed Carry Hooded Sweatshirt, designed to hide firearms.  Selling on the NRA’s website for $60 to $65, it is advertised thusly:
  • “Inside the sweatshirt you’ll find left and right concealment pockets. The included Velcro®-backed holster and double mag pouch can be repositioned inside the pockets for optimum draw. Ideal for carrying your favorite compact to mid-size pistol, the NRA Concealed Carry Hooded Sweatshirt gives you an extra tactical edge, because its unstructured, casual design appears incapable of concealing a heavy firearm—but it does so with ease!”
  • Anyone—including convicted criminals—can buy these “hide-a-gun” sweatshirts, putting both the public and law enforcers at deadly risk.
  • The NRA often claims that law-abiding citizens defend themselves with guns millions of times every year. But the FBI has determined that, of the approximately 11,000 gun homicides every year, fewer than 300 are justifiable self-defense killings.
  • The NRA supports loopholes that allow criminals to buy guns without background checks, or allow terrorists to buy all the AK-47s they desire.
  • The NRA’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, tried to defeat Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. Yet the President meekly signed legislation allowing guns to be brought into national parks and onto Amtrak trains. Since becoming Chief Executive, he made no effort to curb gun violence.

  • High-capacity magazines were prohibited under the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban.  It expired in 2004. The NRA—aided by the Bush administration and Republicans generally—easily overcame efforts to renew the ban.
  • Political scientist Robert Spitzer, author of the book The Politics of Gun Control, notes that since the passage of the 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and the assault weapons ban in 1994, state and national laws have been drifting toward more open gun access:
  • “In 1988, there were about 18 states that had state laws that made it pretty easy for civilians to carry concealed hand guns around in society. By 2011, that number is up to 39 or 40 states having liberalized laws, depending on how you count it, and the NRA has worked very diligently at the state level to win political victories there, and they’ve really been quite successful.”
  • On January 8, 2011, Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head while meeting with constituents outside a Tucson, Arizona, grocery store. Also killed was Arizona’s chief U.S. District judge, John Roll, who had just stopped by to see his friend Giffords after celebrating Mass. The total number of victims: six dead, 13 wounded. Severely brain-damaged, Giffords was forced to resign her Congressional seat.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords after being shot

  • “The NRA’s response to the Tucson shootings has been to say as little as possible and to keep its head down,” said Spitzer.  “And their approach even more has been to say as little as possible and to simply issue a statement of condolence to the families of those who were injured or killed and to wait for the political storm to pass over and then to pick up politics as usual.” 
  • This has been the NRA’s reaction after every mass shooting.
  • In the spring of 2012, the House Oversight Committee prepared to vote on whether to hold U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for allegedly refusing to provide documents related to “Fast and Furious.” This was an undercover operation launched by the Bush administration to track firearms being sold to Mexican drug cartels.
  • The NRA notified Congressional members that how they voted would reflect how the NRA rated them in “candidate evaluations” for the November elections. This amounted to blatant extortion, since the NRA had long accused Holder of having an “anti-gun” agenda.

Summing up the current state of gun politics in America, the April 21, 2012 edition of The Economist noted:

“The debate about guns is no longer over whether assault rifles ought to be banned, but over whether guns should be allowed in bars, churches and colleges.”

That is precisely the aim of the NRA—an America where anyplace, anytime, can be turned into the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral – October 26, 1881

And that is precisely what the United States is fast becoming.

Except, so far, the vast majority of victims have not been armed gunfighters but unarmed innocents. And it’s been the “gun rights” types whom the NRA supports who have done the killing.

YOUR FRIENDS AT THE NRA: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 20, 2018 at 12:05 am

On September 11, 2001, Islamic terrorists snuffed out the lives of 3,000 Americans in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania.

World Trade Center – September 11, 2001

But within less than a month, American warplanes began carpet-bombing Afghanistan, whose rogue Islamic “government” refused to surrender Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the attacks.

By December, the power of the Taliban was broken—and bin Laden was driven into hiding in Pakistan.

For more than 16 years, the United States—through its global military and espionage networks—has relentlessly hunted down most of those responsible for that September carnage.

On May 1, 2011, U.S. Navy SEALS invaded bin Laden’s fortified mansion in Abbottabad, Pakistan—and shot him dead.

U.S. Navy SEALs

Now, consider these statistics of death, supplied by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence:

  • One in three people in the U.S. knows someone who has been shot.
  • On average, 31 Americans are murdered with guns every day and 151 are treated for a gun assault in an emergency room.
  • Every day on average, 55 people kill themselves with a firearm.
  • Another 46 people are shot or killed in an accident with a gun.
  • U.S. firearm homicide rates are 20 times higher than the combined rates of 22 countries that are our peers in wealth and population.
  • A gun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used to kill or injure in a domestic homicide, suicide, or unintentional shooting than to be used in self-defense.
  • More than one in five U.S. teenagers (ages 14 to 17) report having witnessed a shooting.
  • An average of seven children and teens under the age of 20 are killed by guns every day.
  • American children die by guns 11 times as often as children in other high-income countries.
  • Youth (ages 0 to 19) in the most rural U.S. counties are as likely to die from a gunshot as those living in the most urban counties.
  • Rural children die of more gun suicides and unintentional shooting deaths.
  • Urban children die more often of gun homicides.
  • Firearm homicide is the second-leading cause of death (after motor vehicle crashes) for young people ages 1-19 in the U.S.
  • Medical treatment, criminal justice proceedings, new security precautions, and reductions in quality of life are estimated to cost U.S. citizens $100 billion annually.
  • The lifetime medical cost for all gun violence victims in the United States is estimated at $2.3 billion, with almost half the costs borne by taxpayers.

In short, in one year on average:

  • More than 114,994 Americans are shot in murders, assault, suicides, suicide attempts, accidents or by police intervention.31,537 people die from gun violence.
  • 11,564 are murdered.
  • 21,037 people kill themselves.
  • 544 people are killed accidentally.
  • 468 are killed by police intervention.
  • 267 die but intent is not known.
  • 81,114 people survive gun injuries.

(These statistics are based on death certificates and estimates from emergency room admissions.)

And who, more than anyone (including the actual killers themselves) has made all this carnage possible?

Your friends at the National Rifle Association (NRA).

But unlike the leadership of Al Qaeda, that of the NRA is not simply known, but celebrated.

Its director, Wayne LaPierre, is courted as a rock star by both Democrats and Republicans seeking NRA political endorsements—and campaign contributions.

Wayne LaPierre

He frequently appears as an honored guest at testimonial dinners and political conventions.

The largest of the 13 national pro-gun groups, the NRA has nearly 4 million members, who focus most of their time lobbying Congress for unlimited “gun rights.”

The NRA claims that its mission is to “protect” the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

NRA members conveniently ignore the first half of that sentence about “a well regulated Militia….”  They simply want everyone to own a gun—and contribute to the NRA.

For the NRA, the Second Amendment is the Constitution, and the rest of the document is a mere appendage.

When Congress ratified the Constitution in 1788, the United States was not a world power.

A mere 26 years later, the British seized and burned Washington, D.C., after repeatedly defeating American armies. On the frontier, settlers had to defend themselves against hostile Indians and marauding bandits.

Only after World War II did the country maintain a powerful standing army during peacetime.

But World War II ended 72 years ago, and today the United States is a far different country than it was in 1788:

  • Its nuclear arsenal can turn any country into thermonuclear ash—anytime an American President decides to do so.
  • Its Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps can target any enemy, anywhere in the world.
  • Its Special Forces—Green Berets, Delta Force and Navy SEALS—are rightly feared by international terrorists.
  • American Intelligence has greatly improved since 9/11. The FBI’s top priority is to prevent  terrorist attacks, not simply investigate them afterward.
  • And waging war on criminals generally are about 836,787 full-time sworn local/state/Federal law enforcement officers.
  • If a criminal flees or conducts business across state lines, powerful Federal law enforcement agencies—such as the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration—can put him out of business.

But apparently the NRA hasn’t gotten the word.

STOPPING THE GUN MASSACRES

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 19, 2018 at 12:19 am

The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one—no matter where he lives or what he does— can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on.

–Robert F. Kennedy, April 4, 1968

Senator Robert F. Kennedy announcing the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

What should the surviving victims of gun massacres do to seek redress?

And how can the relatives and friends of those who didn’t survive seek justice for those they loved?

Two things:

First, don’t count on politicians to support a ban on assault weapons.

Politicians—with rare exceptions—have only two goals:

  1. Get elected to office, and
  2. Stay in office.

And too many of them fear the economic and voting clout of the NRA to risk its wrath.

Consider Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama.

Both rushed to offer condolences to the surviving victims of the massacre at the Century 16 Theater in Aurora, Colorado, on July 20, 2012.

And both steadfastly refused to even discuss gun control—let alone support a ban on the type of assault weapons used by James Holmes, leaving 12 dead and 58 wounded.

Second, those who survived the massacre—and the relatives and friends of those who didn’t—should file wrongful death, class-action lawsuits against the NRA.

There is sound, legal precedent for this.

  • For decades, the American tobacco industry peddled death and disability to millions and reaped billions of dollars in profits.
  • The industry vigorously claimed there was no evidence that smoking caused cancer, heart disease, emphysema or any other ailment.

  • Tobacco companies spent billions on slick advertising campaigns to win new smokers and attack medical warnings about the dangers of smoking.
  • Tobacco companies spent millions to elect compliant politicians and block anti-smoking legislation.
  • From 1954 to 1994, over 800 private lawsuits were filed against tobacco companies in state courts. But only two plaintiffs prevailed, and both of those decisions were reversed on appeal.
  • In 1994, amidst great pessimism, Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore filed a lawsuit against the tobacco industry. But other states soon followed, ultimately growing to 46.
  • Their goal: To seek monetary, equitable and injunctive relief under various consumer-protection and anti-trust laws.
  • The theory underlying these lawsuits was: Cigarettes produced by the tobacco industry created health problems among the population, which badly strained the states’ public healthcare systems.
  • In 1998, the states settled their Medicaid lawsuits against the tobacco industry for recovery of their tobacco-related, health-care costs. In return, they exempted the companies from private lawsuits for tobacco-related injuries.
  • The companies agreed to curtail or cease certain marketing practices. They also agreed to pay, forever, annual payments to the states to compensate some of the medical costs for patients with smoking-related illnesses.

The parallels with the NRA are obvious:

  • For decades, the NRA has peddled deadly weapons to millions, reaped billions of dollars in profits and refused to admit the carnage those weapons have produced: “Guns don’t kill people.  People kill people.”  With guns. 
  • The NRA has spent millions on political contributions to block gun-control legislation.

  • The NRA has bitterly fought background checks on gun-buyers, in effect granting even criminals and the mentally ill the right to own arsenals of death-dealing weaponry.
  • The NRA has spent millions on slick advertising campaigns to win new members and frighten them into buying guns.

  • The NRA has spent millions attacking political candidates and elected officials who warned about the dangers of unrestricted access to assault and/or concealed weapons.
  • The NRA has spent millions pushing “Stand Your Ground” laws in more than half the states, which potentially give every citizen a “license to kill.”
  • The NRA receives millions of dollars from online sales of ammunition, high-capacity ammunition magazines, and other accessories through its point-of-sale Round-Up Program—thus directly profiting by selling a product that kills about 30,288 people a year.

  • Firearms made indiscriminately available through NRA lobbying have filled hospitals with casualties, and have thus badly strained the states’ public healthcare systems.

It will take a series of highly expensive and well-publicized lawsuits to significantly weaken the NRA, financially and politically.

The first ones will have to be brought by the surviving victims of gun violence—and by the friends and families of those who did not survive it. Only they will have the courage and motivation to take such a risk.

As with the cases first brought against tobacco companies, there will be losses. And the NRA will rejoice with each one.

But, in time, state Attorneys General will see the clear parallels between lawsuits filed against those who peddle death by cigarette and those who peddle death by armor-piercing bullet.

And then the NRA—like the tobacco industry—will face an adversary wealthy enough to stand up for the rights of the gun industry’s own victims.

Only then will those politicians supporting reasonable gun controls dare to stand up for the victims of these  needless tragedies.

WELCOME TO SOCIAL MEDIA. NOW GET LOST

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on January 25, 2018 at 10:39 am

Years ago, Michael Martin, a Los Angeles-based computer repair expert, offered me some advice I have found absolutely essential.

“When you call Technical Support,” he said, “they’re accessing the same information you can get via the computer.

“Most of the time they’re going to have you put the Restore Disk back into the computer and restore it back to default.  It wipes out everything on your computer.  Technical support costs a lot of money for a company—to hell with your data.

“Be very cautious when you get on the phone with any computer company and they advise you to run the Restore Disk.”

Photo of Michael Martin the Pc Expert - Los Angeles, CA, United States

Michael Martin

What Martin said about the unwillingness of computer companies to provide technical support applies just as much to social media websites.

Consider the case of Facebook, the largest social media and networking service. According to its “Newsroom,” it had more than 1.37 billion daily active users on average for September 2017.

Such a huge audience attracts advertisers. And this, in turn, has armed Facebook with total assets of $64.961 billion (2016).  These revenues have given its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, an estimated net worth of $75.2 billion.

Yet, for all the billions pouring into Facebook’s coffers, the company refuses to provide a way for its users to directly contact Facebook headquarters.

This may not seem important. But the following case will demonstrate why it is.

A short while ago, a friend of mine (whom I’ll call Janet) sent Zuckerberg a letter, which opened:

“Today while chatting with someone on Facebook I found myself bounced from the page.  I was instructed to log in again.  When I did so, I got the following message:

  Secure Your Account

Hi Janet, we think your computer is infected with malware, and it’s spreading spam through your Facebook account. We’ll walk you through a few steps to explain more and scan your computer for malware.

“Naturally, my first reaction was to contact Facebook to find out what, exactly, was meant by Spam.  I quickly found, however, that although Facebook’s customers like me have made you a billionaire, they aren’t considered important enough to be provided with direct support for resolving problems like this.

“All that I could do was put a message on file with your ‘Report a Login Issue’ page.  I received no response, so I sent another.  This, too, has gone unanswered.

“At the bottom of the ‘Report a Login Issue’ page is this: “Thanks for taking the time to submit a report.  While we don’t reply to every report, we’ll let you know if we need more details.”

“In short, even after a customer puts a help-request on file with Facebook, s/he has no guarantee that s/he will even receive the courtesy of a reply, let alone the help needed to resolve the problem.

“Is this really what you are proud to call customer service?

“I think it’s entirely appropriate to ask people I don’t know—and who want to roam freely through my computer—exactly what it is they believe is Spam.  Because if it isn’t Spam, there’s no reason for them to be roaming freely through my computer.” 

Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg

Janet never received a reply from Zuckerberg—nor from anyone subordinate to him.

Facebook is still the most popular social platform on the Internet.  At one time,  AOL was the big dog on the block, too.  And an April 13, 2015 article on CheatSheet warned that history could repeat itself: “Three Reasons Young People Think Facebook is Lame.”

So did a second article, published in Fortune on April 7, 2016: “Facebook Users Are Sharing Fewer Personal Updates and It’s a Big Problem.”

No doubt a major reason for this is the arrogance of Facebook’s censors.

Another friend of mine—Jim—recently got kicked off Facebook after getting this notice:

We removed content you posted

We removed this content because it doesn’t follow the Facebook Community Standards

 

The offending post was a news story about Texas Congressman Joe Barton.  It described how he had sent a series of smarmy emails to numerous women—while, of course, posing as a paragon of “family values.”

Jim sent a letter to Facebook’s headquarters at 1 Hacker Way, Menlo Park, California 94025.

“If Facebook is going to hold its users to a set of standards, those standards should be clearly and specifically posted.  Certainly a legitimate news story—no matter on what the subject—should fall within allowable posting guidelines.  But apparently Facebook’s anonymous censors do not agree.

“Facebook functions the way the gods of the ancient Greeks were believed to act: In a totally arbitrary manner, whose decisions, however unwarranted, are beyond appeal.”

Many Facebook users have described—on Facebook—how they have been put in “Facebook jail.” One user offended censors by his too-frequent use of the “Like” option. How this violated Facebook’s terms of service was never explained.

During the 2016 Presidential election, Russian trolls used Facebook, Twitter and Google to post misleading articles and comments. These may well have influenced the outcome of that election.

As a result, these companies are now under widening Congressional investigation.

This is no time for social media companies to needlessly offend those who make their profits a reality.

TWITTER ME SOME HATE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on January 24, 2018 at 12:07 am

On May 9, 2017, President Donald Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey.

Reports soon surfaced that his reason for doing so was that Comey had refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump. 

Just 72 hours after firing Comey, Trump issued a threat to him via Twitter: “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” 

And Twitter’s reaction to such a blatant threat? 

Silence.

Related image

James B. Comey

From the start of his Presidency, Trump has put his ambitions, excuses and rants on social media. And this has unnerved foreign leaders as well as Trump’s fellow Americans.

As CNN Political Analyst Julian Zelizer outlined in a July 3 article:

“Putting aside the specific content of the recent blasts from the Oval smart phone, the President’s ongoing Twitter storms make all leaders uneasy. The heads of government in most nations prefer a certain amount of predictability and decorum from other heads of state.

“To have one of the most powerful people in the room being someone who is willing to send out explosive and controversial statements through social media, including nasty personal attacks or an edited video of him physically assaulting the media, does not make others….feel very confident about how he will handle deliberations with them.”

On December 12, 2017, Trump used Twitter to attack New York United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

Related image

Kirsten Gillibrand

Gillibrand was among six Democratic senators who called for Trump’s resignation after sexual harassment allegations forced three Republican and Democratic members of Congress to resign.

Trump tweeted: “Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office ‘begging’ for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!”

“I see it as a sexist smear. I mean that’s what it is,” Gillibrand replied in a press conference. “It’s part of the President’s efforts of name calling and it’s not going to silence me, it’s not going to silence me. It’s intended to silence me.”

So how does this behavior apply to “The Twitter Rules”?

Abuse: You may not engage in the targeted harassment of someone, or incite other people to do so. We consider abusive behavior an attempt to harass, intimidate, or silence someone else’s voice. [Italics added.]

On February 17, 2017, Trump tweeted: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”

On July 2, 2017, Trump tweeted a video showing him punching a man with the CNN logo superimposed on his head during a WWE wrestling match.

And on August 15, the President retweeted a cartoon photo of a “Trump Train” running over a CNN reporter.

Yet Twitter’s Terms of Service state:

Hateful imagery and display names: You may not use hateful images or symbols in your profile image or profile header. You also may not use your username, display name, or profile bio to engage in abusive behavior, such as targeted harassment or expressing hate towards a person, group, or protected category. We will begin enforcing this rule on December 18, 2017. [Italics added.]

So how do Twitter’s top executives justify allowing these repeated violations of “Twitter Rules”? On September 25, the company tweeted:

“We hold all accounts to the same Rules, and consider a number of factors when assessing whether Tweets violate our Rules.

“Among the considerations is ‘newsworthiness’ and whether a Tweet is of public interest. This has long been internal policy and we’ll soon update our public-facing rules to reflect it. We need to do better on this, and will.”

Twitter has never acknowledged publicly that Trump has violated any of its guidelines. It rarely even acknowledges Trump’s tweets. 

So what gives? 

Money. 

Trump’s apologists have fiercely defended his tweetstorms, claiming they allow him to bypass the media and “communicate directly with the American people.” 

One of those apologists is former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who said: “I believe it’s really important to have these conversations out in the open, rather than have them behind closed doors.”

Image result for Images of Jack Dorsey

Jack Dorsey

In April, 2017, Twitter announced that it had added 9,000,000 new users, its largest quarter-over-quarter jump in two years. 

“We believe Twitter is the best at showing you what’s happening in the world and what’s being talked about,” said Anthony Noto, Twitter’s chief financial officer. 

“Having political leaders of the world as well as news agencies participating and driving that is an important element to reinforcing what we’re the best at.”

In short: Trump is good at attracting more Twitter users. and if the company needs to overlook his blatant and repeated violations of its “Twitter Rules,” so be it.  

Twitter has been so plagued by trolling that potential investors like the Walt Disney Company refused to taint their own reputations by partnering with it. 

But that hasn’t led high-ranking Twitter executives to end their Faustian pact with the biggest Twitter troll of all. 

And, as all devotees of the Faust legend know, there comes a time when the Devil wins the bargain.  

TWITTER ME SOME HATE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on January 23, 2018 at 12:04 am

According to “The Twitter Rules,” posted on the Twitter website:

We believe in freedom of expression and open dialogue, but that means little as an underlying philosophy if voices are silenced because people are afraid to speak up.

In order to ensure that people feel safe expressing diverse opinions and beliefs, we prohibit behavior that crosses the line into abuse, including behavior that harasses, intimidates, or uses fear to silence another user’s voice.

Context matters when evaluating for abusive behavior and determining appropriate enforcement actions. Factors we may take into consideration include, but are not limited to whether:

  • the behavior is targeted at an individual or group of people;
  • the report has been filed by the target of the abuse or a bystander;
  • the behavior is newsworthy and in the legitimate public interest.

Abuse: You may not engage in the targeted harassment of someone, or incite other people to do so. We consider abusive behavior an attempt to harass, intimidate, or silence someone else’s voice.

Unwanted sexual advances: You may not direct abuse at someone by sending unwanted sexual content, objectifying them in a sexually explicit manner, or otherwise engaging in sexual misconduct.

Hateful conduct: You may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease. Read more about our hateful conduct policy.

Hateful imagery and display names: You may not use hateful images or symbols in your profile image or profile header. You also may not use your username, display name, or profile bio to engage in abusive behavior, such as targeted harassment or expressing hate towards a person, group, or protected category. We will begin enforcing this rule on December 18, 2017.

So much for the official version of what Twitter users—and non-Twitter users—can expect from those charged with policing Twitter.

Which leads to the question: Why hasn’t Twitter policed—and purged—the single greatest abuser of its “Twitter Rules”: Donald Trump?

Consider:

Donald Trump’s tweet-first-and-never-mind-the-consequences approach to life has been thoroughly documented.

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, he fired nearly 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions. The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them.

Donald Trump

Among these targets were:

  • His Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton
  • His fellow Republican Presidential candidates
  • Actress Meryl Streep
  • News organizations
  • President Barack Obama
  • Comedian John Oliver
  • Obamacare
  • Singer Neil Young
  • The state of New Jersey
  • Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

His Twitter assaults have often dominated entire news cycles for days on end.

As President-elect, he continued these assaults—such as the one on November 18, 2016.

On that evening, Vice President-elect Mike Pence attended a Broadway performance of the hit musical “Hamilton.”

After the curtain call, the actor Brandon Victor Dixon—who plays Aaron Burr—respectfully addressed Pence:

“We are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our friends, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights. But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”

Dixon—who is black—was rightly alarmed.

Trump had received the open and enthusiastic support of the Ku Klux Klan, American Nazi Party and other white supremacist groups. Since his election, white thugs had assaulted blacks and other non-whites across the country.

Trump’s reaction to Dixon’s plea came in two Twitter rants:

“Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing. This should not happen!”

And: “The Theater must always be a safe and special place. The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!”

And during his first two weeks as President, Trump attacked 22 people, places and things on his @realDonaldTrump account.

Then, on March 4, 2017, in a series of unhinged tweets, Trump accused former President Barack Obama of tapping his Trump Tower phones prior to the election:

“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”

“Is it legal for a sitting President to be ‘wire tapping’ a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!”

“I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!”

“How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”

Thus, without offering a shred of evidence to back it up, Trump accused his predecessor—on Twitter—of committing an impeachable offense.

President Barack Obama

On May 9, 2017, Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey.

Reports soon surfaced that his reason for doing so was that Comey had refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump.

Trump had made this “request” during a private dinner at the White House in January. 

Another unpunished violation of Twitter’s Terms-of-Service was about to occur.

STOPPING ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION—WITHOUT A WALL

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on January 17, 2018 at 12:56 am

The Federal Government is heading for a shutdown by January 19.

A major reason for this is Presidential Donald Trump’s demand that Congress fund a massive, impenetrable wall along the U.S.-Mexican border.

Its purpose: To end illegal immigration from Mexico. 

And Democrats—seeing this as an election-year issue—are totally opposed to the wall.

During his 2016 Presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly boasted: “I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall.”

But there are serious obstacles to erecting such a barrier:

  • The United States/Mexican border stretches for 1,954 miles—and encompasses rivers, deserts and mountains.
  • Environmental and engineering problems.
  • Squabbles with ranchers who don’t want to give up any of their land.
  • Building such a wall would cost untold billions of dollars.
  • Drug traffickers and alien smugglers could easily tunnel under it into the United States—as they are now doing.

There are, in fact, cheaper and more effective remedies for combating illegal immigration.

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Illegal aliens crossing into the United States

(1) The Justice Department should vigorously attack the “sanctuary movement” that officially thwarts the immigration laws of the United States.

Among the 31 “sanctuary cities” of this country: Washington, D.C.; New York City; Los Angeles; Chicago; San Francisco; Santa Ana; San Diego; Salt Lake City; Phoenix; Dallas; Houston; Austin; Detroit; Jersey City; Minneapolis; Miami; Denver; Baltimore; Seattle; Portland, Oregon; New Haven, Connecticut; and Portland, Maine.

These cities have passed ordinances that ban municipal funds or resources from being used to enforce federal immigration laws. As a result, police or municipal employees are not allowed to inquire about citizens’ immigration status.

(2)  Indict the highest-ranking officials of those cities who have actively violated Federal immigration laws.

In San Francisco, for example, former San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris—who is now California’s United States Senator—created a secret and illegal program called Back on Track, which provided training for jobs that illegal aliens could not legally hold.

(3) Even if some indicted officials escaped conviction, the results would prove worthwhile.  

City officials would be forced to spend huge sums of their own money for attorneys and face months or even years of prosecution.

And this would send a devastating warning to officials in other “sanctuary cities” that the same fate lies in store for them.

(4) CEOs whose companies—like Wal-Mart—systematically employ illegal aliens should be held directly accountable for the actions of their subordinates.

They should be indicted by the Justice Department under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, the way Mafia bosses are prosecuted for ordering their own subordinates to commit crimes.  

Upon conviction, the CEO should be sentenced to a mandatory prison term of at least 20 years.

Convicting a score of CEOs would prove a more effective remedy for combating illegal immigration than stationing tens of thousands of soldiers on the U.S./Mexican border. 

Word would quickly get around—and CEOs across the nation would take drastic steps to ensure that their companies strictly complied with Federal immigration laws.

(5) The Government should stop granting automatic citizenship to “anchor babies” born to illegal aliens in the United States.

A comparable practice would be allowing bank robbers who had eluded the FBI to keep their illegally-obtained loot.

A person who violates the bank robbery laws of the United States can be prosecuted for bank robbery, whether he’s immediately arrested or remains uncaught for years. The same should be true for those born illegally within this country.

If they’re not here legally at the time of birth, they should not be considered citizens and should—like their parents—be subject to deportation.

(6) The United States Government—from the President on down—should scrap its apologetic tone on the right to control its national borders.

In 2010, Michelle Obama visited New Hampshire Estates Elementary School in Silver Spring, Maryland.  

A second-grader said: “My mom, she says that Barack Obama is taking everybody away that doesn’t have papers.”  

“Yeah, well, that’s something that we have to work on right?” replied Mrs. Obama. “To make sure that people can be here with the right kind of papers, right?”  

The girl then said: “But my mom doesn’t have any….”

Obama: “Well, we’ll have to work on that.  We have to fix that, and everybody’s got to work together in Congress to make sure that happens.”

Mexico doesn’t consider itself racist for strictly enforcing its immigration laws. Neither should the United States.

(7) Voting materials and ballots should be published in one language: English. 

In Mexico, voting materials are published in one language—Spanish.

Throughout the United States, millions of Mexican illegals refuse to learn English and yet demand that voting materials and ballots be made available to them in Spanish.

(8) The United States should impose economic and even military sanctions against countries—such as China and Mexico—whose citizens make up the bulk of illegal aliens. 

Mexico, for example, uses its American border to rid itself of those who might demand major reforms in the country’s political and economic institutions.

Such nations must learn that dumping their unwanted’s on the United States now comes at an unfavorably high price. Otherwise those dumpings will continue.

REIGNING IN CORPORATE TYRANTS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on January 3, 2018 at 2:38 am

All those who have written upon civil institutions demonstrate…that whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it. 

“If their evil disposition remains concealed for a time, it must be attributed to some unknown reason; and we must assume that it lacked occasion to show itself.  But time, which has been said to be the father of all truth, does not fail to bring it to light.”

Niccolo Machiavelli knew what he was writing about.

And now, California legislators have wisely—if belatedly—acted on that warning by reigning in the vicious nature of corporate employers.

As of January 1, it is now illegal for California employers to ask job applicants about their former salaries and benefits.

Governor Jerry Brown signed a new state privacy bill into law during the last week of December, 2017.

This is good news for applicants who believe they shouldn’t be judged on how much—or little—money they earned in the past.

The truth is that, for decades, employers have used “salary histories” to discriminate against applicants who earned large—or small—salaries in their previous jobs.

For example: If an applicant had been paid a miserly wage even though he had performed major tasks for an employer, the new potential one would use that low salary as a weapon against him: “Well, it says here you earned $—– in your most recent job.  Why should we pay you more than that?”

And if an applicant had earned a high salary, an employer would often use that against him: “We can’t afford to match that, let alone give you more than that.” In many cases, employers simply refused to give a reason for refusing to hire the applicant.

In either case, it was clearly an “I win/You lose” situation.

And, naturally, when employers whined about how expensive it was to pay a living wage to those who made their profits a reality, they never mentioned the exorbitant salary paid to their own CEO.

According to Glassdoor: “Across all companies, the average CEO pay was $13.8 million per year, the average median worker pay was about $77,800, and the average ratio of CEO pay to median worker pay was 204. In other words, on average, CEOs earn around 204 times what his or her median worker earns.”

One job-seeking applicant tried to finesse the salary history demand by filling out the job application form except for the salary history part.  He then attached a cover-letter, which read:

“I am interested in speaking with you or one of your representatives about the above-named position. I have filled out the required application—-with the exception of the box inquiring into my Current/last Income.

“I have in the past responded to ‘Salary History’ inquires and have found these have only one purpose: To elicit the lowest salary received, so that the salary to be offered can be adjusted to that level.

“I have been paid on a per-hour basis, a per-assignment basis, and on a bi-weekly basis. Each of these salaries was for a different job, and each job required a specific set of skills and efforts on my part.

“I am prepared to discuss in detail how my skills and experiences can prove of use to your company. But I do not discuss past salaries earned with anyone but the Internal Revenue Service.

“If you are prepared to hire on the basis of what I can do for your company, and not on the basis of what other employers have paid me in the past for assignments that had nothing to do with your company, please contact me at your earliest convenience.”

As of January 1, 2018, California job-seekers will no longer have to worry about that part of the application.

Supporters of the law believe it will help reduce the notorious wage-gap between male and female employees.

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“Women negotiating a salary shouldn’t have to wrestle an entire history of wage disparity,” said the bill’s principal author, California Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman.

California’s new law also requires potential employers to disclose a salary range for the job in question, should an applicant ask about it.

This arms job seekers with valuable information because they will now know how much a company is willing to offer for that position.

In the past, employers held that information close to the vest as one more way of gaining control over their potential employee.

Although California has long been a trailblazer in employee/employer relations, it was not the first state to pass such a law. Oregon, Delaware and Massachusetts had already passed laws forbidding employers from asking about salary history.

Many employers and their paid shills believe that President Calvin Coolidge was right when he said: “The man who builds a factory builds a temple; the man who works there worships there.”

Cheryl Behymer, an attorney for the law firm Fisher & Phillips, which represents employers, said: “Here’s another point where the government is dictating to an employer how to conduct its business and employers resent that.”

As do all tyrants forced to relinquish any part of their tyranny.

THE ULTIMATE NEW YEAR’S EVE

In Business, History, Social commentary on January 2, 2018 at 12:06 am

New Year’s Eve, 2017, now lies behind us.

But for those who consciously lived through December 31, 1999, there will never be another New Year’s Eve like it.

New Year’s Eve is traditionally a time for people to reflect on the major events of the previous 12 months. Some of these are highly personal. Others have been shared by the entire country.

Some of these remembrances inevitably bring pleasure. Others bring pain.

But at the heart of every New Year’s Eve celebration is the fantasy that you get to start fresh in a matter of hours. And with that fantasy comes hope—that, this time, you can put your sorrows and failures behind you.

New Year’s Eve, 1999, was marked far more by apprehension and fear than joy.

  • Fear of Y2K—that our highly computerized, globally-interconnected world would crash when the “19″ at the start of every year was replaced with a “20″.
  • Fear of Armageddon—that Jesus, after dying 2,000 years ago, would return to destroy mankind (except for those 144,000 righteous souls He deemed worthy of salvation).
  • Fear of the Millennium itself—of ending not simply another decade and century but an entire thousand-year period of history, and thus losing our historical ties to the familiar highlights of our own (and America’s) past.

And, especially where Y2K was concerned, news commentators were quick to stoke our anxieties. 

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For those living on the West Coast of the United States on December 31, 1999, the day began with news reports of celebrations of the New Year in such distant countries as Australia and New Zealand.

“So far,” each of these reports ended, “there have been no reports of Y2K-related outages.”

But the underlying message was clear: Stay tuned—it could still happen. And this message kept blaring for the rest of the day and into the evening.

Long before New Year’s Eve, TV newscasters repeatedly warned that, when midnight struck on January 1, 2000, the three places you did not want to be were:

  • In an airplane.
  • In an elevator.
  • In a hospital.

Countless numbers of people in America and around the world stocked up on food, water, batteries and other essentials for surviving an emergency.

Merchants and police feared widespread rioting and violence. If Y2K didn’t set it off, then fears of a heaven-sent Apocalypse might.

In San Francisco, along Powell Street—a major center of tourism and commerce—store owners boarded up their doors and windows as New Year’s Eve approached. Many closed earlier than usual that day.

At 9 p.m. California time, a friend of mine turned off a VCR and turned on a local news station to watch celebrations—or chaos—unfold in New York City.

If the lights went off in New York at midnight Eastern time, then, in three more hours, the same would happen in California.

When he saw lights glittering in Times Square, he felt reasonably certain that Y2K would probably be a dud.

Fortunately, no Y2K disasters occurred.

Three people I know decided to throw an “End of the World” party. They didn’t believe the world was coming to an end. But they decided to throw an “absolute last blast” party as though it were.

Among the items they stockpiled for this occasion:

  1. Country pork spareribs
  2. Yams
  3. Crabs
  4. Apple cidar
  5. Black olives
  6. Fresh cranberries
  7. Avacodos
  8. Chocolate chip ice cream
  9. Lambrusco
  10. Gin and tonic water
  11. Root beer
  12. Smoked cheese
  13. Artichoke hearts
  14. Pumpkin cream mousse cake
  15. Chocolate cake
  16. Pickles
  17. Asparagus

It was definitely an unforgettable night.

New Year’s Eve 1999 is now 18 years distant. But some lessons may still be learned from it:

Each year is a journey unto itself–filled with countless joys and sorrows. Many of these joys can’t be predicted. And many of these tragedies can’t be prevented.

Learn to tell real dangers from imaginary ones. Computers are real—and sometimes they crash. Men who died 2,000 years ago do not leap out of graveyards, no matter what their disciples predict.

Don’t expect any particular year to usher in the Apocalypse. In any given year there will be wars, famines, earthquakes, riots, floods and a host of other disasters. These have always been with us–and always will be. As Abraham Lincoln once said: “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”

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Don’t expect some Great Leader to lead you to success. As Gaius Cassius says in William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”: “Men at some time are masters of their fate. The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves that we are underlings.”

Don’t expect any particular year or event to usher in your happiness. To again quote Lincoln: “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

If your life seems to make no sense to you, consider this: The philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once noted: “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”

THE “WAR ON CHRISTMAS” IS OVER—FOR THIS YEAR

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on December 28, 2017 at 12:22 am

The annual “war on Christmas” is over—for now. 

Every December, Americans relive the traditions of the Christmas holiday season:

  • Christmas trees
  • Nativity scenes
  • Singing carols
  • Exchanging gifts with family and friends.

And if you’re an employee of Fox News, creating fresh ways to stir up controversy over a non-existent “war on Christmas.”  

Stirring up false controversies is a daily assignment for the alleged reporters of Fox News, which is owned by Right-wing oligarch Rupert Murdoch.

But Christmas is special, so, each year, the executives at Fox find a new way to stir up emotions by resurrecting the “war on Christmas” slander.

In 2013, it fell to Fox hostess Megyn Kelly to carry the ball. And she did so on December 11 on “The Kelly File,” her then-popular Fox News program.

Referring to an article by Slate writer Aisha Harris on “Santa Claus Should Not Be a White Man Anymore,” she said:

“When I saw this headline, I kinda laughed and I said, ‘Oh, this is ridiculous. Yet another person claiming it’s racist to have a white Santa.’

“And by the way, for all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white. But this person is maybe just arguing that we should also have a black Santa. But, you know, Santa is what he is, and just so you know, we’re just debating this because someone wrote about it, kids.”

Of course, Santa Claus is a completely fictional character. Arguing about his skin color is as pointless as arguing about his weight.

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But Kelly wasn’t content to talk only about Santa. So she turned next to Jesus, a historical figure about whom we have not a single reference to his appearance, let alone a picture.

“Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change. You know, I mean, Jesus was a white man, too,” Kelly said.

“He was a historical figure; that’s a verifiable fact—as is Santa, I want you kids watching to know that—but my point is: How do you revise it, in the middle of the legacy of the story, and change Santa from white to black?”

Santa Claus a verifiable historical figure? Not even Charlie Brown, in the annually telecast “Peanuts” Christmas special, would make that claim. 

Like Fox News, Donald Trump has found there’s a lot of support to be gained by claiming there’s a “war on Christmas.”

In 2015, Starbucks issued a plain red cup minus imagery, triggering a backlash among image-obsessed Christians, who saw it as an “attack” on Christmas.  

When Trump—then running for President—learned of the change in Starbucks cups, he was outraged. Or claimed to be.

“Did you read about Starbucks?” Trump asked supporters during a rally in Springfield, Ill. “No more ‘Merry Christmas’ at Starbucks. No more. Maybe we should boycott Starbucks. 

“If I become president, we’re all going to be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again,” Trump told the crowd—as if, by becoming President, he could, like a king, issue such an order. “That I can tell you. That I can tell you! Unbelievable.”

Donald Trump

On November 17, 2016, a Trumpster using the screen name Baked Alaska came up with a new idea to intimidate Starbucks. 

Going on Twitter, he advised fellow Trumpsters to proceed with “Operation #TrumpCup.” All they had to do was:

  1. Go to Starbucks & tell them your name is Trump.
  2. If they refuse take video
  3. Pls share and spread the word.

One Trumpster subsequently posted on Twitter the following: “I got my Starbucks with Trump name. He yelled Trump get your drink 

Another one proudly tweeted: @bakedalaska did this today. They didn’t want to, said it was too political. I reminded her the campaign was over & he’s our president now. pic.twitter.com/LHgi7Vqexh.”   

And after Trump became President, his fanatical followers were quick to thank him for “allowing us to say ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”

They did so in a $1 million ad that began running after Christmas Day.

Sponsored by the pro-Trump political action committee, America First Policies, the ad features several “average Americans” thanking Trump in the style of a king’s subjects paying homage to an absolute monarch:

Narrator: “Every day, Americans are standing up to thank President Trump for making America great again.” 

Man: “Thank you for cutting my taxes.”

Man: “Thank you for fixing our economy.”

Woman: “Thank you for keeping my family safe.”

Man: “Thank you for putting America first.”

And, at the end, a little girl says, “Thank you, President Trump, for letting us say ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”

In George Orwell’s classic novel, 1984, Oceania is always at war with Eurasia or Eastasia. Its citizens are kept in a constant state of frenzy as they’re directed to search for endless “enemies of the state.” 

This, in turn, allows the unseen rulers of Oceania to run their dictatorship without interference.  

It’s a blueprint for power not lost on the men who run Fox News. 

Or on Donald Trump

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