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Posts Tagged ‘CENSORSHIP’

THE NEWS MEDIA CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 13, 2018 at 12:03 am

The 1992 military courtroom drama, “A Few Good Men,” climaxes with a brutal exchange that has since become famous.

Jack Nicolson vs. Tom Cruise in “A Few Good Men”

The legal combatants are Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) and Marine Colonel Nathan R. Jessup (Jack Nicholson).

COLONEL JESSUP: You want answers?

KAFFEE: I want the truth!

COLONEL JESSUP: You can’t handle the truth!

Apparently, many of those who work in the television news business feel the same way about their audiences.

[WARNING: This column contains some words that some readers may find offensive.  Read on at your own risk.]

On February 18, 2012, editor Anthony Federico posted this headline on ESPN’s mobile website:

Chink in the Armor: Jeremy Lin’s 9 Turnovers

Cost Knicks in Streak-Snapping Loss to Hornets.

The headline was posted at 2:30 a.m. and quickly removed when someone realized that it might be seen as offensive. By Sunday afternoon, Federico had been fired from ESPN.

Jeremy Lin

It’s true that “Chink” is seen by Asians as a derogatory word. It’s equally true that ESPN has the right to discipline its employees when they violate its journalistic standards.

But ESPN should not have the right to treat its audience like so many school children who must be protected, at all costs, from life’s unpleasantness.

Consider ESPN’s apology:

“Last night, ESPN.com’s mobile web site posted an offensive headline referencing Jeremy Lin at 2:30 am ET.  The headline was removed at 3:05 am ET.

“We are conducting a complete review of our cross-platform editorial procedures and are determining appropriate disciplinary action to ensure this does not happen again. We regret and apologize for this mistake.”

Note the words “posted an offensive headline.” If you didn’t already know what the headline had said, ESPN wasn’t going to enlighten you.

And other news networks—such as ABC and NBC—have acted similarly, referring to the “c-word” without telling viewers just what was actually posted.

Since the “c-word” is often used as a euphemism for “cunt,” it’s easy to see how many viewers could imagine the writer had used a very different expression.

The official reason given for refraining from actually saying the word that lies at the center of the story is to offending some members of the audience.

But when the use of certain words becomes central to a news story, editors and reporters should have the courage to reveal just what was said—and let the audience decide for itself.

The evening news is—supposedly—aimed at voting-age adults.  And adults need—and deserve—the hard truth about the world they live in.  Only then do they have a chance to reform it–if, in fact, they decide it needs reforming.

Examples of such censorship are legion.  For instance:

In 1976, during the Republican Presidential Convention, entertainer Pat Boone asked Earl Butz, then Secretary of Agriculture: Why was the party of Lincoln having so much trouble winning black votes for its candidates?

“I’ll tell you what the coloreds want,” said Butz. “It’s three things: first, a tight pussy; second, loose shoes; and third, a warm place to shit.”

Earl L. Butz.jpg

Earl Butz

Unknown to Butz, a Rolling Stone reporter was standing nearby.  When his comments became public, Butz was forced to resign.

Meanwhile, most TV and print media struggled to protect their audiences from the truth of Butz’ racism.

Many newspapers simply reported that Butz had said something too obscene to print.  Some invited their readers to contact the editors if they wanted more information.

TV newsmen generally described Butz’ firing as stemming from “a racially-offensive remark,” which they refused to explain.

In short: A high-ranking government official had been fired, but adult audiences were not allowed to judge whether his language justified that termination.

Or consider this:

On February 16, 2012, Foster Friess, offered his views about the importance of legalized birth control. Friess was the wealthy investor bankrolling a super PAC for GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum.

Foster Friess by Gage Skidmore 3.jpg

Foster Friess 

Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

“This contraceptive thing, my gosh it’s such inexpensive,” said Friess. “Back in my days, they used Bayer Aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.”

Many news organizations refused to share Friess’ statement, merely saying that he had made an “offensive remark about women.”

It’s understandable that women would be highly offended by this remark. But shielding them from the repressive mindset of those who support Right-wing candidates like Santorum would ill serve their interests.

Censoring the truth has always been a hallmark of dictatorships.  It has no place in a democracy—no matter how well-intentioned the motives of those doing the censoring.

Some words will always be hateful—-to blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians, women, men.  In short, everybody. 

Refusing to acknowledge their use will not cause them to vanish.

The truth is the truth. If you can’t handle it, that’s your problem.

But those of us who can deserve the opportunity to learn it.  And, when necessary, to act on it.

STALIN IN THE WHITE HOUSE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 17, 2018 at 12:00 am

On May 10, The Hill reported that White House Special Assistant Kelly Sadler had joked derisively about Arizona United States Senator John McCain.

Aware that the 81-year-old McCain was dying of brain cancer, Sadler joked to intimates about the Senator’s opposition to Gina Haspel as CIA director: “It doesn’t matter. He’s dying anyway.”

Leaked to CNN by an anonymous White House official, Sadler’s remark touched off a furor of criticism—and demands for her firing.

But the Trump White House refused to apologize for the remark.

Then, on May 14, President Donald Trump registered his fury—not at Sadler but at whoever had leaked her joke to the media:

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Donald Trump

“The so-called leaks coming out of the White House are a massive over exaggeration put out by the Fake News Media in order to make us look as bad as possible,” Trump tweeted. “With that being said, leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are!”

Then, Trump ordered an all-out investigation to find the joke-leaker.

In January, the White House had banned the use of personal cell phones in the West Wing. The official reason: National security.

The real reason: To stop staffers from leaking to reporters.

Officials now have two choices:

  1. Leave their cell phones in their cars, or,
  2. When they arrive for work, deposit them in lockers installed at West Wing entrances. They can reclaim their phones when they leave.

Several staffers huddle around the lockers throughout the day, checking messages they have missed. The lockers buzz and chirp constantly from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

More ominously, well-suited men roam the halls of the West Wing, carrying devices that pick up signals from phones that aren’t government-issued. “Did someone forget to put their phone away?” one of the men will ask if such a device is detected. If no one says they have a phone, the detection team start searching the room.

Image result for images of cell phone detectors on Youtube

Phone detector

The devices can tell which type of phone is in the room.

This is the sort of behavior Americans have traditionally—and correctly—associated with dictatorships

In his memo outlining the policy, Chief of Staff John Kelly warned that anyone who violated the phone ban could be punished, including “being indefinitely prohibited from entering the White House complex.”

Yet even these draconian methods may not end White House leaks.

White House officials still speak with reporters throughout the day and often air their grievances, whether about annoying colleagues or competing policy priorities.

Aides with private offices sometimes call reporters on their desk phones. Others get their cell phones and call or text reporters during lunch breaks.

According to an anonymous White House source: “The cellphone ban is for when people are inside the West Wing, so it really doesn’t do all that much to prevent leaks. If they banned all personal cellphones from the entire [White House] grounds, all that would do is make reporters stay up later because they couldn’t talk to their sources until after 6:30 pm.”

Image result for images of no cell phones

Other sources believe that leaks won’t end unless Trump starts firing staffers. But there is always the risk of firing the wrong people. Thus, to protect themselves, those who leak might well accuse tight-lipped co-workers.

Within the Soviet Union (especially during the reign of Joseph Stalin) fear of secret police surveillance was widespread—and absolutely justified.

Among the methods used to keep conversations secret:

  • Turning on the TV or radio to full volume.
  • Turning on a water faucet at full blast.
  • Turning the dial of a rotary phone to the end—and sticking a pencil in one of the small holes for numbers.
  • Standing six to nine feet away from the hung-up receiver.
  • Going for “a walk in the woods.” 
  • Saying nothing sensitive on the phone.

The secret police (known as the Cheka, the NKVD, the MGB, the KGB, and now the FSB) operated on seven working principles:

  1. Your enemy is hiding.
  2. Start from the usual suspects.
  3. Study the young.
  4. Stop the laughing.
  5. Rebellion spreads like wildfire.
  6. Stamp out every spark.
  7. Order is created by appearance.

Trump has always ruled through bribery and fear. He’s bought off (or tried to) those who might cause him trouble—like porn actress Stormy Daniels. And he’s threatened or filed lawsuits against those he couldn’t or didn’t want to bribe—such as contractors who have worked on various Trump properties. 

But Trump can’t buy the loyalty of employees working in an atmosphere of hostility—which breeds resentment and fear. And some of them are taking revenge by sharing with reporters the latest crimes and follies of the Trump administration.

The more Trump wages war on the “cowards and traitors” who work most closely with him, the more some of them will find opportunities to strike back. This will inflame Trump even more—and lead him to seek even more repressive methods against his own staffers. 

This is a no-win situation for Trump.

The results will be twofold:

  1. Constant turnovers of staffers—with their replacements having to undergo lengthy background checks before coming on; and
  2. Continued leaking of embarrassing secrets by resentful employees who stay.

STALIN IN THE WHITE HOUSE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 16, 2018 at 12:08 am

It’s perhaps the most famous—and most widely quoted—part of The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli’s classic work on gaining political power:

From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved than feared, or feared more than loved.  The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved….

“And the prince who has relied solely on their words, without making other preparations, is ruined; for the friendship which is gained by purchase and not through grandeur and nobility of spirit is bought but not secured, and at a pinch is not to be expended in your service. 

“And men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared; for love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose; but fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.”

But Machiavelli immediately follows this up with a warning about the abuses of fear:

“Still, a prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he does not gain love, he at any rate avoids hatred: for fear and the absence of hatred may well go together….”

Niccolo Machiavelli

It’s a warning that someone should have given President Donald Trump long ago.

Not that he would have heeded it.

On May 10, The Hill reported that White House Special Assistant Kelly Sadler had joked derisively about Arizona United States Senator John McCain.

McCain, a Navy pilot during the Vietnam war, was shot down over Hanoi on October 26, 1967, and captured. He spent five and a half years as a POW in North Vietnam—and was often brutally tortured. He wasn’t released until March 14, 1973.

Recently, he had opposed the nomination of Gina Haspel as director of the CIA.

The reason: In 2002, Haspel had operated a “black” CIA site in Thailand where Islamic terrorists were often waterboarded to make them talk. 

For John McCain, waterboarding was torture, even if it didn’t leave its victims permanently scarred and disabled. 

Aware that the 81-year-old McCain was dying of brain cancer, Sadler joked to intimates about the Senator’s opposition to Haspel: “It doesn’t matter. He’s dying anyway.”

John McCain's official Senate portrait, taken in 2009

John McCain

Leaked to CNN by an anonymous White House official, Sadler’s remark sparked fierce criticism—and demands for her firing.

McCain’s daughter, Meghan, said on the ABC talk show, “The View”: “Kelly, here’s a little news flash … we’re all dying. I’m dying, you’re dying, we’re all dying. And I want to say, since my dad has been diagnosed … I really feel like I understand the meaning of life, and it is not how you die, it’s how you live.”

Others were equally outraged. South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a close friend of McCain, said: “Ms. Sadler, may I remind you that John McCain has a lot of friends in the United States Senate on both sides of the aisle. Nobody is laughing in the Senate.”

“People have wondered when decency would hit rock bottom with this administration. It happened yesterday,” said former Vice President Joe Biden.

“John McCain makes America great. Father, grandfather, Navy pilot, POW hero bound by honor, an incomparable and irrepressible statesman. Those who mock such greatness only humiliate themselves and their silent accomplices,” tweeted former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

And how has the Trump White House responded to this bipartisan fury?

Officially, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to confirm or deny Sadler’s joke: “I’m not going to get into a back and forth because people want to create issues of leaked staff meetings.”

Unofficially, Sanders was furious—not at the joke about a dying man, but that someone had leaked it. After assailing the White House communications team, she pouted: “I am sure this conversation is going to leak, too. And that’s just disgusting.”

SarahHuckabeeSanders.jpg

Sarah Huckabee Sanders

No apology has been offered by any official at the White House—including President Trump.

In fact, Senior White House communications adviser Mercedes Schlapp reportedly expressed her support for Sadler: “I stand with Kelly Sadler.”

On May 11—the day after Sadler’s comment was reported—reporters asked Sanders if the tone set by Trump had caused Sadler to feel comfortable in telling such a joke.

“Certainly not!” predictably replied Sanders, adding: “We have a respect for all Americans, and that is what we try to put forward in everything we do, but in word and in action, focusing on doing things that help every American in this country every single day.”

On May 14 Trump revealed his “respect” for “all Americans”—especially those working in the White House.

“The so-called leaks coming out of the White House are a massive over exaggeration put out by the Fake News Media in order to make us look as bad as possible,” Trump tweeted.

“With that being said, leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are!”

In a move that Joseph Stalin would have admired, Trump ordered an all-out investigation to find the joke-leaker.

HEROES, JOKERS AND LIARS

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 15, 2018 at 12:10 am

Arizona United States Senator John McCain knows firsthand about torture.

A Navy pilot during the Vietnam war, he was shot down over Hanoi on October 26, 1967, and captured. He spent five and a half years as a POW in North Vietnam—and was often brutally tortured. He wasn’t released until March 14, 1973.

So he had strong feelings when he learned about President Donald Trump’s pick for director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

John McCain's official Senate portrait, taken in 2009

John McCain

This was Gina Haspel, who, in 2002, had operated a “black” CIA site in Thailand where Islamic terrorists were often waterboarded to make them talk.  

After the September 11, 2001 Al-Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., no one knew if other attacks were about to occur. Or where. The FBI, CIA, National Security Agency (NSA) and other Intelligence agencies were under huge pressure to discover—and foil—any future plots.

The administration of President George W. Bush ruled that waterboarding was not a form of torture, and thus did not violate the Geneva Convention.

Gina Haspel official CIA portrait.jpg

Gina Haspel

But for John McCain, waterboarding was torture, even if it didn’t leave its victims permanently scarred and disabled.

As a result, when Haspel’s name was put up for nomination, McCain quickly made clear his opposition.

Enter White House Special Assistant Kelly Sadler, who handles surrogate communications.

Aware that the 81-year-old McCain was dying of brain cancer, Sadler joked to intimates about the Senator’s opposition to Haspel: “It doesn’t matter. He’s dying anyway.”

Leaked to CNN by an anonymous White House official, Sadler’s remark touched off a furor of criticism—and demands for her firing.

McCain’s daughter, Meghan, said on the ABC talk show, “The View”: “Kelly, here’s a little news flash … we’re all dying. I’m dying, you’re dying, we’re all dying. And I want to say, since my dad has been diagnosed … I really feel like I understand the meaning of life, and it is not how you die, it’s how you live.”

Not to be outdone by Sadler, retired Air Force Lieutenant General Thomas McInerney went on the Right-wing Fox News Network to personally attack McCain.

Torture, he said, was effective: “The fact is, is John McCain—it worked on John. That’s why they call him ‘Songbird John.'”

“The fact is those methods can work, and they are effective, as former Vice President Cheney said. And if we have to use them to save a million American lives, we will do whatever we have to,” said McInerney.

There’s no evidence that McCain ever betrayed the United States during his captivity.

CNN correspondent Jake Tapper angrily replied to McInerney’s slander: “First of all, no one calls him ‘Songbird John’ except for crazy people and jerks—and I’m using my language carefully here.”

Meghan McCain responded to McInerney’s attack: “My father’s legacy is going to be talked about hundreds and hundreds of years. These people: Nothingburgers. Nobody is going to remember you.”

Her comment echoed a remark by former President Harry S. Truman about Indiana United States Senator William Jenner. Jenner, a Right-wing Republican, had attacked the patriotism of George C. Marshall, who, as chief of staff of the United States Army, was rightly called “the architect of Allied victory” in World War II.

Asked by biographer Merle Miller for his opinion on Jenner, Truman responded: “In my opinion, General Marshall will go down as one of the great men of his time. And, of course, people like Jenner, they aren’t even a footnote in history.”

Others were equally outraged. South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a close friend of McCain, said: “Ms. Sadler, may I remind you that John McCain has a lot of friends in the United States Senate on both sides of the aisle. Nobody is laughing in the Senate.”

And Meghan McCain added during her appearance on “The View”: “I don’t understand what kind of environment you’re working in when that would be acceptable and then you can come to work the next day and still have a job.”

Of course, for anyone familiar with Donald Trump and his vicious reactions to even the smallest opposition, Sadler’s jibe at McCain should come as no surprise.

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DDonald Trump

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, Trump infamously said of McCain: “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

This from a man who sought—and got—five draft deferments during the Vietnam War. And who has compared his reckless sex-life during the 1970s to risking his life in service to his country.

Officially, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to confirm or deny Sadler’s joke: “I’m not going to get into a back and forth because people want to create issues of leaked staff meetings.”

Unofficially, Sanders was furious—not at the joke about a dying man, but that someone had leaked it. After assailing the White House communications team, she pouted: “I am sure this conversation is going to leak, too. And that’s just disgusting.”

For Sanders—and her boss—it’s disgusting that Trump’s White House can’t enforce the censorship that reigns in Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin.

CRITICISM–AND HUMOR–AS ENDANGERED SPECIES

In History, Humor, Politics, Social commentary on May 11, 2018 at 12:23 am

What does it take for a White House correspondent to have his—or her—press credentials revoked?

According to President Donald Trump, it only takes writing a “negative” story about him.

On May 9—one year to the day since he fired FBI Director James Comey for refusing to offer a pledge of personal loyalty—Trump tweeted:

“The Fake News is working overtime. Just reported that, despite the tremendous success we are having with the economy & all things else, 91% of the Network News about me is negative (Fake). Why do we work so hard in working with the media when it is corrupt? Take away credentials?”

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Donald Trump

And how did Trump reach the conclusion that “91% of” network newscasts on ABC, CBS and NBC focused on “negative” scandals and controversies?

By watching a segment of Fox and Friends on the Right-wing Fox News Network.

Assuming Trump carries out his threat, can an attempted Presidential crackdown on criticism of any kind be far behind?

Given the rampant and constantly demonstrated egomania of this President, probably not.

So, with the week coming to a close, here are some jokes that might soon find themselves on the endangered humor species list.

Why are Donald Trump’s supporters like Adam and Eve? They are naked, they have only one apple to eat, they live in a forest, and they think they’re in Paradise.

Donald Trump on Stormy Daniels: Version #1: I know NOTHING! Version #2: Gee, I guess I DO know something.

What’s the difference between John Gotti and Donald Trump? Some people actually loved John Gotti. 

In President Donald Trump’s America, what is black and knocking at the door?  The Future.

Donald Trump, watching the “Million Man March” on TV: “Now all we need is an auctioneer!” 

A man knocks at the door of his neighbor’s apartment and shouts: “Quick, get up, get dressed.” From inside the apartment he hears screams of terror. “Don’t worry,” he says. “It’s nothing serious. I’m not with the Trump Police. I just want to tell you your flat is on fire.”

A group of friends gather in a house. Some of them start telling jokes about Donald Trump. One of the guests says, “Hey, it’s too noisy. I can’t hear the jokes. I’m writing it down, you know.” “How can you write down the jokes so fast?” asks a man. “Oh, I’m just writing down the initials.”

What’s the difference between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump? Trump DIDN’T rig an election for Putin.

People ask, “Why does Donald Trump always suck up to Vladimir Putin? What’s he so afraid of?” Can anyone say “polonium”?

Let’s resolve the Stormy Daniels scandal the old-fashioned way: A heavyweight boxing match between Melania “The Slovenian Slugger” and Stormy “Come and Get It” Daniels. The loser gets to keep Trump. THAT should make it REALLY competitive. 

What do American Fascists and Russian Communists have in common? Donald Trump.

What’s the difference between Germans and Trump supporters? Today’s Germans AREN’T Nazis.

The Trump “Sin-Eraser” Machine. Pick a sin you’re committed. Say, “I didn’t do it.” There! You didn’t do it!

Donald Trump’s next conspiracy theory: “Robert Mueller planted Rudi Giuliani on me to make me look like a stupid criminal.”

Melania Trump has unveiled her new campaign: “Be Best.” And not to be outdone, Donald has one: “Be Beast.”

It was a dark and Stormy night. Then Melania showed up with a carving knife—and all Hell broke loose.

Here’s how to make America great again in two easy steps: Step 1: Round up all Donald Trump supporters and put them on ships. Step 2: Sink the ships.

Donald Trump’s secret strategy to avoid impeachment: He’s going to blame it all on Eric.

Adolf Hitler had many faults, but at least he didn’t inflict his half-wit children on Germany.

What’s the difference between John Gotti and Donald Trump? John Gotti couldn’t fire the FBI director.

Think of Sarah Huckabee Sanders as Joseph Goebbels in a dress. Or, better yet, Hermann Goring.

REPORTER: “President Trump, you’ve been in the White house for 12 years now. Do you intend to seek a fourth term?” PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: “I’m not sure. That will be for the American people to decide.” Then Trump laughs for ten minutes.

What does Donald Trump think the Constitution is for? A substitute for toilet paper.

Trump HAS been a success if you know what MAGA really means: Make Adultery Great Again.

Donald Trump on Easter: “Jesus got a BIG resurrection when he met Mary Magdalene, but then he lost it three days later.”

It’s true that Donald Trump, Jr., met with a Russian lawyer in June, 2016. But there IS a perfectly good explanation for it. They were simply discussing how his father could adopt more foreign-born wives.

Poor Karen McDougal! If only things had gone right, SHE could NOW be the First Lady Trump cheated on.

Melania Trump is the sister that Natasha Fatale feels embarrassed to talk about.

How does every Donald Trump joke start? By looking over your shoulder.

Why do Trump supporters always travel in threes? One who can read, one who can write, and one to keep an eye on the two intellectuals.

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.

LIES ATTACK ONE PRESIDENT, TRUTH DAMNS ANOTHER

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 5, 2017 at 12:11 am

For five years, Donald Trump falsely claimed that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya—and was therefore ineligible to be President.

Now Trump finds himself haunted by something far worse than a slander: The truth.

Since taking office on January 20, Trump has been ensnared in a series of revelations about collaboration between members of his 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents.

The FBI, CIA and National Security Agency have unequivocally stated that Russian Intelligence played a major role in trying to sway the election for Trump. 

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TRUMP’S DENIALS:

October 24, 2016: “I have nothing to do with Russia, folks, I’ll give you a written statement.”   

December 11, 2016 “They have no idea if it’s Russia or China or somebody. It could be somebody sitting in a bed some place. I mean, they have no idea.” 

August 3, 2017: “Most people know there were no Russians in our campaign; there never were. We didn’t win because of Russia; we won because of you,”

July 27, 2016: “I mean I have nothing to do with Russia. I don’t have any jobs in Russia. I’m all over the world but we’re not involved in Russia.”

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Donald Trump

January 11, 2017: “Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!”

February 7, 2017: “I don’t know [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, have no deals in Russia, and the haters are going crazy – yet Obama can make a deal with Iran, #1 in terror, no problem!”

February 16, 2017: “The Democrats had to come up with a story as to why they lost the election, and so badly (306), so they made up a story – RUSSIA. Fake news!”

May 8, 2017: “The Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer funded charade end?”

TRUMP’S BEHAVIOR:

May 9, 2017:  Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. Comey had been leading an investigation into alleged collusion between Trump advisers and Russian officials when he was fired.

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James Comey

At first, Trump claimed that he fired Comey for mishandling the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. 

May 10, 2017: But, in a meeting at the White House, Trump told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak: “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

May 11, 2017:  In an interview with NBC reporter Lester Holt, Trump admitted:

“And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said: ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.’” 

May 17, 2017: Following the uproar over Comey’s firing, the Justice Department appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller as Special Counsel to investigate any links the between Russian government and Trump campaign members.

July 8, 2017:  The New York Times reported that Donald Trump Junior met at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer who promised to offer damaging information about Clinton.

Trump Junior released a statement: “We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow up.”

July 12 and July 16, 2017: Trump’s lawyer, Jay Sekulow, denied that the President was involved in drafting his son’s statement about the Trump Tower meeting.

July 20, 2017: The Washington Post reported that Trump was consulting with advisers “about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself” in connection to the probe led by Mueller.

July 31, 2017: The Washington Post reported that, to conceal the purpose of the Trump Tower  meeting, President Trump dictated a misleading statement for his son. In this, the reason for the meeting was given as a discussion about the adoption of Russian children—and not to obtain damaging information on Clinton from Russian Intelligence agents.

August 1, 2017: White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said President Trump was involved in drafting the false statement that Trump Junior released about the Trump Tower meeting. Sanders called the matter “of no consequence.”

August 3, 2017: The Wall Street Journal reported that Mueller had convened a grand jury in Washington, D.C. to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. 

October 5, 2017: George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian government in 2016 concerning U.S.–Russia relations. He also agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s probe. Papadopoulos had been a member of Trump’s foreign policy advisory panel during the campaign. Prior to pleading guilty, he may have been wearing a hidden recorder while speaking with with various Trump officials.

December 1, 2017: Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with Russia’s ambassador. He added that he was cooperating with Mueller’s investigation. A fervent Trump supporter throughout the campaign, his immediate superior had been Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law.

For years, Trump claimed it was only a matter of time before “the truth” revealed that Barack Obama was ineligible to be President.  That never happened.

Now it seems only a matter of time before truth reveals Trump’s own unfitness to govern.

THE MEDIA–NOT ITS AUDIENCE–CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 9, 2017 at 1:18 am

In the 1992 courtroom drama, “A Few God Men,” Jack Nicholson, as Marine Colonel Nathan Jessup, utters a line that has since become famous.

When his prosecutor, Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) demands the truth about the murder of a fellow Marine, Jessup shouts: “You can’t handle the truth!”

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Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men”

Apparently, many of those who work in the television news business feel the same way about their audience.

[WARNING: This column contains some words that some readers may find offensive.  Read on at your own risk.]  

On February 9, 2016, businessman Donald Trump scored a new blow at his Rafael “Ted” Cruz, his closest rival for the Republican Presidential nomination.

Speaking at a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, Trump attacked Cruz, the United States Senator from Texas, for being unwilling to support the widespread use of torture against America’s Islamic enemies.

“He’s a pussy!” yelled a woman in the crowd.

Apparently a certain portion of the attendees didn’t hear–or misheard–the insult. So Trump–pretending to be shocked–repeated it for them:

“She said–I never expect to hear that from you again!  She said: ‘He’s a pussy.’ That’s terrible.”

“What kind of people do I have here?” joked Trump, clearly playing to the boisterous crowd.

Donald Trump

The incident went viral on social media. But all the major TV news outlets–for ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC–bleeped the word and/or coyly referred to it as “the P-word.”

It was as if they assumed their viewers would of course know what had been said despite the networks’ censorship of it. And if viewers didn’t already know what the woman–and Trump–had said, the networks weren’t going to enlighten them.

Of course, “the P-word” could just as easily have been “prick” or “pervert.” So it’s understandable that many viewers might have thought a very different word had been used.

No doubt the networks hoped to avoid offending large numbers of viewers.

But when the use of certain words becomes central to a news story, editors and reporters should have the courage to reveal just what was said. It should then be up to the audience to decide if the language was offensive–and, if so, if its user deserves condemnation.

The evening news is–supposedly–aimed at voting-age adults. And adults need–and deserve–the hard truth about the world they live in. Only then do they have a chance to reform it–if, in fact, they decide it needs reforming.

Those who wanted to learn–rather than guess–what Trump had repeated had to turn to the Internet or to a handful of news source such as Vox: Policy and Politics.

In their defense, the networks could argue that the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates radio and television, does not usually permit the word “pussy” to be aired between 6 am and 10 pm.

On the other hand, immediately after the 9/11 terror attacks, all the major TV networks endlessly replayed the destruction of the World Trade Center, with the resulting deaths of hundreds of men and women.

Censorship, then, tends to center on two types of subject material:

  1. Sex, or “obscenity,” which is sex-related; and
  2. Race, meaning racial slurs that would offend some minority group.

An example of race-related censorship occurred during the short-lived administration of President Gerald R. Ford.

During a lull in the 1976 Republican convention, entertainer Pat Boone asked Earl Butz, then Secretary of Agriculture: Why was the party of Lincoln having so much trouble winning black votes for its candidates?

“I’ll tell you what the coloreds want,” said Butz. “It’s three things: first, a tight pussy; second, loose shoes; and third, a warm place to shit.”

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Earl Butz

Unknown to Butz, a Rolling Stone reporter was standing nearby. When his comments became public, Butz was quickly forced to resign.

Meanwhile, most TV and print media struggled to protect their audiences from the truth of Butz’ racism. Many newspapers simply reported that Butz had said something too obscene to print. Some invited their readers to contact the editors if they wanted more information.

TV newsmen generally described Butz’ firing as stemming from “a racially-offensive remark,” which they refused to explain.

In short: A high-ranking government official had been fired, but audiences were not allowed to judge whether his language justified that termination.

Forty years later, TV news viewers were again prevented from reaching their own conclusions about Trump’s repetition of the slur aimed at his rival.

Nor is there any guarantee that such censorship will not occur again.

Censoring the truth has always been a hallmark of dictatorships. It has no place in a democracy–despite the motives of those doing the censoring.

The ancient historian, Plutarch, sounded a warning that remains timely:

“And the most glorious exploits do not always furnish us with the clearest discoveries of virtue or vice in men; sometimes a matter of less moment, an expression or a jest, informs us better of their characters and inclinations, than the most famous sieges, the greatest armaments, or the bloodiest battles whatsoever.”

In a democracy, citizens must be alert for those tell-tale expressions or jests. And this demands that the media, in turn, have the courage to bring those truths to their attention.

 

FLORIDA: POLITICAL LIES MEET CLIMATE-CHANGE REALITY

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on September 13, 2017 at 12:04 am

Politicians can lie to voters. And voters can lie to themselves. But Nature can never be fooled.

By 2100, more than 13 million Americans living along the coast could be displaced by rising sea levels. And these, in turn, are the result of melting polar ice caps—courtesy of a Republican-denied event called climate change.

At Ground Zero of this oncoming catastrophe lies Florida, Its densely populated coastal locales could see up to 6.06 million residents displaced if sea levels rise six feet.

“As the sea level rises, coastal parts of Florida will be inundated,” warns University of Georgia geography professor Deepak Mishra. “Sea level rise is the phenomenon that makes climate change a reality for millions of people worldwide. The sheer volume of people at risk of displacement and becoming climate refugees is the main threat.”

Mishra was one of several researchers for the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who assessed sea level change scenarios by 2100 for coastal states along with population growth trends and projections in high-risk areas.

The number of people who could be displaced might be three times larger than previous estimates.

“These results suggest that the absence of protective measures could lead to U.S. population movements of a magnitude similar to the 20th century Great Migration of southern African-Americans,” the researchers wrote in the journal Nature Climate Change.

This referred to the exodus of more than six million blacks from the rural South to cities of the North, Midwest and West from 1910 until 1970. 

More than a quarter of residents of major urban centers such as Miami and New Orleans could face coastal flooding. Three counties could see the displacement of 80 percent of their population:

  • Florida’s Monroe County, site of the Florida Keys;
  • Hyde County, North Carolina; and
  • Tyrrell County, North Carolina. 

In Florida, climate change reality is about to slam into Right-wing denial and censorship.

Rick Scott, its Republican Governor, doesn’t believe in “climate change’ or “global warming.” Asked by a reporter for his views on the subject, he fobbed off the question with, “Well, I’m not a scientist.”

Smiling at the coming apocalypse: Rick Scott

Accordingly, he has ordered members of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to stop using those terms “global warming” and “climate change” in official correspondence.

DEP has a $1.4 billion budget and 3,200 employees, but is forbidden to speak openly about perhaps the foremost danger now facing Floridians.

According to the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting (FCIR) the policy is “unwritten” and was “distributed verbally statewide.”

Just as the Nazis passed down many of their orders verbally, to ensure deniability, so has Scott.

Accordingly, John Tupps, Scott’s spokesman, told The Washington Post: “There is no policy in existence. …Allegations and claims made in the [Florida investigative article] are not true. This policy, it doesn’t exist.”

But FCIR has no reservations about exposing the issue that threatens the very existence of the state.

“The irony is clearly apparent,” said Tristam Korten, one of FCIR’s writers. “Florida is a peninsula with 1,200 miles of coastline, and when it comes to climate change, we’re the canary in the coalmine. And we’re relying on the state government to protect us and to plan for these changes.” 

Rising sea levels threaten Miami–and the rest of Florida

Further proof of the governor’s censorship decree comes from statements of former DEP employees. One of these, Kristina Trotta, was told during a 2014 meeting that she couldn’t employ terms such as “climate change” and “global warming.”

“We were told that we were not allowed to discuss anything that was not a true fact. The regional administrator told us that we are the governor’s agency; this is the message from the governor’s office. And that is the message we will portray.”

Many Americans believe climate change-denying politicians are simply ignorant of the truth: “If they knew, surely they would do something.” 

While some politicians may genuinely believe that climate change is a hoax, others have self-interested reasons for denying its reality. 

Among these is Rick Scott, whose 2014 financial disclosure records revealed that he was heavily invested in more than two dozen oil and gas ventures. 

One was Spectra Energy, now working with Florida Power & Light to build the $3 billion Sabal Trail pipeline in North Florida. 

Scott and his appointees at the Public Service Commission backed construction of Sabal Trail despite state ethics laws that generally forbid public officials from owning stock in businesses subject to their regulation. 

Another entity in which Scott shares an interest is Regency Energy Partners, LP.  In 2014, the governor valued his Regency units at $194,000. He also reported a $206,600 state in PRV Partners LP, which was acquired by Regency. 

Scott’s oil and gas assets include 18 publicly traded master limited partnerships, some with significant ties to GE Energy Financial Services. 

So while Scott and many other Right-wing politicians expect to handsomely profit from the coming onslaught of Nature, those at its epicenter will be its foremost victims. 

Ironically, their victimization will result from their unswerving support for greed-addicted, Right-wing politicians, whose denial of climate change makes such catastrophes inevitable.

TRUMP AND TRUTH–TWO IRRECONCILABLE OPPOSITES: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 8, 2017 at 12:23 am

For five years, Donald Trump, more than anyone, popularized the fiction that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya—and was therefore ineligible to be President.

Now Trump finds himself haunted by something far worse than a slander: The truth.

Since taking office on January 20, Trump has been ensnared in a series of revelations about collaboration between members of his 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents.

The FBI, CIA and National Security Agency have unequivocally stated that Russian Intelligence played a major role in trying to sway the election for Trump. 

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During the 2016 race, Trump furiously disagreed with this finding. “They have no idea if it’s Russia or China or somebody. It could be somebody sitting in a bed some place. I mean, they have no idea,” Trump told “Fox News Sunday” on Dec. 11.

And as late as August 3, 2017, addressing a rally of his Right-wing followers in West Virginia, Trump said: “Most people know there were no Russians in our campaign; there never were. We didn’t win because of Russia; we won because of you,”

But Trump’s denials contradict the revelations that have emerged about his behavior.

TRUMP’S DENIALS

July 27, 2016, in Doral, Florida: Trump told a local CBS news channel: “I mean I have nothing to do with Russia. I don’t have any jobs in Russia. I’m all over the world but we’re not involved in Russia.”

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Donald Trump

October 24, 2016 at a Florida campaign rally: Trump said, “I have nothing to do with Russia, folks, I’ll give you a written statement.”

January 11, 2017: Trump launched the first in a series of tweets denying any ties between Russian Intelligence and his campaign: “Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!”

February 7, 2017: “I don’t know [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, have no deals in Russia, and the haters are going crazy – yet Obama can make a deal with Iran, #1 in terror, no problem!”

February 16, 2017: “The Democrats had to come up with a story as to why they lost the election, and so badly (306), so they made up a story – RUSSIA. Fake news!”

May 8, 2017: “The Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer funded charade end?”

TRUMP’S BEHAVIOR

May 9, 2017:  Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. Comey had been leading an investigation into alleged collusion between Trump advisers and Russian officials when he was fired.

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James Comey

At first, Trump claimed that he fired Comey for mishandling the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. 

May 10, 2017:  But, in a meeting at the White House, Trump told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak: “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

May 11, 2017:  And in an interview with NBC reporter Lester Holt, Trump admitted the real reason:

“And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said: ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.’”

July 8, 2017:  The New York Times reported that Donald Trump Junior met at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer who promised to offer damaging information about Clinton.

Trump Junior released a statement: “We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow up.”

July 12 and July 16, 2017: Trump’s lawyer, Jay Sekulow, denied that the President was involved in drafting his son’s statement about the Trump Tower meeting.

July 19, 2017: In an interview with The New York Times, Trump warned Special Counsel and former FBI Director Robert Mueller to avoid looking into his personal finances. Asked if he would fire Mueller over an examination of his finances, Trump made it clear that he might.

July 20, 2017: The Washington Post reported that Trump was consulting with advisers “about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself” in connection to the probe led by Mueller.

July 31, 2017: The Washington Post reported that, to conceal the purpose of the Trump Tower  meeting, President Trump dictated a misleading statement for his son. In this, the reason for the meeting was given as a discussion about the adoption of Russian children—and not to obtain damaging information on Clinton from Russian Intelligence agents.

August 1, 2017: White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said President Trump was involved in drafting the false statement that Trump Junior released about the Trump Tower meeting. Sanders called the matter “of no consequence.”

August 3, 2017: The Wall Street Journal reported that Mueller had convened a grand jury in Washington, D.C. to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. This gives Mueller broad authority to subpoena documents and compel witnesses to testify under oath. 

As the late New York Times reporter Harrison E. Salisbury warned: “The truth, I was ultimately to learn, is the most dangerous thing. There are no ends to which men of power will not go to put out its eyes.”

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