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Posts Tagged ‘FIRST AMENDMENT’

SURVIVING “FACEBOOK JAIL”: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on June 16, 2022 at 12:10 am

Facebook likes to promote itself as a place for “more than three billion people around the world to share ideas, offer support and make a difference.”

But there are limits to the ideas that can be shared on Facebook. And while Facebook likes to boast about its “Community Standards,” these are enforced in a totally arbitrary way.

There is simply no predicting what will trigger Facebook’s ire and land a post—and its poster—in “Facebook Jail.” 

Facebook doesn’t restrict itself to banning posts that are libelous and/or harassing. Its definition of “Hate speech” is so all-encompassing it can be stretched to cover anything—including historically valid statements. 

Our Favourite Banned Facebook Memes - The Inappropriate Gift Co

In Part One I laid out the reason for my sending a letter of protest to Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s longtime Chief Operating Officer.

In this part, I will offer specific steps Facebook can take to keep faith with its stated mission to be a place where people can “share ideas.” 

Noting that I had been banned from Facebook for seven days for posting “Americans are historical illiterates,” I cited the noted historian, David McCullough, and an article from the Smithsonian Institute to support my statement. 

At the 2015 National Book Festival

David McCullough 

fourandsixty, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

I then quoted my offending paragraph in full:

“Tyrants cannot be appeased by giving into their demands–it just convinces them that they can demand even more from their victims. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain tried that approach at Munich in September, 1938, giving Adolf Hitler a big chunk of Czechoslovakia. The reason: To prevent a war with Nazi Germany. Less than a year later, war broke out anyway.” 

This referred to yet another act of cowardice by Democrats in refusing to stand up to the aggression of the Republican Right.

There are serious historical parallels between the closing days of the German Weimar Republic and the rise of Adolf Hitler—and what is happening today in the United States.

Example: In the Weimar Republic, all that stood between Hitler and total power was a frail old man—President Paul von Hindenburg. In the United States, all that stands between Donald Trump and absolute power is a frail old man: President Joe Biden.

Revelan elogios de expresidente Donald Trump a Hitler | Cuba Si

Adolf Hitler and Donald Trump

Too many Americans remain ignorant of their own history—not to mention that of other countries.

That was the point of my post. But on Facebook, it’s “Hate speech” to point out the ignorance of criminally ignorant people.

Then came my third and last point.

Third: Facebook claimed: “You can disagree with the decision if you think we got it wrong.” That implied that I would be given the opportunity to state why I believed the decision was wrong and have that objection carefully reviewed. 

But, immediately afterward, Facebook stated: “We usually offer the chance to request a review and follow up if we got decisions wrong.

“We have fewer reviewers available right now because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. We’re trying hard to prioritize reviewing content with the most potential for harm. This means we may not be able to follow up with you, though your feedback helps us do better in the future.” 

Using COVID as an excuse to avoid responsible behavior is despicable. If Facebook is  going to ban people for supposedly violating its “Community Standards,” it has a moral obligation—if not a legal one—-to give them a chance to share their side of the story.

That is how a court in a democracy behaves. Making a decision based on whim and secrecy, with no appeal possible, is the behavior of a star chamber.

Facebook jail Memes

I then noted two ways by which Facebook could avoid such disgraceful episodes in the future:

  1. Providing its users with an 800 number whereby they can interact directly with the Censorship Committee and share their reasons for posting the comment(s) they did;
  2. Providing its users with at least an Instant Messaging capability, so they can do so.

My letter to Sheryl Sandberg closed as follows: 

Im aware that Facebook is a private company and thus can do whatever it likes. But it is also—supposedly—a market for the airing of competing ideas. And to behave in the despicable manner I have described is as much a disservice to the reputation Facebook wishes to have as to those who are negatively affected by its censorship decisions. 

Frankly, I don’t expect to get an answer from Sandberg, any more than I expected one from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. 

Still, there is this:

On August 23, 1968, Russian poet Yevgeney Yevtushenko sent a telegram to Communist Party Boss Leonid Brezhnev and Premier Aleksei Kosygin, protesting their invasion of Czechoslovakia. 

No doubt, Yevtushenko didn’t expect his protest to change Soviet policy—just as I don’t expect any major changes—for the good—from Facebook.

These will come about only if:

  1. Enough Facebook users get so fed up with arbitrary bullying that they seek another social media format to speak their minds; and/or
  2. Enough members of Congress demand major changes in the way Facebook regularly makes a mockery of the First Amendment. 

Neither of these is likely to happen anytime soon.

SURVIVING “FACEBOOK JAIL”: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on June 15, 2022 at 12:10 am

Facebook likes to promote itself as a place for “more than three billion people around the world to share ideas, offer support and make a difference.”

But there are limits to the ideas that can be shared on Facebook. And while Facebook likes to boast about its “Community Standards,” these are enforced in a totally arbitrary way.

There is simply no predicting what will trigger Facebook’s ire and land a post—and its poster—in “Facebook Jail.” 

50+ Funny Facebook Jail Memes to Avoid Being Blocked / Get Out of It

It’s true that standards against libel and harassment are absolutely essential.

Twitter has earned an unsavory reputation for refusing to take action against those guilty of one or both. As a result, the Disney company has refused to partner with this company.

But Facebook doesn’t restrict itself to banning posts that are libelous and/or harassing. Its definition of “Hate speech” is so all-encompassing it can be stretched to cover anything. 

For example: On June 3, I received the following message from Facebook: “You can’t post or comment for 7 days. This is because you previously posted something that didn’t follow our Community Standards.

“This comment goes against our standards on hate speech and inferiority, so only you and the admins of Private Liberal Group can see it.

“If your content goes against our Community Standards again, your account may be restricted or disabled.” 

Meta Platforms Headquarters Menlo Park California.jpg

Facebook / Meta headquarters in Menlo Park, California 

LPS.1, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

And just what was my comment that qualified as “hate speech”?

Facebook refused to publish the comment or news story to which I responded. So I can only assume that I was referring to yet another act of cowardice by Democrats in standing up to the Fascistic Right:

“Americans are historical illiterates, and this is just another example proving it. Tyrants cannot be appeased by giving into their demands–it just convinces them that they can demand even more from their victims. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain tried that approach at Munich in September, 1938, giving Adolf Hitler a big chunk of Czechoslovakia. The reason: To prevent a war with Nazi Germany. Less than a year later, war broke out anyway.”

Apparently, for Facebook, “Americans are historical illiterates” qualifies as “hate speech.”  

When Donald Trump boasted, during his 2016 campaign for President, “I love the poorly educated!” he was not alone. The leadership of Facebook apparently feels the same way. 

Making a decision based on whim and secrecy, with no appeal possible—as Facebook routinely does—is the behavior of a star chamber.

In the past, I had sent letters to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, protesting Facebook’s star chamber approach to justice. Zuckerberg’s life features two accomplishments that dwarf all others:

  1. He’s worth $71.5 billion, courtesy of Facebook’s revenues; and
  2. In multiple appearances before Congress, he’s managed to unite Right-wing Republicans and Liberal Democrats—in their rage at his perceived arrogance and stonewalling.

I didn’t expect Zuckerberg to show the courtesy of a fair-minded CEO by replying to my letters—and I wasn’t disappointed.

Mark Zuckerberg F8 2019 Keynote (32830578717) (cropped).jpg

Mark Zuckerberg

Anthony Quintano from Westminster, United States, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

So, this time, on June 3, I decided to write someone else: Sheryl Sandberg, longtime Chief Operating Officer for Facebook. (She will be stepping down from that position in the fall of 2022, She will, however, remain a member of Facebook’s board of directors.)

Early on in my letter I quickly laid out my case:  Apparently what aroused the ire of Facebook’s Censorship Committee was my statement that “Americans are historical illiterates,” and this was interpreted as “hate speech and inferiority.” Taken to its logical conclusion, only comments celebrating the ignorance of ignorant people will be considered acceptable on Facebook.

Facebook Jail Memes - Geeks + Gamers

Then I offered three reasons why I strongly objected to the decision to ban my post—and me—from Facebook:

First: What I said about Americans’ historical illiteracy was entirely accurate. No less an authority than the acclaimed historian David McCullough has said: “I think we are raising a generation of young Americans who are, to a very large degree, historically illiterate.” 

Nor is he alone. A May 5, 2015 article by the Smithsonian Institute asks: “How Much U.S. History Do Americans Actually Know?” And it answers the question: “Less Than You Think.”

Comedians have long gained laughs at Americans’ historical illiteracy. When Jay Leno hosted The Tonight Show, he often did “Jaywalking Tours” where he would ask people about seemingly well-known historical events. It was common to see people say the Civil War happened in the 1940s (instead of 1861-1865) or to believe that the Texans won at the battle of the Alamo. 

Second:  I quoted the rest of my paragraph: “Tyrants cannot be appeased by giving into their demands–it just convinces them that they can demand even more from their victims. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain tried that approach at Munich in September, 1938, giving Adolf Hitler a big chunk of Czechoslovakia. The reason: To prevent a war with Nazi Germany. Less than a year later, war broke out anyway.”

I challenge you—and anyone else who reads this letter—to refute one line of that paragraph.

LIKE A TYRANT: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 7, 2021 at 12:15 am

In January, 2018, the White House of President Donald Trump 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.

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 believed that leaks wouldn’t end unless Trump started firing staffers. But that risked firing the wrong people. To protect themselves, those who leaked 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. 

He’s never been able to poke fun at himself—and he grows livid when anybody else does.

At Christmastime, 2018, “Saturday Night Live” aired a parody of the classic movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Its title: “It’s a Wonderful Trump.” 

In it, Trump (portrayed by actor Alec Baldwin) discovers what the United States would be like if he had never become President: A great deal better-off.

As usual, Trump expressed his resentment through Twitter: The Justice Department should stop investigating his administration and go after the real enemy: “SNL.”

“A REAL scandal is the one sided coverage, hour by hour, of networks like NBC & Democrat spin machines like Saturday Night Live. It is all nothing less than unfair news coverage and Dem commercials. Should be tested in courts, can’t be legal? Only defame & belittle! Collusion?” 

By saying that “SNL’s” right to parody him “should be tested in courts, can’t be legal?” Trump chose to ignore the role of the First Amendment in American history.

Cartoonists portrayed President Andrew Jackson (1829 -1837) wearing a king’s robes and crown, and holding a scepter. This thoroughly enraged Jackson—who had repulsed a British invasion in 1815 at the Battle of New Orleans. To call a man a monarchist in 1800s America was the same as calling him a Communist in the 1950s. 

Related image

During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln was lampooned as an ape and a blood-stained tyrant. And Theodore Roosevelt proved a cartoonist’s delight, with attention given to his bushy mustache and thick-lensed glasses. 

Thus, the odds are slight that an American court would even hear a case brought by Trump against “SNL.” 

Such a case made its way through the courts in the late 1980s when the Reverend Jerry Falwell sued pornographer Larry Flyint over a satirical interview in Hustler magazine. In this, “Falwell” admitted that his first sexual encounter had been with his own mother.

In 1988, the United States Supreme Court, voting 8-0, ruled in Flynt’s favor, saying that the media had a First Amendment right to parody a celebrity.

“Despite their sometimes caustic nature, from the early cartoon portraying George Washington as an ass down to the present day, graphic depictions and satirical cartoons have played a prominent role in public and political debate,” Chief Justice William Rehnquist—an appointee of President Richard Nixon—wrote in his majority decision in the case.

Moreover, Trump would have bene forced to take the stand in such a case. The attorneys for NBC and “SNL” would have insisted on it.

The results would have been:

  1. Unprecedented legal exposure for Trump—who would have been forced to answer virtually any questions asked or drop his lawsuit; and
  2. Unprecedented humiliation for a man who lives as much for his ego as his pocketbook. Tabloids and late-night comedians would have had a field-day with such a lawsuit.

And while Trump loves to sue those he hates, he does not relish taking the stand himself.  

On October 12, 2016, The Palm Beach Post, The New York Times and People all published stories of women claiming to have been sexually assaulted by Trump. 

He accused the Times of inventing accusations to hurt his Presidential candidacy. And he threatened to sue for libel if the Times reported the women’s stories. He also said he would sue the women making the accusations. 

He never sued the Times, The Post, People—or the women.

LIKE A TYRANT: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 6, 2021 at 12:42 am

On May 10, 2018, The Hill reported that White House Special Assistant Kelly Sadler had joked derisively about dying 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.

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 then-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.

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 was offered by any official at the White House—including President Donald 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, 2018, 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!” 

This from the man who, during the 2016 Presidential campaign, shouted: WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks!” 

Of course, that was when Russian Intelligence agents were exposing the secrets of Hillary Clinton, his Presidential opponent.

And, in a move that Joseph Stalin would have admired, Trump ordered an all-out investigation to find the person who leaked Sadler’s “joke.”

In January, 2018, 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 had 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 huddled around the lockers throughout the day, checking messages they had missed. The lockers buzzed and chirped constantly from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

More ominously, well-suited men roamed 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 would ask if such a device was detected.

If no one said they have a phone, the detection team started 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, former 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 did not end White House leaks.

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

Aides with private offices sometimes called reporters on their desk phones. Others used their cell phones to call or text reporters during lunch breaks. 

LIKE A TYRANT: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 5, 2021 at 12:15 am

“Nothing funny about tired Saturday Night Live on Fake news NBC! Question is, how do the Networks get away with these total Republican hit jobs without retribution? Likewise for many other shows? Very unfair and should be looked into. This is the real Collusion!”

So tweeted President Donald J. Trump on February 17, 2019.

Less than nine hours earlier, “SNL” had once again opened with actor Alec Baldwin mocking the 45th President. In this skit, Baldwin/Trump gave a rambling press conference declaring: “We need wall. We have a tremendous amount of drugs flowing into this country from the southern border—or The Brown Line, as many people have asked me not to call it.”

Right-wingers denounce their critics as “snowflakes”—that is, emotional, easily offended and unable to tolerate opposing views.

Yet here was Donald Trump, who prides himself on his toughness, whining like a child bully who has just been told that other people have rights, too.

The answer is simple: Trump is a tyrant—and a longtime admirer of tyrants.

Related image

Donald Trump

He has lavishly praised Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, such as during his appearance on the December 18, 2015 edition of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”: 

“He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country”-a reference to then-President Barack Obama. 

During a February, 2017 interview with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, Trump defended Putin’s killing of political opponents.  

O’Reilly: “But he’s a killer.” 

Trump: “There are a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?” 

Asked by a Fox News reporter why he praised murderous North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, he replied: “He’s a tough guy. Hey, when you take over a country, tough country, tough people, and you take it over from your father…If you could do that at 27 years old, I mean, that’s one in 10,000 that could do that.” 

In short: Kim must be doing something right because he’s in power. And it doesn’t matter how he came to power—or the price his country is paying for it.  

Actually, for all their differences in appearance and nationality, Trump shares at least two similarities with Kim.

Kim Jong-un at the Workers' Party of Korea main building.png

Kim Jong-Un

Blue House (Republic of Korea) [KOGL (http://www.kogl.or.kr/open/info/license_info/by.do)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

First, both of them got a big boost into wealth and power from their fathers.

  • Trump’s father, Fred Trump, a real estate mogul, reportedly gave Donald $200 million to enter the real estate business. It was this sum that formed the basis for Trump’s eventual rise to wealth and fame—and the Presidency. 
  • Kim’s father was Kim Jong-Il, who ruled North Korea as dictator from 1994 to 2011. When his father died in 2011, Kim Jong-Un immediately succeeded him, having been groomed for years to do so. 

Second, both Trump and Kim have brutally tried to stamp out any voices that contradict their own.

  • Trump has constantly attacked freedom of the press, even labeling it “the enemy of the American people.” He has also slandered his critics on Twitter—which refused to enforce its “Terms of Service” and revoke his account until he incited the January 6 attack on Congress.
  • Kim has attacked his critics with firing squads and prison camps. Amnesty International estimates that more than 200,000 North Koreans are now suffering in labor camps throughout the country.

Thus, Trump—-elected to lead the “free world”—believes, like all dictators:

  • People are evil everywhere—so who am I to judge who’s better or worse? All that counts is gaining and holding onto power. 
  • And if you can do that, it doesn’t matter how you do so.

Actually, it’s not uncommon for dictators to admire one another—as the case of Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler nicely illustrates.

Joseph Stalin

After Hitler launched a blood-purge of his own private Stormtroopers army on June 30, 1934, Stalin exclaimed: “Hitler, what a great man! That is the way to deal with your political opponents!” 

And Hitler was equally admiring of Stalin’s notorious ruthlessness: “After the victory over Russia,” he told his intimates, “it would be a good idea to get Stalin to run the country, with German oversight, of course. He knows better than anyone how to handle the Russians.”  

Adolf Hitler

Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1990-048-29A / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)%5D

One characteristic shared by all dictators is intolerance toward those whose opinions differ with their own. Especially those who dare to actually criticize or make fun of them.

All Presidents have thin skins. John F. Kennedy often phoned reporters and called them “sonofbitches” when he didn’t like stories they had written on him.

Richard Nixon went further, waging all-out war against the Washington Post for its stories about his criminality. 

But Donald Trump took his hatred of dissidents to an entirely new—and dangerous—level.

On May 10, 2018, The Hill reported that White House Special Assistant Kelly Sadler had joked derisively about dying Arizona United States Senator John McCain.

Trump was outraged—not that one of his aides had joked about a man stricken with brain cancer, but that someone in the White House had leaked it.

TEXANS: GUN MASSACRES YES, ABORTIONS NO

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on June 8, 2021 at 12:14 am

As we leave high school we need to make our voices heard.”

So began the graduation speech of Lake Highlands High School Valedictorian Paxton Smith. It was not the speech she had originally intended go give.  

“Today, I was going to talk about TV and media and content because it’s something that’s very important to me. However, under light of recent events, it feels wrong to talk about anything but what is currently affecting me and millions of other women in this state.”   

Her subject couldn’t have been more timely. Eleven days before students graduated from that Dallas high school, Texas Governor Greg Abbott had signed Texas Senate Bill 8, virtually prohibiting abortions across the state. 

“Recently the heartbeat bill was passed in Texas. Starting in September, there will be a ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, regardless of whether the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest.

“Six weeks. That’s all women get. Most women don’t even realize they’re pregnant by then,” said Smith, 18.

Texas valedictorian Paxton Smith goes viral for her speech about abortion  rights - YouTube

Paxton Smith

“And so, before they have the time to decide if they are emotionally, physically, and financially stable enough to carry out a full-term pregnancy, before they have the chance to decide if they can take on the responsibility of bringing another human being into the world, that decision is made for them by a stranger.

“A decision that will affect the rest of their lives has been made by a stranger.”

Actually, a decision that has been made not only by Governor Abbott but the Republican-dominated Senate and House of Representatives.

Texas currently bans abortion after 20 weeks, but the new law makes the procedure illegal after the first heartbeat can be detected, usually at about six weeks. Most women don’t realize they are pregnant until later.

The bill, as Smith pointed out, makes no exception for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. It also allows individual citizens to sue healthcare workers and anyone else who may have helped a pregnant woman obtain an abortion.

Texans have been at the forefront of those refusing to get vaccinated. They have also been among the fiercest critics of wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID, shouting “It’s my body!” and demanding that the state “keep your hands” off it.

They have also overwhelmingly supported the National Rifle Association (NRA)—to the extent that the NRA, fleeing a fraud case in New York, intends to reincorporate in Texas.

I have dreams and hopes and ambitions. Every girl graduating today does, and we have spent our entire lives working towards our future. And without our input, and without our consent, our control over that future has been stripped away from us.

“I am terrified that if my contraceptives fail, I am terrified that if I am raped, then my hopes and aspirations and dreams and efforts for my future will no longer matter. I hope that you can feel how gut-wrenching that is. I hope you can feel how dehumanizing it is to have the autonomy over your own body taken away from you.”

Kamala Harris: "Can you think of any laws that give the government the power to make decisions about the male body?" - Kamala Harris: "Can you think of any laws that give

Initially, Smith intended to talk about TV media and content. But the move to ban virtually all abortions in Texas weighed so heavily on her that a week and a half before graduation, she realized she had to change her speech:

“I fully anticipated that if I made the speech, there would be some negative repercussions socially. I thought that graduation was the only place where I was going to reach such a large audience and a group with so many different opinions and backgrounds that I was going to be able to make a speech like that.”

Reaction to her speech has been overwhelmingly positive: “When I gave the speech, I didn’t realize people who weren’t affiliated with LHHS would see it. I’ve been getting hundreds of messages applauding what I said. It’s been shared on almost every platform I can think of. That’s exciting.”

But not everyone was happy with Smith’s exercise of her First Amendment rights. The school district issued a statement that it would review its protocols for student speeches before next year’s graduation:

“All students had to submit their speeches in advance for approval and the principal met with them to make any necessary edits and changes.”

In the past, high school valedictorians have had their microphones cut off for addressing such issues as sexual assault.

Smith, who will continue her education at the University of Texas at Austin, concluded her speech with these words:

And I’m talking about this today, on a day as important as this, on a day honoring 12 years of hard academic work, on a day where we are all gathered together, on a day where you are most inclined to listen to a voice like mine, a woman’s voice, to tell you that this is a problem.

“And it’s a problem that cannot wait. I cannot give up this platform to promote complacency and peace, when there is a war on my body and a war on my rights. A war on the rights of your mothers, a war on the rights of your sisters, a war on the rights of your daughters. We cannot stay silent.”

REPUBLICANS: PROFILES WITHOUT COURAGE–PART FIVE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on June 19, 2020 at 12:12 am

Throughout his Presidency, Republicans have continued to support Donald Trump despite a series of actions that would have normally resulted in impeachment.

Forgiven Crime #18: Even while being investigated by Congress for trying to extort Ukraine to investigate his 2020 Presidential rival, Joseph Biden, Trump publicly urged China to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter.

Trump repeatedly denied he had strong-armed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to smear former Vice President Joseph Biden. But on October 3, 2019, on the White House lawn, with TV cameras whirring, Trump said: “China should start an investigation into the Bidens.”

And to drive home the message, Trump warned: “I have a lot of options on China, but if they don’t do what we want, we have tremendous power.” 

Forgiven Crime #19: Since being acquitted of impeachable offenses by the Senate, Trump fired the Inspectors General (IG) of five cabinet departments in six weeks. Among these:

  • Michael K. Atkinson – The IG of the Intelligence Community. The reason: Atkinson had forwarded the whistleblower complaint which led to Trump’s impeachment.
  • Glenn Fine – Appointed to oversee funds voted by Congress to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the United States. His dismissal ensured that Trump–who had admitted to defrauding students at his notorious “Trump University”–could spend the $2 trillion in relief monies any way he wished.
  • Christi Grimm – As IG at the Department of Health and Human Services, she outraged Trump by contradicting him by agreeing—accurately—that the nation’s hospitals were suffering from severe shortages of personal protective equipment and testing supplies for COVID-19.

* * * * *

This list of 19 forgiven crimes is not meant to be all-inclusive. It would literally take a book to catalog all of Donald Trump’s offenses. And more are being committed every week—if not every day. Many of them will become known only in the future.

Why have Republicans almost unanimously stood by Donald Trump despite the wreckage he has made of American foreign and domestic policy?  

Fear—that they will lose their privileged positions in Congress if they don’t.

This could happen by:

  • Their being voted out of Congress by Trump’s fanatical base; or
  • Their being voted out of Congress by anti-Trump voters sensing Republican weakness if Trump is impeached.

As the nation reels from the Coronavirus pandemic and unprecedented racial strife, Republicans’ support for Trump hinges on one question: “Can I hold onto my power and all the privileges that accompany it by sticking—or breaking—with him?” 

On November 25, 2019, CNN political correspondent Jake Tapper interviewed Representative Adam Schiff on the coming impeachment trial.

What would it mean if Republicans uniformly oppose any articles of impeachment against Trump? asked Tapper.

“It will have very long-term consequences, if that’s where we end up,” replied Schiff.

“And if not today, I think Republican members in the future, to their children and their grandchildren, will have to explain why they did nothing in the face of this deeply unethical man who did such damage to the country.” 

In his bestselling 1973 biography, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler, British historian Robert Payne harshly condemned the German people for the rise of the Nazi dictator:

“[They] allowed themselves to be seduced by him and came to enjoy the experience….[They] followed him with joy and enthusiasm because he gave them license to pillage and murder to their hearts’ content. They were his servile accomplices, his willing victims.”

Like Hitler, Trump offered his Republican voters and Congressional allies intoxicating dreams: “I will enrich all of you. And I will humiliate and destroy those Americans you most hate.”

For his white, Fascistic, largely elderly audience, those enemies included blacks, atheists, Hispanics, non-Christians, Muslims, liberals, “uppity” women, Asians.

And, again like Hitler, his audience had always possessed these dreams. Trump offered them nothing new. As a lifelong hater, he undoubtedly shared their dreams. But as a lifelong opportunist, he realized that he could use them to catapult himself into a position of supreme power.

He despised his followers—both as voters and Congressional allies—for they were merely the instruments of his will. 

For most of the first three years of his Presidency, he faced remarkably little opposition. Until November, 2018, Republicans held both the House and Senate. Democrats won the House in 2018, but remained a minority in the Senate.

Democrats cowered before Trump’s slanders—thereby ensuring more assaults.

Most of the press quailed before Trump. Only a few media outlets—notably the New York Times, CNN and the Washington Post-–dared investigate his crimes and blunders. 

In 1960, the Russian poet, Yevgeney Yevtushenko, published “Conversation With an American Writer”—a stinging indictment of the cowardly opportunists who had supported the brutal tyranny of Joseph Stalin: 

I was never courageous.

I simply felt it unbecoming to stoop to the cowardice of my colleagues.

Too many Republicans know all-too-well how it feels to stoop to the cowardice of their colleagues for a transitory hold on power and privilege.  

REPUBLICANS: PROFILES WITHOUT COURAGE–PART FOUR (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 18, 2020 at 12:30 am

Throughout his Presidency, Republicans have continued to support Donald Trump despite a series of actions that would have normally resulted in impeachment.

Forgiven Crime #9: On July 16, 2018, Trump attended a press conference in Helsinki, Finland, with Russian President Vladimir Putin. There he blamed American Intelligence agencies—such as the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency—instead of Putin for Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.     

“I have President Putin,” said Trump. “He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.” 

Trump is postponing the Putin visit until after the “Russia witch ...

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in Helsinki

Forgiven Crime #10: Blatantly lying about the CIA’s findings in the brutal murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.  

On Thanksgiving Day, 2018, Trump said that the CIA hadn’t concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had ordered it.

This was a lie—the agency had reached such a conclusion, based on a recording provided by the Turkish government and American Intelligence. 

Forgiven Crime #11: Threatening to fire Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, who oversaw Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian subversion of the 2016 election.  

Forgiven Crime #12: Threatening to fire Independent Counsel Robert Mueller during the summer of 2017, but was talked out of it by aides fearful that it would set off calls for his impeachment.

Forgiven Crime #13:  Waging all-out war on the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of the press.

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!”

Seven days later, appearing before the Conservative Political Action Conference on February 24, Trump said: “I want you all to know that we are fighting the fake news. It’s fake, phony, fake….I’m against the people that make up stories and make up sources. They shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name. Let their name be put out there.”

NSA Surveillance and the First Amendment - TeachPrivacy

Forgiven Crime #14: Waging all-out war on the independent judiciary

Trump has repeatedly attacked Seattle U.S. District Judge James Robart, who halted Trump’s first anti-Islamic travel ban: “Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!”

On October 20, 2018, Trump attacked U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar as an “Obama judge.” Tigar had ruled that the administration must consider asylum claims no matter where migrants cross the U.S. border.

The next day, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts told the Associated Press: “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them.” 

On Thanksgiving Day, 2018, Trump attacked Roberts—appointed by Republican President George W. Bush—on Twitter:  “Sorry Chief Justice John Roberts, but you do indeed have ‘Obama judges,’ and they have a much different point of view than the people who are charged with the safety of our country.”

Forgiven Crime #15: Threatening members of Congress with treason charges for daring to challenge him. 

Furious that Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) mocked him during a session of the House Intelligence Committee, Trump tweeted: “I want Schiff questioned at the highest level for Fraud & Treason…..”

“Rep. Adam Schiff illegally made up a FAKE & terrible statement, pretended it to be mine as the most important part of my call to the Ukrainian President, and read it aloud to Congress and the American people. It bore NO relationship to what I said on the call. Arrest for Treason?” 

Adam Schiff official portrait.jpg

Adam Schiff

He judged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi every bit as guilty as Liddle’ Adam Schiff for High Crimes and Misdemeanors, and even Treason. I guess that means that they, along with all of those that evilly ‘Colluded’ with them, must all be immediately Impeached!”   

Forgiven Crime #16: He has lied so often—18,000 times by April 14, 2020, according to the Washington Post—that he’s universally distrusted, at home and abroad.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, French President Charles de Gaulle was offered photographs taken by American spy planes of Russian missile emplacements in Cuba. De Gaulle waved them away, saying that, for him, the word of the President of the United States was enough. 

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Charles de Gaulle and John F. Kennedy

Today, no free world leader would take Trump’s word for anything.

Forgiven Crime #17: On December 22, 2018, Trump shut down the Federal government—because Democrats refused to fund his “border wall” between the United States and Mexico. 

An estimated 380,000 government employees were furloughed and another 420,000 were ordered to work without pay.

  • For weeks, hundreds of thousands of government workers missed paychecks.
  • Increasing numbers of employees of the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA)—which provides security against airline terrorism—began refusing to come to work, claiming to be sick.
  • At the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) many air traffic controllers called in “sick.” 
  • Due to the shortage of air traffic controllers, many planes weren’t able to land safely at places like New York’s LaGuardia Airport.
  • Many Federal employees—such as FBI agents—were forced to rely on soup kitchens to feed their families.

This lasted until January 25, 2019, when Trump caved to public pressure. 

REPUBLICANS: PROFILES WITHOUT COURAGE–PART THREE (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 17, 2020 at 12:59 am

Republicans have a long and shameful history of excusing Donald Trump’s vicious slanders and law-breaking.

Forgiven Crime #4: Republicans refused to condemn Trump’s blatant “bromance” with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

Since the end of World War II, no Republican Presidential candidate had repeatedly lavished fulsome praise on a foreign leader hostile to the United States. Yet that is precisely what happened between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

Thus Putin on Trump: “He is a bright personality, a talented person, no doubt about it. It is not up to us to appraise his positive sides, it is up to the U.S. voters. but, as we can see, he is an absolute leader in the presidential race.”

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Vladimir Putin

And Trump on Putin: “It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond. He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader. Unlike what we have in this country”—a clear attack on then-President Barack Obama.

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Donald Trump

Forgiven Crime #5: Republicans supported the treasonous meeting between Trump’s campaign managers and Russian Intelligence agents.  

On July 9, 2016, high-ranking members of Trump’s Presidential campaign met with lobbyists tied to Putin. The meeting took place at Trump tower and the participants included:

  • Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr.;
  • His son-in-law, Jared Kushner;
  • His then-campaign manager, Paul Manafort; 
  • Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer with ties to Putin; and 
  • Rinat Akhmetshin, a former Soviet counterintelligence officer suspected of having ongoing ties to Russian Intelligence.

The purpose of that meeting: To gain access to any “dirt” Russian Intelligence could supply on Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton. 

Forgiven Crime #6: Republicans supported Trump’s open—and treasonous—solicitation of Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election.

On July 22, 2016, at a press conference in Doral, Florida, Trump said: “Russia, if you are listening, I hope you are able to find the 33,000 emails that are missing [from Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s computer]. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” 

“This has to be the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent,” Hillary for America policy adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement. “That’s not hyperbole, those are just the facts. This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue.”

“I find those kinds of statements to be totally outrageous because you’ve got now a presidential candidate who is, in fact, asking the Russians to engage in American politics,” said former CIA Director Leon Panetta, a Clinton surrogate. “I just think that’s beyond the pale.”

Hours later, the Main Intelligence Directorate in Moscow targeted Clinton’s personal office and hit more than 70 other Clinton campaign accounts.  

Forgiven Crime #7: On May 9, 2017, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey for investigating Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential race. 

There were four reasons for this:

  1. Comey had refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump. Trump had made the “request” during a private dinner at the White House in January.
  2. Comey told Trump that he would always be honest with him. But that didn’t satisfy Trump’s demand that the head of the FBI act as his personal secret police chief—as was the case in the former Soviet Union.
  3. Trump had tried to coerce Comey into dropping the FBI’s investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, for his secret ties to Russia and Turkey. Comey had similarly resisted that demand.
  4. Comey had recently asked the Justice Department to fund an expanded FBI investigation into well-documented contacts between Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents. The goal of that collaboration: To elect Trump over Hillary Clinton, a longtime foe of Russian President Putin. 

James Comey official portrait.jpg

James Comey

Forgiven Crime #8: On May 10, 2017. Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office—and gave them highly classified Israeli Intelligence about an Islamic State plot to turn laptops into concealable bombs.  

Kislyak is reportedly a top recruiter for Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence agency. He has been closely linked with Jeff Sessions, then Attorney General, and fired National Security Adviser Mike Flynn. 

“I just fired the head of the FBI,” Trump told the two dignitaries. “He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”   

Then, on May 11, Trump gave away his real reason for firing Comey:

Interviewed on NBC News by reporter Lester Holt, Trump said: “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 have won.'”

REPUBLICANS: PROFILES WITHOUT COURAGE–PART TWO (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 16, 2020 at 12:05 am

On February 5, the Republican-dominated Senate—as expected—absolved President Donald Trump from trying to extort Ukraine into smearing a possible rival for the White House. Only one Republican—Utah Senator Mitt Romney—had the moral courage to vote for conviction.  

But this was not the first time Republicans sought to excuse Trump’s litany of crimes. Those efforts go back to the 2016 Presidential election. 

Forgiven Crime #1: Not demanding that Trump quit the 2016 Presidential race—or demanding that he be indicted—for making a terrorist threat against his own party.    

On March 16, 2016, Trump, the front-runner for the Republican Presidential nomination, issued a warning to his fellow Right-wingers: If he didn’t win the GOP nomination at the convention in July, his supporters would literally riot. 

“I think we’ll win before getting to the convention. But I can tell you if we didn’t, if we’re 20 votes short or if we’re 100 short and we’re at 1,100 and somebody else is at 500 or 400…I don’t think you can say that we don’t get it automatically. I think you’d have riots.

“I think you would see problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen. I really do. I wouldn’t lead it, but I think bad things would happen.”

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Donald Trump

An NBC reporter summed it up as follows: “As Trump indicated, there is a very real possibility he might lose the nomination if he wins only a plurality of delegates thanks to party rules that allow delegates to support different candidates after the initial ballot.

“In that context, the message to Republicans was clear on [March 16]: ‘Nice convention you got there, shame if something happened to it.’”

Threatening his Republican and Democratic opponents with violence played a major role in Donald Trump’s campaign for President.

Forgiven Crime #2: Supporting his “dog-whistle” call for the assassination of Democratic Nominee Hillary Clinton.

On August 9, 2016, at a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina, Trump said: “Hillary [Clinton] wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the Second Amendment. If she gets to pick her [Supreme Court] judges, nothing you can do folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”

Democrats—and responsible news media—immediately saw this for the “dog-whistle” signal it was.

“Don’t treat this as a political misstep,” Senator Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut, who has called for stiffer gun laws, wrote on Twitter. “It’s an assassination threat, seriously upping the possibility of a national tragedy & crisis.”

“Well, let me say if someone else said that outside of the hall, he’d be in the back of a police wagon now, with the Secret Service questioning him,” said Michael Hayden, former head of the CIA and National Security Agency (NSA). 

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Hillary Clinton

Threats of violence continued to be made by Trump supporters right up to the day of the election.

  • On July 29, Roger Stone, a notorious Right-wing political consultant acting as a Trump strategist, told Breitbart News: “The first thing Trump needs to do is begin talking about [voter fraud] constantly. If there’s voter fraud, this election will be illegitimate, the election of the winner will be illegitimate, we will have a constitutional crisis, widespread civil disobedience, and the government will no longer be the government.”
  • At a town hall meeting where Trump’s Vice Presidential nominee Mike Pence appeared, a woman named Rhonda said: “For me personally, if Hillary Clinton gets in, I myself am ready for a revolution.”
  • In Cincinnati, a Trump supporter threatened to forcibly remove Clinton from the White House if she won the race: “If she’s in office, I hope we can start a coup. She should be in prison or shot. That’s how I feel about it,”
  • Dan Bowman, a 50-year-old contractor, said of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee. “We’re going to have a revolution and take them out of office if that’s what it takes. There’s going to be a lot of bloodshed. But that’s what it’s going to take….I would do whatever I can for my country.”

Forgiven Crime #3: Republicans supported Trump’s call for his followers to intimidate Democratic voters at election time.

Trump encouraged his mostly white supporters to sign up online to be “election observers” to stop “Crooked Hillary from rigging this election.” He urged them to act as poll watchers in “other” [non-white] communities to ensure that things are “on the up and up.”

Many of his supporters promised to do so.

“Trump said to watch your precincts. I’m going to go, for sure,” said Steve Webb, a 61-year-old carpenter from Fairfield, Ohio.

“I’ll look for…well, it’s called racial profiling. Mexicans. Syrians. People who can’t speak American,” he said. “I’m going to go right up behind them. I’ll do everything legally. I want to see if they are accountable. I’m not going to do anything illegal. I’m going to make them a little bit nervous.” 

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