Free Press – Free to What?

Is a free press free to use public forums to promote their own adversary, political agendas?  Are public figures free to eschew blatant attacks, avoiding angry public exchanges by picking and choosing news sources and using more moderate press pools to communicate?

Managing news coverage has been an important strategy for recent presidents.  The news media has paid a great deal of attention to President Trump’s conflicts with them.  However, the press has a short and selective memory when it comes to which presidents used such strategies.  President Trump is far from the first to employ the tools about which they complain.  Here is what the Atlantic said in an August, 2014 article about Richard Nixon’s, George W. Bush’s, and Barak Obama’s relationships with the “media.”

“… the Obama White House has used new media to take image control to new levels. It sends a stream of tweets, Facebook posts, and YouTube videos directly to the public while bypassing journalists. Last year, (July 8, 2014) in a separate letter*, 38 news organizations complained to Obama’s press secretary that photojournalists are often barred from public events. They said the White House prevented photographers from covering presidential meetings with congressmen and Middle East peace negotiators but then released its own photos of these events using social media.

 Obama also avoids interviews with White House reporters, preferring appearances on The View and late-night talk shows where easier questions are asked.”

 https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/08/nixons-revenge-his-media-strategy-triumphs-40-years-after-resignation/375274/

*http://www.spj.org/news.asp?ref=1253

The proliferation of “news” media has been exponential since 24/7 CNN.  The internet has allowed anyone to pose as a journalist.  At the same time, the public has become enervated to violence, scandal, and weirdness.  The competition for “eyes” has fomented “Jerry Springer” news.  Now the media is dominated by “breaking news,” and blatant, personality-driven opinion/commentary/spin/attack entities (e.g. Fox, CNN, MSNBC, Washington Post, New York Times), versus the few remaining sources offering dull, objective reporting of events from balanced, professional, factual reporting (e.g. BBC).

This evolution has turned “news” into espionage, and propaganda.  That means idea wars; that means information combat.  No intelligent person would stand still for their enemies to strike them.  Hence, defense and offense to offset the attacking forces.  Now we watch and listen to accusations, threats, partisan presentations, and ad hominem attacks.

Through such perspectives, we no longer have well-meaning people making bad choices, we have evil people making sinister choices.  We have rampant, belief “racism.”  We have created unthinking, philosophical camps with labels for “us,” and “others.”

Why do we decry racism, ethnic hatred, and other generalized biases?  Because it keeps us from knowing each other as people; it causes us to treat other people with contempt without knowing anything else about them.

How do we create these idea-based “races?”  We assert that all liberals believe “X”, all conservatives believe “Y”, all evangelicals believe “Z”, all millennials believe nothing, etc.  With this context, we form “righteous” cohorts of like-minded people to oppose other “inferior” or “evil” cohorts.

This intellectually lazy “groupthink” replaces critical thinking; this dissuades individuals from developing personal, unique, diverse combinations of beliefs, which they form over time, from life experiences, education, discussion, and research.  It also inhibits real exchanges of ideas.  Conversations, and discussions become unchanging, competing monologues.

The press is free to publish and broadcast what they will, but pernicious ideologues need not be ushered through the gates of those they despise.

This Blog Is Fake News

Not really, but language is our primary way to communicate.  “This statement is false,” is a classic example of recursive writing.  Sometimes I enjoy annoying, contradictory statements; these conundrums are good exercise for our understanding of language, our value judgements and our unchallenged intellectual sides.  Fake news is fiction dressed up in the trappings of fact.  Those who are fooled operate on faulty assumptions.  Snopes may not be enough to save us.

How important is what we believe?  We make choices every day based on information from others. For long stretches of our history, Americans expected, and demanded professional journalism; we challenged the news with research of our own; we relied on professional information gatherers and presenters; we cherished objectivity.  Walter Cronkite is the example that comes to mind.  He and his news team did not editorialize; they presented the facts they could verify plainly; even when the news was painful, such as the Kennedy assassination, he held his emotions in check, almost.

As the era of journalism fades in our collective awareness, we stumble into an epoch of opinion; the 24-hour news age Ted Turner invented is voracious; anything to fill the hours.  The demand grew for titillating, shocking, insidious, intentional, or just stupid, public lying; I guess there was not enough honest scandal, hyperbole, deception, libel, and defamation.

Now we find completely fabricated articles, meant to harm specific people or raise undue alarm among us. Free speech, or libel?  First Amendment rights, or vicious cowardice?  It seems we are reaping what we have sown.   We have become victims of our society’s lax attitude towards rigor and honor.  We have grown lazy and unwilling to check the things presented to us.

Frankly, I am glad.  Not for the bad things that follow such propaganda, but for the possible reawakening of doubt, curiosity, and inquiry.  Of all the innovations of the 20th century, the internet connection of millions of individuals is the most important, because it reveals and magnifies our human nature and limits. Our naivete allowed us to be fooled by sources we trusted. At last, we know we must check the sources and validity of our vast ocean of daily information.

Humans are suspicious by nature; evolution has left this trait engraved in our genes.  But we can be lulled into gullibility, and we have been.  The opinions of writers and editors may vary all along the spectrum of belief; perspectives may open many windows of human experience; but some grounded facts must be present to sort and distort.  Fake news is just written lies and gossip without honest attribution.

Whining the Election – Trumpled Aspirations

Over the 52 years and 13 presidential elections I have been eligible to vote, I have never seen such sore losers, and humble winners.

I am disappointed with the disparate responses to the results of the 2016 presidential election.  Smug expectations from pollsters and pundits seem to have set a trap for Hillary’s disciples, and set a stage for impetuous, righteous indignation.  Rejection, disputation, refutation, spoilsport language, protests, and denial among disgruntled Clinton supporters is “over-the-top,” and “unpresidented.”  “He is not my president,” spake Gloria Steinem, Wednesday morning.  (Ironically, in the past, she also said, “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”) 

Why have Mrs. Clinton’s avid proponents gone off the rails into the deep waters of denial and despair?

I believe the presumption that Hillary Clinton had a commanding lead over Donald Trump was their downfall.  Belief in optimistic statistics led to haughty attitudes and supercilious sneers on the faces of Hillary’s fans.  The extreme vanity of the oracles’ predictions led to nasty, braggadocios, arrogance.  When pride met gravity, the indignity of the pratfall magnified the embarrassment of hubris. The expectations of overwhelming victory were shredded, by the unexpected appearance at the polls of hordes of angry, underserved workers.  The ambush of the uncounted, disenfranchised citizens prevailed.

The carefully crafted deception of optimistic unemployment statistics did not fool the people who took discounted wages and lesser jobs over the last eight years.  These voters had no voice among Democrats who applauded the “champion of hope” for his rescue of the economy, and restoration of the American Dream.  They were not deceived by or grateful for their thinly disguised demotions and the smiling, dismissive, carefully worded denigrations spun by an accommodating media on behalf of the Obama administration.

The scales did not fall from their eyes, because no scales formed as they lost their jobs, houses, cars, and pride.  The Affordable Care Act did not replace the healthcare insurance they lost when their employer dropped their health coverage; when they lost their jobs, their hopes were dashed by the failure of the “marketplace” to make personal health insurance and their out-of-pocket costs affordable.  Instead, they found themselves ravaged by astronomical premiums, deductibles, copays, and incredible prescription prices.  Hospitals and pharmacies raised their nominal, private pay prices to offset the discounts demanded by insurance providers.  The uninsured were left with impossible choices.

Promise after promise lay fallow by the roadside.  Example after example of the USA borrowing trillions of dollars to pay for the rest of the world’s problems and defense festered, while Americans suffered from the Great Recession.  Pact after pact, treaty after treaty left us at disadvantage.  Military efforts left us looking weak, as we shrank from conflicts under cover of spin.  Former allies spat disparaging invectives on our leaders.

Did Hillary’s followers believe she could pull us out of the ditch of weakness and doubt created these past eight years?  Did her apostles think her baggage and prevarications would evaporate by inauguration?  No wonder they were blindsided when Trump won.

Who Examines Presidents? – Whoever They Choose

 

Americans deserve and need to know the health of our President, and our Vice-President; but we do not.

That is right:  There is no impartial national medical team for our country’s top executives, or those who seek those positions.  Each president and vice-president picks their own doctors, and decides what medical information they disclose.  In fact, several presidents have withheld and even falsified their health conditions to the public.  Kind of scary to not know the health of the most powerful politician in the world.  And, a heartbeat away, it also makes knowing the health of the Vice-President more than a casual concern.

The 25th amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides emergency options, should the president be incapacitated.  It lays out protocols for the vice president to take over, temporarily, when the president is stricken.  Why rely on such extraordinary measures when we can anticipate, and avoid problems by knowing the health of our president?  We have the technology.

In a 1993 edition of The Journal of the American Medical Association, former President Jimmy Carter advocated “the creation of a ‘nonpartisan group’ of physicians to help decide when a president’s illness affects his judgment.”   Apparently, doctors of previous presidents said presidential disability was a terrible problem.

Examples of hidden conditions:

Ronald Reagan

Reagan fought hard to dispel any rumors about his ill health, even after surviving an assassination attempt and colon cancer.  Some historians speculate the 40th president suffered from dementia  while he was in office.  He was publicly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease before his death in 2004.

John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy presented the image of youthful vigor, but was in chronic pain due to back troubles from a World War II injury and constantly fatigued from Addison’s Disease (a chronic insufficiency of the adrenal glands).

Franklin D. Roosevelt

FDR hid the severity of his polio until after his death in 1945. Roosevelt was barely able to stand as he governed through World War II.

Woodrow Wilson

Wilson concealed the fact that he had three minor strokes leading up to his run for the presidency.  During his second term, Wilson suffered a massive stroke that left him paralyzed and blinded on the left side of his body.  He couldn’t have a cabinet meeting for nine months.

His vice president, Thomas Marshall, refused to take over; Wilson could only manage his presidential duties with the help of his wife, Edith, who decided which issues deserved the president’s attention.

In this case voters were denied knowledge of conditions that seriously limited Wilson’s ability to govern.

William Henry Harrison

The 9th president of the United States died in his first month in office of “bilious pleurisy” which appeared as “inflamed lungs,” an “engorged liver,” and a “delirious mental state.”

We want to know that our top leaders are healthy enough to perform their vital roles.  As we approach the 2016 election, Americans are concerned that we have no reliable way to learn about the physical and mental health of the presidential candidates, and their running mates.  Right now, with no other mechanism in place, only the candidates can relieve our concerns.

New York Times Silly Defense of Hillary

I woke up this morning to a silly, unchallenged report of Hillary Clinton’s email issues published by the New York Times.  I would have used the terms “inane” or “preposterous” in place of “silly,” but that would have required a higher Lexile level.  Hillary Clinton served as Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013. Neither she nor her staff learned anything about top-level classified information or communications, based on her testimony and interviews.

Come on now; “a top aide to Mrs. Clinton told the company that housed her server to delete an archive of emails from her account.”  The implication of the New York Times article was that the servers were “housed” i.e. located with Platte River Network.

But wait:  Wikipedia reported that, “The domains were pointed to a private email server that Clinton (who never had a state.gov email account) used to send and receive email, and which was purchased and installed in the Clintons’ home for her 2008 presidential campaign.”

Oh, I guess that was just a slip of the keyboard.

“According to the F.B.I., in December 2014 a top aide to Mrs. Clinton told the company that housed her server to delete an archive of emails from her account. The company, Platte River Networks, apparently never followed those instructions.”

“On March 2, 2015, The New York Times reported that Mrs. Clinton had (sic) exclusively used a personal email account when she was secretary of state.  Two days later, the congressional committee investigating the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, and Mrs. Clinton’s response to them, told the technology firms associated with the email account that they had to retain “all relevant documents” related to its investigation.”

But then, so, so conveniently:

“Three weeks later, a Platte River employee had what the F.B.I. documents described as an “oh shit” moment and realized he had not deleted the emails as instructed. The employee said that he then used a special program called BleachBit to delete the files. The F.B.I. said Mrs. Clinton (said she) was unaware of the deletions.”

That is so flimsy, so lame, no wonder Hillary has such low credibility.

Next, the Secretary of State, like all members of the Cabinet, is responsible for classifying information, not standing by expecting department employees to tell them what should be classified.  Who is in charge here?  But we are fed this report:

“In Mrs. Clinton’s interview with the F.B.I., she said she did not recall receiving any emails “she thought should not be on an unclassified system.” She said she had relied on State Department officials to use their judgment when emailing her sensitive information, adding that she “could not recall anyone raising concerns with her regarding the sensitivity of the information she received at her email address.”

But what secure, official email address were they to use?  Apparently she had none.

And then, she gets a reply from Colin Powell warning her about including private email for government communications, “Be very careful. I got around it all by not saying much and not using systems that captured the data.”  In other words, he used secure, government email for business.

According to a summary of her interview, Mrs. Clinton said that she did not know exactly what Mr. Powell was saying in that email and that his message “did not factor into her decision to use a personal email account.”

Mrs. Clinton showed high IQ in every part of her life but this one.  What happened?

Then the article questions the intelligence of either Mrs. Clinton or her staff and closest aides.

“Mrs. Clinton said in her interview that it was “common knowledge” that she had a private email address because it was “displayed to anyone with whom she exchanged emails.” But the F.B.I. said in a summary of its findings that “some State Department employees interviewed by the F.B.I. explained that emails by Clinton only contained the letter ‘H’ in the sender field and did not display her email address.” The F.B.I. said that some of Mrs. Clinton’s closest aides were aware that she used a private email address but did not know that she had set up a private server. The aides told the F.B.I. they were “unaware of the existence of the private server until after Clinton’s tenure at State or when it became public knowledge.”

The rest of the article makes me weary:

“Mrs. Clinton kept her BlackBerry in a State Department secure area, where it was prohibited

According to the summary of the investigation, Mrs. Clinton brought her BlackBerry into a secure area on the seventh floor of the State Department, where such electronics are prohibited. The F.B.I. interviewed three former State Department diplomatic security agents who said that Mrs. Clinton kept her BlackBerry in her desk drawer in the secure area, a so-called Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF. But Huma Abedin, a top aide to Mrs. Clinton, told the F.B.I. that Mrs. Clinton left the secure area to check her BlackBerry, often going to the State Department’s eighth-floor balcony to do so.

Mrs. Clinton had a lot of electronic devices

The F.B.I. said that it had identified 13 mobile devices that Mrs. Clinton potentially used to send emails. Mrs. Clinton’s aides were in charge of buying replacement BlackBerry devices when she was in office, often obtaining them from AT&T stores in the Washington area. Ms. Abedin told the F.B.I. that “it was not uncommon for Clinton to use a new BlackBerry for a few days and then immediately switch it out for an older version with which she was more familiar.” Ms. Abedin and another aide told the F.B.I. that “the whereabouts of Clinton’s devices would frequently become unknown once she transitioned to a new device.” An aide to Bill Clinton, Justin Cooper, who helped set up the server, told the F.B.I. that he recalled “two instances where he destroyed Clinton’s old mobile devices by breaking them in half or hitting them with a hammer.”

This September 2 repeat of the email reports showed nothing new, and seemed to soften the edges on criticisms of what Hillary did.  Tsk, tsk, NYT

Royalty Revealed – Hardened Arteries of the Powerful Establishment’s Heart

 

The 2016 presidential campaign harkens back to the earliest years of our nation.  Democracy, Republic, Three Branches of Government, Bicameral Legislature, By The People, Checks and Balances were new ideas.  Did everyone agree?  Not in the slightest.  And they had not invented political correctness in the middle of the 18th century.

No; instead, anonymous, pamphlets of slanderous accusations and invectives, swirled like blizzards across the newly formed Unites States of America.  The reins of power were not certain or predictable. Contenders for office came from all walks of life with no “party” to promote them.

The evolution of America’s two major political parties took some time, but those in power were hardly poor or neutral; power is the ultimate opioid.  Despite conflicts, Democrats and Republicans play the same games; they expect to win and lose from time to time, but both sides know the rules of placating the masses by making them think they have a voice in what goes on.

Until recently, the pretense of two radically separate political bodies survived, and thrived.  Now, two is not enough, talk is not enough, rhetoric is not enough.  Americans are tired of the same old crap: “They” are bad, “We” are good.  We will fix (what they broke, again).  They found out that there is just one old machine with two faces; they do not want it anymore.

The 9/11 attacks, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the mortgage fiascos, the collapse of investment banks, the explosion of college costs and debts, the Great Recession, the expansion of global terrorism, have shaken our confidence in America, in ourselves, and in our institutions.

We have lost the super in superpower.  Our military is so weak, we have to send the same soldiers back into combat again and again until they break; we spend millions of dollars on a drone strike to kill a dozen enemy soldiers so we can avoid American casualties.  The all-professional military means that average citizens are not involved; we do not feel like we are really at war.  What would make us think that?

The same old promises will not work on brand new problems any better than they did on the old problems.  Conspiracies seem to explain current events better than the lame “official” excuses and falsehoods WikiLeaks keeps uncovering.  And just maybe the truth is not that far off.

We have lost the attention span to take politicians seriously.  Incumbents no longer offer us advantages. Hence the wave of populism, barely dodged by the Democrats secret machine, and now staring the Republicans in the face.  The political czars are going to any length, including crossing over to the other side to avoid losing control of the constituencies they have cultivated.

The trouble is, the new constituencies are awakened, vocal, mobilized, and revolting against Big Brother.  They want purpose, they want independence, they want liberty, and at least a passing chance in their pursuit of happiness.

It looks like the machine, with all its money, influence, propaganda, connections, and experience may win again this time.  I am unhappy that my country, with all its advantages, cannot cultivate enough honorable leaders to field worthy candidates for president, and remain loyal when the voters speak.

Cutthroat Anti-Christians

Fear and distrust of “Muslims” feeds on horrific events like a cutthroat murder of a poor 85-year-old priest giving mass today in Saint-Etienne-Du-Rouvray, France.  What can Muslims do about ISIS besides decry, denounce, and deny involvement?  I do not have the answers either.

To complicate matters, Islamic sects attack other Muslims they believe are not “true believers.”  In addition, turmoil, fragmentation, propaganda, and disenchantment, can divert young minds from seeing other people as human beings if they represent “The Enemy,” “The Satan,” or any name they regard as worthy of killing.

Some of the greatest scientific, mathematical, and poetic minds in the history of humanity came from the Middle East.  I do not believe that the Muslim community lacks the abilities or resources to thwart such despicable members of their faith.  I believe that we lack trust and cooperation with each other.

Would it be “profiling” for predominately Muslim communities to join together and purposely organize to identify these murderers in their midst?  No one knows the signs and subtle indicators of violence on any streets better than the people who live there.

We already have analogous problems in predominately black neighborhoods – no one talks because they are afraid of reprisals.  I am not sure that is the problem in the Muslim community, but something is in the way of finding and stopping these monsters.

Please, do not leave this problem on the doorsteps of condolences and denial; it does not matter what you believe, or how you practice your beliefs, join us to stop this madness.