Trump and Twitter and the Truth

President Donald Trump is known for using Twitter to hurl insults and accusations at his political opponents, and now he’s feuding with Twitter itself. Which makes for an interesting feud, and raises some important questions.
The social media platform has lately appended warnings to two of Trump’s recent “tweets” about the dangers of voting by mail, directing readers to stories by the Cable News Network and the Washington Post and The Hill and other sources, which prompted Trump to “tweet” that Twitter “is now interfering in the 2020 presidential election. They are saying my statement about Mail-In ballots, which will lead to massive corruption and fraud, is incorrect, based on fact-checking by Fake News CNN and the Amazon Washington Post.” Twitter has also apologized to the family of a woman Trump has repeatedly “tweeted” was possibly murdered by cable news host and frequent critic Joe Scarborough, although it hasn’t deleted or added any warnings to any of the apparently baseless claims.
Twitter and Facebook and all the other social media have long allowed users to promulgate all sorts of patently false propaganda, but have lately made promises to crack down on that, which has led to a public debate about free speech in the internet age. Twitter and Facebook and all the other social media are now an important part of the public square, where the soap box orators go to express whatever crackpot opinions they might have, and Trump’s supporters share his “tweeted” concern that “the Radical Left is in total command of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google.”and they fear for their free speech rights.
We have liberal friends who contend they’ve had Facebook posts deleted because of all the right-wingers running the company, though, and our old-fashioned and pre-Trump conservative instinct is to side with the right of any company to conduct its business in any that doesn’t present a clear danger to the public. Every print publication we ever worked for retained its right not to publish what we wrote, and although they occasionally did so we were annoyed but never felt we’d been deprived of our rights in any meaningful way, and we occasionally decline to publish some of the asinine comments we get in our small portion of the internet public square.
The internet is still a giant free-for-all, and if any Trump conservatives or pre-Trump conservatives or Trump-hating liberals or white supremacists or communist revolutionaries don’t like it they can still find a space on the infinite internet. It’s so easy, in fact, that even such Luddites as ourselves figured out how to do it. There are still the mimeograph machines that the lunatic fringes of the left and and right used to use, too. You can still compete in the marketplace of ideas, and see how you fare.
>President Donald Trump is President of the United States of America, so he needn’t worry that people won’t hear what he has to say. They’ll also hear what other people have to say, but as much as Trump hates that it’s just another peril of being president in a constitutional republic that allows a free press and free speech, so he needs to come up with more persuasive arguments. Which raises an even more interesting and troubling question for us, which is why Trump daily “tweets” the most embarrassingly misspelled and grammatically incorrect and provably dishonest and undeniably vulgar and unbecoming of his high office things?
The Washington Post and CNN and The Hill and those other fact-checkers have the better case about mail-in voting, which Trump himself and all the military deployed overseas and millions of other Americans have long used, but at least we can understand his political reasons for opposing it. Why he’s taking to Twitter to accuse a “low-rated” cable morning show host of murdering an aide nearly two decades ago seems inexplicable.
If you haven’t been following this sordid subplot of the Trump reality show, Trump is “tweeting” about the 2001 death of Laurie Klausutis, who was working for then-Rep. Joe Scarborough in his central Florida office, where she died of a head wound. A coroner’s report found that she fainted from an undiagnosed heart condition and suffered a fatal blow, Scarborough was in Washington at the time, and the police found new evidence of foul play. Scarborough was a Republican know for his tight-fisted fiscal conservatusm, however, and such loony lefties as Michael Moore spun conspiracy theories that Scarborough murdered her to cover their illicit affair. Because there was absolutely no proof for any of it, the theory faded away until Trump revived it.
Does Trump believe that this will win him any new votes in his reelection campaign? There’s a coronavirus pandemic and a Great Depression going on at the moment, and most people have more pressing concerns than age-old loony left conspiracy theories revived by Trump about a morning show host that he derides for having poor ratings. To the extent that people do follow the story, they’ll likely conclude that Trump is crazy. Trump fans will be satisfied that at least he fights, but they wouldn’t have noticed that he didn’t make any baseless charges of murder against low-rated cable news critic, and we can’t see how any way this furthers a political agenda to make America great again or expands that base.
We’ll all see how it plays out, and in the meantime we’ll continue to take our place on the soap box in this thing portion of the internet’s public square and fail against the way things are.

— Bud Norman

On a Stormy Day at Home

Stuck at home on a cold and stormy Kansas day, we spent most of it reading the news. Needless to say, it did not cheer us up.
Turning to Facebook, which is the closest thing we have to hanging out with friends, we found some of nutty right wing friends recommending the latest conspiracy theory video and insisting that the coronavirus death toll is being grossly exaggerated if not entirely fabricated to further a left-wing “deep state” plot to keep everyone at home. They’re all avid supporters of President Donald Trump, so we wonder if they’re disappointed that their hero hasn’t yet thwarted this dastardly plot and locked up the conspirators, but for now they don’t say and we don’t dare ask.
One day Trump will tout the strict guidelines his administration came up with for easing the emergency restrictions, the next day he’ll be “tweeting” his encouragement to states to reopen businesses, and when he’s not vacillating between the positions he’s blaming China and President Barack Obama and distracting Democratic oversight hearings for the problem, and noting that things could be worse. What he hasn’t done, so far at least, is embrace the conspiracy theory that most of the executive branch of the federal government he’s in charge of, including the expert scientists Trump has praised and allowed to speak freely, are carrying out the most elaborate conspiracy in the history of conspiracies.
We also have many friends who are pretty loony left, but for now even the looniest of them are sounding compartively sane. They’re all posting words of encouragement to keep up the social distancing and hand-washing and face-masking-wearing to fight what they perceive as a major public health crisis, and we give them credit for posting ample amounts of information from credible sources to refute the conspiracy theories coming from sources of very dubious repute. They have their own theories that Trump has underestimated the threat posed by the coronavirus and is urging a premature return to business as usual for purely self-interested political reasons, but damn it, we find it harder to argue that.
One of our loony left friends is a very gentle and generous and loving soul but possibly the looniest of them all, and she’s still siding with Trump’s endorsement of hydroxychloroquine even after Trump and his allies on Fox News and talk radio have abandoned the cause, but we noticed all the comments tried to dissuade her and had ample amounts of information from credible sources. We were surprised to see a couple of liberal friends charge that there is a plot to create a false crisis and keep us all at home, but that Trump is in on it, but most on the left prefer the theory that the crisis is real and Trump has failed to adequately respond.
In a rare non-coronavirus story, charges against former Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn were dropped by the Department of Justice. What one makes of that is also determined by whether he’s looking at it from the right or the left. If you’re on the overwhelming majority of what’s now the right that supports Trump no matter what it’s a victory for justice, a happy case of a solid soldier and good man prevailing over false accusations wrought by President Barack Obama’s conspiracy with corrupt federal officials to bring down Trump. If you’re on the left, it’s a case of a man who had already pleaded guilty to lying to public officials and was getting money as a lobbyist from Turkey while he advised the president on foreign getting a get-out-of-jail card from a politicized Trump Justice Department.
The other non-coronavirus news that penetrated the front pages and was talk of our Facebook friends circle was that two man have been charged for the murder of a 25-year-old man named Ahmoud Arbery in Georgia. Arbery is black, the two men charged with his murder are white, and as always in America that matters.
By all accounts so far Arbery was an average unarmed American guy with no criminal record out for his daily 2 mile jog when he was gunned down on an empty stretch of road between a forest. The two men charged with his murder are an ex-sheriff and his son, who by all accounts roamed the roads as an unofficial patrol, and there’s video that’s surfaced of them confronting Arbery as a burglary suspect and Arbery being subsequently shot, which after more than two weeks led to the arrest of the two men after two local district attorneys recused themself an the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over.
The left is calling it another example of America’s racist strain, and rightly so, but the right isn’t disputing that. Georgia’s Republican governor praised the GBI’s work, Trump said that Arbery’s death was “a very sad thing,” and no one we know is posting any offensive “memes” about Arbery’s deaths. Our diverse group of black friends often have diverse opinions about the topics of the day, but they all share the same worry that Arbery won’t get justice in an American court, and we try to reassure them that this time will be one of the many times justice has prevailed in America.
Perhaps the worst thing we hate about the Trump era even before all this coronavirus catastrophe is how often find ourselves siding with those damned Democrats we’ve been squabbling with for years, since way back when Trump was a Democrat. At this peculiar moment in history we find ourselves stuck at home and on the political sidelines, our only rooting interest being our hope the center somehow holds. We hopefully retain some hope in the principles and the institutions and American spirit that have somehow guided this nation toward greatness through hard times, no matter what sort of corrupt and incompetent officials had been elected to high office.

— Bud Norman

Keeping Close at a Distance

Our internet access has been intermittent all day, which is frustrating in the best of times but downright infuriating in times like these. During the coronavirus scare, the internet is an essential connection to the world outside our house.
Lately our Facebook friends have been entertaining one another with parlor games, which are an interesting diversion from all the bad news we keep reading on the internet. In one game a person lists nine jobs he’s had and one he hasn’t, and invites others to guess which one is the lie. In another a person lists nine famous people he’s met and one he hasn’t, and the object is the same. Other popular pastimes include asking others to list 10 things they don’t like that everyone else seems to like, or name 10 movies they’ve frequently re-watched yet never grow tired of.
A hot topic of discussion is what to binge watch on the internet while stuck at home. The Netflix documentary series “Tiger King” is getting lots of rave reviews, but after binge watching that it goes on our list of 10 things we don’t like nearly as much as most people seem to do. The good folks at HBO have kindly offered a free month of streaming at its web site, and we’ve taken advantage of that to revisit “The Sopranos” and “The Wire,” and unless you’re queasy about cinematic violence we highly recommend both. People are posting their favorite YouTube videos, too, many of which have been well worth watching, and as soon as we figure out how to post YouTube videos on Facebook we’ll be posting  Nicholas Brothers dance numbers and W.C. Fields’ great “Honest John” pool routine from “Six of a Kind” and other favorites from better times.
The internet also brings us the daily bad news, but we try not to be obsessive about it. We’re trying to get some walking in, but the weather’s not lately been conducive to that, and we’re ignoring that government doctor’s advice to not go the grocery store, as we figure that starvation is a deadly as the coronavirus. It’s good to know that the friends and family were in touch with from a distance are safe at home, although they’re all going stir crazy and some of them are now grieving the loss of a loved one, and we we sure hope the internet doesn’t succumb to the coronavirus. We wonder how anyone survived the 1918 flu epidemic without it.

— Bud Norman

The Good, the Bad, and the Coronavirus

The coronavirus has reduced to us keeping in touch with family and friends as best we can through the modern miracle of Facebook, which is not satisfying but at least better than nothing. Several of our musician friends have been streaming live concerts from their living rooms or basements or the otherwise empty Kirby’s Beer Store, a very fetching woman of our acquaintance has posted videos of herself reading aloud from a favorite novel, other friends are offering to deliver food and toilet paper and other essential items to the porches of those in need, and many more are posting much-appreciated messages of hope and encouragement.
Some of the people we encounter on Facebook are still in denial about the threat, and acrimoniously respond to anyone who dares criticize anything about President Donald Trump’s undeniably slow and inadequate and oftentimes irresponsibly dishonest response. Our guess is that a few of them are among those stripping the local grocery stores’s shelves bare by hoarding more than they’ll need with no regard for the pressing needs of others. Elsewhere in the news, we read of people trying to profit from this catastrophe at the great expense of others.
At the top of this list we’ll point an accusing finger at Republican North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr and Republican George Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who sold large amounts of stock markets after getting early intelligence briefings that warned of the dire economic effects of the coronavirus even as they assured their constituents there was nothing to worry about. Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe and California Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein also sold a lot of stock around the same time, but both claim it was done by the people managing their portfolios in a blind trust, both have invited ethics committee investigations to verify that, and neither were peddling happy talk to the public.
Burr was caught on tape telling a gathering of big-bucks donors early on that hard times were coming around again, Loeffler’s financial disclosures reveal that after a big sell-off in soon-to-be-hard-hit industries she put a lot of money in a telecommuting company that’s one of the few likely to benefit from an at-home economy, and even at Fox News some very conservatives voices are calling for both Republicans to resign and faces charges on insider trading.
Partisanship and petty political squabbling has thus far been immune to the coronavirus. When asked about the four accused senators at a daily press briefing where he’s supposed to be reassuring the public about the government’s response, Trump chided the reporter for not mentioning Feinstein, the only Democrat among them, and vouched for the character of all four, but especially the Republicans. Republican Utah Sen. Mitt Romney is a frequent critic and the only Republican senator to vote for Trump’s conviction on an impeachment article, and when he was informed by a reporter that Romney was in self-quarantine Trump’s voice dripped with sarcasm as he said “Oh, that’s too bad.” Trump also uses the briefings to disparage the reporters who are providing the public with more accurate information than he presents, which is so often quickly contradicted by the federal government’s best health care experts, but the hard-core fans among our Facebook friends seem to love it.
We have Democratic friends who are as bad, and hope to use the virus to resurrect self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ quixotic presidential campaign, and blame everything on the capitalist system that was chugging along well enough until recently, and largely created all the science and commerce and the governmental and social institutions that we still hope will help get us all through this. History will likely record that Trump did some things right and a lot of things wrong during this pandemic, assuming there will be history, and for now we’d prefer that everyone be more objective and civic-minded.
Despite everything all of the federal government is still meeting and telecommuting to come up with some multi-trillion dollar bailout and stimulus deficit-spending bill to slow the economy’s rapid slide into the abyss, and although almost everyone agrees that desperate measures are required there’s the usual partisan disagreement and petty political squabbling about what it should be. The Democrats instinctively want to subsidize the workers, while as is their wont the Republicans want to sustain the businesses that employ those workers, and as usual everyone is looking out for the constituents in their districts and states.
There must be some reasonably sufficient compromise that might do some good, we’d like to think, but it won’t be easy in a time when a pandemic panic has exacerbated all the partisanship and petty political squabbling. Even so, we’re heeding the encouraging messages we find from our friends on Facebook and holding out hope in America and the rest of humanity.
Sooner or later you’ll have to leave the house and drive on inexpensive gasoline to the store for beer and other essential items, where some brave clerk will dare come face-to-face with you to make the sale. If not you might have some brave nurse in a days old face mask provide you care for whatever ails you, or have some other brave soul deliver what’s needed to your door, and in most cases you’ll have no idea if they’re a damned Democrat or a damned Republican, or how they’ll vote in the next election, if that happens.
In any case, we urge you to be kind and grateful and friendly to anyone you encounter in virtual reality or actual reality these dark days, as we’re all going to need one another. At an earlier dark time in our nation’s history a wiser and more eloquent Republican President Abraham Lincoln urged that “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as they surely will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

— Bud Norman

Trump Versus Twitter

President Donald Trump met with head “Twitter” honcho Jack Dorsey on Tuesday, and it made for a lively discussion. According a a “tweet” from “Twitter” the two were to talk about “protecting the health of the public conversation ahead of the 2020 election and efforts underway to respond the opioid crisis,” but much of it was reportedly spent with Trump’s gripes about his favorite way of speaking directly to the public.
Trump’s battles with the old-fashioned print and broadcast media are well known, but he’s also been picking fights with all the newfangled social media and the rest of the internet industry. He’s accused Facebook of suppressing his supporters’ voices, charged the Google search engine with directing its users to unfavorable stories, and told reporters that the government “might have to do something about it.” He’s now complaining that the number of his “Twitter” “followers,” who automatically see Trump’s “tweets” on their computers or tablets or smart phones or whatever other kind of device they’ve devised, is lately falling.
Trump takes his crowd sizes and poll numbers and television ratings “Twitter” following personally, so we can imagine he was none too pleased, and implying that he would do something about it. Dorsey, a slim and bearded and hippy-looking of typical Silicon Valley youthfulness, who despite having more billions in net worth than Trump probably has was unable to purchase a neck tie for his Oval Office meeting, did not seem intimidated in videos and photographs the old media printed and broadcast.
Dorsey had reasons for Trump’s declining numbers that had nothing to do with political bias, and so far as we can tell, given our considerable ignorance about how this internet thingamajig works, they’re persuasive. He explains that the company routinely reviews the followers of all its “tweeters” to remove fraudulent “spam” accounts, partly to ensure its advertisers that the numbers are real and partly to guard against foreign meddling in the vast political conservation that “Twitter” plays an outsized role in. That might only persuade Trump to rail further against the practice, but at this point Dorsey is probably more intimidated by his paying customers and the Congressional oversight committee looking into foreign meddling and other Trump-related internet issues.
Trump is unlikely to “tweet” that the government should shut down “Twitter,” and this hippy-dippy billionaire Dorsey fellow has no incentive to run afoul of any branch of the government. He’s met with several right wing figures with complaints of censorship, which has angered left wing “Twitter” users who clamor for censorship, but he’s also allied with Facebook and Google and the rest of Silicon Valley’s Big Social Media.
Besides, Dorsey can plausibly figure that Trump needs “Twitter” more than “Twitter” needs Trump. The president has made “Twitter” famous, but it was already famous when Trump started “tweeting.” With some 60 million followers still logged in Trump is an even bigger draw than any of the athletes or musicians or movie stars on the platform, but for now he doesn’t have a better way to speak directly to those 60 million presumably real people without the mainstream media’s annoying edits and annotations. “Twitter” is the perfect medium for short attention span readers who enjoy a good schoolyard taunt and bully boy rhetoric and don’t mind the misspellings and improper punctuation, and we notice that Trump — or @realDonaldTrump” as he’s known to his followers — was uncharacteristically restrained in “tweeting” about “Twitter.”
“Great meeting this afternoon at the @WhiteHouse with @Jack from @Twitter,” Trump “tweeted.” “Lots of subjects discussed regarding their platform, and the world of social media in general. Look forward to keeping an open dialogue!”
Which sounds very chummy, and might well be, and if so that would probably be for the best. Even if all those damnable @’s and other internet gibberish are painful to our Gutenberg-era eyes, this internet thingamajig is how we’re communicating with you at this moment, so we hope this newfangled idea somehow endures through the old-fashioned principles of the First Amendment and free markets. If that means Trump keeps on “tweeting,” and so do all his equally illiterate and bully boy critics, so be it.

— Bud Norman

A Long Weekend of Bipartisan Hate

Last Friday some dreary chores had us up and about earlier than usual, so we wound up listening to Rush Limbaugh’s program on our car’s AM radio, and were further dispirited to hear a once formidable voice of conservatism making an utter fool of himself. Through the rest of the day, we unhappily found, much of the rest of the conservative punditry was doing the same.
On Thursday Limbaugh had assured his audience that the person who had been sending mail bombs to prominent Democratic politicians and liberal activists was surely a “Democratic operative,” as “Republicans just don’t do this kind of thing,” so he struggled to explain the breaking news that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had arrested with seemingly convincing fingerprint and DNA evidence a fellow who wasn’t at all a “Democratic” operative and sure looked an awful lot like a die-hard supporter of Republican President Donald Trump.
Limbaugh initially seized on a report from some internet publication he had to admit he’d never of that the suspect was registered to vote as a member of the Green Party, and was also a member of the Seminole Indian tribe, but within the hour he was obliged to tell his listeners to disregard that as every news medium you’ve ever heard of confirmed that in fact the suspect was a registered Republican ever since Trump won the party’s nomination and the Seminoles disavowed any kinship to the man. There was also some widely televised footage of the suspect’s van, which was covered with with pro-Trump and anti-Democrat and liberal-hating decals, but by the end of the broadcast Limbaugh was agreeing with his “ditto-head” callers that those decals looked suspiciously faded than they should be in the Florida sun, and that a “deep state” conspiracy was still plausible.
By the end of the day a lucky Washington Post photographer and several Facebook users were showing their year-old pictures of the decal-covered van, the suspect’s own voluminous social media postings showed him to be a die-hard Trump supporter, the Cable News Network came up with some footage of the suspect waving a sign at a Trump rally with the same “CNN Sucks” motto that was emblazoned on his van, a former employer and several friends of the suspect and even one of his lawyers told interviewers about his intense affection for Trump, and pretty much every news medium you’ve ever heard of had ample evidence that just maybe some Republicans do sometime do these things. Even then, though, some talk show hosts and their callers and internet posters and some more prominent conservative voices were grasping at the straws of those un-faded decals to keep their “deep state” conspiracy theories afloat.
All of which was quite embarrassing to such old-fashioned conservatives and pre-Trump Republicans as ourselves, who prefer to acknowledge how very complicated those stubborn facts can be. Limbaugh likes to call himself the “Mayor of Realville,” so he should be realistic enough to concede that even Republicans human beings occasionally do awful things, and that it sure does look as if this is one of those times. Conservative columnist Ann Coulter assured her readers that “From the Haymarket riot to the Unabomber, bombs are a liberal tactic,” but she seems to have forgotten the death-toll-record-setting domestic terrorist bombing a federal building in Oklahoma City and that bombing of an Atlanta gay bar and several bombings of black churches that can’t credibly be blamed on liberals. Fox News hosts Lou Dobbs and Geraldo Rivera were also peddling the “deep state” conspiracies, but at least Dobbs deleted his “Tweets” and Rivera frankly admitted that he had “outsmarted” himself.
They’re all quite right to argue that from the Haymarket riot to the Unabomber to the latest Antifa thuggery certain people on the left have been guilty of abominable behavior, and that all along prominent Democratic politicians and leading liberal voices have engaged in rhetoric that arguably incited such violence, but we wish they’d also acknowledge the craziness on the right and their rhetorical role in it, and start urging their revved-up faithful to calm the hell down and face up to the damnable fact that none of us are blameless.
On Saturday we awoke to the dispiriting news that some hateful man had slaughtered 11 American Jews and wounded several others as they worshipped God at a Synagogue in Pittsburgh. It will be hard for the left to pin the blame on Trump, who has an overly well-regarded Jewish son-in-law married to a favorite daughter who’s a Jewish convert and therefore a couple of Jewish grandchildren, as well a very Israel-friendly foreign policy, but neither can the right plausibly blame the massacre on the left. The ancient and still-inexplicable hatred of Jews can be found in both parties and on both sides of the political spectrum, but here’s hoping that the mainstream voices on both sides will condemn it without blaming the other.

— Bud Norman

Shut Up, He Argued

The world is full of people saying things one would rather not hear, and its only human to want to either make them shut up or regret not doing so. Most of us don’t have that power, but if you’re the president of the United States or the chief executive officer a big social media platform the temptation must be carefully resisted. Alas, such restraint is sorely lacking these days.
President Donald Trump has a well documented history of bullying or buying off his critics to silence them, and has long made clear that he’d like to “open up” America’s traditional permissive libel laws in order to do so more effectively, and on Wednesday he revoked the security clearance of former Central Intelligence Agency director and current outspoken critic of the administration John Brennan. The White House named nine other people that Trump whose security clearances Trump is thinking of revoking, all of outspoken critics of the administration and several of them former members of the investigation into the “Russia thing.”
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Brennan lost his clearance because of a “series of unfounded and outrageous allegations — wild outbursts on the internet and television — about this administration.” She didn’t cite any specific examples of Brennan’s unfounded and outrageous allegation that rise even to the level of a typical Trump “tweet,” and one can only wonder what the Trump administration of all people considers wild outbursts on the internet and television. The official administration line is that Brennan was not merely being punished for his free speech, but Sanders did not explain how Brennan had abused his security clearance or violated any policies.
Meanwhile, crazy-pants conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has been barred from YouTube, Facebook, Apple, Spotify, and a couple of internet sites we’ve not heard of, and although “Twitter” hasn’t fully kicked him he’s currently serving a temporary ban. This is a very different case than Brennan’s loss of a security clearance for a number of reasons, but it still troubles us.
YouTube and Facebook and Apple and Spotify has the same right as any private sector publisher to publish what they want and reject what they don’t want, but at moment in the cultural revolution where they largely comprise contemporary public square we’d like to see them welcome as wide a diversity of viewpoints as possible. Jones is certainly out on the furthest fringes of the nation’s political conservation, and his embrace of such insane notions that the Sandy Hook school shooting was faked and that Hillary Clinton was running a satanic child sex abuse ring in the basement of a Washington pizzeria have led some crazy people to do some crazy things, but we think it best that be out in public view. Now we can’t demonstrate just how awful he is by linking to his most hilariously unhinged rants on YouTube, and For pure entertainment value alone we’ll especially miss the one where he pounds on the table and screams that the “deep state” globalist cabal is “turning the friggin’ frogs gay!”
Trump once appeared on Jones’ radio program and congratulated the host on his “excellent reputation,” and briefly granted White House press credentials to Jones'”Infowars” correspondents, so he doesn’t seem to mind that Jones’ unfounded and outrageous allegations and wild outbursts on the internet television are mostly about how the “deep state” globalist cabal is now out to get to Trump to thwart his heroic effort to round up “Crooked” Hillary and all the other elitist pedophiles who secretly run the country. Even so, the Federal Communications Commission is shutting down the off-shore pirate radio ship that blasts Jones’ rants over other broadcasters’ rightful band widths, which isn’t a free speech issue at all, so Jones’ fans will just have to look a little harder get real scoop on what’s happening in this crazy world.
All of the social media CEOs are understandably concerned about the rampant vile and hateful language that they spread around the world, and the sort of genuinely fake news stories that occasionally result in crazy people calling up the grieving parents of murdered schoolchildren and threatening their lives for participating in a gun-grabbing conspiracy, or showing up with a semi-automatic rifle at a Washington pizzeria that doesn’t even have a basement. Still, limiting what people have to say is a risky endeavor. Jones was temporarily banned by Twitter for his “hateful language,” and although that’s an apt description of what he peddles it also fits many others. Trump has recently “tweeted” that a particularly pesky critic is a “dog,” and made similarly rude comments about countless others, and we think he should be free do so, and that his vile and hateful speech should be out there in plain view for all to see.
The die-hard Trump fans will continue to love it, and the right-wing radio apologists spent Wednesday damning Brennan and the other nine targeted critics, and the comments sections were full of hope that they’d all be locked up in Guantanamo Bay along with the rest of Trump’s critics. We’ll let them vent, and rest assured that Brennan and other well-credential critics will continue to express their outraged opinions no matter what Trump might threaten. Censorship never seems to work, as “Banned in Boston” is still a sure-fire way to get on the best-seller lists, and there’s always a suspicion that the powers that are afraid of what’s been banned, so we hope that Trump and those squishy social media companies figure that out in time.

— Bud Norman

The Avoidable and Inevitable Stock Market Swoon

Monday was another down day on Wall Street, and so far as we can tell there are several reasons for the recent stock market swoons. Part of it just the usual economics, but so far as we can tell the worst of it is some unusually stupid politics.
The seemingly biggest reason is that the Chinese have predictably imposed steep tariffs on many American products in retaliation for President Donald Trump’s unilaterally imposed tariffs on many Chinese products, and it seems a trade war has begun. At the same time, though, Trump is also waging war on some major American businesses, another heavy hitter has come under congressional scrutiny, and the usual economic disruptions are at play.
Trump has “tweeted” that “trade wars are good and easily won,” but the smart money on Wall Street and most sane observers elsewhere strenuously disagree. Trump has also retreated from some of his “tweeted” threats, which has always prompted stock markets rallies, but then he “tweets” another threat, such global economic powers as the European and Union and our neighbors to the north and sound issue retaliatory threats and the stock markets once again swoon. If the cycle continues until the rest of the world meekly accedes to Trump’s demand for American dominance of the global marketplace, we expect it will take a while.
In the meantime, one of the most dynamic sectors of the American economy is facing political problems, which are the worst kind of problems these days. Some of the biggest players in the high-tech industry that keeps coming up with all sorts of world-changing gizmos and gadgets and thingamajigs are now being “tweeted” about and summoned to congressional committees, which is not good for business, and the tech-heavy NASDAQ stock exchange has taken the worst hit lately in the recent downturn.
The on-line retailer Amazon.com has recently surpassed Wal-Mart as the world’s biggest store, and Trump has recently been “tweeting” that it’s a tax cheat which drives Main Street stores out of business and is bankrupting the United States Postal System. Much of that is entirely untrue and the rest quite debatable, but it’s been an undeniable drag on the drag on the company’s stock price, and given its enormous size there’s a big drag on the overall averages. For now there’s not much Trump can do about Amazon or its owner’s other notable property, The Washington Post, other “tweet” about it, what with those pesky constitutional prohibitions against bills of attainder and infringements of freedom of the press, but at least Trump is inflicting quantifiable financial pain on his even-richer nemesis.
The on-line social media giant Facebook has its own similar political problems, but for very different reasons. A web site that became extraordinarily profitable and powerful by allowing people to share videos of their cats and cell phone pictures of the taco they were about to eat and whatever else they had on their minds also wound up disseminating political propaganda from Russian-based “troll farms” through a firm tied to the Trump campaign during the last presidential election, and the resulting headlines have not been good for the company’s once red-hot stock price. All the propaganda was apparently pro-Trump, so Trump hasn’t “tweeted” anything about it, but the Democrats on those pesky congressional investigative committees have at least managed to inflict some quantifiable financial pain of their own. Facebook ended Monday down 16 percent from its recent high, and given its outsized influence that also accounted for much of that broader decline.
The computer chip-making giant Intel also took a huge on news that Apple Computers, another outsized company tech-sector and one of Intel’s biggest customers, is considering making its own computer chips. That’s the sort of business page news you’d expect on any day in the fast-moving and nerve-wrackingly dynamic high tech sector, though, and we’re the sort of red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalists and old-fashioned Republicans who are content to let the marketplace sort that out. As much as we love that old corner store that Mom and Pop once built out of brick and mortar, we equally hate bills of attainder and infringements on a free press, and we’ll let Amazon do whatever the state legislatures and the marketplace allows it do, and we’ll stay on Facebook just to keep apprised about which of our friends have recently divorced, so as to avoid any awkward comments.
Although we’re rapidly growing too old for such economic disruptions, we’ve long since learned to accept them as part of the ebb and flow toward something like progress. As rock-ribbed Republicans and red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalists we’ve long believed that all those sorry-assed consumers at the pay line could choose more wisely than the politicians, and we still resent those darned Democrats for presuming to make better picks of the winners and losers.
Nowadays, though, that seems to make us “Republicans in Name Only” or “cuckservatives” or “globalists,” as both parties have chosen their winners and losers. Steel and aluminum companies seem a good stock bet at the moment, but car makers and beer brewers and any other industries that use steel or aluminum look risky. If you have a stake in any of the several industries China is now slapping tariffs on, you might want to talk to your financial advisor about that. The Democrats can try to deprive all the social media-addled youth of Facebook, but we’d advise them that most of the political content from our friends is annoyingly liberal.
Oddly enough, yet another reason for the current nervousness on Wall Street is that the unemployment rate is currently low by historical standards and the overall economy seems to be doing well, so there’s the ever-present danger that the Federal Reserve Board will raise interest on loans past the virtually free-money rates that have sustained the whole enterprise since that last big crash. Such adjustments are another one of those disquieting disruptions we’ve learned to accept, but otherwise we’d prefer politics just stay out of it.

— Bud Norman

Through Hell and High Water, “Russia” Persists

Throughout all the hurricanes and mass murders and threats of war, the “Russia” story persists. On Wednesday the Senate’s intelligence committee made clear that it’s not going away soon.
The eminently Republican chairman Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina told an unusual press conference that “There is consensus among members of staff that we trust the conclusions of the (intelligence community assessment),” which concluded that the Russian government attempted to affect the past presidential election by hacking information from the Democratic party, promulgating false propaganda through the internet, and an apparently unsuccessful effort to manipulate vote-counting in several states. He also admitted that “the issue of collusion is still open.”
President Donald Trump has expressed doubt that the Russians did anything untoward at all, argued that even if they did other countries probably did as well, and repeatedly sworn that in any case he and his campaign didn’t have anything to with any Russians. Almost all of which, alas, has lately been so thoroughly disproved that even the Republicans on the Senate intelligence agency vow to continue the investigation.
You still have to rely on those intelligence officials to believe that Russia that hacked the Democratic party’s computers and leaked all those e-mails, but Trump’s own Central Intelligence Agency director agrees and by now only Trump and his most die-hard supporters doubt it. Facebook and Twitter now acknowledge that their popular social media services were extensively used by Russian interests to spread false stories clearly intended to harm the Democratic campaign. Also, Trump’s own Homeland Security Secretary has recently and belatedly advised 21 states of Russian attempts to infiltrate their computer system, then clarified that in two of them Russians had attempted to scan other state networks. At this point the intelligence community is look pretty intelligent, and so far they aren’t mentioning any other countries that might have similarly meddled or acting as if it’s no big deal if they did.
Hurricane winds and sniper fire swept away many of the headlines, but the past weeks have also brought documented news that Trump was pursuing a business deal in Moscow during his campaign, his campaign manager was offering briefings to Kremlin-connected Russians, and Trump’s son and son-in-law and former national security advisor and various other administration officials have been updating their security clearance forms with numerous meetings with Russians that they had previously forgotten to mention. Throw in the Trump campaign’s conspicuously Russia-friendly rhetoric, the way those Russian propagandists seem to know exactly which counties and precincts to target in the states Trump narrowly won to give him an electoral majority, along with all the other news that has been piling up over the past months, and even such an eminently Republican sort of fellow as Sen. Burr has to concede that the question of collusion is still very much open.
The Senate’s investigation will continue, and there’s a special counsel on the job who has a reputation for doggedness and has already executed a no-knock warrant on that former campaign manager and seems to have some serious goods on that former national security advisor, so we’ll venture to guess that the “Russia” story will persists through the coming storms and crimes and the rest of the governmental fiascos.

— Bud Norman

On the Murders Sunday in Las Vegas, Lawrence, and Elsewhere in the United States of America

Three people were killed and two others were injured early Sunday morning when at least 20 gunshots were fired on a crowded downtown street in Lawrence, Kansas, but you probably didn’t hear about it. Later that same day a shooter in Las Vegas killed at least 59 people and injured another 500 or so, setting a new American record, so that understandably took up almost all of Monday’s news.
By now mass shootings are almost numbingly routine, and despite the outrage and heartbreak they always provoke most Americans would be hard pressed to recall any details of the last one or the one before that, but this time might prove more memorable. There’s the record-setting death toll, the apparent use of a fully automatic weapon, the much older than usual age of the shooter, and an especially frustrating lack of any plausible explanation.
There’s never an adequate explanation for these slaughters, of course, but usually there’s some detail or two in the initial stories that gives some clue what going on the deranged mind of the shooter. Sometimes they’re named Mohammad and shout “Alahu Akbar” and had posted Islamic screeds on their Facebook pages, other times they’re white guys with haircuts and Facebook postings that announce their racial grievances, the guy who shot up the a Washington, D.C., softball field and wounded a Republican congressman had a deep-seated hatred of Republicans, and the guy shot up a political rally in Arizona and wounded Democratic congresswoman apparently did so because she had failed to an incomprehensible question he’d asked at a town hall, and usually they turn out to be kind of crazy that family and friends and neighbors had long noticed but never knew quite what to do about it.
None of that amounts to an adequate explanation, but it’s something to cling to as we humans instinctively search for some reassuring reason when tragedy occurs.
This time around the Islamic State terror gang claimed the shooter was a recent convert who had heeded their call to jihad, but they always they do that whenever someone kills random people, and it’s quite unusual for recent converts to any religion to keep quiet about it and so far everyone who knew the shooter says he never expressed any religious opinions at all. The target of the shooting was an outdoor country music festival, so there was immediate internet speculation that the shooter was someone who wanted to killed a lot of Republicans, which quickly led to some irresponsible right-wing sites fingering an innocent fellow with a lot of pro-Democratic Facebook postings, but apparently this shooter never expressed any political opinions of any sort, and was said to be a country music fan himself. According to everyone the armies of reporters have rounded up to interview, the shooter was an undeniably odd duck but not in a way that made you think he’d spray automatic rounds at a crowd of random strangers.
According to the neighbors he mostly kept to himself in his comfortable gated over-50 community in rural Nevada, and was often away from home for long periods of time during high-stakes gambling binges in Las Vegas. He’d apparently done well as an accountant and made some savvy real estate investments, and without any children to worry about he could afford the indulgence and still lavish gifts on his mother, so neither the neighbors nor his family found it worrisome. His brother gave a lengthy interview to a cluster of news cameras and microphones that was clearly too distraught to be at all disingenuous, and he was clearly surprised to learn that shooter had acquired a veritable armory or deadly weapons.
The usual post-mass-shooting debates about gun control are already underway, but this time around they’re all the more complicated for both sides. Apparently all of those weapons had been acquired legally, with the shooter’s previously pristine legal record and lack of any noticed mental health problems carrying him through all the required background checks, and automatic weapons have long been illegal, it’s too late to charge the now-dead-by-self-inflicted-gunshot shooter with the apparent crime of altering his semi-automatic rifles to fully automatic, and it’s hard to think of anything that would have stopped this guy without imposing onerous restrictions of the rights of the vast majority of peaceable gun owners. Those peaceable gun owners have long made the reasonable argument that if there’s some crazy guy shooting up a crowd you don’t want him to be the only one there with a gun, but in this case he was shooting from 400 yards away where none of those of presumably gun-toting country music fans would have known where to shoot, and if any of them had drawn their weapons during the panic the police and security on hand would have been well within their rights to shoot them.
The same dreary arguments will continue, nonetheless, along with the ancillary debates about why so many Americans wind up getting shot to death every year. Across most of America the murder rate has happily declined over the past few decades, those mass shootings and the daily carnage in Chicago and a couple of other cities notwithstanding, but the numbers are still high by first-world standards and merit national concern. Those mass shootings are by now a longstanding problem, too, dating back at least to a sniper attack from the University of Texas’ landmark tower in Austin in 1966, and back in ’76 a guy started shooting from the balcony of what was then the tallest building in our hometown of Wichita, and there was a kid shot up his junior high school in a nearby suburb back in ’85, and when we think about we can recall the schoolyard in Connecticut and the homosexual nightclub in Orlando and far too many details of other mass shootings.
An autopsy showed that the Texas shooter had brain disease, that guy in Wichita had just been jilted by his girlfriend, the junior high kid in the nearby suburb had endured the usual junior high bullying, the Connecticut shooter was so clearly crazy his mom had been warning the cops about him, the homosexual nightclub was another one of those “Alahu Akbar” incidents, and when we think about we can recall some semblance of a reason for all those other mass shootings. According to the police in the normally placid university town of Lawrence those three victims who died there early Sunday morning weren’t random targets, and that the violence was the result of some beef between low-lifes who have always used guns to settle their differences, and we note that the incident followed a rap concert at the school’s arena, so we’ll make the same stereotypical assumptions that some people make about country music concerts, and hope it’s all enough to satisfy our all too human need for some reason that tragedies occur.
None of it amounts to an adequate explanation, though, and we hope that America in its extraordinary greatness will take time out from the usual political to ponder why it has such a persistent and extraordinary problem with Americans getting shot to death, and how it might be addressed without stripping the vast majority of cherished rights.

— Bud Norman