When Donald Trump tweeted out that the press was the “enemy of the people” a few days ago, he had to have known that one of his supporters had just been taken into custody for plotting the murder of several journalists and elected Democrats

Last Friday, Coast Guard lieutenant Christopher Paul Hasson was taken into federal custody, and today, thanks to a filing in Maryland district court, we know why. It would appear that Hasson, who worked at the Coast Guard headquarters in Washington, was plotting to murder several Democratic officials, as well as members of the press. According to the government filing, Hassan intended “to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country,” with the intention, it would seem, of starting a civil war. [Hasson’s internet search history included phrases such as “what if trump illegally impeached” and “civil war if trump impeached,” as well as things like “best place in dc to see congress people” and “are supreme court justices protected.”]

While details are still coming in, it would appear, based on what we already know, that Hassan had not only been stockpiling weapons, but also steroids and narcotics, which he felt would help him in his pursuit to inflict maximum carnage before being killed by authorities. [Those are his weapons in the photo above.] Among those on his hit list of “traitors” were Representative Nancy Pelosi, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, several CNN journalists, and Senator Richard Blumenthal, whom Hasson referred to as “Sen Blumen Jew.” [His spreadsheet of potential targets was included in the court filing that was made public today.] Oh, and yes, Hassan, it would seem, is both a Trump supporter and a white supremacist.

And before you try to argue that Trump had nothing to do with this, and that Hasson wasn’t influenced by the President, I should mention that one of the names on his hit list of “traitors” that came out this evening was “Poca Warren,” a clear reference to Senator Elizabeth Warren, whom Donald Trump refers to as “Pocahontas.”

There are a lot of reasons to find this troubling… and not just because a highly-trained former Marine with some level of government clearance wanted to channel his hate “to make a lasting impression on this world” by killing Democrats and members of the press. No, there’s also the fact that Donald Trump would have known of Hasson’s plot earlier this week, when he again tweeted out that the press is the “THE ENEMY OFF THE PEOPLE,” and suggested that they face “retribution.” [Just think about that for a minute. The President of the United States, when he tweeted that out, knew that the government had just taken into custody a man who was intent, in the words of government prosecutors, to “murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country” — innocent civilians like Don Lemon, Chris Cuomo, and Van Jones, all of whom have been attacked by Trump in the past.]

I’m happy, of course, that Hasson somehow slipped up, and was discovered before he could inject himself with amphetamines and start his murder spree, but this does make one wonder how many other people might be out there, building up stockpiles and making plans to act out violently if Donald Trump is, in their opinion, “illegally impeached.”

Posted in Civil Liberties, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

CNN hires Sarah Isgur, a Republican operative who once swore loyalty to Donald Trump, to oversee coverage of the 2020 campaign

Today it was announced that CNN hired Sarah Isgur, a Republican operative with absolutely no journalistic experience, to serve as political editor in charge of the network’s 2020 election coverage. If Isgur’s name sounds familiar, it might be from the Washington Post story in March of 2018 about how, only after she “kowtowed to Trump,” and promised him her loyalty, did the President sign-off on her becoming the spokesperson for the Department of Justice under Jeff Sessions. [It would appear that Trump had misgivings about her, given that she’d worked previously for both Ted Cruz and Mitt Romney.]

I was prepared to rant at length about Isgur’s appointment at CNN, which, by the way, apparently came as quite the surprise to the network’s staff, but then I happened across the following on the website of Media Matters, which pretty much says everything that I’d wanted to.

“…CNN’s choice of a Trump administration veteran does, however, fit in with the network’s fantastically self-defeating strategy of hiring pro-Trump mercenaries who shill on behalf of a president and administration that delight in demonizing CNN. The journalism industry does not lack for talented, experienced professionals who are desperate for work, but CNN opted to give this important job to a Jeff Sessions acolyte who has never worked as a journalist. That sure feels like the network sabotaging its own interests in order to send a conciliatory message to a political movement that will always view it as an ‘enemy of the people’…”

And this, my friends, is how authoritarian regimes come to be. As we were discussing just a few days ago, Putin didn’t start by killing journalists. No, he started by aggressively demonizing those who he perceived to be his enemies. And, over time, with that groundwork having been laid, he was able to force concessions. The owners of friendly media companies were rewarded, and the owners of those media companies that didn’t fall in line were harassed by federal prosecutors to the point where, in order to avoid lengthy prison sentences, they agreed to hand their companies over to Putin-aligned oligarchs. And, then, of course, those who still refused to toe the line, found themselves murdered.

And it’s hard not to see what happened today as yet another step down that slippery slope… conciliatory overture on the part of CNN in hopes of appeasing a president that, from all indications, delights in urging his followers toward violence against journalists. I mean, how else would you explain CNN hiring Isgur — a woman who once referred to CNN as the “Clinton News Network” — to head their campaign coverage?

This isn’t exactly new for CNN, though, as they’ve hired the likes of Corey Lewandowski, Michael Caputo, and Jeffrey “sieg hiel” Lord to be commentators on the network, in hopes of demonstrating that they too are “fair and balanced.” This, however, seems to be a massive step in the direction of appeasement, even for them. While I hate the fact that they provide a platform for known liars and conspiracy theorists like those noted above, at least, in those instances, the men in question didn’t have any real power when it came to deciding what was covered, and how it was covered. And those are the kinds of decisions that Isgur, in her new role, will be making on a daily basis.

I’m sure that CNN thought that the good, in this instance, outweighed the bad. They likely thought that, by hiring Isgur, they could claim impartiality. But at what cost? What signal does it send to the CNN staff when other, more qualified candidates are passed over in favor of a known political operative with no experience in journalism? And what does it say to the people of America, who have been living these past two years under the dishonest, criminal administration of Donald Trump? I fear that it’s a sign that Donald Trump, through his constant assault on both journalists and the truth, is gaining ground. And that isn’t good… And CNN, if they really thought that this would keep Donald Trump from referring to them as “the enemy of the people,” should know better. Nothing will stop the attacks.

Posted in Media, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 42 Comments

Putin, Trump, and the killing of journalists

This morning, the President of the United States took to Twitter to say that the investigation against him and his associates — the investigation that has already yielded multiple convictions and guilty pleas — is “illegal and rigged”. He then went on to add — quoting Rush Limbaugh — that those investigating him “ought to be in jail”. While I found both of these things to be incredibly alarming, I was more concerned by what came just before — a series of posts, authored by Donald Trump, which once again referred to the press as “the enemy of the people,” and suggested that media outlets critical of Republicans should face “retribution.”

Upon reading this, my first thought was that Donald Trump, in posting this, knowing full well that a journalist had just been physically assaulted at his rally in El Paso, and having seen the murder of American citizens this past June in the newsroom of the Capital Gazette, doesn’t care at all about the lives of journalists and the critical role they play in our democracy. This thought, however, soon gave way to the memory of Trump supporters shouting the Nazi slur “Lügenpresse” [lying press] not too long ago. And, from there, I started thinking about Putin, who is thought to have personally ordered the murders of several Russian journalists, and how Donald Trump had once excused the Russian leader’s use of violence against critics by saying, “At least he’s a leader.” And, as I was thinking about all of this, and contemplating where we might be heading, I saw the following post by Russian expatriate Garry Kasparov.

I know we’re conditioned to think, “Oh, that could never happen here,” but it is happening here. The President of the United States is saying that his perceived enemies should be jailed, and that members of the media should face retribution. This is absolutely terrifying, and we have no reason to believe that the Republicans will stand up to him. They didn’t a few days ago, when he declared a fake national emergency in order to circumvent Congress, and there’s no reason to believe that they’d step in to protect the first amendment of our Constitution, which explicitly states, “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of the press.” I know, like me, you might be tempted to laugh it off as “Trump being Trump,” but with every court appointment he makes it becomes a little less likely that we’ll escape this chapter of American history unscathed.

OK, I could go on, but I’ve said it all before… Here, in evidence of that, is something I wrote just after the Capital Gazette shooting this past June.

This afternoon, a white male gunman outfitted with a shotgun and several smoke grenades, walked into the newsroom of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, and began firing. By the time he was taken into custody by the police, five people were dead, and many more were seriously injured. The man arrested by police has since been identified as Jarrod W. Ramos. From what little information is publicly available, it appears as though Ramos had filed an unsuccessful defamation case against the paper in 2012, after a story ran about his having been arrested for harassing a woman that he’d attended high school with several years previously.

While it’s unclear at this point whether or not the shooter may have been influenced by recent statements made by prominent Republicans about the press, it would appear from his twitter account that Ramos, at least on one occasion, sided with Donald Trump against the press. It would also appear that Ramos has a long history of projecting violence, referring to himself, among other things, as someone who is “making corpses of corrupt careers and corporate entities.” [As an aside, one wonders how a man with a history of stalking, and a harassment conviction, was able to obtain a firearm. I guess we have the NRA to thank for that.]

While I suspect it’s unlikely that a definitive link can be proven, I think it’s worth noting that today’s murders happened just two days after white nationalist provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos was quoted in the Observer as saying, “I can’t wait for the vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight.” And, of course, all of this is happening against the backdrop of the Trump administration, where it’s not uncommon to see the President of the United States tweeting out messages to his rabid base referring to journalists as “the enemy of the American people.”

Whether or not the shooter was influenced by the heightened, violent rhetoric of the Trumpist right, I think would be impossible to argue that what we’re seeing from the administration it’s helpful. As journalist David Simon, who lost two friends in today’s shooting, just said, “Whatever resentments were in the shooter’s head, the US President stood ready to bolster and validate it.”

And maybe this is why, when asked about the today’s murders by members of the press, Donald Trump chose to ignore them and just keep walking. [Believe me, if it had been a Muslim terrorist, he would have offered an opinion.]

Oh, for what it’s worth, some seem to think today’s murders might be tied not to the rhetoric of the anti-free press right, but the “incivility” of Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who, a few days ago, called for her fellow Americans to continue the nonviolent public harassment of Trump officials in public. Here’s a quote from Fox News propagandist Sean Hannity.

So, just to sum up… Two days ago, Trump supporter Milo Yiannopoulos was quoted in the Observer as saying, “I can’t wait for the vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight.” And, today, with five journalists having been murdered outside of DC, Sean Hannity had the audacity to blame not Yiannopoulos, or Donald Trump, who has referred to journalists as “enemies of the people,” but the incivility of Maxine Waters, who said that American citizens were within their rights to publicly challenge the Republicans responsible for separating infant immigrants from their families along the southern border. If you’re looking for an example to sum up the insanity of our times, this is it…

Posted in Civil Liberties, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 44 Comments

A brief update on our ever-worsening constitutional crisis

Admitting, “I don’t need to do this,” Donald Trump today declared a national emergency on our southern border. Then, just like any president might do after declaring a national emergency, Donald Trump left Washington for a golfing vacation in Florida.

When asked why he’d declare a national emergency instead of accepting the deal that had been struck between members of Congress, Donald Trump said, “I went through Congress. I made a deal. I got almost $1.4 billion… but I’m not happy with it.” He also said that he could have worked through the system (as it’s laid out in our Constitution), but he wanted to “get it done faster.” Oh, and when asked by a reporter where he gets his facts — the facts about illegal drugs and violent crime upon which he justified the declaration of a national emergency — Donald Trump claimed that he’d been referencing Department of Homeland Security data. According to the Washingon Post fact checker, though, he actually got them from cable television.

Here, for those of you who like real facts, based on actual data — and not just Donald Trump’s “emotional truth” — are three from Representative Ted Lieu.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

National Emergency

This afternoon, just short of the Friday deadline, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan spending bill that would avoid another shutdown. The compromise bill, which passed with only 16 Senators voting against it, included $1.375 billion for the construction of a 55 mile long fence of steel slats, significantly less that the $5.7 billion for a wall that Donald Trump was demanding when he shut down the government this past January.

This, as you might imagine, didn’t exactly sit well with the far right, who have made it clear that they’ll settle for nothing short of the massive concrete border wall that Donald Trump promised on the campaign trail. Laura Ingraham called the compromise bill a, “total scam,” and Ann Coulter warned that, if he signed this bill, it word be the end of Trump’s presidency. Hearing that the President was going to sign the bill, Coulter said, “Trump has just agreed to fully open borders.”

Trump, for what it’s worth, really didn’t have a choice. Another shutdown would have affectively killed his chances for a 2020 victory… a victory he desperately needs if he hopes to avoid indictment.

But, by signing this compromise bill, he does run the ver real risk of pissing off his far-right base… which is why he not only signaled this afternoon that he’d be signing the bill, but also declaring a national emergency on our southern border, allowing him to circumvent Congress.

Here’s how Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced the President’s position today.

This, of course, is clearly unconstitutional. The Justice Department, as we learned tonight, warned the White House that a declaration like this would be blocked by the courts, but yet it looks like Donald Trump, with no other good choices in front of him, has decided to go ahead and take us into a protracted and costly court battle over an unnecessary wall, just so that he can save face with his more racist and reality-challenged supporters. In more normal times, elected Republicans, who used to talk passionately about the dangers of “executive overreach,” would have been in the streets, demanding that Congress do its constitutional duty and stand up to the President. Now, though, not so much.

The thing is, we know this isn’t a national emergency. We know this because illegal immigration has been dropping for years, and Trump himself just recently conceded that the southern border is already “tight.” In fact, there’s still unspent money in the federal budget for border security from last year. And, if the southern border was a national emergency, why is it just becoming one now? Why wasn’t it a national emergency two years ago, when the Republicans controlled every level of power, and were instead focused on passing tax cuts for the rich and gutting our environmental agencies?

The truth is, this is all manufactured bullshit. The southern border wasn’t even mentioned among the top threats being faced by our country in the recent Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community. But here we are, discussing a ridiculous border wall because our President, beset by numerous criminal investigations, desperately needs to retain the support of his most diehard followers… the racists who ate it up when he promised them back in 2016 that he’d give them a “big, beautiful wall” to protect us from brown people from from shithole countries.

Please, if you can make a little time in your schedule, call your elected representatives in Washington right now and remind them that they have a constitutional duty to stand up for the rule of law, and protect our nation from would-be authoritarians who would attempt to consolidate power by exploiting a manufactured “crisis.” [It’s something we’ve seen before.] So, please, if you can, call your Representative and Senators, regardless of whether they’re Republican or Democrat, and ask that they not allow Donald Trump to take us down this slippery slope. And, when you have them on the phone, maybe also mention that we really do have legitimate national emergencies that demand real, decisive action, like gun violence and climate change.

Posted in Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 74 Comments

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