It wasn’t an agenda, dammit. It was information.

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Welcome to the post-fact world.

It is a place where your opinion is as good as empirical proof. You’re ‘feels’ count as much as peer-reviewed Scientific Evidence. And if what you don’t like is on tape ? Wave your hands and repeat this magic charm: “Lib-rul Mee-Dia, Lib-rul Mee-Dia, Lib-rul Mee-Dia” and suddenly proof of your candidate boasting “Grab Them By The Pussy!!” isn’t sexual assault anymore.

Don’t like those pesky ‘facts’ the Lügenpresse has inconveniently dug up? Vilify them and threaten them with murder! Why not? The GOP Presidential candidate is openly encouraging physical violence against the Press, saying they have too much freedom and should be jailed. It’s bad enough this bloviating Fascist (with a capital F) is saying it, but he’s doing so to the cheers of tens of millions of Americans rabid to destroy our First Amendment rights – and all with the endorsement and monetary backing of the Republican Party.

Now we are asked to indulgently chuckle when Deplorables wear shirts advocating murdering the Press, and the overthrow of our Constitution.

I know several journalists who are near the breaking point: Burnout, depression, disgust and hopelessness now have a new colleague: FEAR. They are all are asking if it is worth it to be constantly vilified and have your motives questioned or be outright disbelieved, all while being terrifically underpaid and having to face a shitstorm when they print actual facts.

At the same time I know dozens of out of work journalists who are dying a million deaths at this election’s coverage and the propaganda churning out 24/7. We feel helpless and wish we could use our expertise to bring some context to stories that are either ignored or blown out of proportion. We long to put a halt to the continual indignation cycle the News has become.

When corporations pulled the plug on Newspapers and quit funding Television and Radio Newsrooms adequately, and when they decided clicks were more important than truth they fired tens of thousands of people whose job it was to research and write about facts. Most folks don’t realize the skill it takes for a producer to research any given subject, and put together pieces and write questions for their anchors. It is a lost art.

People don’t realize it, but all of those unemployed people were the screen that separated the facts from the bullshit. We gave you a baseline from which to start the discussion about social and economic issues, as well as local and international events. It wasn’t an agenda, dammit. It was information.

But, you fired us – and they fired us. They couldn’t make enough profit by employing an adequate number of educated professionals to ensure accuracy and excellence. You couldn’t be arsed to pay for a quality product. Do you pay $10 a month for Netflix but won’t pony up $5 to subscribe to a news site like the New York Times? Congratulations – you’re part of the problem.

The collapse of Traditional News has left a void that blogs have filled, which has given rise and fed the needs of modern Conspiracy Theorists.

I used to deal with Conspiracy Theorists when I was a Talk Radio Host in the 80s and 90s, before Talk was all taken over by screeching hatred, thanks to the Mays brothers of Cheap Channel fame. People like this were a novelty and a hoot to put on the air. The longer they talked the more they just showed how bug-nuts crazy they were. FWIW: Just like today, the Conspiracy Theorists then glommed onto the New World Order, The Illuminati, The Jews and the UN taking over the US. I’ve been hearing that any day now the Dems are coming for your guns. Any. Day. Now. Oh, and Chemtrails are REAL, man (and fluoride and vaccines). None of that has changed in 30 years.

What has changed is that AM radio was taken over by the Alt-Right a quarter of a century ago, when the Mays Brothers shit canned anyone who wasn’t Frog Marching to their ultra-conservative tune. Liberal, Progressive, Middle-of-the-Road and Soft Republicans (those who believed in compromise) were no longer welcome in their 500 station cross-country monopoly that had a stranglehold on the industry.

Soon AM radio became a vacuum of hate speech and lies. Rush Limbaugh defended his pathological lying by saying he was an entertainer, not a news person. Glenn Beck simultaneously cheated thousands of old people out of their life savings in a bogus gold investment scheme, while managing to poison them with convoluted non-sensical conspiracies about Obama’s secret S.S. Civilian Army and the Boston Bombing ‘Cover-Up’. Anti-Journalist and Supreme Radio Hack Sean Hannity was rewarded for years of lying on behalf of the GOP with a plum job at Fox, where it appears Trump’s hand is up his puppet ass this very moment.

AM Talk Radio encouraged sick, gullible, uneducated and mentally unstable people to plumb the depths of their paranoia. No conspiracy was too obscure or far-fetched, and for these lost souls that conspiracy made them feel smarter than everyone else and in control.

The saturation of the AM dial with non-stop conspiracies is what tilled the ground for this current Conspiracy Theory movement.

The internet, which tends to make smart people smarter and dumb people dumber, has given these Conspiracy Theorists an echo chamber that validates them and gives their insane theories credibility. They are no longer at the margins of media, where people point out just how mentally unstable they sound. They don’t have to wait on hold to get on the air and be crazy – they can go online 24/7 and get their biases confirmed and their paranoia stoked. Now, people like Alex Jones are revered, instead of being revealed for the whack-job charlatan he really is.

30 years of encouraging the worst in people and stoking paranoia leads in a direct line to Candidate Trump, and the flaming Porta-Potty of his campaign this election cycle.

Sure, Trump may not get elected tomorrow, but the Conspiracy Theorists won’t be going away any time soon. They’ve been emboldened by a misogynistic, bigoted, racist, homophobic candidate. Their nuttery has been sanctioned by the GOP, and their hypocrisy encouraged by Evangelical Christians who apparently think the Commandments are actually the 10 Suggestions.

If Trump loses expect to see these people lose it mentally, because people in positions of power (I’m looking at you Paul Ryan and Ted Cruz and Mitch McConnell and John McCain) haven’t insisted on the Facts being recited any time in recent memory. They chose, instead, to endure the repeated lies for the sake of political expedience.

There’s a smorgasbord of conspiracies to choose from. Would you like a Truther, Birther or Vaxxer conspiracy? Can I interest you in some Jadehelm? Or, would you like something from Secretary Clinton? She is, after all, a dead, sick, Manchurian Candidate who murders political opponents.

Or, would you like the total bullshit conspiracy being screamed by Trump in full-throated rage that the election system is rigged if he doesn’t win– and that it’s being rigged by the Press? You know – the conspiracy that has called for the open murder by hanging of the Fourth Estate, while simultaneously choking the shit out of the Constitution until it dies.

Is it any wonder my friends still left working in the Press are disillusion and scared shitless?

If you’re not concerned you should be, because they’re just getting warmed up,  and no matter who wins it’s going to be a very long 4 years. I’ve a feeling they’re equally as poor at winning as they are at losing.

Oh, and don’t bother arguing the facts with these folks, it’s a waste of time.

Lack of evidence is proof of conspiracy.

It’s a Post Fact World, baby. Strap in.

I Pledge Allegiance to Hypocrisy

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“Do you have the courage to spread this around unashamed?

‘I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” I grew up reciting this every morning in school, with my hand on my heart. They no longer do that for fear of offending someone. Let’s see how many Americans will repost without fear of offending someone.’” – Stupid post on FB

Screw. You.

How’s that for not being afraid of offending someone?

Seriously – Screw You.

Tell me where you can’t say the Pledge of Allegiance. Please, feel free to enumerate the number of different school districts that aren’t saying the pledge. I’m waiting.

Most of those with their knickers in a twist don’t realize that the Pledge wasn’t adopted by congress until 1942, and that in 1943 the Supreme Court ruled that no child can be compelled to recite it. Say it again with me: More than 70 years ago the Supreme Court ruled that it is illegal to compel a student to recite the pledge.

According to Pew Research, in the 1943 U.S. Supreme Court decision, West Virginia v. Barnette, Justice Robert Jackson wrote: “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.”

But, in case you’re still worried that there’s a problem with the Pledge not being recited, 45 states require schools to have the Pledge recited daily. Only Vermont, Oklahoma, Hawaii, Iowa and Wyoming don’t have an absolute requirement to say the Pledge. Which of course doesn’t mean they’re prohibited from saying it, they’re just not required to take time from classes to do it.

Usually I ask people who post this if their kids are being prohibited from saying the pledge. To date not one person has answered me. Not one person has said that it’s affecting their children. It’s just a good way for them to get wound up and tell themselves that things were ever so much better during our youth. You know, the halcyon days of civil unrest and rampant sexism. Yes, the good old days when women and people of color knew their place.

Yes, no one has ever answered or offered up the name of a school or district that doesn’t allow the pledge, It’s a boogieman for people who post this stuff on their wall. They don’t know where this is happening, but they sure are upset about it.

There’s another thing about the Pledge most people refuse to acknowledge, and that’s the whole ‘under God’ thing. It was not added to the Pledge until 1954 at the height of the cold war. It was a way to show we weren’t Godless communists like the Ruskies. It was an act of bluster and a show of religion which is still being fought over by parents who don’t want God in their Pledge. I happen to agree with them that it violates the separation of church and state. Funny, but the very people who worry that it’s not being said enough are the very people who have no problem with God getting into everything. Mostly because they’re sure it’s their God that’s being represented. Not Yahweh or Buddha or Allah. You know, the real god.

The tempest in a teapot that is the worry over the Pledge not being said is similar to people who get bent out of shape about Happy Holidays or Season’s Greetings. It’s not really a problem. They know it. They KNOW it. But they need to have something to feel persecuted about. They need to feel like they’re a victim or a martyr. It feeds their narrative that the country has veered away from what they perceive to be its Godful track. Which of course brings us back to the question: Whose God and what denomination are you comfortable breaking the First Amendment with?

Just in case anyone’s forgotten this: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” It’s the first clause of the first sentence of the first amendment. How much clearer could the Founding Fathers have been? Why is it those God-botherers who insist I practice their religion don’t read the explicit instructions we were given?

There’s one other thing I’d like to know about people who have whipped themselves into a froth about their perception that children are not saying the Pledge of Allegiance every day: Are you saying it every day? If so, why not? I mean, it’s really important, isn’t it? If it’s the way all school children should start their day, shouldn’t you as an adult be doing the same thing? Shouldn’t you lead by example? It seems the country has managed to chug along without having the adult population stand up with their hand over their heart and recite the almighty Pledge.

Because if you’re not doing it, you’re exactly what I suspected: A hypocrite.

A Slow Motion Accident On Ice

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Charlie Hebdo.

How many here in the United States knew that name before yesterday?

Now we all know the name and that 12 are dead, and 11 are injured over freedom of the press and freedom of expression at a French satirical newspaper.

I remembered the name from the November 2011 fire-bombing of their offices after they ran a front page cartoon of the prophet Mohammed saying, “100 lashes if you are not dying of laughter,” while at the same time promising the revered religious figure would be the guest editor-in-chief for the next issue. The newspaper set off a fire storm literally and figuratively. It poked fun at all religions and had no sacred cows.

Their offices were burned out then, but the paper continued on.

Charb – the pen-name of the real editor-in-chief and famed cartoonist Stephane Charbonnier – told BBC that Islam could not be excluded from freedom of the press. “If we can poke fun at everything in France, if we can talk about anything in France apart from Islam or the consequences of Islamism, that is annoying.”

Charb was among those killed in yesterday’s attack.

Charb also felt that the 2011 bombing was the work of “idiot extremists” and not French Muslims. Unfortunately the people who shouted, “Allahu Akbar,” and “We have avenged prophet Mohammed,” were in fact home grown terrorists. Of the 3 suspected, 2 are brothers are from Paris and the other 1 is from Reims.

*Note* At the time this was published a Reuters correspondent named them as Said Kouachi, born in 1980, Cherif Kouachi, born in 1982, and Hamyd Mourad, born in 1996. A police source said one of them had been identified by his identity card which had been left in the getaway car.

Time and court will decide if these 3 are the culprits. But it raises the larger question of why and how this could happen, and what kind of people would do this?

The simplest answer is the straight line – the people who would do this hate the notion of others having the freedom to say what they’re thinking, especially if that idea offends them. I hate the fucking freedom card, but there it is in all its glory.

How this could happen? Well, now that’s a longer answer.

Part of that answer is ISIS, who has been around in various iterations since 1999. It is a group that pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda and propped up the insurgency in Iraq. And there’s the problem. The insurgency wouldn’t have existed if we hadn’t invaded a sovereign nation under false pretenses.

The invasion ruined their country and our finances. What a great deal for everyone involved.

The thing is, we went in, toppled a dictator that was no worse than most we deal with, and not as bad as some, and left an absolute vacuum of power when we offed him. That vacuum has led to the rise of the fine folks in ISIS, who want to return us to 10th century rule.

And now that beast is biting us in the ass.

Here’s the thing: It’s not enough to leave the extremists alone anymore and let them fight it out amongst themselves. They’ve brought the fight to Western Civilization. We won’t abandon our right to free speech or the right to practice religion (or not) under any circumstances. It’s the cornerstone of our societies. We swat down those who pretend otherwise. Although, I will admit that our own extremists pretend this is a Christian nation, but thankfully they are mostly overridden.

So, what happens then? It’s like watching a slow motion accident on ice – the cars slide toward each other and there’s no way to stop it. It goes forward and everything crashes together. That’s what’s going to happen here.

ISIS desperately wants a fight, and they’ll get it. They’ve been going at it asymmetrically, and it works for them right now. These things are horrifying and make us feel vulnerable, but ultimately they won’t win. When Western Civilization comes at them it will be with the wrath of technology and well financed nations.

They have neither the resources nor the power to win this round. But, it’s the collateral damage that’s worrying. They know they can’t win, but ISIS is only interested in creating chaos.

How we react is the big question. How are we, as Western Society, going to respond to the attacks and growing hostility from extremists who are not content to live their own lives in their own version of piousness, but instead insist that we live that way, too?

Will we push back against the extremists, or will we push against all Muslims?

I hope for the former and not the latter. We have enough needless hate in the world, we don’t need more. There are plenty enough people to actually fight against that we don’t need to make up more.

The only other thing I can say right now is:

Je suis Charlie

and

Thank you Paris for caring.

Je suis Charlie 2

President Obama’s Early Christmas Surprise

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“President Obama’s entire policy shift on Cuba is based on the illusion—in fact, on the lie—that more commerce and access to money and goods will translate to political freedom for the Cuban people.” – Senator Marco Rubio

I’m confused. Is it just Cuban communists you don’t want to have anything to do with? Or, are you proposing we cut diplomatic ties with China, too, Senator Rubio? Our biggest trade partner is a communist nation known for their less than stellar record on human rights. Although, given the recent Torture Report I think we’ve lost some of that moral high ground when it comes to human rights.

Why stop there? Why not break ties completely with Russia? Shouldn’t we sever relations with Vietnam or Myanmar? Why not make the ultimate stand and cut all contact with Saudi Arabia? Their human rights record is atrocious. Women have virtually no rights. There is modern day slavery. An oppressive government holds their boot heel on the throat of its citizens, where dissent is not allowed. Why in heaven’s name would we have anything to do with such a brutal regime? Oh, yeah…

For 55 years we’ve been trying to make sanctions against Cuba work . You know, after half a century it’s time to admit the embargo isn’t working and Cuba is and will stay a communist country. They made their choice and we need to accept that.

Unfortunately there is a sizable contingent that believes any day now the Cubans were going to wake up from the fever dream of dictatorship and the cult of personality. Evidence be damned, they were going to accept America as their savior. Why, we had them right where we wanted them, I tell you. Then Obama had to go give the store away. That asshole.

These are the same people who believe this change in policy helps Fidel Castro. He’s been out of power since 2008, and he’s 88. He pretty much got everything he wanted in his nearly 5 decades as dictator of Cuba, and retired. What do we think we’re keeping from him?

The important question to ask is not whether an elderly man gets an ego boost out of this – the question we should be asking is how this will change the life of the average Cuban. Well, for one thing they’d better get ready for Starbucks and Mickey Ds. There are already some big hotels on the beaches. If we normalize relations with the Cubans it’s going to look like Cancun in 10 years.

That’s reality. Marco Rubio can claim that commerce won’t change the country, but that doesn’t make it so. I don’t know, maybe Rubio has never traveled outside the United States, in which case he wouldn’t be aware of how profoundly tourism and commerce changes a country. Not always for the better. But, there will be change, nonetheless.

Doubtless the opening of Cuba to the United States will not be financially beneficial for everyone. Some will do better than others – as they do here. It would do well for Rubio to remember that income inequality is an enormous problem in this country, and another issue where we cannot claim the moral high ground.

You simply can’t deny though, China and Russia’s population has seen an increase in the standard of living as they opened up to the West (the rise in pollution is another story for another day). I’m not painting it for more than it is, but the standard of living has been rising.

What Rubio wants to do is to turn the clock back 55 years (for so many reasons) to when the embargo worked, in that magical, fantasy time that never happened. He wants to believe that the industry and property that were seized in the revolution will be returned. I have some bad news for you, Marco: It’s never going to happen. Never. Your family and friends will never get their stuff back. Making the Cuban people suffer for a lost cause with an embargo that doesn’t work is the height of selfishness. Things aren’t always fair, but compounding the unfairness by asking others to suffer for your desires is flat-out wrong.

There are those who would drag around the corpse of the Cuban Missile Crises as a reason to keep the embargo. To which I’ll reply: The Cuban Missile Crisis happened before I was born, 10 Presidents ago. Dude, let it go. It didn’t take us more than half a century to get around to normalizing relations with Japan or Germany. Besides, the country that was supplying them with the hardware is no longer in existence. Let me repeat that for emphasis: The country that supplied Cuba with the missiles no longer exists. It has crumbled in the sands of time, and relegated to the dustbin of history. Yet, we can’t let bygones be bygones 55 years later?

As is usual for people who can do nothing but criticize, Marco Rubio has no alternative plan to the President’s. He would keep in place an open-ended, ineffective embargo that only serves to keep families apart and punish the Cuban people until they act like Rubio wants them to. In other words, it’s the political equivalent of holding your breath until you turn blue.

All these facts won’t stop the esteemed Senator from Florida from throwing everything he can into the gears that might move this forward. He will try to hold up the nomination for an Ambassador, he will try to deny funds for an Embassy. He will work against a Congressional effort to end the embargo. He will do all those things in a cloak of righteousness and never for a moment question if he’s being selfish.

Even sadder is that, as usual, this has been reduced to another partisan issue, one which most of the Republican Party has taken as a personal affront. Why – it’s like he’s the President, or something! How dare he set policy!

So, while I have great hopes to visit Cuba soon (please let me get there before the KFCs), I don’t have great hope that normalized relations will happen smoothly. As with everything in this country it’s a fight, because with all the partisanship nothing is ever done easily anymore.

Yup, it’s the season of peace and goodwill and the leadership of this country is having a fight over whether or not to get along with another country.

Ho Ho Ho! Merry Bill of Rights!!

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“Share and Like if you agree that it’s Merry Christmas, not Happy Holidays!!”

Really? All the things in the world to get upset about and you’re going to be offended at someone wishing you a pleasantry of the season that doesn’t specifically recognize your holy day?

Go away and take your phony religious persecution with you.

There are so many reasons people would choose to use the phrase Happy Holidays, and being inclusive is the biggest of them. There’s only one reason for getting offended by it – and that’s because you need to pretend you’re a victim.

Here’s the deal: You’re not being oppressed if someone chooses not to take part in your religion. In fact that’s called freedom and it’s guaranteed in the Bill of Rights.

It’s all very well if you’d like to put the Christ back in your Christmas, I’m not standing in between you and the exercising of your religion. That relationship is entirely up to you. If your faith is so weak that you need all those around you to continually reinforce your beliefs then maybe you have some soul-searching to do about your personal relationship with your God.

I say ‘your God’ intentionally because there are other groups celebrating holidays at this time of year that have a different understanding of God than you. Or, are you one of those revisionists who think this whole time of year is devoted strictly to a holiday the Christian religion co-opted from the pagans? Sorry to break it to you, but the Holidays normally start at Thanksgiving (although it could be argued they start at Halloween now) and go through New Year’s Day, unless you’re Catholic, and then you go through Epiphany on January 6.

Why, just in the month of December alone Buddhism observes Bodhi Day, Hinduism has Panch Ganapati, there is Yalda for Paganism, of course Judaism celebrates Hanukkah. Let’s not forget Kwanza, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Some people even celebrate Festivus. And believe it or not – some people don’t celebrate anything at all. All of these people have the right to practice their religion or lack of it in any way they see fit. In fact that notion was so important to the Founding Fathers that the first clause of the first sentence of the first paragraph of the first right enumerated in the Bill of Rights ensures it. To wit: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;” it says. Boom. That’s so clear even someone who thinks they’re being persecuted religiously can understand it.

But, for those who only accept the notion that we celebrate Christmas in December I would ask that you please tell me which version of Christianity must I follow for it to be a real and true celebration of the day? Protestant? Catholic? Mormon? Anglican? Southern Baptist or regular Baptist – and if so which Synod? Quaker? Shaker? Methodist? Episcopal? Orthodox? Lutheran? Anglican? Unitarian? Seventh Day Adventist? Fundamental? Evangelical? Pentecostal? I mean, really, which one is truly celebrating the holiday? They can’t all be right, can they?

If you’re one of those who is all inclusive about other forms of Christianity but nothing else, then we have found our religious persecutor. Those who only tolerate other forms of Christianity are the highest forms of hypocrites, and usually they’re yelling the loudest about religious oppression. If you recognize the right for other Christians to practice their faith in their churches, but aren’t willing to be tolerant of any other faiths you are really part of what’s wrong in this country.

You have the right to whatever kind of religion you want to follow. Kindly extend to me that same courtesy. If I choose not to celebrate your religion in your fashion get off my back. It’s not a personal affront to you, so stop acting like it is. Please don’t expect me to celebrate the season or the day as you do.

But really, in the end, this is one of those strictly fabricated non-stories that didn’t exist until our news cycles had to have 24-hours-a-day of outrage and fear fueled controversy that poses as programming (I’m looking at you, Fox News and CNN). The false narrative of a ‘War on Christmas’ has created a problem where none existed. Can you remember Happy Holidays or Seasons Greetings ever being a problem until the last decade?

What’s the problem with being more inclusive? What’s the issue with respecting other people’s beliefs and celebrations?

But, most important: Why do so many people not want to allow the religious freedom guaranteed to all of us in the Bill of Rights?