Over the past few days, mainstream media outlets have had their tongues wagging over the firing of the former Secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer. “Oh, NO!” they all cry. “Trump has gone too far this time. How dare he interfere with the good order of the military!”
This is almost a repeat of the lionization of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the Army officer who testified that Trump didn’t break any laws but pushed a policy he thoroughly disagreed with. That, to the Lords of Daytime Talk and Morning Joe, is an impeachable offense in and of itself. Why, how dare anyone impugn the opinion of an Army lieutenant colonel!
The media is flabbergasted that rank-and-file military and veterans support the President over these two paragons of military virtue. (Yes, that is a facetious comment, before you ask). The reason is simple and goes to something else the media and their liberal cohort cannot seem to fathom. Every person in the military, regardless of branch or the era in which they served, understands the President is the Commander in Chief. That’s not just an honorary title: his orders are the absolute highest authority. Unless he gives an order that is blatantly illegal, it is the duty of everyone in the military to carry out those orders. Period. No exceptions, no “but why,” no nothing except salute and carry on. If you’re of high enough rank and disagree on a policy basis, then you resign your commission and return to civilian life. If you aren’t of high enough rank, you can voice your disagreement to your superior officer but you still carry out the order.
The media cannot fathom this basic fact. For all their lavish praise on Spencer, the simple fact is he disregarded a direct order from both the Secretary of Defense and the President and was planning on moving ahead to remove a decorated SEAL from their ranks because the government couldn’t successfully court martial him on drummed up charges. It was a fit of pique that led to his decision to ignore the order to stand down, a thought that the President didn’t know what he was doing, an inability to comprehend that the President is, regardless of prior service, the Commander in Chief. For all his blather about how the President not understanding good order within the ranks, the reality is Spencer is the one who ignored the first principle of good order: that no matter how noxious the order may be personally, if it is a legal order from a superior, you obey.
This inability of the media to accept this fact stems from one place – their unwillingness to acknowledge that Donald J. Trump is the rightful President of the United States. Had these same military personnel acted the same way during the previous administration, the same media talkers that profess their undying admiration for Richard Spencer and Alexander Vindman would be demanding they be sent to Ft. Leavenworth for the next 20 years. So don’t be fooled by the media cabal, America. Just as with the Russia hoax and every other nonsense “scandal” that’s come along over the past three years, they are willing to condone all sorts of legally questionable behavior provided it might damage the President.
How many times have you heard that lament?
How many times have you uttered that phrase?
“My vote doesn’t count because…”
- Because I’m only one of millions.
- Because politicians won’t care about my vote.
- Because my state is solidly Democrat (or solidly Republican)
- Because nothing ever changes
There’s an old saying about excuses, the body part they resemble, and the odor they release. Whatever your “because” might be, it’s only an excuse for not voting. Just like that adage, your excuse stinks. Your decision to stay home rather than show up at your polling place definitely can result in changes. Your decision to mute your political power affects your taxes, the services you and your neighbors receive, the laws and ordinances that are passed, and the education your children receive.
Let me tell you a story. Bucks County, PA has about 460,000 registered voters. There are more Republicans than Democrats, 210,000 to 180,00 with about 70,000 undeclared. During yesterday’s general election, in which county supervisors, school boards, local councils and state representatives were chosen, had a whopping 77,000 people turn out to vote. What does that mean? It means fewer than 17% of those eligible to vote bothered to go to their neighborhood polling site and cast a ballot. It also means that a county with a total population of around 650,000 people allowed fewer than 12% of us to dictate their futures.
Those 12% of us flipped the county government from red to blue, putting Democrats in charge for the first time since the 1990s. Here’s what that means: if those Democrats who were elected to run the county keep their promises, our property taxes are about to go up. We’ll keep importing trash (literally, garbage and refuse) from greater New York City. The Sheriff’s Office will be reduced, the welfare department increased and spending on road and water system repairs will go down the drain.
Now for the kicker: the third commissioner won his seat by a mere 657 votes. 1/10th of 1% of the population of this county essentially voted for higher taxes to pay for more services that will be used by fewer residents. 657 people who wanted a more intrusive government took ten minutes out of their day to vote, while 383,000 people (most of whom don’t want government to do anything other than collect the garbage and fix the roads) couldn’t be bothered with showing up and doing their civic duty.
Do you think their votes would have mattered?
Do you think more than a few of them woke up on Wednesday surprised at the election results?
Because that’s the thing. If any of those 383,000 non-voters want to complain about those higher taxes, those reduced services or the sudden surge in homelessness sure to follow in the next two years, they literally forfeited that right. Their non-vote became a vote to give 657 people an outsized voice in the direction of their lives. That’s the same thing you do every time you decide you don’t need to cast a vote.
So don’t. Don’t be complacent, don’t think your vote is meaningless, don’t think government refuses to listen to you. Get off your duff, get into that voting booth and stop giving your vote away by not voting.
With all the impeachment insanity going on in Washington (by the way, don’t pretend I didn’t warn you this was what the 2018 midterms were really about) and the President’s predilection for tweeting from the hip, it was virtually preordained that he would tweet something that could get him in deep doo-doo.
To wit: I do not think the phone call with the Ukrainian president contained anything impeachable. Asking an incoming head-of-state to look into the potentially corrupt dealings of American nationals, and to work with American law enforcement on several open investigations, is not illegal. If anything, had the person whose son got a cushy no-show job in a notably corrupt country been named Koch, I guarantee the Democrats would have been all over that like a fly on stink. Nor was placing the transcript of the call on a secure server illegal. Previous administrations also compartmentalized access to Presidential call transcripts – and given all the leaking in the first six months of the administration, it was certainly a prudent decision. Finally, given the questions regarding the as yet unnamed whistleblowers political motivations (which are grave and threaten the entire inquiry), a delay in reporting to Congress was similarly prudent.
Had it been, say, President Obama who undertook any of the above actions, the media and Congress would have shrugged and moved on with their days.
But it was President Trump, the man whom Democrats have been trying to impeach for nearly three years. They tried to claim he was a Russian agent, but that fell apart when the Mueller Report was released. They tried to claim he obstructed justice, but that was so blatantly false that nobody except the most partisan of partisans believed it. Now they’re trying to say he improperly asked (or pressured, they change hourly) a foreign government to investigate a political opponent. Again, examining the facts destroys that accusation rather easily.
Like Bill Clinton 20 years ago, what will do Trump in won’t be the reason the inquiry was opened. They nailed Bill on a technicality, essentially punishing him for being too clever by half and not being able to keep his mouth shut. Trump, likewise, tends to think he’s untouchable. Bill thought he could say anything and get away with it. Trump thinks he can tweet anything and get away with it.
The reality is that once the long knives come out for you, you need to be extremely careful with what you put into the public domain. If cancel culture is willing to go insane over a third-rate actor, they’ll be that much more likely to go nuts over the number one object of their derision. As much as pundits love to tell us America isn’t Twitter (and really, it isn’t), the fact is Twitter does drive news cycles. Feeding that machine with quotes that can land you in real legal jeopardy is not the smartest move you can make.
Which is why I’m asking someone in President Trump’s orbit to grab his phone, change his twitter password and then smash his phone. We know he can’t (or won’t) apply a filter to what he tweets. The danger of him tweeting something that he might consider innocuous that proves to be far more damaging is quite real. Just this past weekend, he sent out two tweets that certainly came right up to the line of crossing the impeachable speech threshold. This was the first:
This one may be the more damaging of the two, although the media seems to not understand why. The US Constitution protects the speech of Senators and Representatives under Article 1, Section 6, what we commonly call the “Speech and Debate Clause.”
…for any Speech or Debate in either House, [Senators and Representatives] shall not be questioned in any other Place.US Constitution, Article I, Section 6, Clause 1
It would be a stretch, but a Congress determined to impeach the President could very well hit Trump with an Article describing this as engaging in publicly unconstitutional behavior. Remember, the law is malleable, and as shown in Gravel (1972) Congressmembers may read into the official record anything they want – even very bad parodies of the President.
The other tweet that walked right up to the line of impeachable speech was this one:
This has quickly been called the “Civil War” tweet by the media and their Democrat masters. Yes, that is certainly not something any President should be voicing publicly. But the danger to Trump personally is that this tweet can be construed as actively courting insurrection. And as we should all remember from our lessons about John Brown, openly courting insurrection is treason. It would mean reading intent into the tweet that (hopefully!) isn’t there, but again… Impeachment in the United States has often been about stretching legal definitions to fit the purpose.
So, please. Don… Ivanka… Jared… Someone, anyone, grab the Presidential Twitter generator and lock it down before he does cross the line.
By now, you’re probably sick and tired of hearing about Robert Mueller. You’ve had your fill of talk about conspiracies and obstruction and Russians and FISA warrants and fake dossiers and impeachment and all the rest of it. But this is ridiculously important stuff, regardless of how tiresome it all is.
We’ve reached a point where Americans as a whole, regardless of political affiliation, do not just distrust our public officials. We disdain them. In most American’s eyes, the people running the government are incompetent boobs. When they aren’t corrupt, they’re of such terrible ability they cannot do the jobs they’ve been given. Bob Mueller had a chance during his farewell announcement to begin dispelling that belief and put a brick into the foundation of public trust.
Instead, he threw up a rock slide that might well ruin the government’s ability to effectively govern.
I doubt St. Bob went into that investigation determined to let the facts fall where they may. He is a career prosecutor, after all, and prosecutors don’t make their bones by exonerating the subjects of their probes. Ideally they would, but this is the real world where prosecutors get promoted based on how many people they put behind bars. Therefore, the idea that he wouldn’t exonerate the subject of the highest profile probe of his career isn’t surprising.
While the law may prevent a sitting president from being indicted, a special prosecutor’s job is to recommend impeachment if the facts demonstrate illegality by the president. Thus, Leon Jaworski and Ken Starr both made such a recommendation as part of their final reports. That Mueller didn’t, and won’t even recommend it as a private citizen, says scads about how damning the evidence is. Does it prove Trump is an egocentric person with poor morals and little grasp of criminal law or ethics? Yes, but we all knew that well before the ’16 election. Character defects don’t rise to the level of impeachable offenses. At least, I hope not, or every president going forward will be subjected to Congress’ version of an anal probe.
So, here we are. Yet another government official has failed to do their job. I’ll let others debate if the reason is because Mueller is corrupt or inept (I’ve seen convincing arguments for both). His cowardice leaves us that much closer to the end of the Republic. Yes, I said cowardice, for when his nation needed him most; needed him to do his job and tell us if the President committed an impeachable offense, he balked. He refused to answer.
He alluded that maybe he did. Or maybe he didn’t. St. Bob doesn’t know, despite previously being the nation’s highest law enforcement officer. Imagine if the local DA came out with a statement that said, “We can’t prove Little Donnie stole the car, but we can’t disprove it, either. So I’m asking the town council to make Little Donnie prove his innocence over an 18 month televised spectacle.” Because that’s what Mueller did.
St. Bob’s cowardice has removed the last piece of bedrock from the Nation’s foundation. It is his decision to turn one the most basic principles of liberty, that you’re innocent until proven guilty, on it’s head. That decision, which effectively bypassed the 5th and 7th amendments, will chip away further at any belief that our government can do anything effectively.
So, good job , Bob. You didn’t do your job, but you sure as hell jobbed the country.
I’ve been sitting here, replaying yesterday morning’s events over in my mind. I’ve been trying to figure out what particular sort of insanity affects the Democratic Party. I mean, let’s face it. If ever there were a Republican President you would think Democrats could have a good working relationship with, it would be a guy who spent more than 40 years being a loyal, card-carrying Democrat. You would think it would be the Republican who fully embraces the concept of Big Government Doing Big Things.
You would certainly think negotiations over spending another $2 trillion on domestic spending wouldn’t be contentious. Yet… Here we are.
The Democrats are so obsessed with forcing this particular President from office that they have induced a near total paralysis on governance. Bills languish. The budget is left unattended. Honest, responsible oversight of government agencies is abandoned for sham investigations and soundbite laden grillings of Cabinet officers.
The overarching question surrounding all of the drama of the last 2+ years is WHY? WHY are they so obsessed with desperately trying to find some sort of criminal offense? WHY are they so obsessed with blocking every proposal, even ones these same legislators supported in the past? WHY are they so obsessed with blowing every little rumor into a “constitutional crisis” that they’ve elevated people they once shunned (Michael Avenatti, Jeff Flake, James Comey, etc.) into national spokespeople for the DNC? WHY are they so obsessed with denying him any sort of triumph they were willing to resort to character assassination of a Supreme Court justice?
There are a few plausible answers to the question.
- Donald Trump had the temerity to run against Saint Hillary – and won: This possibility immediately rises to the top of the list. Democrats fully anticipated that Hillary Clinton was going to be elected as the 45th President of the United States. They had practically ordered a crown for her. To ensure that Hillary made it, they cleared the primary field of anyone they anticipated might actually challenge her in 2016. Yes, Bernie Sanders put up a spirited fight. But the DNC and Democrat establishment had almost no control over Bernie, and then they strong-armed him into supporting her before their convention. They spoon fed her debate questions, engaged in some shady campaign financing, and did everything they could to push her over the finish line. Then, despite every pundit and opinion poll, Donald Trump swooped in on election night and “stole” her coronation.
- Donald Trump represents those Gawd awful, backwards, deplorable people who bitterly cling to their guns and religion: Look, it isn’t a big secret that the country’s essential divide isn’t between “haves” and “have-nots.” It isn’t between liberals and conservatives. It is that, perhaps, we are the most geographically divided since before the Civil War. There are the “Coastal Elites” and “Flyover Country,” and politically, culturally and economically, those regions are quickly becoming separate nations within a country. Democrats tend to populate the nation of Coastal Elite and Republicans, Flyover Country. Democrats were certain that Barack Obama’s two terms marked the demise of the despised Bitter Clingers in Flyover Country. Then Donald Trump not only returned the Bitter Clingers of Flyover Country to prominence, but showed the Democrats that there are a quite a few Deplorables living in their midst. The Democrats are still reeling from that revelation.
- Donald Trump is the only non-politician who knows where everyone in DC’s skeletons are buried: The only thing that really scares a Washington insider is the realization that someone who isn’t one of them, but has done tons of business with them, is now going to assume the reins of power. Everyone knows Donald Trump has done some shady business in the past. He made his fortune developing real estate in New York and Atlantic City, after all. Likewise, everyone knows 99.9% of those in Washington are corrupt. The reason major scandals didn’t rock the Capital over the last 40 years is that everyone always knew where everyone hid the bodies. Now, we have a President where virtually nobody knows where he’s hid his skeletons – but whose team knows where all the DC power players have theirs hidden. The realization that at any time, he can drop the political equivalent of a nuclear bomb on the governing establishment and they cannot reply in kind has them frightened and angry. Just like any other frightened, angry animal who’s been cornered, they’re lashing out.
- All of the above: This one makes the most sense. Any of the previous three possibilities would explain a certain level of partisan vitriol, but nothing on the scale we’re witnessing. But destroying their dreams of having a woman president that epitomizes everything Democrats believe in culturally and politically, and who was so much one of them they could trace here DC roots back the Nixon investigations, by upending their world view and forcing them to deal with a part of the population they would rather enslave and by holding a virtual sword of Damocles over everything Washington, Donald Trump has earned their undying, distorted, absolute hatred.
So, how do the rest of us combat this? By getting out next November and doing the one thing we can: voting for Donald J. Trump and every down ballot Republican. No, it won’t make the Democrats any less crazy. One of the things you can’t do with a demented person (or political party) is force them to confront their delusions. But you can deny them the ability to act on them. That, my friends, is what we must do.
In case you were off enjoying yourself this past weekend (or dodging tornadoes in Kansas), this tweet from Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) set the political world on fire:
You can read the full thread on Twitter and I suggest you do just that, rather than listen to the dozens of talking heads that populate the airwaves. They have quickly assumed their usual fighting stances. For the Trumpsters, Amash is a traitor to the cause, giving cover to the most corrupt deep state coup in history. To the Resistance, Amash is a hero, speaking the truth about the most corrupt administration since King George III.
Further down in his thread, Amash hints at this response to his conclusions:
Indeed, when you read the full thread, it doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to understand why Amash reached the conclusions he did. To his reasoning, Barr is covering for presidential misdeeds out of partisan fervor. Whether those misdeeds are, in fact, “high crimes and misdemeanors” is not the matter for debate. Rather, it is that they reveal a pattern of “otherwise dishonorable conduct.”
Anyone who has paid attention to Justin Amash’s career shouldn’t be surprised by any of this. He has always been the most reluctant of Republicans; a man who hoped to bring the GOP closer to his libertarian inclinations than the conservative bent of the party when he was first elected to Congress. Based on his past, this was the only conclusion Amash could come to that is consistent to his principles.
While I disagree with his conclusion, I have to respect the man for being true to who he is. I heard one of those talking heads say something to the effect of Amash is angling to switch to being a Democrat, as he has a primary challenger and wants to avoid a primary election fight. While nothing in politics would surprise me these days, that would come close. Amash is a small “l” libertarian. While many of his views are not in step with the typical GOP voter, the idea he is more aligned to the party of Big Government is ludicrous.
I would argue that while some find his views on some subjects seem to be political contrivances, they are anything but. It’s just that as a libertarian, his political views are not easy to pigeonhole. In this case, he takes umbrage with the fact that there is a subset of the body politic that deifies President Trump. Amash sees danger with this, in that such fealty to an individual can cause that subset to willingly overlook corrupt practices by a Chief Executive. But such slavish devotion to a sitting President is not an impeachable offense of that President. If it were, then there are at least a dozen past Presidents who were worthy of impeachment, from Obama, through Reagan, Kennedy, FDR and so on, all the way back to Washington. Amash correctly identifies a problem with politics, in that elections are rarely more than popularity contests of personalities. His solution, however, would paralyze our system of government every time the opposition party assumes control of the House of Representatives.
Regardless of how misguided he might be on this issue, I can’t help but wish we had more politicians who were true to their ideals. Yes, it has put Justin Amash outside the political mainstream. But if that is the only offense you can take with him, then he’s doing a better job than 95% of those in the House today.
By now, you’re certainly aware President Trump raised the tariffs the US government charges on a wide range of Chinese goods. This came primarily as a result of Chinese recalcitrance in the most recent trade negotiation.
Certainly, you’re familiar with the free trade arguments against tariffs. Generally speaking, these arguments are correct. A tariff raises the cost of those goods for the importing distributor. Those increased coast are then passed on to the consumer. Not only that, but in states that charge sales tax, the increased price that comes from the tariff also results in a higher sales tax. So the net effect is not unlike a VAT, a tax that gets compounded at various stages and eventually adds up to much higher costs for the consumer.
Think of it this way: Maytag imports a $300 washing machine from China. The new 25% tariff increases that COG to $375. Maytag, in order to sustain it’s business, sells it to Lowe’s with a 10% mark-up, so Lowe’s cost for the washing machine is $412.50. Lowe’s the sells it the consumer with the standard 25% markup found on retail hard goods, so it costs you $515 to purchase it. Only that isn’t your final cost. The state charges 6.5% sales tax, so your final purchase price comes to $548.48 – of which $108.48 is taxes.
That’s a $69.23 increase in cost to you, of which $49.23 is in taxes. Or if you prefer, that 25% tariff actually resulted in a 83% increase in the amount of tax you paid on your brand new washing machine.
So, increasing tariffs is obviously increasing the burden to the consumer. It is even a more regressive form of taxation than an ordinary sales tax. Because it is charged at the point of import, there is a downstream effect of cumulative price increases, until the final price for the consumer is artificially increased to the point of near unaffordability. So, there can be no doubt that in a nation that relies on consumer spending for economic growth, increasing tariffs is going to result in a downturn in at least the rate of growth.
So why would we slide back into a mercantilist trade policy, when global prosperity has demonstrated that reducing trade barriers has lifted everyone’s standard of iving?
According to the President, it is a result of an ever expanding trade deficit with China. Frankly, that is hardly a problem. It is a result of the fact that Chinese workers earn less than their American counterparts, that property and building costs are lower and there are fewer regulatory hurdles to running a factory. Tariffs might reduce the trade deficit slightly, but they won’t send companies fleeing China for the beautiful environs of Akron. It might make a few move to someplace like Vietnam or Indonesia. So what then, do we raise tariffs on imports from those countries, too?
Our real trade problem as regards the People’s Republic of China is not a deficit of goods. Rather, it is their own mercantilist policies that require technology transfers and encourage software piracy. The question becomes, are tariffs the right weapon to deploy to combat those policies?
Probably not. For starters, the basic memory chip devised by the American company Intel is the gold standard in solid state memory, But the Qualcomm copy is nearly as good and about half the price. If you’re unfamiliar with these little pieces of silicon, they can be found in everything from your $9.99 alarm clock to your $65,000 Mercedes. Qualcomm exports those chips to companies all around the world. Trying to target Qualcomm RAM and ROM chips with punitive tariffs would, quite literally, mean raising tariffs on thousands of products coming from all around the world.
Add into that headache that Qualcomm doesn’t just build those chips in China. They also build them here, in a factory in San Diego, as well some 28 other countries. Trying to track where each chip was built, where it was sent, and whether that particular chip was then imported into the US is impossible. And this is just one product from one company.
So, tariffs are an ineffective tool when dealing with China’s policy of enforced technology theft. Are there any other tools at our disposal? Well, there is the WTO, but it has proven effectively useless in handling the problem. There is diplomacy, but gathering enough nations together willing to take on these policies has proven almost impossible. Even the TPP, championed by the Obama administration and thankfully scrapped by the Trump admin, ignored the problem outright.
So what’s left? As much as I hate to say it, it might be simply barring any American technology company from doing any business in China whatsoever. I’m certain that adopting that particular stance would draw howls from not only the tech companies but a host of other interests. Additionally, it’s naive to think China wouldn’t retaliate in some fashion, perhaps by doing something as extreme as charging an export fee on any goods headed to the US.
It would mark one hell of an escalation in what has been, to now, a pretty mild trade war. As much as I hate the idea of imposing such rigid barriers to trade, the reality is that China has for decades been getting away with a very mercantilist approach to technology. It might be time to fight fire with fire.
I’m in awe of the two greatest women I’ve ever known.
It’s sometimes hard to believe that this will be the 28th Mother’s Day without my Mom. 28 years since she passed, 28 years without her sage advice (like ”Don’t follow your heart. Follow your mind and just let the heart make suggestions” and “If you only worry about making the good stuff happen, you don’t have time to worry about the other stuff”). There’s not a day goes by that I don’t miss you terribly. You never lived to see me marry, to find the career success you knew would come my way (even when I doubted myself), to see your grandsons.
Which let’s me seque to the other totally amazing woman in my life. For over 20 years, she’s been not only my rock, but the woman who provides our sons a shoulder to cry on or a swift kick in the ass. She’s mended scraped knees and broken hearts, packed lunches along with a wicked wit and despite being badly outnumbered in a testosterone fueled home, kept all of us in line.
So Happy Mother’s Day, Linda!
And Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!
There’s been a slowly stirring undercurrent in the world of social media for some time – the outright banning of some people, or the even more insidious “shadow bans’ others have experienced. This received even more attention last week when Facebook announced it was removing several prominent accounts. The reason those accounts were removed wasn’t for any reason other than the things they posted offended the politically correct zeitgeist.
“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.Martin Niemoeller
“Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.
“Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
“Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
I have nothing in common with Louis Farrakhan, Paul Joseph Watson or Alex Jones. Farrakhan is a virulent anti-semite, Jones a crackpot conspiracy theorist and Watson a social media muckraker. The views of Farrakhan and Jones are abhorrent to me. As for Watson, I doubt the man has ever had an original thought. His principle thought crime seems to be that he amplifies some of the most ridiculous and salacious content to be found on the internet.
But even if you disagree with Farrakhan’s contention that Jews are the root of all evil, with Jones belief that Sandy Hook was a government plot, or with Watson’s desire to monetize the PizzaGate nonsense, you should still be concerned with Silicon Valley’s determination that somehow their opinions are less deserving to be aired than say, Alyssa Milano’s endless screeds about the world ending unless we adopt full-blown SJW socialism. Why? See the quote referenced above.
I doubt there are few beliefs that are more ingrained into our collective soul as the belief in the freedom of speech. Notice I did not say freedom of the press, which today seems to be some pundits preferred alternative to allowing the rabble to speak their minds. The first amendment of our Constitution places freedom of speech ahead of freedom of the press. We’ve accepted (somewhat begrudgingly) that there are some very limited restrictions on that freedom. You can’t run into a crowded theater and yell “Fire” if there isn’t a fire. You can’t knowingly disparage a private citizen in public, seeking to to ruin their lives, without facing potential civil and criminal charges. But that’s about it. Otherwise, our society says if you feel the need to say something, you get to say something.
Throughout our history, our nation has gone to extreme lengths to ensure we can say what we want, when we want. This protection has extended to all forms of speech. Be it Nazi’s marching in Skokie, IL or artists defacing religious symbols, we’ve let speech that offended our collective sensibilities stand. We let these things be, because we understood taking away one man’s (or group’s) freedom of speech is taking it away from all of us.
I fully understand the hesitation in enforcing these standards on the social media giants. I realize they are private companies and under current law, exempt from regulation over what content they carry and to whom they transmit that content. The libertarian in me wishes that this could remain the case.
Early on in American life, the concept of the “soapbox” was created. This was the ability of any person to grab a literal soapbox, head down to the town square, stand atop said soapbox and shout their fool head off about whatever subject prompted them to want to shout their fool head off. We don’t have town squares anymore, at least not in the sense of a public space that we all pass through at least once a day, and maybe stop for a while to chat with friends, do some window shopping, read the news, and so on.
But do you know what we’ve created as the modern equivalent of a public space that we all pass through at least once a day, and maybe stop for a while to chat with friends, do some window shopping, read the news, and so on? Yep. Social media.
From early on in American life, a person with a message they considered important enough to get out into the public sphere could pay a printer to print up a few thousand copies of a pamphlet. If one printer wouldn’t do it, there were others who would. Some of the greatest political treatises of the young country were created in this way. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense may be the famous of these, but right through the late 20th century the political pamphlet was an essential method of getting your views widely distributed. (I still have a copy of one I had researched for an old college paper, entitled “How to Get Rich! Written for Poor Men, and Young Beginners of Life, by their Affectionate Friend Uncle Ben, Who Was Once in Both These Conditions, but is Now in Neither” that was written in 1871).
Today, while that method might still be available, it has neither the immediacy nor reach of social media.
As mentioned, I understand the reluctance of conservatives to change the nature of social media companies to prevent them from censoring content. Were they, in fact, truly content independent information funnels I would agree with that assessment. But anyone who’s observed their censorious actions over the past 36 months has to have realized by now that they are neither independent nor true information pipes. Their political biases show strongly in their actions. Not that I have a problem with political bias in publication. After all, there is a reason I read both the Daily Beast and the Daily Caller: I know before I ever open either site, the stories I read will have a certain political slant. But if the social media platforms we all use only have one political slant, isn’t that a dangerous form of censorship? Is that not unlike our forebears deciding only certain views could be aired from atop that soapbox?
Another of the arguments I’ve heard is that since these are free services, we are not paying customers and therefore have no say over how they run their businesses. This is about as poorly informed an argument as you could make. As has come to light ever since the Cambridge Analytica fiasco was exposed a year ago is that while we may not pay a monthly fee to the social media juggernauts, that is only because they have something far more valuable of ours. They have the ability to sell our information, our likes, our dislikes, our friends, where we’ve traveled, even our entertainment preferences, to the highest bidder. Or to multiple bidders, if they choose. It’s all right there in those EULA’s nobody ever reads before clicking “ok.” I would tell anyone who says they don’t pay a social media company any sort of fee they’re not only wrong – they paid them tens of thousands of dollars before they created their first post. In fact, you could say I pay several publishers (social media) to print and distribute my modern pamphlet (this blog).
Finally, there is the argument that we do not regulate any other media company in such a manner. The Washington Post, for instance, is free to only air virulent anti-Trump opinions. But therein lies the rub: are companies like Facebook and Twitter only media content companies, existing to compete with other media content companies? Or are they more like akin to media distribution companies, which are prohibited from excluding content (with certain narrow exceptions)?
First, let’s examine the real-world business of social media. Yes, there are competitors to Facebook and Twitter. But those two companies account for over 80% of global traffic. After all, the key to being a “social” media company is the social part. The entire business is predicated on being a near monopoly. You go there because your friends, acquaintances and family are there. Sure, I could get together with a couple of friends, raise a few billion dollars and try to start my own social media company. But unless I could compel people to move en masse from Facebook or Twitter to my platform, I would either be out of business (or if I had developed enough “cool” features, swallowed by one of them).
Next, let’s look at their own mission statements. Facebook aims to, “Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” What Twitter wants “is to give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly without barriers.” Remember our Town Square analogy? It looks as though both social media giants are fully on board with that concept, in word if not in deed.
And that, my friends, should be enough to nail this down. By their own mission statements, these are not media creation companies. They are media distribution companies. Therefore, they should be classified as such – and their censorship should end immediately.
The alternative is wonder which of us will be the socialist, the unionist and the Jew to some future philosopher.
Sorry for disappearing for so long. For those who aren’t aware, on March 28th I had an ileostomy performed. As I’ve been recovering since then, I’ve had neither the energy to write nor the physical ability to sit up long enough to do so.
Of course, there were post-operative complications. My lungs, badly damaged by the chemicals at Camp Lejeune during my time there, nearly failed during surgery. To assist with breathing, I was on an interesting machine called a “bipap” for part of my recovery time. I not only had to recover from the surgery to abdomen, but also from the pneumonia I developed on the operating table. Because not being able to breathe isn’t enough of a complication, the part of my intestine that now forms my ostomy developed an annoying habit of expanding 5 to 6 inches from my skin. But that seems to be resolving itself with time; the doctors assured me that while not common it also isn’t unheard of and it isn’t particularly dangerous. Unless, of course, I run into something stomach first while that’s happening. I would prefer not to think of how messy that would be.
Still, as the saying goes, all’s well that ends well. So far, my recovery is on schedule and it’s time to get back to as much of my regular life as I can manage. I won’t be able to lift anything heavier than a milk jug for a few more weeks and I’m still adjusting to not being able to sleep on my right side. I’m not supposed to bend, twist or otherwise torque my midsection until June. On a positive note, this has been a terrific weight loss program. I’m down almost 30 pounds since the surgery.
I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to pause and thank the wonderful doctors and nurses at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. In particular, I want to thank Dr. Najia Mahmoud, Chief of Colorectal Surgery and her amazing team for their compassion and expertise. I also need to thank the nurses of the SICU, who managed to keep me comfortable and goad my recovery while also keeping my frightened family reassured and informed.
So anyway, get ready for a blizzard of posts. One of the things that happens when you spend so much time lying around is you think. A lot. Now it’s time to put those thoughts into something more substantial than a Twitter post.