In Defense of Truth and the Media

Arizona Senator Jeff Flake gave a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday, delivering his message to President Trump that assaults on the media and freedom of speech have the potential to cause damage beyond America’s borders. The speech comes on the same day that Mr. Trump says he will announce a set of “Fake News Awards,” addressing what he sees as bias in the mainstream media.

The full transcript of Senator Flake’s comments, as prepared for delivery, appear below.  


Mr. President, near the beginning of the document that made us free, our Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote: “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” So, from our very beginnings, our freedom has been predicated on truth. The founders were visionary in this regard, understanding well that good faith and shared facts between the governed and the government would be the very basis of this ongoing idea of America.

As the distinguished former member of this body, Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, famously said: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” During the past year, I am alarmed to say that Senator Moynihan’s proposition has likely been tested more severely than at any time in our history.

It is for that reason that I rise today, to talk about the truth, and its relationship to democracy. For without truth, and a principled fidelity to truth and to shared facts, Mr. President, our democracy will not last.

2017 was a year which saw the truth – objective, empirical, evidence-based truth — more battered and abused than any other in the history of our country, at the hands of the most powerful figure in our government. It was a year which saw the White House enshrine “alternative facts” into the American lexicon, as justification for what used to be known simply as good old-fashioned falsehoods. It was the year in which an unrelenting daily assault on the constitutionally-protected free press was launched by that same White House, an assault that is as unprecedented as it is unwarranted. “The enemy of the people,” was what the president of the United States called the free press in 2017.

Mr. President, it is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own president uses words infamously spoken by Josef Stalin to describe his enemies. It bears noting that so fraught with malice was the phrase “enemy of the people,” that even Nikita Khrushchev forbade its use, telling the Soviet Communist Party that the phrase had been introduced by Stalin for the purpose of “annihilating such individuals” who disagreed with the supreme leader.

This alone should be a source of great shame for us in this body, especially for those of us in the president’s party. For they are shameful, repulsive statements. And, of course, the president has it precisely backward – despotism is the enemy of the people. The free press is the despot’s enemy, which makes the free press the guardian of democracy. When a figure in power reflexively calls any press that doesn’t suit him “fake news,” it is that person who should be the figure of suspicion, not the press.

I dare say that anyone who has the privilege and awesome responsibility to serve in this chamber knows that these reflexive slurs of “fake news” are dubious, at best. Those of us who travel overseas, especially to war zones and other troubled areas around the globe, encounter members of U.S. based media who risk their lives, and sometimes lose their lives, reporting on the truth.  To dismiss their work as fake news is an affront to their commitment and their sacrifice.

According to the International Federation of Journalists, 80 journalists were killed in 2017, and a new report from the Committee to Protect Journalists documents that the number of journalists imprisoned around the world has reached 262, which is a new record. This total includes 21 reporters who are being held on “false news” charges.

Mr. President, so powerful is the presidency that the damage done by the sustained attack on the truth will not be confined to the president’s time in office.  Here in America, we do not pay obeisance to the powerful – in fact, we question the powerful most ardently – to do so is our birthright and a requirement of our citizenship — and so, we know well that no matter how powerful, no president will ever have dominion over objective reality.

No politician will ever get to tell us what the truth is and is not. And anyone who presumes to try to attack or manipulate the truth to his own purposes should be made to realize the mistake and be held to account. That is our job here. And that is just as Madison, Hamilton, and Jay would have it.

Of course, a major difference between politicians and the free press is that the press usually corrects itself when it gets something wrong. Politicians don’t.

No longer can we compound attacks on truth with our silent acquiescence. No longer can we turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to these assaults on our institutions.  And Mr. President, an American president who cannot take criticism – who must constantly deflect and distort and distract – who must find someone else to blame — is charting a very dangerous path. And a Congress that fails to act as a check on the president adds to the danger.

Now, we are told via twitter that today the president intends to announce his choice for the “most corrupt and dishonest” media awards. It beggars belief that an American president would engage in such a spectacle. But here we are.

And so, 2018 must be the year in which the truth takes a stand against power that would weaken it. In this effort, the choice is quite simple. And in this effort, the truth needs as many allies as possible. Together, my colleagues, we are powerful. Together, we have it within us to turn back these attacks, right these wrongs, repair this damage, restore reverence for our institutions, and prevent further moral vandalism.

Together, united in the purpose to do our jobs under the Constitution, without regard to party or party loyalty, let us resolve to be allies of the truth — and not partners in its destruction.

It is not my purpose here to inventory all of the official untruths of the past year. But a brief survey is in order. Some untruths are trivial – such as the bizarre contention regarding the crowd size at last year’s inaugural.

But many untruths are not at all trivial – such as the seminal untruth of the president’s political career – the oft-repeated conspiracy about the birthplace of President Obama. Also not trivial are the equally pernicious fantasies about rigged elections and massive voter fraud, which are as destructive as they are inaccurate – to the effort to undermine confidence in the federal courts, federal law enforcement, the intelligence community and the free press, to perhaps the most vexing untruth of all – the supposed “hoax” at the heart of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

To be very clear, to call the Russia matter a “hoax” – as the president has many times – is a falsehood. We know that the attacks orchestrated by the Russian government during the election were real and constitute a grave threat to both American sovereignty and to our national security.  It is in the interest of every American to get to the bottom of this matter, wherever the investigation leads.

Ignoring or denying the truth about hostile Russian intentions toward the United States leaves us vulnerable to further attacks. We are told by our intelligence agencies that those attacks are ongoing, yet it has recently been reported that there has not been a single cabinet-level meeting regarding Russian interference and how to defend America against these attacks. Not one. What might seem like a casual and routine untruth – so casual and routine that it has by now become the white noise of Washington – is in fact a serious lapse in the defense of our country.

Mr. President, let us be clear. The impulses underlying the dissemination of such untruths are not benign. They have the effect of eroding trust in our vital institutions and conditioning the public to no longer trust them. The destructive effect of this kind of behavior on our democracy cannot be overstated.

Mr. President, every word that a president utters projects American values around the world. The values of free expression and a reverence for the free press have been our global hallmark, for it is our ability to freely air the truth that keeps our government honest and keeps a people free. Between the mighty and the modest, truth is the great leveler. And so, respect for freedom of the press has always been one of our most important exports.

But a recent report published in our free press should raise an alarm. Reading from the story:

“In February…Syrian President Bashar Assad brushed off an Amnesty International report that some 13,000 people had been killed at one of his military prisons by saying, “You can forge anything these days, we are living in a fake news era.”

In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte has complained of being “demonized” by “fake news.” Last month, the report continues, with our President, quote “laughing by his side” Duterte called reporters “spies.”

In July, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro complained to the Russian propaganda outlet, that the world media had “spread lots of false versions, lots of lies” about his country, adding, “This is what we call ‘fake news’ today, isn’t it?”

There are more:

“A state official in Myanmar recently said, “There is no such thing as Rohingya. It is fake news,” referring to the persecuted ethnic group.  

Leaders in Singapore, a country known for restricting free speech, have promised “fake news” legislation in the new year.”

And on and on. This feedback loop is disgraceful, Mr. President. Not only has the past year seen an American president borrow despotic language to refer to the free press, but it seems he has in turn inspired dictators and authoritarians with his own language. This is reprehensible.

We are not in a “fake news” era, as Bashar Assad says. We are, rather, in an era in which the authoritarian impulse is reasserting itself, to challenge free people and free societies, everywhere.

In our own country, from the trivial to the truly dangerous, it is the range and regularity of the untruths we see that should be cause for profound alarm, and spur to action. Add to that the by-now predictable habit of calling true things false, and false things true, and we have a recipe for disaster.  As George Orwell warned, “The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it.”

Any of us who have spent time in public life have endured news coverage we felt was jaded or unfair. But in our positions, to employ even idle threats to use laws or regulations to stifle criticism is corrosive to our democratic institutions. Simply put: it is the press’s obligation to uncover the truth about power. It is the people’s right to criticize their government. And it is our job to take it.

What is the goal of laying siege to the truth? President John F. Kennedy, in a stirring speech on the 20th anniversary of the Voice of America, was eloquent in answer to that question:

“We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.”

Mr. President, the question of why the truth is now under such assault may well be for historians to determine. But for those who cherish American constitutional democracy, what matters is the effect on America and her people and her standing in an increasingly unstable world — made all the more unstable by these very fabrications. What matters is the daily disassembling of our democratic institutions.

 We are a mature democracy – it is well past time that we stop excusing or ignoring – or worse, endorsing — these attacks on the truth. For if we compromise the truth for the sake of our politics, we are lost. 

 I sincerely thank my colleagues for their indulgence today. I will close by borrowing the words of an early adherent to my faith that I find has special resonance at this moment. His name was John Jacques, and as a young missionary in England he contemplated the question: “What is truth?” His search was expressed in poetry and ultimately in a hymn that I grew up with, titled “Oh Say, What is Truth.” It ends as follows:

“Then say, what is truth? ‘Tis the last and the first,

For the limits of time it steps o’er.

Tho the heavens depart and the earth’s fountains burst.

Truth, the sum of existence, will weather the worst,

Eternal… unchanged… evermore.”

Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.

CBS NEWS

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Impeach Donald Trump Campaign

I recently signed a petition to Impeach Donald Trump. I am not advocating that anyone follow in my footsteps, I am just passing along information to anyone who might be interested.

Because I signed the petition on their website, I received the following about the latest development in the campaign to Impeach Donald Trump which reads as follows:

In a unanimous vote, the City Council of Richmond, California, approved our resolution to become the first city to call on Congress to launch an impeachment investigation of President Trump.

Last night, two more communities just approved our resolution.

The citizens of Alameda, California brought our resolution before their city council, which unanimously supported it. And in Charlotte, Vermont, Town Meeting members voted for our resolution. The momentum is growing, and we are counting on people like you to jumpstart this movement at the local level.

After we announced Richmond’s win, many of you emailed us asking for ways to bring this resolution to your city and state. To get you started, we added a new page to our website with resources and materials to pass a model resolution in your community.

Here’s a quick overview of what we posted to download and share:

A PDF of Our Model Resolution
A PDF of Our Guide for Local and State Resolutions in Support of Impeachment
A one-page flyer about our campaign
You can reach out directly to resolution@impeachdonaldtrumpnow.org
New videos sharing campaign news, here
We also shared materials provided by our allies working in Alameda, California. As this campaign continues to grow, we will add new tools for you to use in your own organizing. We are frequently updating our “News & Updates” section and our “Resources” page, so be sure to check back in. Please reach out to us with your progress and any questions you may have.

Here are some suggestions for next-steps you can take on your own:

Look up your representative, decide if it makes the most sense to reach out to your state or local officials. Remember, it’s ok to start small.
Don’t be shy! Connect in person with your friends, neighbors, co-workers, students, religious leaders, family members. Find a meeting place, and start talking.
Follow-Up! Find a way to keep in touch with everyone. Gather email addresses and phone numbers. Create an online group with tools like Facebook, Slack.com, Patch.com, Google Groups, and Yahoo Groups.
Keep us in the know! Email us your questions and updates via: resolution@impeachdonaldtrumpnow.org
You are so critical to this campaign! If we work together, we can build further pressure on our Representatives to introduce this resolution before Congress.

We’re on our way! Let’s keep it up!

All of us at Impeach Donald Trump Now
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Stark Reality

I  have a way of looking at the world through eyes that see past the obvious. In other words, I am a deep thinker. I call it common sense.

In the last Presidential race, there was a lot of voicing the desire for more “excitement” in the media and on the street.  Believe it or not, the consensus was that it had  all become boring. That desire has come to fruition big time and even I have gotten caught up in it.

As I watched the debate last night, I experienced a combination of excitement and dread. I am on a roller coaster! One minute I am elated and the next I am pissed and the next I am overcome with a feeling of sadness. I haven’t decided what I will do with my vote though I know what I won’t do. I have tried to be open minded yet I find myself swayed by the Dump Trump” and  “Trump Dump” campaigns.

I have tried to jump off the “Anyone But Trump” train but when I lean out the door, I find myself back on the top step. It has been said that we are not electing the man, we are electing a leader. I don’t want a leader who is a deplorable man and honestly, I am scared of the future as we get closer to election day. As I write this, I find myself crying for what has been and what could be coming.

When I heard it said that Obama was like Hitler, I thought that it was ridiculous and inflamed rhetoric. I am saying now and I will stand behind my opinion that if the statements Trump throws out are honestly his beliefs, we are in deep trouble. Furthermore, we can kiss the good in the country we know goodbye. I understand the need for moving in a different direction but I don’t think he is the person to take us there.

There is no need to go into all the reasons for my feelings about Trump, we have all seen the evidence over and over and either you see it or you don’t. My pointing out the pitfalls will not open anyone’s eyes at this point. I will say that what I am seeing in most Trump supporters is desperation and while I have compassion for their situations,  making a decision out of desperation is never good.

*The purpose of this post is to express my thoughts and feelings, not to convince anyone else as to how they they should cast their vote in the Presidential race.

 

Beyond the Political Stage

Oddly, I found myself in tears as I read an article about how the Trump campaign had a plan to have 3 women who accused Bill Clinton of sexual improprieties towards them confront him on national television.

This is not the first time I have experienced this sadness throughout this campaign as I watch the negativity increase. I am very uncomfortable with the cruel remarks thrown at Hilary Clinton. I don’t know if it is because I have read her book and followed her personal life or if it is just discomfort at all she is and is not. I see her downfalls but I am able to set those aside and see her as a strong woman. I cannot dismiss all the positive she has done. There was a time that I saw her as a selfish manipulative woman when she and her husband left the White House taking the furniture with them.

Looking past her sense of entitlement I see the woman who I have found truly loves her husband with all his faults. She has been publicly humiliated so many times and has held her head up and gone forward. She has sacrificed her right to be seen as a mother, wife and friend in order to do what she has the talent to do to help her country and everyone in it.

Hilary is being criticized for the way she has confronted her husband’s infidelity and the women involved but I ask myself what it would be like to be in her shoes. Many women would behave as she did but they wouldn’t be in the public arena.

What do I feel about Bill Clinton? He has also done a lot for our country but he has a sickness that I find repulsive. There was a time that I thought Hilary only stayed with Bill because they had a deal, “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” I don’t know if that is the case but I think that she loves him in a way that he is not capable of returning.” Having had the opportunity to show his love for her, he only lifts her up as a humanitarian and politician. He doesn’t show or express his love for her in a way that would show the soft side of her. Has she just been a means to an end? He is like a child who has to be controlled and when he is let out to play, his lack of finesse shows. To me, he’s like the husband of a friend that you just put up with for her sake.

Hilary is in a “no win” situation with regard to her personality. If she shows her soft side, she is too soft to be President and when she shows her business side, she isn’t soft enough. When she missteps, the world is there to see. Am I voting for her? I don’t know but I know that as tempted as I have been with all Trump’s promises, I cannot see past him as a person. I can’t see myself voting for him for anything. I have never admired him throughout my life so why would I support him?

Why the tears? I think perhaps all this brings up the sadness of my childhood involving infidelity and chaos. Additionally, it is because when we dismiss political correctness, we are left with such ugliness and lack of compassion, anything goes. I am starting to see the days of chaos and no credible laws of the Roman Empire returning.

It is my belief that the reason the USA is desirable is that we were at least organized and had a sense of decorum. The Unites States was seen as a strong country and I see it weakening on all levels as every day goes by. When anything goes, will we survive as a united country?

Paranoia

being lost

If you read my post “Running Away”, you know that I was sure that I had deeply hurt a blogger friend. I took nonverbal cues and ran with them only to find that my friend was just busy and having device difficulty. They were very kind when they realized what was going on with me. The very first comment they ever made to me was that I was welcome to make any comment on their site and this was reiterated. They assured me that if they had a concern, they would ask for clarification. I am sharing this with you as a follow up to my post “Running Away”.

So why did I jump to such a conclusion? Because I have a strong tendency to be paranoid and it has caused negativity in my life. I believe that this paranoia could also be a tendency to want control over others’ feelings and opinions of me. I can remember the first time I realized as a twenty-something that not everyone was going to like me. A friend and co-worker said to me, “Well, she doesn’t like you either.” I was so totally shocked but I think it was meant as a wake-up call.

The problem has been in acceptance as I still try to control what others think of me. In Ala-non, we have a saying that goes, “What other people think of me is none of my business.” Yes, it is a hard one to understand and it has taken me a long time. To me, it is about control and keeping the focus on myself. Additionally, if I am focusing on what others think of me, I am not giving myself permission to be who and what I am.

I most often feel as if I have to make explanations for what I do or say. Does it work? No, most often it just makes me appear defensive (which I am) and annoys and/or embarrasses the other person. While it may make me feel justified, it is just another example of making excuses.

I have been taught by Ala-non to make amends when I do someone a disservice. My amends would mean more if I just simply apologized without explanation or excuses. When I make explanations or excuses, it pretty much negates the amends.

My paranoia goes along with my need to know and control everything that goes on around me in order to feel safe. I also grew up with a “what will people think” mother who was the “poor relation” growing up. Just another example of how traits get passed down. Having lived this way all my life, it is difficult but not impossible to change. It takes not allowing myself to obsess on remarks and actions of others but instead to talk things out or ask questions, learn from my mistakes and move on.

Running Away

When I hurt someone, I have difficulty coming to terms with it. How do I handle it? I run away. I think that I need to protect that person from me. I have been doing this over and over again for the past 20 years.

My intention to stop blogging was due to my feeling sure that I had hurt a friend blogger deeply with a comment. I reached out to them and haven’t heard back. Why am I telling you this? Because having done a lot of deep introspection, I have come to believe that the child in me runs away but the adult needs to face up to her transgressions. This isn’t the first time that I believe I have hurt a fellow blogger. Fortunately, I have been able to make immediate amends yet this goes very deep for both of us because we make ourselves vulnerable in our blogging.

So what is the answer? I can hope that my friend will eventually be able to confront me. Regardless, I think I need to do as I have had to do in the past and hold my head up and keep putting one foot in front of the other until the child in me can forgive herself.

To my other fellow bloggers, please know that though it has never been my intention to hurt or offend, I may have. Please understand that it is never my intention to hurt anyone. I am a compassionate person with a quick Irish temper who is very opinionated because I am a deep thinker. My take on situations is often very hard to understand but know that I have taken apart every situation and analyzed it to death. I have to look at all sides because that is my nature. I try to be fair in my assessments and have a tendency to be overly honest.

That being said, I try to help when help hasn’t been asked for. Reaching out is not always a bad thing but as I have stated before, ask first if help is desired. When I started blogging, I had no idea what direction it would take, it just happens. It has been a good tool for me to come to terms with my past. I do want to spend more time educating myself and going in a different direction with my writing. Therefore, I will be cutting back on my blogging. I will also be refraining from comments in order to take away the gifts offered in your posts without making it about me. Yes, it will be difficult for me but I have to pull up my big girl panties and learn to be courteous in my blogging.

Yes, I do know that there are bloggers who have gained from my writing as I have gained from theirs which is why I am returning to my blog. I hope you will understand.

😍

From My Mother Part Two

Before I left Texas, my mother gave me the gift of a calendar with these beautiful words to remind me of her love for me, I am now re-gifting them to you.

5939322-a-portrait-of-a-happy-mother-and-daughter-drinking-coffee-outdoor

A mother tries to teach her daughter

to not be afraid to stick to her beliefs

to not follow the majority when the majority is wrong

to carefully plan a life for herself

to vigorously follow her chosen path

to enter into a relationship with someone worthy of herself

to love this person unconditionally with her body and mind

to share all that she has learned in life with this person

If I have provided you with insight

into most of these things

then I have succeeded as a mother

in what I hoped to accomplish in raising you

if many of these things slipped by

while we were all so busy

I have a feeling that you know them anyway

One thing I am sure of, though

I have taught you to be proud of the fact

that you are a woman equal to all men and

I have loved you every second of your life

I have supported you at all times

and as a mother, as a person, and as a friend

I will always continue to cherish and love

everything about you

my beautiful daughter

Susan Polis Schutz

From My Mother Part One

Before I left Texas, my mother gave me the gift of a calendar with these beautiful words to remind me of her love for me, I am now re-gifting them to you.

6610590-Mother-and-teenage-daughter-relaxing-at-home-in-white-living-room-Stock-Photo

A mother tries to provide her daughter with insight

Into the important things in life

In order to make her life

as happy and fulfilling as possible

A mother tries to teach her daughter

to be good, always helpful to other people

to be fair, always treating others equally

to have a positive attitude at all times

to always make things right when they are wrong

to know herself well

to know what her talents are

to set goals for herself

to not be afraid of working too hard

to reach her goals

A mother tries to teach her daughter

to have many interest to pursue

to laugh and have fun every day

to appreciate the beauty of nature

to enter into friendships with good people

to honor their friendships and always be a true friend

to appreciate the importance of the family

and to particularly respect and love our elder members

to use her intelligence at all times

to listen to her emotions to adhere to her values…

Susan Polis Schutz

Continued Part Two

 

Birth Control

Whose responsibility is birth control? I have a controversial opinion on the subject in that I believe it is a woman’s ultimate responsibility to protect herself from pregnancy. Sure, a man should always use a condom in a situation to protect himself from an unplanned pregnancy and/or STD’S. However, I also believe that a man should be able to trust a woman when she says she is on birth control. We have been given a right to choose but men have not. If a woman decides she wants a child, she is free to get pregnant and the man is expected to financially support the child even though he was not part of the choice. How can a man turn his back on his child once it is borne? If he does, he is considered a dead beat dad but often it was not a good time for him financially and he was not prepared emotionally. As long as it is consensual sex, both parties should be in agreement as to whether a pregnancy is an option.

When I hear of celebrity women who get pregnant while in a relationship, I wonder if the man was part of the decision to have a child. The man is a public figure so not only does he not have a choice but to refuse to acknowledge the child becomes tabloid fodder.

I know women who decided they wanted a child and never discussed it with the man and because they were good responsible men, they stepped up though it put them in financial or emotional difficulty. There have been women from generation to generation who have used pregnancy as a “trap”. As Dr. Phil says: “The child is born with a job and that job is to be the glue that keeps the couple together”

A Woman’s Choice

You probably think I am writing about abortion but that’s not what is on my mind today or is it?
I am writing about women choosing a man over their  child. Again, I am not talking about abortion though often it would have been a better choice. I have seen it, read it and heard it over and over again…a child tells their mother that her boyfriend or husband abused or molested them and you would expect her to become protective of her child and take action against the man, wouldn’t you? But what she does all too often is to go into denial or even turn against her child, calling them a liar.

Why? Because she is desperate to have a man. Why? Because family and society said she had to depend emotionally on a man or because she is as addicted to this guy as if he were a drug. So this child who believed his mother loved him or at least cared what happens to him, is dumped on other family members or into the foster care system. He’s thrown away like yesterday’s garbage.

That’s if the mother hasn’t joined in the fun. When she does, the child lives from day to day wishing someone would see him, really see his pain inside and out. If they tell, they will have no one or at least that is what they believe.

Would it have been better if they had not been born? That is what that child thinks they want…never to have been born.