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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Accepting the Unacceptable

How many times have we heard our parents say, “What is the world coming to?”? Well, I think we have our answer.

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  • The truth doesn’t matter any more.

  • Promises don’t have to be honored.

  • We are going against long held beliefs.

  • We are opening up our world to people who want to destroy us.

  • Privacy isn’t a thing.

  • We are allowing ego to take precedence over propriety.

  • Civility is no longer expected.

  • Cooperation is passe’.

  • Respect is out the window.

  • Violence is the new norm.

  • Hate thy neighbor is the new motto.

  • Laws are disregarded.

  • The constitution doesn’t mean anything.

  • Rules – what are rules?

  • Basically, anything goes.

The one thing that remains the same is that “Money Trumps Everything!”

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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?

Failing to See the Forest for the Trees

My husband and I have had many discussions about minorities and he is helping me to understand that so much anger is brought about by not having the financial, emotional and educational support necessary to achieve more. I have often made the point that we all have the same opportunities even if we have to apply for federal grant or aid money. His answer is that the passive attitude borne of oppression is passed down from parent to child resulting in lack of motivation.

Because my husband is a minority in that he is Hispanic, he does understand the struggle. We see it in different ways – I want to say “What is done cannot be undone, let’s move on.” He implies that the hurt is too deep to just dismiss.

African Americans were brought to this country against their will, enslaved, objectified and some were horribly abused, I get that. Then I look at the treatment of the Jewish at the hands of the Germans and the Japanese Americans at the hands of Americans and wonder that those two peoples have overcome anger in order to find peace within themselves.

I think it may be the way the Jewish and the Asian Americans talk to their children about the oppression they experienced. Could they be passing it on much as a history lesson expressing how they felt at the time but without bitterness? Everything I have ever read on the subject suggests such. I don’t feel bitterness today from the Jewish or Asian Americans but I do feel it from some older Americans who fought in the war against Japan. I have not let that bitterness rub off on me just as I did not allow my grandfather to turn me against African Americans.

When my husband and I have these discussions, I want to cut them short when I feel discomfort. Yet I know it is because I don’t want to acknowledge the pain that discrimination brings on everyone.

However, life does not always come out even so many of us have to work harder at accomplishments with the hands we have been dealt. We may not always get exactly where we want to go but we can get to a good place. What we want may not be what is best for us or what will make us truly happy. I don’t see a problem with being satisfied with our lives, in fact, I think we can be happier having time to stop and smell the roses and to enjoy quality time with our families making do with less rather than constantly pushing ourselves to do more, be more and have more.

So what does this have to do with discrimination? Perhaps those who of us who feel discriminated against, no matter what race, mental ability, capabilities, education, might ask ourselves if we are letting small minded people keep us down. After all, we cannot change others, we can only change how we react to them.

 

Unreasonable Fear

I grew up fearing African Americans and before you judge me as a racist, read my story.

When I was in Junior High School, schools became integrated. The African American students would stand in large groups blocking the sidewalk daring whites to try to get though them. I avoided the sidewalk. There was a small girl named Sharon who started making fun of me and I did my best to ignore her. I was not that outcast who gets bullied, I was fortunate to have many friends both male and female.

One day as I was walking to my friend’s house after school, a large group of African American students formed a circle around me. I was petrified because it was obvious that something was about to happen. Sharon moved to the center of the circle and started taunting me. She kept saying, “Push me!” over and over. I just stood still knowing that what usually happened in these situation was that if I made a move, the whole group would jump in and attack me. Another reason I wouldn’t make a move besides trying to avoid having my ass kicked was that I was appalled at girls or women fighting though I have to admit that I was a closet bully toward my sister. Luckily, one of the girls who was walking with us lived in the house in front of which I was confronted. Her mother came out and chased the group away. To be honest, I was petrified. I believe this happened because I was the only one small enough for Sharon to pick on.

Moving forward, where my friends and classmates might kid around with African American bully students, I wasn’t friendly or unfriendly toward them which was probably a downfall. In high school, a very large African American girl named Mary grabbed my windbreaker and ripped it off me which was not an easy feat. I said nothing. A small African American girl would tell me things like how she dreamed that my boyfriend’s car would get stuck on a railroad track and he would be killed. One night my best friend’s twin brother was beat with a baseball bat in the boy’s locker room after a baseball game by a group of African American students. I was friendly with some African American students but was still easily intimidated.

I had good experiences when I went into community college with fellow African American students so I started to get past my fear. Unfortunately, when I worked for a police department two African American co-workers claimed racial discrimination because I was transferred to the day watch and her friend was transferred to my previous watch in a move to separate the two friends in hopes of increasing productivity. Since I filled in a lot for people in key positions, it was considered a highly beneficial move by administration. I became stonewalled by the other clerical staff and when I asked someone why, they told me they could not go against these two girls and implied that they were afraid.

Because it was so painful to be ostracized, I requested to remain on my previous watch. The Sgt. was not happy because he told me that I was allowing myself to be bullied. The personnel manager and supervisory staff called a meeting of the clerical staff and a letter was read that one of the girls had written citing favoritism because I was white. They were upset because our administrative Sgt. used my work examples as the quality of work everyone should be putting out. In fairness, I had education and experience that was not the norm for the position. I took the job because it was something I always wanted to do. I never had to defend myself in this meeting because first of all the personnel manager offered to do some testing if they really wanted to know who was the best typist etc. Then one of my supervisors pointed out that I had been transferred from department to department continually and had never complained. There was no discrimination and it became clear in that meeting. After that meeting, things got back on a friendly basis because I didn’t hold a grudge. Shortly thereafter, one of the girls who caused the problem was fired for selling criminal records.

I worked a temp to perm job for a very difficult African American woman. She supervised six white Insurance Agents who had their own agency offices. She referred to them as “my white boys.” When I could no longer put up with her crude and rudeness, I quit though she begged me to stay. She made me uncomfortable by complimenting my looks in a creepy manner. An African American woman who had previously worked for her called me one day and wanted me to help her on her reverse discrimination suit. I declined. The agency had placed temp after temp in this woman’s office because no one would stay but I didn’t want the drama. I could have reported her for her racist remarks but I just wanted out.

These are prime examples of bullying yet I never recognized it as such until now. I saw it as being the target of anger for a past I had no part in. It is possible that these bullies were influenced by anger passed down from generation to generation and I did feel the fear that their forebears felt at being bullied by white slave lords. However, what purpose did any of it serve? It just repeated the same dance in reverse and did not solve anything for either side.

What I am learning today is that I cannot blame an entire race for the actions of some just as I am tired of being blamed for something I was not responsible for. We all just need to stop and do some deep reflection. We are allowing ourselves to be influenced by the hate groups and the support of their actions by the media putting it in our faces over and over again.

What if we just turned off our televisions in protest of being fed negativity hour after hour, day after day? What if  we stop looking at social media for a few days and depend on our own reflections? Its not like we haven’t seen enough to know what is out there. We are all being manipulated! Lets just stand up for ourselves and say, “Enough” at least for now and let things calm down.

PEACE AND LOVE

 

 

Best Trump Post Ever

I’ve decided to take out a page from Rae’s book, from Bookmark Chronicles, and start my own “rules to remember” – the only difference will be that everything I state will reside solely in facts because some people like to argue what is morally right, but facts are fucking facts. I’m tired of arguing with […]

via Carla’s Facts to Consider Number One: Racist Insults are Racist — Coalition of the Brave