A Taxonomy of Trump Tweets – from On the Media.”

On the Media is “WNYC’s weekly investigation into how the media shapes our world view. Veteran journalists Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield give you the tools to survive the media maelstrom.”

A recent segment intriguingly addresses the PEOTUS’ twitter-storm, and how the media should appropriately respond.

As we all know, Donald Trump’s tweets have become a potent force in our new era. On the one hand, a single tweet can cripple opponents, activate supporters, move markets, and subsume the news cycle. On the other, they’re a window into Trump’s wee-hours, unfiltered id. But when his tweets are full of half-truths, distortions, and often bold-faced lies, should journalists treat them as normal presidential utterances, or something else? Cognitive linguist George Lakoff believes that the press must understand how Trump uses language if we’re to responsibly report on his tweets, not just magnify their misinformation. He talks with Brooke about the categories he’s come up with for thinking about Trump tweets.

A summary of the categories:

  1. Preemptive Re-framing – Trump’s tweet stated, “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” This was rated “Pants on Fire” by Politifact, but it effectively re-frames the popular vote in the minds of those who see the tweet, thus distorting the facts in the public arena.
  2. The Diversion Tweet – This kind of tweet is akin to the magician’s misdirectional “nothing up my sleeve.” While you’re busy looking at his or her sleeve to be sure, jiggery-pokery is happening elsewhere. A good example is focusing on Hamilton, as Trump did when he tweeted “The Theater must always be a safe and special place.The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!” In this way, people focus on Hamilton rather than the $25 million settlement in the case of  fraud allegations against Trump University.
  3. The Trial Balloon – Send up something and see how the public reacts, so you’ll know what to do in the future. When Trump tweeted, “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” he watched to see how the public responded to this idea; in this case there was a brief discussion about nuclear policy which quickly faded from the public consciousness.
  4. Deflection – In which you attack the messenger. After being pointedly called out by Meryl Streep for mocking a disabled reporter, Trump attacked the messenger: “Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn’t know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes. She is a Hillary flunky who lost big. For the 100th time, I never “mocked” a disabled reporter (would never do that) but simply showed him “groveling” when he totally changed a 16 year old story that he had written in order to make me look bad. Just more very dishonest media!The video is out there; no matter how much he denies it, Trump’s actions can not be interpreted as anything other than cruel mockery of a man’s afflictions – but attacking Ms. Streep, one of the most accomplished and versatile actresses of this generation, deflect’s the public’s view from the issue at hand. This was also evident as Trump attacked Buzzfeed, CNN, and the BBC around reports on the supposed Russian dossier.

Lastly, Lakoff presents an example of a Trump tweet that uses all four strategies at once:

“Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to “leak” into the public. One last shot at me.Are we living in Nazi Germany?”

  • Pre-emptive framing: “This is fake news.”
  • Diversion – Getting the public to discuss whether or not this is fake news rather than addressing the issue itself.
  • Deflection – Attacking the messengers
  • Trial balloon – Will the intelligence agencies be stopped, and are they working like Nazi Germany?

And, of course, tucked away in the tweet is the invocation of a corollary to Godwin’s Law: In any online discussion, whoever first brings up a reference to Hitler has lost the argument, and the discussion is ended.

Lakoff’s suggestions for the press on how to handle the onslaught of 3 AM tweets, as well as the entire podcast (it’s only about 8 minutes long) are well worth the listen.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

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Warren Burger on the Second Amendment

An image has resurfaced on Facebook lately highlighting a quote from former Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger:

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I did a litte digging just to make sure this wasn’t Snopes-worthy, and it turns out that this quote came from a PBS News Hour interview in 1991 and is correctly attributed to Chief Justice Burger.

With two school shootings in two weeks, (Oregon last week, and Arizona yesterday), it seems only right to be asking questions. The article below, originally published in Parade magazine in 1990, asks some really good ones (highlighted in bold below), and I submit it here for consideration.

Article originally published at http://www.tiac.net/users/rickers/parade.htm which is no longer available.

The Right To Bear Arms

A distinguished citizen takes a stand on one of the most controversial issues in the nation

By Warren E. Burger, Chief Justice of the United States (1969-86)
Parade Magazine, January 14, 1990, page 4

Our metropolitan centers, and some suburban communities of America, are setting new records for homicides by handguns. Many of our large centers have up to 10 times the murder rate of all of Western Europe. In 1988, there were 9000 handgun murders in America. Last year, Washington, D.C., alone had more than 400 homicides — setting a new record for our capital.

The Constitution of the United States, in its Second Amendment, guarantees a “right of the people to keep and bear arms.” However, the meaning of this clause cannot be understood except by looking to the purpose, the setting and the objectives of the draftsmen. The first 10 amendments — the Bill of Rights — were not drafted at Philadelphia in 1787; that document came two years later than the Constitution. Most of the states already had bills of rights, but the Constitution might not have been ratified in 1788 if the states had not had assurances that a national Bill of Rights would soon be added.

People of that day were apprehensive about the new “monster” national government presented to them, and this helps explain the language and purpose of the Second Amendment. A few lines after the First Amendment’s guarantees — against “establishment of religion,” “free exercise” of religion, free speech and free press — came a guarantee that grew out of the deep-seated fear of a “national” or “standing” army. The same First Congress that approved the right to keep and bear arms also limited the national army to 840 men; Congress in the Second Amendment then provided:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
In the 1789 debate in Congress on James Madison’s proposed Bill of Rights, Elbridge Gerry argued that a state militia was necessary:
“to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty … Whenever governments mean to invade the rights and liberties of the people, they always attempt to destroy the militia in order to raise and army upon their ruins.”
We see that the need for a state militia was the predicate of the “right” guaranteed; in short, it was declared “necessary” in order to have a state military force to protect the security of the state. That Second Amendment clause must be read as though the word “because” was the opening word of the guarantee. Today, of course, the “state militia” serves a very different purpose. A huge national defense establishment has taken over the role of the militia of 200 years ago.

Some have exploited these ancient concerns, blurring sporting guns — rifles, shotguns and even machine pistols — with all firearms, including what are now called “Saturday night specials.” There is, of course, a great difference between sporting guns and handguns. Some regulation of handguns has long been accepted as imperative; laws relating to “concealed weapons” are common. That we may be “over-regulated” in some areas of life has never held us back from more regulation of automobiles, airplanes, motorboats and “concealed weapons.”

Let’s look at the history.

First, many of the 3.5 million people living in the 13 original Colonies depended on wild game for food, and a good many of them required firearms for their defense from marauding Indians — and later from the French and English. Underlying all these needs was an important concept that each able-bodied man in each of the 133 independent states had to help or defend his state.

The early opposition to the idea of national or standing armies was maintained under the Articles of Confederation; that confederation had no standing army and wanted none. The state militia — essentially a part-time citizen army, as in Switzerland today — was the only kind of “army” they wanted. From the time of the Declaration of Independence through the victory at Yorktown in 1781, George Washington, as the commander-in-chief of these volunteer-militia armies, had to depend upon the states to send those volunteers.

When a company of New Jersey militia volunteers reported for duty to Washington at Valley Forge, the men initially declined to take an oath to “the United States,” maintaining, “Our country is New Jersey.” Massachusetts Bay men, Virginians and others felt the same way. To the American of the 18th century, his state was his country, and his freedom was defended by his militia.

The victory at Yorktown — and the ratification of the Bill of Rights a decade later — did not change people’s attitudes about a national army. They had lived for years under the notion that each state would maintain its own military establishment, and the seaboard states had their own navies as well. These people, and their fathers and grandfathers before them, remembered how monarchs had used standing armies to oppress their ancestors in Europe. Americans wanted no part of this. A state militia, like a rifle and powder horn, was as much a part of life as the automobile is today; pistols were largely for officers, aristocrats — and dueling.

Against this background, it was not surprising that the provision concerning firearms emerged in very simple terms with the significant predicate — basing the right on the necessity for a “well regulated militia,” a state army.

In the two centuries since then — with two world wars and some lesser ones — it has become clear, sadly, that we have no choice but to maintain a standing national army while still maintaining a “militia” by way of the National Guard, which can be swiftly integrated into the national defense forces.

Americans also have a right to defend their homes, and we need not challenge that. Nor does anyone seriously question that the Constitution protects the right of hunters to own and keep sporting guns for hunting game any more than anyone would challenge the right to own and keep fishing rods and other equipment for fishing — or to own automobiles. To “keep and bear arms” for hunting today is essentially a recreational activity and not an imperative of survival, as it was 200 years ago; “Saturday night specials” and machine guns are not recreational weapons and surely are as much in need of regulation as motor vehicles.

Americans should ask themselves a few questions. The Constitution does not mention automobiles or motorboats, but the right to keep and own an automobile is beyond question; equally beyond question is the power of the state to regulate the purchase or the transfer of such a vehicle and the right to license the vehicle and the driver with reasonable standards. In some places, even a bicycle must be registered, as must some household dogs.

If we are to stop this mindless homicidal carnage, is it unreasonable:

  1. to provide that, to acquire a firearm, an application be made reciting age, residence, employment and any prior criminal convictions?
  2. to required that this application lie on the table for 10 days (absent a showing for urgent need) before the license would be issued?
  3. that the transfer of a firearm be made essentially as with that of a motor vehicle?
    to have a “ballistic fingerprint” of the firearm made by the manufacturer and filed with the license record so
  4. that, if a bullet is found in a victim’s body, law enforcement might be helped in finding the culprit?

These are the kind of questions the American people must answer if we are to preserve the “domestic tranquillity” promised in the Constitution.

What is clear is that in today’s society, the domestic tranquility is not being preserved, nor are the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness mentioned in the Declaration of Independence. School shootings appear in the news regularly, but less-reported is the daily slaughter in our inner cities and elsewhere, for example the recent murders of a dog walker and a backpacker by three drifters in California. Articles like this surface, are news for a day, and are then forgotten, and nobody seems to care that gang-bangers are killing each other and innocent bystanders with reckless abandon. For the victims of such acts of violence, somehow those inalienable rights are failing to apply, and it must stop.

The gun lobby’s interpretation of the Second Amendment can be summarized by two flags that I’ve seen flying in my own neighborhood:

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Molon Lave

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both of which echo the “cold dead hands” sentiment originated by the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and popularized by Charlton Heston.

One of my European colleagues asked, at a Facebook discussion of this issue,

You do realize that, seen from abroad, you all seem to have taken leave of your senses?

A libertarian friend of mine responded,

And from an American’s perspective, … you appear to be incredibly vulnerable.

These are the views from the polar opposites. We have to find a middle ground, and we have to stop the carnage. Not to do so is to sacrifice our humanity at the altar of death. With the words of Warren Burger ringing in my ears – and it’s to be remembered that he was a conservative justice, not a liberal one – the questions he asks appear both valid and sane.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Dear Congress: In case you forgot, reproductive freedom is the law.

In January of 2015, Washington DC approved D.C. ACT 20-593, effectively modifying the Human Rights Act of 1977 to ensure that people could not be discriminated against for their use of reproductive technologies (contraception, in-vitro fertilization, etc.). To wit:

“(c) For the purposes of this section, the term “reproductive health decisions” includes a decision by an employee, an employee’s dependent, or an employee’s spouse related to the use or intended use of a particular drug, device, or medical service, including the use or intended use of contraception or fertility control or the planned or intended initiation or termination of a pregnancy.”

On April 8th of this year, Joint Resolution H.J. Res. 43 issued by congress “disapproves” of the DC amendment.

It appears that Congress is trying to pry open the door allowing bosses to fire workers if they disagree with their employees’ reproductive choices.

Let no one think that by my posting this that I am in favor of abortion. With the exception of rare medical conditions affecting mother and/or child, or in cases of rape or incest, I sincerely wish people would opt for adoption. But until SCOTUS overturns Roe v. Wade, it’s legal, and employers have no right to discriminate against anyone for their reproductive behavior.

The ACLU may be taking things a bit too far with this article, which trumpets “Congress Just Launched Its First Strike Against Women and LGBT People Under the Guise of Defending Religious Liberty.” On the other hand, knowing how polarized the political and theological divide in this country is, they may be spot on. Only time will tell.

I could think of a hundred issues that I’d rather see Congress spending their time on.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Stacia A. Hylton, what are you going to do now?

hylton-216

This is  Stacia A. Hylton, Directorn of the US Marshals Service.

south-gate-marshal-camera.si

This is a disgraceful scumbag, identified as a US Marshal, ripping a smartphone away from a woman who was recording police about 15 feet away. In the video this was captured from, he throws the device on the ground and kicks it away.

Ms. Hylton, since you don’t provide a general contact email address, this will have to be an open letter.

This individual has brought disgrace to your entire outfit, if your training program allows such wanton behavior. Reports say that federal agents are “investigating.”

Please, in the name of all that’s holy, don’t let this event fade away with a “proper procedure was followed.” How this abuse of power is dealt with will say a lot about your administration.

I will be watching.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The Myth of “Administrative Leave”

Police-badge-generic

Every time I see an article posted about bad police behavior, someone chimes in about the officer being given “paid vacation” for his or her transgression.

It is not “paid vacation.”

Below a comment from redditor /u/thatsnotminesir, a police officer who gave a comprehensive explanation of what “administrative leave” really means, at least in his department – and it sounds like this is how it should work.

The myth I see the most of reddit is that when officers get in trouble, they just get “paid vacation.”

When an accusation of misconduct comes up, especially criminal misconduct, the officer is placed on Administrative Leave with pay. This is NOT the punishment. This is to get them off the streets while the investigation is being conducted, while at the same time, not punishing them (financially at least) until the accusations are investigated and proven.

When an accusation of Police Misconduct is investigated, there are TWO separate investigations. One is an Administrative Investigation, the other is a Criminal Investigation. They have to be separate because of Garrity.

Garrity is like the evil twin of Miranda for government employees, mostly police. After the Garrity admonitions are read to us, we MUST answer all questions, and MUST answer them truthfully. If we refuse to answer, or lie, we can be fired just for lying or refusing to answer.

That completely violates our 5th Amendment Right against self incrimination. Because of that, nothing said after Garrity can be used against us in criminal court. It can only be used in administrative actions against our employment.

Therefore, two separate investigations are conducted. An Administrative Investigation where they read us Garrity, and a Criminal Investigation where they read us Miranda. Nothing found in the administrative investigation can be used against us in the criminal, but things found in the criminal CAN be used against us in the administrative. So the criminal is usually done first, then the administrative afterwards.

Because the administrative is usually done after the criminal, that’s why it often takes time for the firing to happen, because the firing won’t happen until after the Administrative. While that seem strange to the laymen, if the Administrative was done first, and officer could say “Yeah I stole the money” under Garrity and it couldn’t be used against him in court. But if the criminal is done first, and he says “Yeah I stole the money” after Miranda, it can be used to prosecute him AND to fire him.

Once the two investigations are complete, THEN the punishment is handed down if the charges are sustained. Media articles don’t always follow up on the case, so all people read in papers is “officer got in trouble, is on paid leave.” Administrative Leave is just the beginning, not the end of the story.

Even then, the Administrative Leave isn’t fun. The take your badge and gun and you are basically on house arrest between the hours of 8am and 5pm on weekdays. You cannot leave your home without permission of your superiors, even it its just to go down the street to the bank or grocery store. You must be available to come into the office immediately at any time for questioning, polygraphs, or anything else involved in the investigation. Drink a beer? That’s consuming alcohol on duty, you’re fired. So even when officers are cleared of the charges and put back on the street, Admin. Leave still isn’t “paid vacation.”

EDIT: I did not realize the wiki explained garrity, but gave such a poor example of the admonitions, leading to some confusion. Here is a much better example.[3]

EDIT:#2 I changed the Garrity wiki link because the wiki had a very poor example of the warnings, which led to a lot of confusion. Plus the change has a lot of links to more information on garrity for those wanting to learn more about it.[4]

Here’s the original wiki[5] for those who wonder what I changed.

This was an eye-opener for me. Anyone who has watched cop shows knows about Miranda rights, but I had never heard of Garrity. The post was a good education – forever after, I will never wince the same way I used to when a news article mentions administrative leave.

There are a lot of stories in the media this year about police misconduct. That may be a good thing, but a lot of it seems like clickbait, low-hanging fruit for getting eyeballs on ads. It would be critical for our nation for every police department in the country to weed out its rotten apples and bad actors, but even if this were to happen, the number actually purged would be very small in comparison to the majority of men and women who entered law enforcement for better motives.

Let’s not forget what Jon Stewart recently said:

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“You can truly grieve for every officer who’s been lost in the line of duty in this country and still be troubled by cases of police overreach. Those two ideas are not mutually exclusive.”

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Am I Charlie? Or am I just paying lip service?

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“The Untouchables 2” – You mustn’t mock us!

In light of the recent tragedy in Paris at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a discussion sprung up on Facebook when a friend of mine, in reference to this article at the Daily Beast, asked the question, “where does humour cross the line into something rather ugly, threatening and repellent?”

I commented as below:

In some ways, Charlie Hebdo is the Westboro Baptist Church of the literary world. It’s a partially flawed analogy because WBC produces nothing positive whatsoever except hatred and misery, while Charlie Hebdo satirizes many things that deserve satire. Are they offensive? Absolutely… but then so is South Park, which show is afraid to pillory nothing. Mad and Cracked back in the 60s and 70s were very similar [1]; the French outfit simply doesn’t have the same restraints on them as American television or magazines, so they’re free to add all the crude sexual [and religious and political and social] humor they want. It may be this “crossing of the line” that some people find so offensive rather than the actual satire itself.

Nonetheless, the same principles of free speech apply here:

1) You’re free to say and publish what you want, and the government can’t come after you for it.
2) You are *not* free from the consequences of your speech.

In this sense, I agree with the thesis of the article. Charlie can be pretty nasty; just look at the comments of Dutch cartoonist Bernard Holtrop (Willem):

“We have a lot of new friends, like the pope, Queen Elizabeth and (Russian President Vladimir) Putin. It really makes me laugh,” Bernard Holtrop, whose pen name is Willem, told the Dutch centre-left daily Volkskrant.

“Marine Le Pen is delighted when the Islamists start shooting all over the place,” said Willem, 73, a longtime Paris resident who also draws for the French leftist daily Liberation.

He added: “We vomit on all these people who suddenly say they are our friends.”

The authors and cartoonists who work at Charlie Hebdo are not necessarily nice people, but they know who they are and they know the risks they are taking by being deliberately offensive. Unfortunately, this week some of them paid the price for taking those risks. This is sad, and unconscionable, and they didn’t deserve to die… but in the grand scheme of things this was not totally surprising.

I remember buying some of the first editions of Charlie when I was living in Italy in 1970. There was a parallel publication in Italian called, interestingly, “Linus.” I now wish I still had them – they’d be worth quite a bit.

As part of the discussion, another member of our community indicated she could identify with Willem’s disgust, citing the world leaders who are marching in Paris while pursuing national policies of destruction and/or oppression. And that’s a valid debate. I replied,

It is another debate entirely, and one that needs to continue. There are many who see the outpouring of support for Charlie as a good thing, others see it as superficial lip-service. And certainly, In that crowd of thousands marching in Paris, you would find thousands of reasons for being there.

In this particular case, I see Willem’s reaction (and those of many, many others in the blogosphere) as a confirmation of the axiom that reality is perception. We see things not as they are, but as we are.

Charlie Hebdo in many ways crosses the boundaries of responsible journalism into the realm of “we’re going to be assholes  just because we can.” And while that aspect of satirical organs is repugnant to many, even those not the targets of their caustic commentary, it is and must remain protected – because if you shut them down, where does the censorship stop?

What happened in Paris is a tragedy of immense significance, and it has ignited a vigorous debate on the nature and aims of the Islamic extremist movement. In these attacks some have seen more than just revenge for offensive cartoons; journalists and analysts all over the world have chimed in suggesting that the true motive was to actually inflame hatred for Islam, making it easier for the terrorist groups to recruit the uneducated and the ideologically susceptible.

In the end, Charlie Hebdo is a pretty lowbrow publication, but I will defend to the death their right to be that way (as Voltaire’s biographer stated, although not Voltaire himself) – because if I don’t, it clears the pathway to the censorship of all writing, including my own, just because it happens to offend somebody, somewhere. And by the same token, I’m free to read it or not read it, and free to choose whether or not I will be offended.

So, yes. As Albert Uderzo so elegantly said by coming out of retirement:

asterix-jesuischarlie

“I’m Charlie too.”

The Old Wolf has spoken.


[1] Check out this tasteful ad for a revival of Disney’s Snow White from Mad’s December, 1970 issue:

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John Cleese to quit movie making

And that’s sad. But in a larger sense, there is a time and a season for everything.

Cleese’s announcement was made public in The Mirror, reflecting comments made at a promotional event at the Cheltenham Literary Festival at which time he said in typical style, “I have only got five or six years left and I will be gone – I won’t have to worry about ISIS or Ebola, I am looking forward to it.”

A few more years and I'm outta here

Sorta the same sentiment as the above, although the honored Mr. Cleese is nowhere near this decrepit. He’s 74, about 11 years older than myself, and I’m looking forward to as many good years as I can squeeze out of this body before I have completed my work on this earth. But there comes a time when one is ready.

Just recently someone pointed me to Cleese’s wonderful eulogy at Graham Chapman’s memorial service:

Should I be fortunate enough to outlive John Cleese – we never really know when the bus will come for us, after all – I will be most curious to see if someone can eulogize him in the same irreverent manner or as appropriately.

Of interest was a comment that Cleese made revealing that the Python team were never “huge friends”.

John said: “The key to understanding Python now is we have all driven off in completely different directions. Michael [Palin], as you know, makes those travel programs that I put on any time I can’t sleep. Eric Idle is very good at lyrics so he is writing songs. Terry Gilliam is off trying to raise money for one of his plotless ­extravaganzas. And Jonesy [Terry] is just insane – he writes children’s books and recently went to Lisbon and directed an opera about vacuum cleaners.”

Their recent reunion and grand farewell in London is an event that I was very sad not to be able to attend. These gentlemen, Chapman included, brought me many a belly-laugh and much joy in the theater of the absurd. While all of them but Chapman are still with us, in ten years or so, most of them will probably have gone on to the grand cheese shop in the sky. And I may be there with them; I hope they have some of that Venezuelan beaver cheese available.

The Old Wolf has spoken.