Twitter has sued Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, saying he retaliated against the company by opening an investigation into the company’s content moderation practices after it banned former President Donald Trump from its platform in the days following the Capitol riot.
Representative Devin Nunes (R-CA) saw a lawsuit he brought against Twitter demanding that the social media titan reveal the identities of individuals who created parody accounts about him get tossed out by a federal judge. The parody accounts included “Devin Nunes’ Cow” and “Devin Nunes’ Mom.”
Nunes “seeks to have to court treat Twitter as the publisher or speaker of the content provided by others based on its allowing or not allowing certain content to be on its internet platform,” wrote Virginia Judge John Marshall in his ruling. “The court refuses to do so.”
“Devin Nunes’ Cow” reacted to the news online with a tweet: “The herd responded to Devin’s loss in court today.”
— Devin Nunes’ cow 🐮 (@DevinCow) June 24, 2020
President Donald Trump, who has weathered criticism for deciding to use tear gas to clear peaceful protesters for a photo-op in front of St. John’s Church in Washington, D.C., doubled down on the decision, writing on Twitter that the National Guard “could hardly believe how easy it was” to follow his order.
Our great National Guard Troops who took care of the area around the White House could hardly believe how easy it was,” Trump wrote, while purporting to quote one member who allegedly called the action “a walk in the park.”
“The protesters, agitators, anarchists (ANTIFA), and others, were handled VERY easily by the Guard, D.C. Police, & S.S. GREAT JOB!” he continued.
Our great National Guard Troops who took care of the area around the White House could hardly believe how easy it was. “A walk in the park”, one said. The protesters, agitators, anarchists (ANTIFA), and others, were handled VERY easily by the Guard, D.C. Police, & S.S. GREAT JOB!
Republicans found another means of enriching religion with taxpayer dollars meant to aid Americans suffering the horrid effects of Trump’s plague and economic devastation.
When filthy rich, and highly-unqualified, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos began her quest to shift all taxpayer dollars intended for public education to private, for-profit religious schools, evangelicals and Republicans were ecstatic. After all, money allocated to sustain small businesses ravaged by Trump’s plague and economic disaster was just recently handed over to churches and clergy even though those institutions pay no taxes because they claim they are not businesses.
Apparently it was not enough to use coronavirus stimulus dollars to support churches and clergy at the expense of struggling small businesses, so DeVos made sure that even more taxpayer dollars were given to private religious schools.
Particularly exciting to the evangelical Republican sect was DeVos’ stated intent that as Education Secretary she would reform the public education system to “advance god’s kingdom.” Of course her secondary goal was robbing funding intended for public schools to give for-profit corporate schools the keys to the education budget vault, but it is noteworthy that no small number of those private schools are founded and run by evangelicals.
DeVos’ theft of taxpayer dollars fulfills both of her goals and one can only imagine that the religious Republican cult and dirty Don Trump are celebrating another fleecing of the taxpayers; especially because the theft involves hurting the poor to advance religion.
When Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), it designated billions for public schools to be distributed to public school districts based on the number of low-income students they enroll. However, DeVos ignored the congressional mandate and issued a directive from the Department of Education ordering that the money belongs to private and religious school students; despite the fact that fewer than 5% of those children are poor.
Even before Trump single-handedly decimated the economy, children in low-income neighborhoods were disadvantaged because they, and their school districts, lacked the resources to participate in digital learning opportunities. Democrats in the House understood the dilemma and appropriated funds in the CARES stimulus bill to aid those students in low-income school districts with equipment and Internet access to continue learning while schools were closed.
Those funds, like the funds meant to assist small businesses suffering Trump’s economic disaster, were prime for theft by the likes of DeVos who seized on the opportunity to steal those funds and transfer them directly to private religious schools as an integral part of using taxpayer dollars to “
advance god’s kingdom.
The deadly cost of religious liberty in America is finally being manifest, and it is a cost many evangelicals believe the public must pay.
No small number of evangelical clergy are now claiming their religious freedom is essential and supersedes states’ “stay-at-home” orders meant to halt coronavirus transmission. Predictably, several Republican governors agree and claim that in-person church services are just as essential as acquiring life-sustaining food and medical care. It is a novel cause célèbre– even for evangelical fanatics.
That kind of religious freedom is not only exacerbating the spread of the deadly COVID-19, it demonstrates that “the faithful” are not pro-life in any sense whatsoever. Oh it is true that evangelicals, Republicans, and their Catholic puppet-masters are pro-zygote, but they are not pro-life. If they were pro-life, then they would not only desist from endangering the lives of their evangelical fellows and families, they would avoid spreading a virulent plague to the people in their communities.
Over the course of the past couple of decades the Constitution’s guarantee of “religious freedom” has taken on a meaning far beyond what the Founding Fathers and Constitution’s framers intended; now it poses a serious threat to Americans’ lives.
Despite warnings from health experts and most government officials to abstain from community gatherings in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, far too many evangelicals claim their “religious freedom” exempts them from any mitigation efforts. In fact, no small number of states’ governors exempted churches from having to comply with “stay at home” directives because those in-person services are considered “essential.” They are also considered protected under the religious clauses in the 1st Amendment regardless the threat to human life.
The so-called “religious clauses” in the Constitution’s First Amendment are not as broad in scope as religious right control freaks and Republicans contend; they were never intended to provide the fanatical faithful with authority over the government or other Americans. That is particularly true regarding matters of life and death of innocent civilians.
Few sane Americans would dispute the fact that the religious right and their Republican facilitators have used the 1st Amendment’s religious clauses as a cudgel to deprive other Americans of their constitutionally-protected freedoms, with particular emphasis on women and the LGBTQ community. The religious right, Republicans, and conservatives on the Supreme Court have embraced a vile interpretation of religious liberty that now threatens other Americans’ lives.
It is relatively well-reported that evangelical clergy are boasting that regardless of their respective states’ stay-at-home and social distancing orders, they are Hell-bent on defying medical experts, and common sense, to maliciously endanger human life. One cannot help but believe the defiant clergy are relishing their new-found celebrity, because celebrity brings in big money and greater influence over Republicans running America.
There is scant reporting on exactly how many defiant evangelicals are deliberate vectors for the novel coronavirus, especially in Republican religious states, but there is one prime example of precisely why defying stay-at-home rules for in-person church services recklessly endangers innocent civilians’ lives.
In California, the first state to issue stay-at-home orders, seventy-plus defiant “worshipers” from one congregation tested positive for COVID-19. There is no telling how many thousands of people they infected in their respective communities.
As reported here, the 3,000 member church in a Sacramento suburb reported that 71 members who live in Sacramento County have tested positive, and even more members who live in surrounding counties also have confirmed cases. Those cases include the church’s senior pastor who is hospitalized with the virus. Two other pastors were described as “critically ill” by another pastor who joined the senior pastor in a video message to the faithful. The pastor said:
“We have many different people in our church, they are ill, so we need to pray. We need to intervene. God will hear us, and he will heal us.”
No, god is not going to heal you any more than evangelicals and clergy who claim that because they are “washed in Jesus’ blood,” they cannot be infected or die. That was the consensus belief of an Ohio congregation according to a video of a news reporter interviewing congregants and the cult’s pastor. The pastor claimed positively that no-one in his congregation was infected because as the pastor, he would know – no need for testing.
Now, as one expected, several evangelical leaders and their onward Christian soldiers in the Republican movement are flexing their theocratic muscle to protect the faithful regardless the threat to the general population.
After a defiant pastor in Lodi California was greeted by police and blocked from entering the building because the landlord changed the locks to prevent fanatics from spreading the virus, all Hell broke loose and Christian lawyers were summoned. In what is certain be a recurring scenario nation wide, the defiant church “retained a lawyer from the conservative Christian National Center for Law & Policy” to announce the church would continue defying the rules now and in the future.
The church’s lawyer “sent a six-page cease-and-desist letter to the City of Lodi claiming the police had disrupted a peaceful and lawful worship service.” The conservative Christian law firm told the city and its law enforcement officers to respect the church’s religious freedom because the in-person services would not stop.
“The church intends to meet this Sunday, and all future Wednesdays and Sundays in the future.”
In another instance of deadly religious freedom, three preachers and a rabid anti-LGBTQ Republican activist filed a lawsuit over restrictions on in-person worship services. The four religious fanatics demand that the Texas Supreme Court strike down a local restriction on in-person religious gatherings because it violates the pastors’ religious liberty; they need to gather their parishioners together during a pandemic – likely to keep in-person donations rolling in.
In Kansas, the Republican legislature voted to revoke the Governor’s order restricting gatherings over 10 because, despite the threat of spreading the coronavirus, Republicans want “religious leaders to congregate freely on Easter Sunday.” The far-right Republican leader of the Kansas Senate claimed that by limiting the size of church gatherings, the Governor’s stay-at-home order was an attack on religious freedom.
It is noteworthy that evangelical clergy claim, despite the threat to human life, that since they have a command from their god, “there are no governing bodies that can tell us we cannot worship and gather freely.” What the idiot preachers conveniently ignore is that their biblical god also commands evangelicals to obey the government, and pay taxes.
It is remarkable, really, that a majority of religious groups are reluctantly adhering to mitigation efforts, despite the loss of their tax-free revenue. For dog’s sake, even most Catholic churches are showing a bit of Christian compassion during their most hallowed holiday season and following the rules.
It is abominable that evangelical clergy are willing to sacrifice their own congregants’ health, including the fanatic in Louisiana who said that if his parishioners “die after contracting COVID-19, it’s a worthy sacrifice for god and freedom;” and likely Trump. The preacher, Tony Spell said that “true Christians do not mind dying from the coronavirus;” especially in the name of religious freedom and opposition to a
Donald Trump showed us why whistleblowers need protection. He all but ordered a hit on the whistleblower who exposed his shakedown of the Ukraine and more when it became all too clear that his presidency is cooked.
His defenders will continue to insist that Trump ust does things differently. But here’s the reality: every president’s words matter. Even when that president is a narcissist with delusions of grandeur and has supporters who would rather quit than grow a spine.
Trump said the whistleblower is like a spy and nod, nod, wink, wink, and back when we were smart, you know what we did to spies. When Michael Cohen said Trump speaks in code, he was right. Even after three years of reading his tweets, listening to his speeches, I understand exactly what he means. I’ll bet those supporters who spend more time at “MAGA” rallies than with family know exactly what he means, too. Then there are the people who aren’t the most stable who are darn sure that Trump can walk on water and would do literally anything to “protect” him – even murder.
The deaths that were “inspired” by Trump’s words present an additional concern for the whistleblower, their family, and the people who are representing him or her. They know it. Trump is probably counting on it to keep anyone else in line who might get the idea that being patriotic means exposing his impeachable and/or criminal acts to public scrutiny.
I’ll bet the whistleblower is regretting the day she or he learned the things that made it absolutely necessary to go through the right channels to report their concerns. If they hadn’t known, there would have been no difficult position to regret being in. Hopefully, they’ll have solace in knowing they are doing the right thing by their country.
Trump is terrified primarily because no matter how much spin he throws at this, he can’t undo the fact that his initial response corroborated the whistleblower’s concerns.
Since the whistleblower came forward with news that will lead to Donald Trump’s impeachment, everyone wants to unmask them. Trump wants to charge them with treason. Some just want to be the first – for the clicks or if it’s television, the ratings. Whatever the reason, the consequences that could be borne by the whistleblower will be the same.
If or when they are unmasked, their career prospects will be ruined. It doesn’t matter if this person deserves a medal for showing more courage and patriotism than all Republican members of congress combined. Government and corporations don’t like whistleblowers.
As if losing one’s livelihood and potential for having one in the future isn’t enough, this whistleblower also has to worry about a crazy president who thinks whistleblowing is spying and his mentally unstable base who might take it on themselves to do something about it.
Now maybe by the time this gets published, someone else will have said something in opposition to the unmasking of this whistleblower. Maybe few will care. But sometimes you have to write something because it’s the right thing to do.
I’d love to know who this American hero is as much as anyone else. For me, this person is the closest we’ve ever come to seeing Teflon fail Donald Trump. This person makes the prospect of undoing the volume of obscenities done by Donald Trump seem possible. It also makes it possible for me to breathe a little easier. This is one person whose identity I don’t know, yet enjoys the prestige of being mentioned in my bucket list, which is more about the people I hope to meet than the things I hope to do.
And to be honest, taking this stand should go against everything writers are about: the curiosity, the desire to solve a mystery. Also, I used to see writing as this awesome privilege of knowing someone will read my thoughts, and maybe I might give someone something to think about.
Instead, the story of this whistleblower reminded me that as important as press freedom is, and as privileged as writers are, we also have responsibilities that exceed delivering information to our readers.
I’m not sure these responsibilities include unmasking every whistleblower, though there is no hypothetical that I can think of where I’d side with unmasking.
We have whistle blower protections for comparable reasons that press freedom is a cornerstone of our democracy. Without the ability to expose corruption, malfeasance or crimes done by people in government, and that includes the President, there is no accountability, no means of making wrongs right, addressing injustices or prosecuting crimes against humanity.
That quest for transparency and accountability is why Donald Trump hates whistleblowers and the press with equal disdain.
It’s why I find myself joining critics of media outlets that have published information that can lead to identifying the whistleblower. It’s why I’ve been applauding efforts to protect them. (Some disclosures are in order. My husband is a Facebook friend with one of the whistleblower’s attorneys and I’ve been vocal about this on social media. I’m not going to pretend to be “objective” where that means having no discernable views on this question.)
In my estimation, unmasking whistleblowers is a lot like outing anonymous sources. The odds of people speaking out are seriously diminished if your confidentiality isn’t assured and shining sunlight on corruption or on government wrongdoing means putting your life on the line.
No one benefits from unmasking whistleblowers except people like Donald Trump. Anonymity prevents him from being embarrassed about how he betrays the country and its people. If nothing else brings that home, there’s the fact that Trump wanted his discussions with leaders of other countries sealed off from the public out of fear of political embarrassment.
But that’s not a good enough reason
By declaring treasonous those who expose him for the corrupt man he is and the strongman he wants to be, Trump has all but ordered a hit on someone who doesn’t merely talk about being a patriot, but makes the sacrifices that go with being one. He knows that will have a chilling effect on anyone else who even thinks about shining sunlight on his secret wrongdoing.
However, democracy needs transparency and that means we need whistleblowers.
Instead of unmasking this person, the media should recommit themselves to protecting the anonymity of everyone comes shines a light where it needs to be shined.
We can do better than sending sick people to certain death, forcing them to literally beg Emperor Trump for their lives. We can do better than taking issued student visas away because the student’s friends may have said something we don’t like.
I realize there are so many other catastrophic things, like the hurricane that devastated the Bahamas and is on its way to America. But few things are as simple and straightforward as basic compassion.
Last week, the Harvard Crimson reported a story about a freshman from another part of the world whose visa was withdrawn because of something his friends said on social media. The visa has since been reinstated,
I am glad for that. But I’m not willing to let the Trump administration off the hook that easily. That was one welcome instance where there’s a reversal.
There is no clear reversal of the policy to deport people whose medical conditions can’t be treated in their home countries. Neither of these wrongs should ever have happened in the first place. They’re both inherently cruel.
Welcome to the Trumpian version of McCarthyism, which is all part of the master plan of pandering to his white supremacist base.
Those who defend Trump by claiming he is the least racist president ever, or by pointing to the fact that Ivanka converted to Judaism after marrying Jared Kushner, are completely missing the point.
Whatever Trump’s personal beliefs, they are secondary to what his policies say about us and to the world. For the sake of argument, he could be the most enlightened person in the history of the world, but that doesn’t matter when he’s building walls to keep brown people out, passing laws to keep Muslims out, and throwing people who are sick and dying out because they have brown skin. If Trump’s policies were more consistent with the values we aspire to live by, one could be forgiven for overlooking his personal character flaws – for the good of the nation.
Yes, the idea would be to have an enlightened president with enlightened policies. But if I had to choose between a racist with enlightened policies, or an enlightened person with racist policies, I’d take the racist with enlightened policies.
While the story about the Harvard freshman was making the rounds, people who are here legally under a medical deferment program were getting Stephen Miller-level, ice-cold letters telling them to get out of the country in 33 days or be subject to the DOJ-controlled deportation process. Many of the people in this program have cancer and other illnesses that, left untreated, will mean death. There is no escaping that fact. There is no spinning it into something about brown people wanting free stuff from hardworking white people.
The reason this group of people are here is because the life-saving treatment they are getting isn’t available in their home countries. Without that treatment, they will die. Oh, and by the way, some were invited here as research patients and what is learned from their treatment will benefit other people with the same illnesses. Other American people with the same illnesses. So enough about this being charity to the undeserving.
After negative press and outrage expressed in letters from members of Congress, the administration announced it would re-open “some requests.” Wow.
Both things illustrate how insanely cruel Trump’s immigration policies are. And while I think this is us at the moment, it doesn’t have to always be us. I also firmly believe that we can be better than this.
When we’re sending people to certain death or denying people entry to study because of their friends’ political views, it’s tempting to say that’s bad and stop the analysis there.
But, maybe because I’m an immigrant, I see these examples as mere symptoms of a much deeper problem.
We go through this every time there is a new wave of immigrants, be it the Irish during the potato famine, the Jews during World War II, people of color today.
The thing that bothers me is, if we are better than this, why do we keep making the same mistake? We go through this mindless dehumanization and inherent cruelty while patting ourselves on the back for our generosity. Or more specifically, while economic predators like Donald Trump hire undocumented workers at lower wages and under conditions that are more favorable to their profit margins, we the people blame the immigrant.
They wouldn’t come if the jobs weren’t available and the reason the jobs are available to them is because employers won’t provide the conditions that are required for Americans.
Granted, many of us get why this runs against the values that America aspires to live by, many more than those who want to be like countries that base identity on blood lines instead of ideas. But it seems that every time there is a new wave of immigrants, the same xenophobic morons come back from the dead to spew the same rhetoric before a new-found group of converts.
At the same time, one can point to the positive fact that the Trump administration appears to be walking truly horrific decisions back. But we have to keep an eye on them. It isn’t like Trump and his cronies are the most honest, compassionate people in the world. If they are reversing policy, it isn’t because they had an epiphany; it’s because of the bad press.
In the case of the Harvard student, clearly someone with a brain saw that it was wrong to judge him based on things his friends said – especially since he didn’t post anything remotely political at all. Maybe somebody pointed out that we can’t punish one person for what someone else did, and in this case, we can’t punish either party because someone allegedly expressed an opinion we don’t like.
I am happy that a wrong that never should have occurred is being put right.
But, I still have a problem with the very idea that one’s access to education is based on whether they have political opinions, and if so, if the Trump administration approves of them. Immigrants have as much right to free speech as citizens and permanent residents – under the First Amendment, and by the way, host of international human rights instruments, beginning with the U.N. Covenant on Civil and Political rights.
So, I’m sorry, but freedom of speech is not and should not ever be accepted as merely a privilege for American citizens and those whose opinion have the MAGA seal of approval.
Obviously, freedom of expression does not and should not be confused with hate speech toward any group of people – including Americans. But if, for example, someone expressed support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that should not be a basis to exclude them from entry to America – nor should it exclude all the people this person knows simply because they know the person.
On the matter of medical deferment. I was never at a loss for words until now. For any words that come to my mind don’t adequately expressed how barbaric, disgusting, inhumane and cruel this is. Without question Trump’s cancellation of medical deferment surpasses any level of cruelty that was imaginable within the context of this country – ever before. And while I’m relieved for the people whose lives may be spared as a result of reversals, again, this never should have happened.
It’s one thing to, ostensibly, wish to get rid of the “bad hombres” Trump mentions in his hate-laden speeches. No one would dispute deporting violent criminals and people whose “crimes” actually are crimes – not merely violations of civil law – which is what entering unlawfully was before Trump.
But we’re not talking about bad hombres. We’re not even talking about people who entered the country illegally. If you’re on medical deferment, you’re here legally. In some cases, your treatment is part of a study to advance knowledge about the treatment of a disease that Americans get too.
To say it’s galling to kick this person out is the understatement of the year. And unlike Donald Trump, the people in this program have not harmed our international reputation, our national security or the planet’s existence with decisions made in a matter of days.
It’s a small program – probably less expensive than Trump’s golf weekends for a year. Under the best case scenario, some cases will be reconsidered and the program may be a shadow of its former self.
In 2020, we have an opportunity to reject this sort of decision-making that looks upon immigrants as a threat or a burden. We have to make that rejection emphatic and clear to those who made Trump’s presidency possible – here and in the Kremlin.
Last Friday, the president of the United States waged war on the First Amendment unlike anything I’ve witnessed. It gets more twisted because Trump’s weapon of choice was an abuse of the First Amendment.
It’s the sort of thing we saw happen in the Balkans during the 1990’s and read about happening in the Soviet Union. It resembled the rhetoric of dying authoritarianism I remember seeing in Poland, ironically, while I was taking a course on human rights. We saw it when Andrew Breitbart “edited” a speech by Shirley Sherrod to the point of distorting the content and intent of her words.
But, this is the first time in my recollection that a president incited hatred against a member of Congress. Personal attacks yes, spin yes. But this video was one long deception. Everything from the mischaracterization of CAIR, to the way Omar’s comments were taken out of context was intended to incite hatred, against Omar and her family. But it’s even more sinister than that because Trump used this video to expand on an Islamophobic narrative about Muslims and 9/11 that he has been exploiting for years. And more broadly, he used it to expand on his desperate attempt to portray the Democratic Party as Anti-Jewish.
Before we go any further, this is the same Donald Trump who described the white supremacists in Charlottesville as “very fine people”. He is the same Donald Trump who has used anti-Semitism tropes on more than one occasion and whose party had several neo-Nazi candidates in 2018. Jews don’t need the likes of Donald Trump to tell us who our friends are, or which party is sympathetic to us.
You may have heard about “the video” Donald Trump tweeted that interspersed extracts of a speech by Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar with the horrific images of 9/11 in a manner that portrayed Omar as insufficiently outraged. The fact that Trump was willing to exploit 9/11 already says volumes about his character but, there is no way he didn’t have some level of anticipation the video wouldn’t outrage his volatile base.
Here is the unedited version of Omar’s speech:
The specific sentence that Trump used to manipulate public opinion was:
“CAIR was founded after 9/11, because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.”
Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler walks us through the anatomy of contemporary propaganda techniques that were used to target Congresswoman Omar for death threats and abuses that Trump has long conditioned his supporters to engage in against anyone who questions his power, his authority or his warped perception of reality.
Omar’s speech became a thing because a self-described Imam of peace in Australia tweeted, “Ilhan Omar mentons 9/11 and does not consider it a terrorist attack on the USA by terrorists, instead she refers to it as “Some people did something”, then she goes on to justify the establishment of a terrorist organization (CAIR) on US soil.”
Ilhan Omar mentions 9/11 and does not consider it a terrorist attack on the USA by terrorists, instead she refers to it as “Some people did something”, then she goes on to justify the establishment of a terrorist organization (CAIR) on US soil.
Politico reporter Melanie Zanona reported Thursday that Republican Representative Don Young of Alaska physically shoved her and told her to get out of his way, "Damnit" as she was interviewing a differing lawmaker outside the House chamber.