SemDem

Larry Elder throws Trump under the bus in the end

I think the GOP must have read Dartagnan's article, because ridiculously claiming every election they lose is rigged was never going to work. Engaging in conspiracy theories simply highlights how pathetic they are, and encourages their own supporters not to vote.

On Monday, the former guy—who still hasn't gotten over his own loss and soothes his ego by lying about it—issued a statement saying, "Does anybody really believe the California Recall Election isn't rigged?" Initially, defeated-GOP candidate Elder was on board with this and declared the vote fraudulent before it even ended. His campaign linked to a "Stop CA Fraud" website where people could report "suspicious" activities (i.e., minorities voting) and sign a petition demanding a special legislative session to investigate the recall election—even before Election Day!

Elder lost by so much, however, that he realized he didn't want to look like the sore loser Trump is. Elder rejected Trump's statement that the election was rigged and asked his supporters to be "gracious in defeat." This is something Trump is literally incapable of doing.

To recap, Trump has such a fragile ego that he can't ever be wrong about anything, and can't ever accept he lost anything. In every election he lost, he claimed there was fraud. He did that with the 2020 election, the 2016 popular vote, the Iowa caucus that Ted Cruz won, and even the Emmys. He wants "crying foul" to be the default position for every GOP election loss going forward, but even wack-a-doos like Elder realize this strategy does absolutely nothing but open you up to mockery.

Even Larry Elder is less pitiful than Trump. Did not see that coming.

Top Taliban leaders are among the 5000 that Trump released last year over everyone's objections

One year ago, the Donald released 5000 Taliban fighters in exchange for a cease-fire to help his flailing presidential campaign, despite strenuous objections from both the Pentagon and the Afghan government. President Ashraf Ghani warned that their release would be a "danger to the world."

We are finding out that many of these fighters entering Kabul, such as Mawlavi Talib, are top Taliban commanders who oversaw the assaults of the key cities this week. And they go up from there.


Worse, the Taliban leader who is set to taking over Afghanistan, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, has Trump to thank for his release:


The disaster unfolding in Afghanistan came from the deal that Trump made a year ago, except he wanted it to happen sooner—by Christmas of last year. He postponed it after his loss for Biden to deal with it in May. The Pentagon asked for more time, so Biden pushed it to the end of August. This enraged conservatives for delaying the withdrawal.

Keep in mind that Donald J. Trump invited the Taliban to Camp David the week of September 11 to strike what was essentially a surrender deal, but cancelled after the obvious backlash of hosting the Taliban on 9/11. Instead, he sent Pompeo to Qatar to sign the deal with the Taliban, and announced that he had given the Taliban everything they asked for because "everyone is tired of war."

"[It's] time for someone else to do that work and it will be the Taliban and it could be surrounding countries".

Trump even had private discussions with the top Taliban leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. I could only imagine what was said and promised. Not only did Trump cave to the Taliban by giving them everything they asked for, but no members of the Afghan government were present. None. Trump completely cut them out of the deal.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker, who was appointed under George W. Bush, blames Trump's "peace" deal with what is happening now because Trump would only work with the Taliban and completely delegitimized the Afghan government.

To be clear, Trump's deal was a complete disgrace that diminished our allies and strengthened the enemy. Trump reinforced the Taliban with their top fighters, and promised a quick retreat of American forces.

This essentially would establish the Taliban as the defacto regime once US forces left. Trump is now lying, to no one's surprise, saying that the peace accord he signed was "conditions-based." It wasn't.

You can read it yourself:


To be clear, Biden didn't foresee how weak the Afghan government truly was. No one did. Other than that, I have no problem with leaving Afghanistan. If after 20 freaking years and trillions of dollars spent the Afghan government can't hold up for even a week, what the hell is the point? How many more decades are we supposed to stay? How many more trillions need to be wasted? How many more American soldiers need to be killed? It turns out the whole Afghan exercise was about military contractors and corporations raking in profits. I suppose we shouldn't have been so surprised.

Unless we wanted a permanent occupation, we needed to leave. If not, we should have just petitioned Afghanistan to be the 51st state in the union. That way, when they asked for money, we could tell them that's not the federal government's job and you can't solve problems by throwing money at it.

If Trump was a better president, he would have worked out a withdrawal with the Afghan government. Yet Trump negotiated and got burned by a group of terrorists. Biden was handed a lemon, so he had two choices. He could have backed out of the deal or kept it in place. What he did was delay the withdrawal to August 31st.

I notice that all of the Republican legislators complaining about our troops not staying didn't say crap about Trump's withdrawal plan last year. Now they whine that we should have stayed forever. Of course, none of them have children who serve in the military, because endless wars are fine as long as it's someone else's kid. But let's be honest—Afghanistan is no longer a major threat to our security. There's other places our troops need to be. Yes, the Taliban are terrible for the people there, but there are no shortage of nations that oppress their own people. We can't police all of them, nor should we. That certainly isn't an excuse to stay there indefinitely.

At the very least, this will replace cancel culture and Critical Race Theory as the Fox News outrage du jour, but it will ring hollow. The GOP loves to start endless wars. They had no problem selling out our Kurdish allies. They didn't care that Trump's hasty exit from Syria, on orders from Putin, forced us to bomb our own bases.

They said nothing when Trump invited the Taliban to Camp David during 9/11, or released thousands of their fighters—including the leaders who took over Afghanistan today.

Heck, the GOP had no trouble orchestrating a terrorist attack on our own Capitol.


Keep that in mind when they overuse the fainting couch this week.

Virginia Democrats send message to statehouse candidates

One of the likeliest pickup districts in Virginia this cycle is Virginia Beach's 84th District, where the Republican incumbent won by just 500 votes in 2019. Now that the incumbent is running for higher office, the seat is wide open. Luckily, Democrats have a solid candidate in Tracie Liguid, a Filipino American who is also a very popular Democratic activist and educator, well-known within the area's large immigrant community.

Liguid is up against a woman named Kim Melnyk in the Democratic primary. While there's nothing wrong with a little competition—except for the fact that, in the words of the Virginia GOP, Melnyk is "one of the region's most prominent Republican women." Yet when faced with a choice between supporting a progressive woman of color or a longtime Republican, Democratic leaders are backing the longtime Republican. Liguid says that the president of a teachers' union even pressured her to drop out in order to give Melnyk—vice chair on the Virginia Beach school board—a clear path. She allegedly offered Liguid a spot on the union board in exchange, which Liguid declined.

Elsewhere in the Commonwealth, three progressive Black candidates seeking to primary long-term incumbents in very deep blue districts were just blocked from the ballot. Further, there's evidence that the more "establishment" candidates were given preferential help.

This stacking of the deck is not just a slap in the face to the thousands of diverse progressives responsible for the recent Democratic waves in Virginia; it's also a losing strategy. Virginia Democratic officials seem more concerned about protecting their incumbents than giving their constituents a voice. One can always expect Republicans to disenfranchise voters, but it's a whole other situation when it comes from our own leadership.

The Virginia Department of Elections, led by Democratic Chair Robert Brink, disqualified three progressive House of Delegates candidates this cycle: Dr. Michael Jones, Matt Rogers, and Cydny Neville. All three are people of color, and each one was running against a long-term incumbent in a deep blue district. The state board has routinely granted candidates extensions to solve paperwork issues during a 10-day grace period allowed under Virginia law. Just last year, in fact, Brink allowed several candidates to fix their paperwork—including two Republicans.

One of those Republicans, Nick Frietas, made the same mistake two years in a row. Another GOP candidate, insurrection supporter Bob Good, missed the filing deadline completely. Yet way back in 2020, Brink argued that not granting an extension to these men would be expensive and "draconian."

"Doing that would run counter to my personal belief that, as much as possible, we ought to permit access to the ballot and let the voters decide," he said.

This year, however, three primary candidates' ballot access were cancelled without any open deliberation or a vote by the three-member panel. As a result, the career incumbents in these Democratic districts—each serving over 10 years—get a free ride to the general election. So much for letting the voters decide.

I should point out that five Caucasian candidates were also disqualified for errors; however, each of those candidates will be able to appear on the ballot this cycle. How? In Virginia, if a person is the only candidate filed for their state party in a district, they become the candidate by acclamation, regardless of when they finish their paperwork. As you can imagine, this is a big boon for incumbents who don't have primary challengers. Only Black candidates were disqualified this cycle.

Several Democratic candidates running this cycle, including Idris O'Connor, Jennifer Adeli, and Tara Orlando, all formally called on the Department of Elections to reverse their decision and treat all candidates equally.

Election paperwork in Virginia, by the way, is needlessly complicated, and seemingly designed to make running for office as hard as possible. There are no fewer than three statement of candidacy forms required; each essentially just states a person wants to run for office. One form's set of instructions advise the would-be candidate to send it to Richmond, yet doesn't give an address.

One denied primary candidate, Neville, wanted to run in HD-52 in Prince William County. She says officials called her on March 26 to confirm she was on the ballot. On April 6, after the filing deadline had passed, Neville, a town councilwoman, was informed that she would not be on the ballot. She found it particularly maddening because an extension was granted to a candidate who ran in a January special election in nearby HD-02. In fact, the state board called an emergency meeting to consider that candidate's request for an extension in that election.

Another candidate who was denied ballot access, Rogers, was running for HD-47 in Arlington County. Rogers told Daily Kos he was disqualified because the state board claimed they never received two forms: the Statement of Economic Interest (SOEI) and the Certificate of Candidate Qualification (CCQ). Rogers, a legislative aide who is very familiar with the paperwork required, firmly asserts that he did submit those forms, although he said he might have filed them too far ahead—months in advance of the deadline.

Meanwhile, a FOIA request confirmed that rumors of certain candidates getting preferential treatment had merit. In one FOIA document, Shyam Raman, political director of the Virginia Dems, asked Elections Supervisor Paul Sanders to send regularly updated lists, tracking which Democratic candidates had submitted their SOEI and CCQ forms.

Yet certain candidates did miss out.

The FOIA request also uncovered spreadsheets tracking each candidate's compliance specifically for the forms at the heart of Rogers' disqualification. Party officials told The Nation's Joan Walsh that they weren't tracking them.

I was told there was no such operation; Democratic Party staffers had merely helped with internal party business, including verifying nominating petitions, but not with whether candidates had filed their state-mandated Certificate of Candidate Qualifications (CCQ) or Statement of Economic Interest (SOEI), also known as an ethics statement.

The Democratic Party was indeed tracking this information, but word never came down to the Rogers campaign. State board officials told Rogers they couldn't inform him because they didn't have his email. This struck Rogers as quite odd since all filings must include email, phone number, and address. Rogers goes into more detail in his own post on Daily Kos, but suffice to say he won't be on the ballot this cycle.

Another FOIA request by the NAACP turned up how many times extensions were granted in the past.


Meanwhile, back in Virginia Beach, progressive Liguid announced her candidacy. Soon afterwards, she had a surprising challenger.

Virginia does not ask its citizens to register to vote by party affiliation, but Melnyk was, by all accounts, an active, hardcore Republican. She voted exclusively in GOP primaries from 1996 to 2020. Public finance records also show that she donated to a Republican political action committee as recently as 2018; there is no record of her donating anything to any Democratic PAC or candidate. In fact, Liguid is accusing her of funding her current campaign with money raised from GOP donors.

Melnyk and her husband do have a solid record of financially supporting Republican candidates, though. Jason Miyares, a right-wing Trumpist vying for the Republican nomination for attorney general, proudly listed Melnyk as a supporter.

Melnyk also supported the candidacy of far right-winger and birther Ben Loyola, who thankfully lost to the Democratic candidate last June. Loyola openly questioned Obama's citizenship, called healthcare coverage "socialism," and wanted to eliminate the Department of Education. Yet Melnyk was listed on his campaign website as having endorsed him.

Melnyk was also recognized by the Republican Party of Virginia Beach as one of their top "women leaders."

Kim Melnyk being recognized as a Republican Women's Leader in Virginia Beach.

Melnyk may be running in a Democratic primary, but she doesn't sound much like a Democrat. For example, any Democrat should know that the deceptively named "right-to-work" laws attack worker protections, decrease job safety, increase income inequality, and weaken the voice of the worker. That's why corporate interests fight so hard for them.

Yet during a debate, after uncomfortable questions were asked about her strong ties to the Virginia GOP, Melnyk dodged easy questions like this one:


No, the correct answer is, "I will vote to repeal."

To be fair, Melnyk says she is now a Democrat, who agrees with Democratic values. That's well and good—welcome to the left!—but it seems odd that the state party would back a newcomer over the more progressive Liguid, who has actually worked hard to elect Democrats.

Virginia Beach progressives are not happy. Gary McCollum, a member of the Virginia Beach Interdenominational Ministers Conference and a former state senate candidate, put it bluntly: "The days of telling Black folks, people of color, and other marginalized communities who will be their leaders are over. A rushed endorsement of Ms. Melnyk is not only a relic of the old Virginia, it is also an injustice to the voters of the 84th district."

McCollum has pointed out that progressive candidates of color have traditionally not been supported by what he calls the "so-called moderate or establishment elements of the Virginia Democratic Party," and lists examples. The current governor, Ralph Northam, is a former Virginia Beach state senator who supported the Republican incumbent for sheriff over his progressive Black challenger. In 2017, a Black candidate in Virginia Beach received no money from the House Democratic caucus, but came within 742 votes of winning. The following election, when a Caucasian candidate was vying for the same seat, she received significant funding.

Even though Liguid is an educator, she claims the president of the Virginia Beach Education Association, Kelly Walker, degraded her and tried to persuade her to drop out of the race to give a clear path for Melnyk, who is vice chair on the Virginia Beach school board. Liquid refused, and Walker offered Liguid a position on the union board, which she promptly declined. The offer is discussed in emails reviewed by Daily Kos.

Progressive activists are not the enemy, and we don't have radical ideas. We believe in a living wage, the right to organize in unions, having the wealthy pay their fair share, investment in infrastructure, access to health care, and treating everyone equally and with dignity. There is nothing radical about this, and our policies are popular.

The GOP is a powerful enough foe, so there's no need to make enemies out of our own voters, much less the people brave enough to run for office. That's a recipe for ruin. One needs to look no further than the Democratic Party of Florida to see where that strategy leads you. My state party tries to run an incumbent protection racket of its own: Our leaders sabotage primary challenges as well. Heck, they even sabotage progressives who run for seats held by Republicans. As a result, our state party is in disarray; even though our state has more Democrats than Republicans, we have a legislature that is more right-wing than Alabama's.

It wasn't always this way. Florida politics were long dominated by Democrats up through the 1990s until they lost control with infighting, which led to apathy among our voters. Republicans pounced, and once they had control, spent their time consolidating their power through gerrymanders, assaults on voting rights, and stacking the courts. I never thought I'd see Florida so red, but then again, I never thought I'd see Virginia so blue.

Progressive organizations and candidates have delivered in Virginia, so I urge the state Democratic leaders to work with them instead of fighting them. Let Florida's mistakes be a warning that must be heeded.

Insurrectionist insists she won't go to jail because she has 'blonde hair, white skin'

Sadly, she might have been right. It doesn't matter how many police officers were injured or killed, how many were attacked with bear spray, fire extinguishers and flag staffs, or how many eyes were gouged, or how much feces were spread on the walls: the rioters were white and privileged.

But the cardinal sin in our justice system that she broke is that you don't say the quiet part out loud.

Realtor and part-time insurrectionist Jenna Ryan stormed the Capitol building on Jan. 6, took a selfie by the smashed window where the insurrectionists entered, and for some reason thinks its a good idea to keep the incendiary rhetoric going on her social media. Most people aren't very supportive of her on Twitter.

One guy told her she was going to jail.

This is how Ryan responded:


At some point, her lawyer is going to tell her to take it down. But don't worry, people took screenshots. In Jenna Ryan's world, jail is for Black people. Jail is for people who knock on doors while Black.

Ryan has so far been charged with several offenses, including violent entry and disorderly conduct in a capitol building. Other charges, including sedition, might follow. But Ryan isn't worried at all; she expects all charges to be dropped, and a rich white guy is on the case.


Oh, how fun this has been for her.

Will our justice system prove Jenna Ryan right?

We'll be watching.

Seven ways to restore our press freedoms before we end up with another authoritarian dictator

Donald Trump's time in office was defined by death, destruction, disarray, and multiple attacks on democracy. Yet we must never forget that Trump's legacy also includes an evil milestone, reached in 2018, when the United States, for the first time ever, ranked among the top five deadliest countries for journalists. For context, other "top" nations were Afghanistan, Syria, Mexico, India, and Yemen. This was the same year that Trump first called the press "the enemy of the people."

Though 2020 and the Trump administration are in our rearview mirror, the situation has gotten even more dire. Disturbingly, the number of journalists killed worldwide in 2020 doubled from 2019. We have to remember that a free press was viewed as so important to our foundational democracy, it was the only profession the Founding Fathers named in our Constitution. It's the best, last hope against tyranny, which is exactly why authoritarians hate it so much. Trump's purposeful attacks on the media not only encouraged violence against journalists in this country, but gave regimes elsewhere a blueprint to crack down on their own press. Dictators, from Bashir-Al Assad to Prince Mohammed bin Salman, used the Trumpian term "fake news" to justify their own violent attacks on journalists who attempted to hold them accountable. The junta in Myanmar is using a similar argument to justify shutting down internet access amidst a coup.

There were so many abuses of power the past few years, Trump's attacks against the media became background noise. After his failed presidency came to its end, CNN tried to chronicle Trump's most egregious acts, and his attacks on the press didn't even warrant a mention. Although Trump left many messes that need to be cleaned up, our First Amendment protections must be given a high priority. Fortunately, there's plenty of things that President Joe Biden, and everyone, can do to help to strengthen those protections. It's vital for the next time we face an authoritarian leader who may have a shred more competence than Trump.

In hindsight, of course, none of this should have come as a surprise. Trump has a long history of expressing displeasure at unflattering stories about him, though his bruised ego took a particularly dark turn once he entered politics. Once his campaign events devolved into hate rallies, the press became a frequent target of his ire. Security staff usually confined the press into closed pens at the back of the crowds, and the penalty for stepping out of these pens was severe. In February 2016, photographer Christopher Morris, from TIME magazine, stepped out of the pen to snap some pictures of protesters at a Virginia Trump rally. He was immediately "choke-slammed" to the ground by William Figueroa, a member of Trump's Secret Service detail. After a nearly two-year probe, Figueroa was, tellingly, found to be justified in his use of force.

At his seemingly weekly rallies, Trump would often point to the press and insult them, a habit cemented after his infamous impersonation of Serge Kovelski, a disabled New York Times reporter. At a rally in New Hampshire in 2015, Trump called the press "scum," "horrible people," and "illegitimate."

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Trump pulled White House press credentials and threatened to "challenge" licenses with the FCC in response to coverage he perceived as unflattering. In 2017, then-White House chief strategist (and recent recipient of a Trump pardon) Steve Bannon started to refer to the press as the "opposition party." Soon afterwards, Trump doubled down on messaging that the press was the enemy.

Trump claims press is "enemy of the people"

Joseph Goebbels, of course, famously used the term "enemy of the people" to refer to the Jewish people in Germany, and Adolf Hitler used it to refer to the Lügenpresse—the "lying press." Even more shockingly, and with no self-awareness, Trump supporters adopted this term.

Once in office, Trump continued attacking the media. He even participated in a cover-up of the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by blocking any effort from Congress to hold Prince Mohammed bin Salman accountable. He literally bragged about doing it.

FILE - In this June 29, 2018, file photo, of five employees of the Capital Gazette newspaper adorn candles during a vigil across the street from where they were slain in the newsroom in Annapolis, Md. A judge has ruled Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, a psychiatrist retained by prosecutors in the case of a man who killed five people at a Maryland newspaper can testify about whether he believes the gunman was criminally responsible in the sanity phase of his trial. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File) Five employees of the Capital Gazette newspaper were murdered by a gunman in their newsroom in Annapolis, MD. The surviving staff wrote "We won't forget being called an enemy of the people."

Trump's hatred for the press grew noticeably more intense during his term, from urging the jailing of journalists in his first year to, by year three, being comfortable with calling for the execution of journalists who weren't nice to him.

Rather than reining in Trump's demonic and anti-American impulses, the GOP machine actively encouraged him. Fox News parroted his remarks constantly without pushback. The network even leaned on "The Knife," a discredited media company, to "prove" bias in the media's coverage of Trump. The Knife was created by the NXIVM sex trafficking cult for the sole purpose of defending itself from bad press.

By mid-2020, even The Federalist agreed with Trump that the media was "the enemy of the people." Republican politicians had no trouble with any of this, as they found it useful to claim "Fake News" when they were being investigated. These right-wing outlets helped Trump radicalize many Americans against the mainstream press.

It's no wonder that the media was one of the many targets by the Trump mob on Insurrection Day.

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It wasn't until after the insurrection attempt that some right-wing outlets, along with social media companies, corporations, and conservative politicians, finally realized that they had let things go too far.

Since Trump was defeated, I no longer hear as much tolerance on the air for election conspiracy theories, nor attacks against honest journalism as "Fake News." (Sucks to be Lou Dobbs right now.) I'm sure that will change in a few weeks, but for now, it's been a nice change of pace. Joe Biden should seize this moment, as we have several opportunities to strengthen one of our nation's most valuable freedoms. For the protection of the free press, and the journalists who put their lives on the line, I would like to suggest several actions Democrats at all levels need to fight for.

Protections for whistleblowers

Whistleblowers are brave souls who risk everything to disclose wrongdoings that have a direct impact on the public, such as corruption or fraud. When they choose to disclose information to the media, journalists must be able to ensure their sources are protected as they expose the truth. Safe whistleblowing is the key to preserving press freedom; Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has been fighting to protect confidential sources since 1970.

Unfortunately, current laws only prevent some federal officials from revealing a whistleblower's identity, and there are no penalties for violations. The Enhancing Protections for Whistleblower Anonymity Act, sponsored by Rep. Eric Swalwell in May 2020, would impose criminal penalties on any federal official who knowingly communicates the identity of a whistleblower, or information which would reveal such a person's identity, except to other government officials where permitted by law. The bill also would let whistleblowers whose identities are illegally disclosed to sue for injunctive relief or monetary damages. Sen. Rand Paul purposefully and illegally named the intelligence official who raised the alarm about Trump's attempted blackmail of Ukraine; to this day, he has not suffered any consequences for his actions.

Promote local media, and invest in public media

In 2008, President Barack Obama discussed his practice of visiting very small towns in Illinois, where he would be written about in the local papers. The newspaper editors were very conservative, but they would meet with him and treat him fairly. Now, many of those papers are gone, and the vacuum has been filled with sensational misinformation espoused through right-wing radio, Fox News, and the ultra right-wing Sinclair Broadcast Group. The Biden administration will have opportunities to implement policies aimed at staunching the bleeding in local news, as well as mitigating much of the hyper-partisanship that corrupts our current information channels.

WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 22: (L-R) Protesters Madonna Brennan of Gambrills, Maryland and Clarissa Kornell hold signs during a protest rally against Sinclair Broadcasting in Lafayette Park near the White House October 22, 2004 in Washington, DC. Sinclair had planed to air a documentary strongly critical of the Democratic Presidential nominee John Kerry's Vietnam War record just ahead of the November 2 presidential election, but now says it will air only some segments. (Photo by Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images)

They are off to a great start, with Kamala Harris giving exclusive interviews to local media outlets in Arizona and West Virginia to promote their big push for COVID relief—and to apply local pressure to two reluctant Democratic Senators. I'm looking forward to Biden appointing an FCC chair who puts the public interest over commercial profit, and increasing financial support for public media.

With a larger government subsidy, public media could play a bigger role in addressing the structural problems with our media system. It's an investment and a guardrail against the free market's failure to support local news. There is already overwhelming bipartisan support to save local media, and public media is still very popular. This is one reason the Trump administration was unsuccessful in its efforts to zero out funding for public media, despite attempting to defund it every year with the federal budget.

Fight misinformation online

Many bad actors exploit the open platforms to plant disinformation, manipulate public opinion, drown out critics, and undermine trust in our democracy. There's no one-size-fits-all solution, but there are a lot of good ideas on how to fight back. We need to pressure tech companies to identify the misinformation through algorithms and crowdsourcing, as well as to demonetize the purveyors of these falsehoods.

The Biden administration needs to treat coordinated disinformation attacks from Russia and Iran as what they are: cyberattacks designed to interfere with a free and fair election. Special task forces should be set up in the appropriate government agencies to guard against these attacks. I made the argument last year, after multiple cyberattacks, that we should heed the military's call for a branch dedicated to fighting the cyber war. Sadly, Trump created the Space Force instead.

There's a careful balance when crafting such legislation, of course; you never want to create an excuse to censor someone. However, there are common sense laws that could help. One is an advertiser verification requirement for election ads on social media. Another is to require all political campaign advertisers to include "paid for by" disclaimers. Most states require these kinds of disclaimers for TV and radio, but not the internet.

Make press freedom a focus of U.S. foreign policy

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has the goal of restoring American leadership with press freedom around the world. We cannot solve complex geopolitical issues without a firm commitment to a free press. For example, if China had allowed its journalists to speak freely, the world might have gotten ahead of the COVID-19 outbreak. Imagine the world if that had been allowed to happen.

The CPJ had several recommendations for President Biden, including the following:

  • President Biden should deliver a major speech in support of press freedom. The speech should articulate the importance of the press to support democracy and human rights, honor reporters who have been killed, and outline the role that social media companies should be expected to play.
  • Appoint a Special Presidential Envoy for Press Freedom. This would be someone who reports directly to the Secretary of State, and can give high visibility when speaking out about press violations around the world. This office would be a voice for global media organizations facing threats, and journalists wrongfully imprisoned. The Envoy and their office would work to free journalists, attend trials, and support legislative efforts that enhance press freedom.
  • Ensure the independence of government-funded media. The U.S. government-funded media—including Voice of America, Radio Free Asia, and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty—have been a source of credible news and information for people around the world for generations. Trump nearly destroyed that, with blatant political picks that sought to push his selfish agenda. We must ensure that never happens again.

Establish Press Freedom Day

Every Nov.11, I am usually showered in thanks for Veteran's Day. The gratitude is greatly appreciated; wouldn't it be nice to honor the Fourth Estate and the guardians of the First Amendment? The United Nations already celebrates World Press Freedom Day every May 3, in support of a strong, free competitive press in every nation. Perhaps Biden could declare a day here in the U.S. to thank the reporters, journalists, photographers, and broadcasters who put their lives on the line everyday to bring us the truth. America shouldn't need a reminder of the importance of the free and fair media in our lives, but in this day and age, we do.

Build a Fallen Journalist Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The words "Murder the media" were written on the Capitol doors by Trump's mob. Members of the media were threatened, assaulted, and their equipment destroyed; a noose was left hanging above the destroyed gear.

I almost threw up watching those clips. This is the nation that, again, specifically enshrined the principle of a free press into the First Amendment of the Constitution. I can't believe we have to argue with fellow citizens for the importance of an independent media here in U.S.

I strongly support a 2019 bill that proposes a national monument in Washington, D.C. to honor fallen journalists killed in the line of duty. You can see a list of the bipartisan bill's sponsors here. Both New Hampshire senators sponsored the bill, noting that New Hampshire resident James Foley was one of the many journalists who deserved to be honored. He bravely reported what was happening in Northern Syria, and became the first American to be kidnapped and beheaded by ISIS.

Legislation allowing for the memorial to be built in Washington, D.C. finally passed. Now the foundation overseeing the project is collecting donations to make it a reality.

Bring back the Fairness Doctrine

The Fairness Doctrine was in place for decades. It simply required broadcasters to devote some time to matters of public interest, and to allow contrasting views. There are a lot of misperceptions surrounding the Fairness Doctrine, some of them intentionally cultivated. It never stifled any talk show hosts or viewpoints; it just prohibited stations from broadcasting one single viewpoint every day. Ronald Reagan had it eliminated in 1987, and the effects were instantaneous.

Right-wing extremists like Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes became media titans. There were suddenly entire stations across the U.S. devoted completely to conservative causes. Thousands of hours of right-wing propaganda attacking immigrants, minorities, the LGBTQ community, those fighting against climate change, and the social safety net … with zero competing perspectives. No wonder people got brainwashed.

In 2004, Sinclair Broadcast Group planned to force its 62 stations at the time to air a blatant anti-John Kerry documentary. A massive sponsor boycott reversed their plans in that instance, but Sinclair has since been successful forcing stations to run conservative programs and "must run" speeches espousing right-wing talking points.

Restoring the Fairness Doctrine would require stations to, at some point, give the other side of the story. It's not a panacea for everything, but restoring it would curb the worst abuses and might help keep people from turning into zombies.

Teach Media Literacy in Schools

As part of an English curriculum in middle school many, many years ago, I remember tests that with multiple headlines. The student's job was to identify the positive headlines, the negative headlines, and the neutral headlines. For me, this assessment was incredibly easy. Yet I remember some of my classmates struggling with this; I wonder how many of them ended up on Parler before it was shut down.

I cringe when my coworkers tell me that I need to get off mainstream media and follow the "truth." According to them, that "truth" can only be found at OANN or Newsmax. I always challenge them to find one negative article about Donald Trump on those sites, or one positive article on any Democrat. I try to make a point that they need to recognize agendas. Believe it or not, most of them react positively to this, since their whole belief system is centered around not being "sheep."

Media Literacy Now is leading the grassroots movement to teach critical thinking skills for students around all types of media. The New York Times profiled the organization in a story featuring a fed-up teacher in Atlanta, whose students constantly shared sensational, made-up headlines on social media. Teaching media literacy skills to teenagers and younger students can protect readers and listeners from misinformation, just as teaching good hygiene can reduce disease. A RAND report last year said research showed signs that media literacy increases "resiliency to disinformation." Media literacy is likely the best tool we have in combating the current crisis.

Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota introduced a bill last year, calling for $20 million to fund media literacy education. Even without legislation, teachers can incorporate media literacy concepts into existing classes, like my teachers did so long ago. There are many resources to serve that goal. I never knew, before middle school, that bias even existed in newspapers or T.V. Now it's painfully obvious. I only wish many of my friends and co-workers had been in that class with me.

Everything I've outlined here will require a commitment—from the government, from schools, from tech companies, and yes, from regular citizens. Yet it's a commitment worth making. There are many powerful people who don't want a free and fair press; we must be as dedicated to protecting it as they are with destroying it.

'We had no idea': Florida newspaper apologizes for endorsing congressman who signed on to Trump coup attempt

Rep. Michael Waltz received the Orlando Sentinel's endorsement in the 2020 general election for Congress. On Thursday, Waltz joined onto the traitorous Texas lawsuit seeking to overturn the results in four states because they didn't break for Donald Trump. On Friday, the paper's Editorial Board formally apologized to their readers.

We had no idea, had no way of knowing at the time, that Waltz was not committed to democracy.
During our endorsement interview with the incumbent congressman, we didn't think to ask, "Would you support the effort to throw out the votes of tens of millions of Americans in four states in order to overturn a presidential election and hand it to the person who lost, Donald Trump?"

Trump has not been able to prove one case of voter fraud, and this latest lawsuit from Texas didn't even allege fraud. It just argued that states like Pennsylvania and Georgia didn't adequately suppress the vote like they did in Texas. The case, as you should know, was ridiculous in every sense of the word. The corrupt Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton, who is bucking for his own pardon, essentially argued that states like Georgia made Trump lose by extending early and mail-in voting—which is exactly what Texas did.

Never mind that the Constitution specifically says that states can run their own elections as they see fit, and never mind that you can't argue election rules after an election, and never mind that Texas had no standing to sue. (Although part of me really hoped that SCOTUS would have taken this case up. I have my reasons.)

The fact that a representative of the United States government is okay with overthrowing an election (and let's not say "overturn,"—let's call this coup what it is), is seditious and, I would argue, treasonous since we've been in a war with Vladimir Putin. Instead of fighting us head-on, Putin has instead successfully taken control of a major U.S. party to destroy us from within. Waltz is either a coward who's afraid to stand up for democracy or is seriously okay with turning us into a developing autocracy beholden to Russian interests. The only thing I know for sure is that he doesn't deserve to represent the United States.

Kudos to the Orlando Sentinel for calling this assault on our democracy what it is. Others need to follow suit. Yes, it's embarrassing and didn't go anywhere, but that's not the point. Republicans know that the overwhelming majority of Americans rejected their platform. Instead of adjusting their platform, they simply decided to reject democracy. Utah Sen. Mike Lee didn't misspeak when he argued against "rank democracy" in this country. The GOP has become dangerous, authoritarian, and fascist under Trump, and it looks like they'll be staying that way after Trump.

Bald eagles soar over Biden — while giant American flag collapses in front of Trump

Do you believe in omens?

While Joe Biden was giving his final speech in Iowa, these two guys flew in circles over top of him:


I looked it up. Florida and Alaska have the most bald eagles. Yet I've lived all over Florida these past 25 years and have never once encountered one. It's a rare sight, and in this case, very poetic.

This isn't even the first time an eagle has visited Biden when he was speaking. In September, another eagle flew above Biden during a speech, and it promoted him to talk about his late son, Beau Biden. He remarked that he hadn't seen a bald eagle since Beau died in 2015. Now he sees one on the eve of his presidency. Coincidence?

Bald eagles are fickle creatures. They may have visited Biden multiple times, but Trump has only had one encounter. It was a bit less majestic:


Trump's expression was priceless.

If you believe the spirit of our nation sent those birds for Biden, then you would also have to believe it toppled a giant American flag being used as a prop during Trump's hate rally in North Carolina.

The giant flag was being held with two large scissor lifts, which was a stupid idea. No planning, half-assed execution, and a total disregard for safety. In other words, a perfect Trump event. Luckily, the lift fell backwards into a building. If the gust of wind had blown the other way, the big story tonight would have been that Trump killed his supporters.

Sorry guys, you'll just have to wait for the COVID like the rest of his super-spreader events.


I would say Trump's malicious incompetence almost killed people tonight, but that would be an incomplete statement. Trump's malicious incompetence has already killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Americans, and this needs to end. (BTW, speaking of reckless endangerment: after all the bad press Trump got for abandoning his supporters to the freezing cold in Omaha, how in the hell did he manage to do the exact same thing AGAIN today in Georgia!?)

I'll end on a positive note, with one final omen. No, this was NOT planned. It's a scene from Joe Biden's speech. As the meme says, post in comments if you get it.

123483382_3876666935699663_4093342541622315888_o.jpg

Yeah, the data, the polls, and the turnout all look pretty damn good tonight. We're ready. But if you are superstitious at all, the omens work in our favor as well.



A COVID-19 story: My nightmare in a Florida hospital

The conservatives who run Florida’s government have never taken this pandemic seriously. They closed the state far too late and reopened it far too soon. COVID-19 cases have now exploded. Florida, along with Arizona, leads not just the U.S., but the entire world in new cases. Over 40 Florida hospitals have already maxed out ICU capacity, and we are nowhere near the peak. On July 12, the Sunshine State shattered the U.S. single-day record, logging 15,300 new COVID-19 cases.

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