Nel's New Day

February 20, 2019

First Amendment Contorted by Love for Saudi Arabia, Clarence Thomas

Remember Jeff Bezos? For a week, the media focused on his “junk,” his battle with the National Enquirer, and his search for the person who ripped off his photos and documents such as texts and emails. Turns out that the guilty person is Bezos’ girlfriend’s gay brother. Then Bezos generated more media buzz when he pulled the Amazon headquarters from New York City, much to the disgust of some and delight of others.

The Bezos scandal highlighted the tie between the Enquirer and the Saudi government through Bezos’ letter to AMI, the owner of the tabloid. In its mandate that Bezos state he had “no knowledge” that the Enquirer’s coverage of his affair was “politically motivated or influenced by political forces,” people guessed that the issue was Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). David Pecker, AMI’s owner and DDT’s close associate, had an immunity deal with the DOJ for their criminal suppression of stories about DDT during his campaign, paying people for stories and then not printing them. Karen McDougal’s alleged affair with DDT was one of these articles that were killed before the election.

But Pecker may wanted the Washington Post, owned by Bezos, to stop printing negative news about Saudi Arabia. Pecker used his ties with DDT to cultivate Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) for business opportunities, including borrowing money to buy major publications such as Sports Illustrated, Time Magazine, Fortune, and Money.  magazine. AMI’s 97-page glossy propaganda about Saudi Arabia and featuring MBS on the cover sold at Walmarts across the nation as part of Pecker’s pandering.

Jamal Khashoggi, U.S. resident and journalist, worked for the WaPo, and his writings were highly critical of MBS. Before the Saudis tortured and dismembered Khashoggi, MBS had said that he would use a “bullet” on Khashoggi if he got the chance, according to WaPo reporting. On the same day the Wall Street Journal wrote that MBS was actively enlisting U.S. media outlets to remake his image in the West and met with Vice Media co-founder Shane Smith on a yacht to discuss “an international media empire to combat the kingdom’s rivals and remake its image in the West.”

“For reasons still to be better understood, the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve,” Bezos wrote. Former longtime Enquirer editor Jerry George said that Pecker was using Bezo’ damaging photos and documents as bargaining chips. As the story unraveled, Pecker failed because Bezos refused to give into blackmail. George cited AMI’s pro-Saudi propaganda as “suspicious” because the company was “cash poor” and “suddenly” got an “influx of cash.” He suggested that “there’s another shoe to drop,” referring to Robert Mueller’s investigation into “the Saudis’ role in all of this.” A restriction of AMI’s immunity included the company staying out of politics, and WaPo revealed that the company may not have lived up to its promises.

Last year, AMI contacted the DOJ to see if the company should register as a foreign agent but said that it didn’t get any Saudi funding for their Saudi propaganda. The DOJ said probably not, but AMI wrote that a Saudi adviser submitted content for its publication and then made changes to the final version after receiving an early draft. AMI’s extortion of Bezos has brought its relation to the Saudis has brought the issue back into visibility.

DDT, who denied his own intelligence showing that MBS was responsible for Khashoggi, now faces an investigation by House Democrats about DDT’s illegal push to sell nuclear power plants to Saudi Arabia over objections by national security officials and attorneys, a plan that may have directly benefited his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Despite warnings of “potential conflicts of interest, national security risks and legal hurdles” in 2017, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and other DDT employees push for the sales. DDT plans to bypass Congress with an illegal technology transfer that can spread nuclear weapons throughout the Middle East.

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pled guilty of lying to the FBI, was an early advocate for these sales after DDT’s inauguration and recommended that Barrack, who raised $107 million for DDT’s corrupt inaugural committee, be a special representative to carry out his nuclear plan. Appearing to be from DDT, a memo told federal agencies to do Barrack’s bidding.

The House reports Flynn’s working with retired military officers to circumvent U.S. law. After he resigned, the National Security Council continued with its plan in opposition to advice from its own ethics counsel. The next adviser, H.R. McMaster, said that the illegal work must stop, but McMaster left almost two months ago. Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation has examined the possibility of Middle Eastern monarchies financially influencing DDT’s political activities, starting with his presidential campaign. Congress has not look at claims about the nuclear sales until this year because of GOP control.

In more First Amendment issues, the Covington Catholic High School (KY) teenager who appeared to harass Nathan Phillips, a Native American elder and veteran, is suing WaPo for $250 million. The defamation lawsuit alleges that the newspaper “engaged in a modern-day form of McCarthyism” and “wrongfully targeted and bullied” the “innocent child” Nick Sandmann. According to his lawyers, Sandmann is suffering from “the pain and destruction its attacks would cause to his life.”

The lawsuit reads like a political polemic:

“[The Post wanted to advance its well-known and easily documented, biased agenda against President Donald J. Trump (“the President”) by impugning individuals perceived to be supporters of the President…. [The Post’s coverage was] in furtherance of its political agenda … carried out by using its vast financial resources to enter the bully pulpit by publishing a series of false and defamatory print and online articles which effectively provided a worldwide megaphone to Phillips and other anti-Trump individuals and entities to smear a young boy who was in its view an acceptable casualty in their war against the President.”

Earlier this month, the Sandmann lawyers sent letters warning litigation to over 50 media organizations, celebrities, and politicians. As the wealthiest man in the world, WaPo owner Jeff Bezos has the most money and is considered DDT’s biggest media enemy, and the $250 million is the same amount that Bezos paid for the Post in 2013. Nick’s parents, Ted and Julie Sandmanns, say they want to “teach the Post a lesson it will never forget.” They argue that Nick is not a public figure, lowering the bar for winning their lawsuit.

While Nick was described as a “child,” the lawsuit calls Nathan Phillips “a phony war hero” who “targeted and bullied” Sandmann. Phillips said that Sandmann and his peers from Covington surrounded him after he tried to stop possible violence between them and a few Hebrew Israelites. About Sandmann’s comment on the Today show, Phillips used the terms “insincerity, lack of responsibility”—“coached and written up for him.” About the encounter, Phillips said that he was trying to get out of an ugly situation. “That guy in the hat [Sandmann] stood in my way, and we were at an impasse.” Phillips added, “Then I went to go pray about it …. I forgive him.”

The Sandmanns may find support in their war on freedom of the press from Supreme Court Clarence Thomas. He hopes to attack the media through his proposal to reconsider the 1964 case New York Times v. Sullivan which determined that public figures must have greater proof to claim libel. Thomas’ “roadmap” to  helping DDT’s change in libel laws permitting him to sue news organizations came after Thomas and his far-right activist wife Ginni Thomas had dinner with DDT and his wife Melania Trump. Trump’s pledge to change libel laws so he can sue news organizations for their reporting.

Last Tuesday, Thomas expressed concern about the high court’s refusal to hear an appeal from Katherine McKee, who claimed Bill Cosby’s lawyer leaked a letter that distorted her background and damaged her reputation after she claimed that Cosby raped her. Lower courts cited the Times v. Sullivan precedent in dismissing her case with the justification that disclosing her accusation required her to meet a higher libel standard of malice that applies to public figures. The decision to not take the case was unanimous, but Thomas wrote a sole opinion that the 1964 case was wrongly decided.

Since 1964, public officials can sue for libel only if the person responsible for the statement knows that the statement is false or if the person recklessly disregarded its falsehood. Subsequent Supreme Court cases have added all public figures to public officials to protect journalists and media organizations from intimidation by wealthy and/or powerful public figures wishing to exploit minor errors in reporting. That Supreme Court decision protect the media reporting on Thomas sexual harassment by Anita Hill. Thomas, who claims to be an originalist, following only the word of the U.S. Constitution and not its meaning, said, “We should carefully examine the original meaning [of the First Amendment.]” An early interpretation of this right, as shown by the first Sedition Act in 1798, was that the government could punish any published story, and the Sedition Act still exists. If the Supreme Court supports Thomas, the First Amendment could disappear.

January 23, 2019

Shutdown Continues Deprivation, Covington Gains Prominence

Day 33 of government shutdown: Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) may be feeling the consequences of his government shutdown. After he wrote House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) that he would give his State of the Union speech in the House in six days, she told him that he could give the annual speech at the Capitol after the government was reopened. She had invited him on January 3 with “no thought that the government would still be shut down.” DDT cannot give his speech in the House without a concurrent revolution for a joint session of Congress and an invitation from the House. DDT referred to the Democrats as being “radicalized,” a term that then House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) endorsed using as a pejorative term about Democrats in the early 1990s. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who supports the government shutdown, said that elected people should “put America’s public first.”

Pelosi accused DDT of “holding the health, safety and paychecks of the American people hostage” and said that Democrats fear he may do so again in future if they agree to his demands. Someone explained to DDT that he couldn’t go to the House with congressional approval, he launched into his usual tantrums, blaming Pelosi for trying to keep “the truth” from the public and controlling Schumer. DDT also was shocked that Pelosi would take this action for the first time in U.S. history. He skipped over the part that trying to give during the speech during a president-caused government shutdown is unprecedented (unpresidented?).

Deciding that he has lost the argument, DDT insulted Pelosi and said that he would wait until after the government reopens to give that “great” speech.

Lara Trump, wife of DDT’s son Eric Trump, calls the loss of paychecks for 800,000 people “a little bit of pain … for the future of our country.” An example of the “little bit of pain” caused by the shutdown is the requirement by Newton (AL) requiring  43 subsidized tenants to pay full rent until “the government opens up.” One 48-year-old woman living on disability with her daughter and granddaughter will immediately see her rent increase from $110 per month to $505. For Lara Trump, that wouldn’t be even a “little bit of pain”; for this family, the almost 400-percent increase is devastating. Rural people who voted for DDT are discovering the “pain” that he can cause them.

Poll since DDT started the government shutdown doesn’t look good for him:

  • 71 percent think that the border wall, which they say is having a negative impact on the country, is not worth a government shutdown.
  • 66 percent want DDT to agree to budget without wall funding.
  • 60 percent think that the shutdown is causing serious problems for the United States.
  • 20 percent report being personally impacted by the shutdown’s cutback in services and programs.

Because of the shutdown, some jail inmates cannot have visitors—not only family but also attorneys—even if they have not been convicted of any crimes. Medical care is also being denied to people in jail because of no availability. The Kentucky union of prison officials have started a billboard campaign to open the government. And they are targeting McConnell as responsible for the shutdown. Today, the House passed the tenth bill to open the government, and McConnell rejected all ten. He is up for re-election next year.

FBI agents have been forced to put investigations on hold because of the shutdown. An undercover agent investigating child exploitation said that he’s “had to put pervs on standby.” Investigation into MS-13 gang members had been slowed because Spanish speakers are on furlough. Another agent working counter-intelligence cases said that they can “only conduct administrative functions.” Indictments are postponed, and grand jury subpoenas put on hold.

DDT’s shutdown caused the cancellation of the 16th annual International Export Control and Border Security Conference, scheduled for 270 security experts from 85 countries to discuss border-related issues such as weapons policy, licensing, and enforcement, including nuclear-arms proliferation. The State Department described the move as a postponement but did not offer a date when the conference would be rescheduled.

Tomorrow, the Senate plans to offer Democrats a deal to stop holding DACA recipients hostage for three years in exchange for $5.7 billion to begin DDT’s wall. Today, the Supreme Court refused to hear the court cases that had stopped DDT’s executive order against the DACA program. That decision makes DDT’s bargaining chip moot for at least ten months.

Arizona Republicans have a way to pay for DDT’s wall: State Rep. Gail Griffin introduced a bill forcing each resident to pay $20 to get porn sites on new computers and smartphones unlocked. Forget the fact that the idea is unconstitutional; the necessary funds for DDT’s current wall would still be short $5,559,680,000 . And imagine the logistics of requiring manufacturers to comply. The idea came from Chris Sevier, a self-described porn addict.

During the government shutdown, the annual March for Life brought about 200,000 people to Washington, D.C., including a large contingent from Covington Catholic High School, a prep school for privileged—mostly white—teenagers in Kentucky, represented by Mitch McConnell who refuses to allow senators to vote on House bills to reopen the government. Most people in the United States were unfamiliar with the school until Nick Sandmann and a group of 50 to 70 students  came from the March for Life to jeer at Nathan Phillips, an older Native American and Vietnam veteran, and a group trying to raise awareness of Indigenous people. When Nick was faced with bad press regarding his behavior, his mother hired a PR agency to organize a campaign that would back the press off from criticism of her son.

Families of Covington students hired the attorney Robert Barnes who appeared on Fox & Friends where he threatened legal action against anyone making false or defamatory statements about the teenagers. He also gave journalists and celebrities 48 hours to apologize and delete their tweets. Videos of the event showed the teens screaming, harassing women, making rape jokes, and taking off their clothes. Barnes may also have to deal with past photos of Covington students in blackface during a basketball game against a rival team with black players. Covington students described blackface as “school spirit.”

This morning, Nick appeared, without his MAGA hat, on NBC Today show where he claimed that he couldn’t remember anyone yelling “build the wall” and “go back to the reservation,” that the chants that he and his fellow students shouted were “positive” displays of “school spirit.” According to Nick, the students, mostly wearing their MAGA hats, were reacting in fear to the “African-Americans” who shouted insults at them. Five Black Hebrew Israelites were seen on video calmly standing, and a sixth videoed them and the crowd while the Covington students was jumping, moving around, and shouting. Phillips led his group between the small group of blacks and the large group of Covington students, who then blocked him from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Racism is “not tolerated” at his “Catholic school,” Nick said. Rev. Marshall Jolly disagrees with Nick’s assessment, as shown in his tweets about his experience with Covington. Nick said on Today that he saw no reason to apologize for what he called “listening to [Phillips] and standing there” and that he had every right to be there.

DDT’s response to Nick’s behavior:

“Nick Sandmann and the students of Covington have become symbols of Fake News and how evil it can be.”

A week earlier, DDT joked about the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre of several hundred Lakota Indians by the U.S. Cavalry when he ridiculed Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) with his customary insulting term of “Pocahontas.”

The dialog on both right and left sides in the past five days has demonstrated one thing: Nick learned from his school, his parents, and other adults that he has the right to stand wherever he wants, even if he is blocking an elder and the resources to hire anyone to threaten people who disagree with him. He feels no obligation to apologize to someone who he has upset, even if it was inadvertent. Males like Nick have a great future: Brett Kavanaugh is now a Supreme Court justice.

© blogfactory

Genuine news

Civil Rights Advocacy

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. -- Margaret Mead

AGR Daily News

Transformational News; What Works For Seven Future Generations Without Causing Harm?

JONATHAN TURLEY

Res ipsa loquitur - The thing itself speaks

Jennifer Hofmann

Inspiration for soul-divers, seekers, and activists.

Occupy Democrats

Progressive political commentary/book reviews for youth and adults

V e t P o l i t i c s

politics from a liberal veteran's perspective

Margaret and Helen

Best Friends for Sixty Years and Counting...

Rainbow round table news

Official News Outlet for the Rainbow Round Table of the American Library Association

The Extinction Protocol

Geologic and Earthchange News events

Central Oregon Coast NOW

The Central Oregon Coast Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW)

Social Justice For All

Working towards global equity and equality

Over the Rainbow Books

A Book List from Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of the American Library Association

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

%d bloggers like this: