February 4, 2018 – False sense of patriotism

In America the flag is one of the most iconic symbols we have. It provides a sense of pride, unity and love for our nation. We hang the flag everywhere possible, we wear clothing with the flag on it, we have bumper stickers proclaiming our love for the stars and stripes, some even get tattoos of it. Today is Super Bowl 52, the last game for a season mired with controversy over players kneeling during the national anthem. A large group of people claimed they were disrespecting our flag, our troops, and our nation. Another group claimed they were protesting police brutality and that they felt betrayed by the nation the flag represents. The flag meant to bring people together is now doing the opposite and I believe this is due to a false sense of patriotism.

Patriotism is defined as;

devoted love, support, and defense of one’s country; national loyalty.

One word sticks out to me personally in that definition, country. The flag itself is a symbol meant to represent our great country.

Country has multiple definitions;

a state or nation,

the people of a district, state, or nation.

This is where I believe it’s important to draw the distinction that patriotism can be interpreted as both; the devoted love, support, and defense of our nation, but also the people that make up the nation. We as a nation are a large group that can’t be pigeonholed into one race, religious belief, ancestry, or political ideology. We as a nation represent that diversity and should feel pride in that. We as a nation should care and protect the people who make up this country.

As stated before, some have taken the kneeling as disrespectful and I can see the logic behind that, but I wholeheartedly disagree. The idea of kneeling during the national anthem, a form of protest, as disrespectful is a half-baked argument with no merit. The national anthem is supposed to be a proclamation of our love for our country, our people. If people are being hurt by those who are meant to protect our country, our people, what is there to love? When a group of people are being systematically treated as the dregs of society and constantly hear that, as Americans their natural born instinct is to protest. Protesting is in our blood as Americans, we protested Great Britain to gain our freedom. Protesting by nature isn’t supposed to be popular, just read about the civil rights protesters. People who are willing to fight, die and make their voice heard to protect their neighbor represent the American spirit the most.

When those same people say that the troops are being disrespected, I would argue that the troops don’t fight for some symbolic flag, they fight for the constitution. The flag doesn’t give anybody freedom, the constitution signed by men who had no idea what the nation would be like in 2018 gives us freedom. This idea of fighting for the flag is idiotic at best and goes to show that some people think that the flag is this almighty beacon of what makes us American. People don’t go to war and give their lives for some piece of cloth, they fight and bleed for an intangible sense of freedom, the American dream and the constitution. For those who believe they fight for the flag and never give a second thought to the constitution, I question your dedication and love for your country.

Patriotism is honestly a dedication and love for the people of the nation, not some respect to a flag. We can be a nation without a flag, but we can’t be a nation without people. I praise the athletes that are taking a knee and becoming a conduit to convey this message that needs a spotlight in national discussion. They have brought attention to police brutality and racial inequality. This topic needs discussion because it is getting out of hand. It’s absurd we still need to argue on whether or not somebody who has different colored skin should be treated the same as somebody else. We should strive for equality no matter what.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed;

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January 31, 2018 – Social Media and Politics

Social media has quickly become an aspect of daily life for almost every individual in the modernized world. A tool that ushered in a sense of connection to everyone around the world. Both Facebook and Twitter have become giants in the social media scene that have transformed the way we as people have learned to interact with each other, both in a positive and negative way. It was only a matter of time that politics would become a norm in the forefront of social media interaction for a major of the users. People will nonchalantly share funny memes about political figures, political events and news articles to a mixture of family members, friends, coworkers and even strangers they might not ever meet. These posts generally express who they are as a person and will reflect a political ideology that they agree with. Is social media a good tool overall for friendships and political expression? I would argue that social media can be used for a lot of good, but can also be a tool that further divides people.

One of the main positives with social media being so closely related with politics nowadays, is the ease of information being spread. When the shutdown happened earlier this month, I believe that most people who don’t spend a reasonable amount of time or effort paying attention to the news would easily find out from friends. The transfer of knowledge is quick and easy through a process most do throughout the day without much thought. It’s easy for somebody to mindlessly scroll through their feed and quickly become aware of events happening without much effort. As a nation this is great. Having a larger majority of citizens being aware of such events helps build a sense of involvement with the government. People with more knowledge of politicians running for office, or the current political climate would generally be more likely to form an opinion and want to have a say our government.

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A problem that could have a major impact for those who generally get their news from social media is that biases from friends play a very important role in shaping opinions. A perfect example of this would be if all or a majority of a users friends shared the same opinion or political view. This would be considered living in an echo chamber. It’s the constant consumption without an opinion or fact that challenges what a user agrees with. This is extremely dangerous. There is always three sides to a story, in the political scene this could be seen as the left and rights take on a situation, alongside the actual facts on what happened. It’s nearly impossible to get an unadulterated take on a story involving politics. There will always be some kind of bias applied by the person providing the facts. While consuming political information it’s important to try and gather information from both sides, that way you can form a more complete opinion on a story. Living inside an echo chamber can lead to people who I believe are less informed overall than those who know nothing about the same story. Personally I believe the echo chamber effect has lead to people using the ‘fake news’ statement. From my view, people who use the ‘fake news’ statement are people who generally live in an echo chamber and aren’t willing to listen or accept anything that contradicts their political views.

Another negative is the normalization of radical ideas over time. I believe this has led to more people becoming accepting of racist, fascist and ignorant viewpoints. Throughout a day a person may see posts that aren’t blatantly pushing these ideas, but thinly veiled attempts to present a logical reason why it’s okay. Over a period of time a person could become more and more accustomed to this ‘idea’ that’s being presented and more willing to adopt that idea themselves. This is where those who are generally more educated will notice these attempts. I beg of those who do notice these attempts, please call it out. It’s always better to deal with a growing issue before it gets out of hand, rather than afterwards when it’s become socially acceptable to hold these opinions. We are a nation of varying religions, races, and ideas. I believe it’s important that we embrace equality and civility.

A very relevant problem that I think is extremely important to mention when it comes to politics and social media, is how these tools can be used by foreign governments to influence a nation’s citizens and their consumption of news. The 2016 election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is a star example of this. The spread of disinformation by fake and bot accounts played a role with forming citizens opinions on who they wanted to vote for. This is not my opinion, this is a fact corroborated by US intelligence agencies. Physical wars aren’t the way conflicts will be dealt with, it’s now the era of cyber warfare. Russia is notorious for their cyber divisions and for good reason, they excel at what they do. A giant network of bots, or botnets, have been utilized by Russia to infect and manipulate Twitter allowing control over what was popular for users to see. A good example of this in action is the #ReleaseTheMemo movement that occurred within the past week. A large portion of US citizens were never going to hear about some memo cooked up by a suspected compromised congressman about alleged FBI bias and misuse of intelligence tools. However, due to an increase in action by suspected Russian bots, the #ReleaseTheMemo message was pushed and took advantage of Twitter’s algorithm that showed what a majority of users were talking about. Controlling a narrative and story is incredibly important as stated before, but this tactic is extremely dangerous. In an extremely optimistic world people would go out and get all information possible and arrive at an informed opinion, but that’s sadly not how the world works. People are lazy, people don’t want to make an effort to check the validity of a story and will therefore accept the first thing presented.

My personal consumption of news is a mixture of the Politics subreddit and making myself watch Fox News every night. The Politics subreddit is a website that aggregates user submitted articles and then allows the other users to vote and decide on what will be presented to a larger audience. The benefit of this method is that those who are generally more aware of what is really happening, will be more likely to detect articles pushing false narratives or sources that aren’t reputable and control the overall flow of information. I take what news I’ve read throughout the day and then compare that to what I’m presented by Fox News. Do I think that Fox News is a reliable source? Definitely not, however I still subjugate myself to it in an attempt to stay as informed as possible.

On social media I post articles and information that I feel are important and am always open to discussion with anybody. Do I have a few more left leaning friends on Facebook? Probably, but I do have some right leaning friends. Throughout the day I notice what they post and will generally try to inject myself into a conversation and try to provide a different viewpoint. I challenge everybody to make an effort to listen to what pundits or people on the opposite spectrum are saying. The best way to form a complete opinion is the know as much as possible and if that means watching Fox News, well sometimes we have to suck it up.

January 29, 2018 – McCabe “resigning” and it’s implications

When I woke up today, I had a gut feeling that something big would happen politically, and boy was I right. The past week has been flooded daily with news pertaining to the Special Counsel’s investigation into the possible Russian collusion. Between the news that Trump attempted to fire Mueller in June, the Dutch having proof that Russians interfered in the 2016 election, Devin Nunes’ ‘secret memo,’ Jeff Sessions being interviewed by the Mueller, and Michael Flynn choosing to keep his interview concealed from the White House, it has been a crazy week of news. It has also given new revelations on where the investigation is headed.

Today Andrew McCabe, who was the Deputy Director of the FBI, resigned. Under normal conditions this wouldn’t be considered odd. A government employee with enough vacation time accrued that he could retire early with a nice pension. However, under this administration it should be looked at with extreme scrutiny.

A broad explanation of the investigation is this: Trump has been accused of either working with, or having knowledge of, Russians helping his campaign. James Comey, the former head of the FBI, was fired after refusing to stop the internal investigation into Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. Afterwards, Robert Mueller was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to continue the investigation, as well as find anything else compromising along the way. This is a wide ranging investigation with both Paul Manafort and Rick Gates facing active indictments. George Papadapoulos and Michael Flynn have both already plead guilty. They’re both actively cooperating with Mueller. These are the main points of the investigation thus far.

Since the beginning of 2018 the investigation has gained a lot of momentum. Mueller is currently interviewing Trump’s “inner circle” of advisers and allies. With the help of the FBI, Mueller is expected to interview Trump in the near future. Meanwhile, Devin Nunes, a Republican representative from California, has comprised his own “Secret Memo.” This “Secret Memo” is comparative to Joseph McCarthy’s infamous document supposedly listing the names of communists and Soviet spies that had infiltrated the federal government during the Cold War. Both have used their respective documents as a political weapon to discredit groups and individuals. The sole difference is that Nunes’ document is tangible and has been shown to others. Nunes compiled this document with the sole intent of discrediting Mueller’s ongoing investigation. It also claims political bias on the part of the FBI due to being “anti-Trump,” as well as potentially exposing blatant misuse of FISA warrants, which was created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.

So, where does McCabe fall into this? As acting Deputy Director of the FBI, he played an integral role in managing agents and tools in order to aid in Mueller’s investigation. He acquired a target on his back after his wife made a Senate seat run as a Democrat. She also received money from an ally of Clinton. These two things combined made for instant political fodder in the minds of Trump and his supporters. The phrase “the fish rots from the head” is apt in this situation. Mueller is protected by Rosenstein. Christopher Wray, the current head of the FBI, is a Trump appointee. Who would be next in line to target with Nunes’ document in an attempt to build public disapproval for the overall investigation? Andrew McCabe.

Even though McCabe had been working for the FBI since 1996 and was eligible for full retirement, he came under the scrutiny of Trump himself via Twitter.

mccabe trump tweet

Between McCabe’s resignation announcement today, Nunes’ memo, and Trump’s attention being focused on McCabe, this seems more nefarious than first assumed. It began with the report that Trump asked McCabe who he voted for during one of their first meetings. While not entirely illegal, it is highly unethical. To Trump, a vote against him is basically malicious opposition and “anti-Trump.” McCabe was also a trusted Comey ally to the point he was privy with the events surrounding his firing. McCabe could be utilized as another witness for indicting Trump for obstruction of justice, should Mueller decide to go that route. Let’s not forget who “Deep Throat” was during the investigation on Nixon.

deepthroat

While there have been reports that McCabe was urged to resign by Wray, whether it was forceful or not. The timing surrounding this is odd. Today marked the deadline for the White House to begin enforcing sanctions against Russia that passed with bipartisan support in Congress. While writing this, the House Intelligence Committee is debating on whether or not they will choose to declassify Nunes’ memo without prior approval of the Department of Justice and the FBI.

I believe this is a major step in the White Houses’ attempt to shutdown Mueller’s investigation before more indictments are doled out. While this is a possible explanation, it is impossible to confirm without some of the more minute details. However, I feel that this is a strong possibility that may explain why I feel that democracy is currently under attack, and that it may encounter a constitutional crisis very soon. I beg of you, should Mueller be fired, to please take it to the streets and tell your representatives that this investigation matters to you, and that you believe Mueller should be protected.

 

NOBODY IS ABOVE THE LAW—MUELLER FIRING RAPID RESPONSE

Where do I stand politically?

For those who know me personally and are friends with me on Facebook, I’ve become extremely vocal about politics and current events surrounding the current President. Almost 2 years ago I dipped my feet into the political scene and nowadays I feel like I can’t get enough. If they had an IV drip with a constant stream of political news I would need it, I’m a junkie. I started off not caring about politics at all, it was somewhat taboo around my family, nobody wanted to get involved or express their opinion or stance, until it came to the presidential election.  My first clear vivid memory pertaining to politics is when John McCain was running to be President and chose Palin to be his VP, to my family that was a big deal. We all call Alaska home and to have somebody from Alaska move up and be somebody important was big for us.

It was kind of known that my family was conservative, for whatever reason I’m not sure, although I attribute it mostly to geographic or religious reasons. I grew up thinking I was conservative as well, my parents were, I was involved with church, I grew up in a military family, spent most of my life in rural Georgia, it was the perfect amount of factors to lead me to thinking I was conservative. Nowadays I’m on the completely opposite side of the spectrum, I now consider myself a democratic socialist. Here is where you might ask yourself what happened to swing somebody that far to the opposite side. In all honesty I attribute it to my views in a religious manner, growing up in a family that didn’t have it all, and Bernie Sanders. If it wasn’t for Bernie Sanders running I would probably not be as far left as I am. I have a lot of left leaning friends that I talked to a lot during the election and I value their opinions and input that they’ve given me throughout the years, so I probably would’ve swung a little bit less overall. However here I am, the crazy guy on the left that strives to follow in the footsteps of an old guy from Vermont that wants a better America for everybody.

Political discussion is an incredibly touchy subject for some, however for me I enjoy it more than most. I find myself to be extremely open to discussion and reasonable debate, I’m not somebody who is going to get offended when somebody says something I might disagree with, I’m not going to try and force my views down somebodies throat, I’m always interested to see why somebody holds a certain view. With politics being so polarized now, it does make it hard to have a reasonable conversation and it saddens me, I enjoy talking about policy, not a discussion about whether being a liberal is a mental disorder.

I’m hopeful that I can actually keep up with my blog this time, I enjoy an outlet for my political thoughts and it’s nice to just brain dump everything that I’ve been thinking about for a week. With that being said here are some topics that I’m extremely concerned about and will hopefully talk about more in the future.

  1. Mueller’s investigation
  2. Religious freedoms
  3. Universal healthcare (single payer)
  4. Legalized cannabis
  5. Women’s rights
  6. Wealth inequality and capitalism
  7. Police reform
  8. Racial inequality

If anybody who reads this has something they want me to discuss my views on just let me know and I’ll try to get to it as fast as possible.