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Saturday, November 19, 2016

Donald Trump wants an apology from the cast of "Hamilton"

Donald Trump took to Twitter Saturday morning to chastise the cast of "Hamilton" for exercising their First Amendment rights:

The "rudeness" Trump is referring to is a message Brandon Dixon delivered to Mike Pence after a performance. Take a moment and watch the video.

Was that rude? Was it some sort of attack on Pence? Absolutely not. Dixon starts by saying "There's nothing to boo here," and points out "we're all here sharing a story of love." He thanks Pence for coming to the performance. Dixon speaks about the diversity of the "Hamilton" cast, and says he hopes Pence is inspired to protect all Americans' inalienable rights after experiencing the play.

The theater is most definitely not supposed to be a "safe" place. Art is often not safe. Art can be shocking and educational, it can be moving and powerful, it can speak to moments in history long forgotten or glossed over.

Donald Trump's only response to the 400+ hate crimes being perpetrated by his supporters was to tell them to stop during a 60 Minutes interview. But when his VP-elect goes to the theater, and is gently reminded to protect every American, Trump takes to Twitter to demand an apology.

Once again, Donald Trump proves he is not presidential in any way, shape, or form. We, the citizens of this nation, have the right to protest in whatever peaceful way we see fit. Including a diverse cast of a hit Broadway show coming together to deliver a message of inclusivity aimed at the least inclusive administration in modern history.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

How the Echo Chamber helped elect Donald Trump

Where do you get your news? Do you sit down at the kitchen table every morning, and read an actual newspaper? Or do you subscribe to the digital version of The New York Times, The Washington Post, or your local paper? Do you visit the BBC website, or Reuters? If you want to learn about events in another country, where do you go?

If you had been asked about Aleppo, would you have been able to respond any differently than Gary Johnson? Are you aware of the racism and xenophobia in Hungary? Do you know why Britons voted to leave the EU?

Like most Americans, you probably have a number of websites you visit every day. Websites that help you confirm your own bias, and allow you to live in an echo chamber. This echo chamber is not confined to one political view; both the left and the right live in one.

And that echo chamber helped elect Donald Trump. When mainstream liberals are getting their "news" from Addicting Info, Blue Nation Review, Daily News Bin, and Occupy Democrats, they are not learning anything. They are simply having their biases confirmed. When mainstream conservatives are getting their "news" from Fox, Breitbart, Drudge, and Newsmax, they're not learning anything, either.

People don't believe journalists, they believe bloggers, they believe Info Wars, or a misleading meme from US Uncut. They don't follow Dan Rather on Facebook, they follow Alex Jones, or Lee Camp. That bias, and those echo chambers, are part of the reason Donald Trump is the president-elect.

As someone who qualifies as a blogger, I am not held to the same rigorous standards as a journalist. I adhere to the journalistic code of ethics even so, because I think it's important to be truthful. But there are many websites and pundits that do not adhere to any code of ethics, because to do so would put a dent in their earnings.

Occupy Democrats has their own file at PolitiFact, as does Sean Hannity. Occupy Democrat's Alexa global rank is a staggering 4,837, while their rank in the U.S. is 837. Sean Hannity saw his ratings go through the roof in November, enjoying a 65% jump in total viewers.

Neither of these sources are news. Neither of these sources are reliable, and yet, the numbers don't lie. Occupy Democrats is one of the most visited websites in the world, while Sean Hannity is watched by tens of millions of people. And in both cases, the folks visiting Occupy Democrats, and watching Sean Hannity, are not learning anything. They are simply being given more permission to live in an echo chamber.

When confronted with their role in effectively destroying journalism, many content creators and cable news personalities become defensive. Especially now that a list has been published, naming sites that are fake, misleading, click bait, and/or hyperpartisan. That list was created by Melissa Zimdars, an associate professor of communication, and it is making some people very, very defensive. When he discovered his website, Daily News Bin, was on Zimdars' list, Bill Palmer served her with a cease and desist. Even though DNB is absolutely hyperpartisan, especially when it came to the presidential election, Palmer was so upset to be on that list, he wrote this on his Facebook page:

Thank you to all of you who notified me of that ridiculous "hit list" of supposed fake-news sites being circulated today by an assistant professor at Merrimack, a list which comically included Daily News Bin. The person who created it was obviously trying to gain internet fame through controversy, which is why I don't usually bite on these things. In this instance I did cease and desist her because she was trying to use the weight of her university's name to libel me, and she immediately removed Daily News Bin without reply. I've also contacted her department head and asked that corrective action be taken in the form of a public acknowledgement that she published the list without putting in any research on the sites she was libeling.

As the day has gone on, she's also removed five or six other publications from her list without any explanation – which in and of itself makes clear that her entire list is a sham. Who behaves like this? And this nonsense is being done by an educator? As a proud former public school teacher myself, I'm embarrassed for the profession.

So if you see someone posting that Google Docs list, feel free to point out that the entire list is a publicity stunt being made up and changed around on the fly, by a likely soon-to-be-unemployed assistant professor who sold out for fifteen minutes of internet fame. Even though my publication is no longer on the hit-list, other respected publications are still being libeled. And that's just wrong.

And he followed up with:
Every few months, some failed or faded political blogger assembles a hit list of "fake news" sites that always includes a number of legitimate and respected sites randomly lumped in with actual fake-news hoax sites. The losers who publish these lists are simply trying to gain attention for themselves, because they think the controversy and backlash will somehow help them. It never does. These people are never heard from again. And yet dummies keep making these intentionally dishonest lists. This is just the first time I've seen an educator make a phony list like this, and beyond internet fame, I don't fully understand her motivation. Usually it's dead-end bloggers who are jealous of the independent publications that are beating them out.

Melissa Zimdars is not a "faded political blogger," or a "dead-end blogger," and she is not making any money by publishing this list.  It is almost certain that if Mr. Palmer gets wind of his inclusion in this article, he will call me those things as well, but for now, he is attacking Zimdars.

The big sites on her list aren't taking any notice of this at all. They know it won't matter. People will still flock to Breitbart, or AddictingInfo, or Drudge, InfoWars, or Occupy Democrats, no matter how many lists are published. Those people don't want the truth; they want to live in their safe echo chamber, and have their biases confirmed.

Where do you get your news? Are you part of the solution? Do you fact check biased or questionable websites? Do you search for original content hidden within click bait articles? Or do you live in an echo chamber, content to only see or hear things with which you agree? Are your favorite sites on Melissa Zimdars' list?

Support journalism, get the truth, dig for facts. Don't visit or share sites whose only goal is to trick you into making them money. Get out of the echo chamber.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Snake Oil Salesman-Elect

Back in a time when tumbleweeds blew, when you had to surrender your gun to the local sheriff before entering the saloon, and when Mongo rode an ox, there were men who sold potions from the backs of covered wagons. These men would roll into town, roll up their sleeves, and hock their wares to gullible and unsuspecting townsfolk.

Snake oil salesmen claimed their concoctions cured everything from chronic pain to headaches to "female problems" to kidney trouble. One of the most famous of these con men was Charles Stanley, whose potion contained no snake oil, but it did contain turpentine. Other "healing potions" contained high levels of lead and mercury.

The people who bought these possibly-lethal potions were often just trying to feel better, and thus, susceptible to the snake oil con. Being told what you want to hear, even if it's a lie, is comforting. If a well-dressed man, who radiates confidence and authority, tells you his brand of medicine will cure your ills, you're going to listen. And possibly buy whatever he's selling.

Which is precisely what happened on Tuesday, November 8, 2016. People who believed Donald Trump's particular brand of snake oil could cure everything that's wrong voted him into the Oval Office. Lost your job? Vote Trump, and he'll get that job back. Scared of ISIS? Vote Trump, and he'll "bomb the shit out of 'em." Hate Obamacare? Vote Trump, and he'll get rid of that awful thing that gave millions of people access to health insurance, many for the first time.

Oh, but wait. Donald Trump is now waffling on the ACA, stating he's considering keeping two parts of the law: letting parents keep their children on their policy until age 26, and barring insurers from refusing coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. The snake oil salesman, the con man, is slowly revealing himself.

Trump said whatever he needed to in order to sell his brand of toxic sludge to America. He'll build a wall, he's create a deportation force, he will make us a nation under one god. He's gonna drain that swamp! Anti-establishment! No lobbyists!

Well, except for the Washington insiders and establishment members rumored to be on his list of cabinet members. Insiders like JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon, who is about as establishment as a person can get. Establishment members like Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, and Chris Christie. Governors, former governors, right wing politicians-all are being considered for Trump's cabinet.

Donald Trump's con was so complete, so perfect, he got veterans to vote for him. After stating John McCain was not a war hero because he had been a POW, after attacking a Gold Star family, after bragging not getting any STDs during the 60's was his Vietnam, after saying he had always wanted a Purple Heart, and after saying attending an elite, private military school was the same as serving in the Armed Forces, he still managed to convince veterans he was their candidate.

His con was so expertly executed, he got women to vote for him. Pussy grabber, sexual predator, sexist, misogynist-married white women over 65 didn't care. Heck, Jordan Klepper even found a woman at a Trump rally who didn't think a woman should be president because of hormones. She's probably right; whenever I have a hot flash, the first thing I want to do is blow up Monaco.

On January 20, 2017, we will witness the inauguration of a bonafide snake oil salesman. Whose supporters might be slow to realize they've been conned, but once they experience it-no magically appearing jobs, no overturning of the ACA, no deportation force, no theocracy-they're going to be pissed. Sure, at first they'll blame all us "libtards" and "feminazis," but eventually, they will be faced with the realization that Donald Trump lied to them in order to put another notch on his Trump belt.

When that day arrives, it might be a good idea to stay home. Because the shit's going to hit the fan.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Donald Trump Will Never Be My President

Many of my friends are posting this morning about coming together. Facebook looks like a group of campers, sitting around a bonfire, singing "Kumbaya My Lord." Right before Jason pops up and stabs them all to death. And many of them are writing that, for better or worse, Donald Trump is our president. Fuck that.

Conservative white nationalists have been screaming for eight years that President Obama wasn't "their" president, based on his skin color. I am not that shallow; Trump's orangeness is not the reason he will never be my president. That's more of a he's an actual sociopath, a sexual predator, his entire campaign was one giant trigger, he wants to commit war crimes, he hates minorities, our allies are freaking out right now, children are waking up today terrified their parents are going to be deported, and he has emboldened some pretty violent people to be even more violent kind of thing.

"Bernie would have done better." No. He would not have done better. The people who adore Trump also hated Bernie Sanders. He's an elitist, just like the rest of us who have an IQ higher than 100. From his liberal Vermont, preaching about a higher minimum wage, talking about how Black Lives Matter, calling for an end to Citizens United, that damn bird. The neo-Nazis who elected Trump last night would never have voted for Bernie. Ever. By the way, we lived in Vermont. We love Vermont.

"Well, I hate Shillary, so I didn't vote." Fuck you. In the face. With a rabid badger.

"Trump speaks his mind, he's totally not PC, he's a real man." That "real man" may have raped a 13-year-old girl, that "real man" bragged about sexually assaulting women, that "real man" told Howard Stern it was perfectly okay to call Ivanka Trump-his own daughter-a piece of ass. He speaks his mind? Like calling Mexicans rapists, or stating he will ban Muslims, or promising to sue all the women accusing him of sexual assault, or making fun of Heidi Cruz's appearance? Trump is completely un-politically correct, so much so, our allies in Europe are absolutely terrified.

We watched NBC's coverage of this clusterfuck last night, and a big thank you to Richard Engel, the only actual journalist left on the planet. While Chuck Todd was trying to shove his own head up Trump's rectum, Richard Engel talked about the great harm a Trump presidency will cause. He talked about world markets, security, NATO, domestic policy. His voice rose just a smidgen when Tom Brokaw tried to explain away the damage Trump will cause. Richard Engel deserves a Pulitzer just for not slapping the shit out of the NBC election lineup.

It seems that we, normal, rational Americans, may have underestimated the hatred many of our neighbors have for everyone who isn't just like them. We also may have overestimated the intellect of the American voter. When Michigan was too close to call, my husband, a native Michigander and former employee of the auto industry, said "They're falling for his con. They really think he can get their jobs back. Holy shit." Trump can't get those jobs back, FYI.

And overnight, my Facebook page lost a like, and I also lost a Facebook friend on my personal page. Not sure what that was all about; maybe I wasn't presenting myself as a tree-hugging, folk song-singing, hand-holding, coming together, lovey dovey liberal. Maybe I was filled with sorrow and anger and frustration. Maybe I was trying to figure out how much of our retirement just disappeared. Maybe I was thinking about my Muslim friends, my Mexican friends, my LGBT friends, my African American friends, and how they now live in a country that elected a president who hates them. Maybe I was thinking about the women who will die because Donald Trump has promised to elect justices who will overturn Roe v Wade. I'm so sorry~.

Donald Trump will never be my president because I am a daughter of the American Revolution. Not officially, because they scare me, but by blood. My family helped found this country, and last night, America unzipped its fly, and pissed all over the graves of every single man and woman who gave their life for this nation. America elected a man who called avoiding sexually transmitted diseases his own Vietnam.

Donald Trump will never be my president because I am a survivor of rape and domestic violence, and he's a misogynistic asshole. Who sees women as objects, which, coincidentally, is how serial killers and serial rapists see women.

Donald Trump will never be my president because he hates the things that make America great: diversity, equality, social programs, facts.

Donald Trump will never be my president because I refuse to accept that we have become a nation of hate, racism, sexism, xenophobia, and (more) war crimes.

So stop telling me to get around that bonfire and sing. Stop telling me we need to come together because he's our president. Stop telling me how to feel about this fucking nightmare.

Because Donald Trump will never be my president.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

An Open Letter to Bernie Sanders Supporters

Dear Bernie Sanders Supporters,

Like you, I yearn for a more progressive government. A government for the people, not for the corporations. A government that looks out for the middle class, supports American workers, welcomes immigrants, respects a woman's right to choose, and a government that respects all our citizens. And I understand your frustration with this presidential election.

Next Tuesday, you have the opportunity to vote. Not for the candidate you hoped for, but for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Many of you have stated you will vote for Jill Stein, write in Senator Sanders' name, or not vote at all. You're tired of feeling marginalized, you're sick of big money in politics, you want real change.

Which candidate do you believe would be more amenable to moving farther left-Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump? Which of these two individuals is more likely to listen to you, to us? Which administration do you trust to nominate Supreme Court justices who will uphold the rulings on DOMA and DADT, and not overturn Roe v Wade? Which candidate believes the science of climate change?

Donald Trump will never move to the left. He chose a running mate who used state money to fund conversion therapy, and signed a law giving businesses the right to discriminate against the LGBT community. Trump believes climate change is a hoax, perpetrated by the Chinese. He wants to ban millions of people from this country based on their religious beliefs. He wants to deport over ten million immigrants, ripping apart families. Donald Trump believes more countries should have nuclear weapons, and bemoans the fact that we don't use our own. He wants our military to commit war crimes. He has stated he "loves war."

Hillary Clinton is not a perfect candidate. However, if you want a more progressive government, she is the only choice on November 8. Hillary Clinton is much more likely to listen to progressive ideas, and embrace liberal policies, than Donald Trump ever could or would.

Donald Trump is not an option for progressives or liberals. He simply isn't. And while writing in Bernie Sanders, or voting for Jill Stein, may feel good, it won't help us move this great nation in the direction it needs to move. If you want a more progressive government, run for office, like my friend Arik Bjorn. Support progressive candidates on the down ticket. But next Tuesday, vote for the presidential candidate who supports women, who stands with science on climate change, who will not take away the rights of the LGBT community, who will not ban Muslims, who will not deport millions of immigrants, and who can be convinced to usher in an era of progressive government.

You will not be voting for the lesser of two evils. You will be voting for the future, for the opportunity to move this country to the left. If Donald Trump is elected to the Oval Office, he will destroy all the progress we have made over the past decades. All of it.

Please vote wisely November 8. Think about the next four years, think about your LGBT friends, your Muslim friends, your Mexican and Hispanic friends, your African American friends. Think about your friends and family who are living paycheck to paycheck. Think about the rest of the world, a world Donald Trump doesn't understand, and fears. Think about our gun violence epidemic.

Think about the future.