Is the New “Presidential Alert” a Good Thing or a Bad Thing?

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Yesterday ushered in a new day for governmental contact with its citizens. At precisely 2:18PM (Eastern Time) on Wednesday, the federal government issued the first ever Emergency Alert over cellphones. It was a simple statement, much like what you have when they perform this same test monthly on radio and television (“This is a test of the Wireless Emergency Alert System. This is only a test.”). And not everyone received it; according to many that I have spoken to (admittedly a small group), there were couples that one received the message while the other didn’t (even if they were in the same room), there were those that received the message even though they had shut their phones off (don’t ask this layman how that happened) and those that got the message right on time.

Naturally, everyone lost their shit over the text message. A lawsuit (one of many) was filed in New York looking to stop the deployment of the “Wireless Emergency Alert System,” arguing that it violated the First and Fourth Amendments of the U. S. Constitution. Attorneys argued that the system was a “violation of Americans’ First and Fourth Amendment rights to be free from Government-compelled listening, as well as warrantless, non-consensual trespass into and seizure of their cellular devices.”

It is reasonable that these people believe the veracity of their arguments. While people can get on “Do Not Call” lists, opt out of Amber or Silver Alerts (the Silver Alert is for older people who are in jeopardy) and other bothersome contacts, this particular Alert cannot be opted out of because of federal regulations. But the problems that some people have is perhaps not as much about the Alert but about how it was billed.

At the top of yesterday’s Emergency Alert test was, in bold print, Presidential Alert. Now, just who would currently be the president (and I put it in lowercase because he doesn’t fucking deserve upper)? That’s right, it is Orange Foolius, a petulant man-child whose propensity for hate-Tweeting is well-known. When presented with the ability to reach 330 MILLION cellphones in this country, the Narcissist in Chief has a megaphone that he can use to spew his garbage to the entirety of the country.

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Except it isn’t supposed to be used in that manner. President Barack Obama actually instigated the Wireless Emergency Alert System back in 2016 when he signed a law authorizing its creation. In that law, the usage of the system was just like that of television and radio – that it was only authorized in the case of a national emergency. The actual language in the law state that a president (and, since President Obama isn’t in the office anymore, we’re speaking about the jackass there now and future office holders) “shall not be used to transmit a message that does not relate to a natural disaster, act of terrorism, or other man-made disaster or threat to public safety.” Arguments against the Alerts state that this is “unconstitutionally vague,” and that is reasonable.

If they had simply called it a “Wireless Emergency Alert System” and left it at that, I don’t think people would be as upset as they are. Most people don’t even watch television or have radio anymore – the old ways that the Emergency Alert System was to inform people in case of an emergency. But it seems that everyone has a cellphone, which is awake 24/7 and never sleeps. Thus, shouldn’t there be a way for the federal government to reach people in a time of emergency (let’s leave out the questions of when cell service wouldn’t reach people, such as a hurricane or other weather-related phenomenon)?

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While President Obama started this law, it was accelerated after an incident earlier this year. In January in Hawaii, there was an inaccurate Emergency Alert sent out about an impending nuclear attack coming in. The ballistic missile warning was sent over the tradition Emergency Alert System and the Commercial Mobile Alert System (covering all televisions, radio and cellphones) that stated firmly that “this is not a drill.” People were panicking across the islands for almost 45 minutes (this occurred at roughly 8AM local time) before authorities could get out word that the alert was false. This particular wireless system, in theory, could have gotten the message out quicker (don’t ask me how) and corrected the inaccurate report.

Where the feds fucked this up is in calling it a “Presidential Alert.” With the divisiveness of this asswipe in the WH currently, there’s more than half the country that is going to despise it, not to mention those that believe in the libertarian philosophy of less government intrusion into private lives. Let’s not even get into the legal and/or ethical situations of tapping the 911 lines to be able to hunt you down so you get precise alerts (that’s why Amber Alerts work wherever you go and always for that area). I do think this should be examined, but it could have been avoided with a little research into branding the product.

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Furthermore, there is some credence to the fact that citizens of the States of America have given up an extreme amount of freedom. Since 9/11, the freedoms of the Average Joe have been eroded bit by bit. The Patriot Act opened up that Pandora’s Box under the pretense of the “war on terrorism” (an unwinnable engagement because there isn’t a set opponent or location to actually fight the war) and, for the most part, U. S. citizens have acquiesced to the invasion of their privacy. That invasion continues to grow, mostly without anyone even noticing that the once large arena of personal liberty has shrunk to a small room.

The bottom line is that the situation could have been avoided by a little smarter work and a little better branding of the product by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (the government organization in charge of the usage of the Emergency Alert System). With Mushroom Dick in the office currently (and his approval rating floundering around 35%), such actions as this aren’t going to be viewed in a good light. But instead of arguing about whether Orange Foolius is going to be using the “Presidential Alert” to send out his latest Twitter missives aimed at those he believes have “wronged him,” we ought to look at the overall picture of security for the country and then determine if this step is really necessary to ensure that all citizens of the States of America can be informed in the case of a TRUE national emergency.

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Freedom of Speech is a Right Until Someone Disagrees with It

ColinKaepernick

WRITER’S NOTE:  Been awhile, hasn’t it?

Rather than trying to recap what has happened in the world over the last month (to give you a reason for the lack of material, real life invaded on essays – and moving from North Carolina to Florida had a huge impact itself), we’re going to pick up with the latest discussion du jour. Trust me, there’s going to be more concentrated efforts here over the next few months, especially with the Presidential Election on the horizon!

We’re only two weeks away from the start of the National Football League season and, to be honest, it seems as if they are in midseason form in many areas. Complaints about the officiating, season-ending injuries, suspensions for drugs and/or wife beating have been handed out and controversies over who should be playing are already raging and we have only seen each team play two meaningless preseason games. One instance, however, seems to have stepped beyond the bounds of the gridiron and into the public consciousness.

At the start of their game with the Denver Broncos on Friday night, virtually all of the San Francisco 49ers team stood at attention on the sidelines as the National Anthem was played. After the ceremony of the performance and the start of the game, it was noted by television commentators that 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was conspicuously missing from the team lineup, instead sitting on the bench behind his teammates as the National Anthem played. What may have been an insignificant occurrence instead became the latest in media-driven hyperbole and faux patriotism.

Following the game, Kaepernick responded to questions about why he didn’t stand for the National Anthem. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick stated, apparently in reference to many of the incidences regarding black people and their killing by law enforcement officers, among other things. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Kaepernick didn’t hold back from those sentiments after some thought. On Sunday, as a vortex of controversy swirled in the air, Kaepernick doubled down by saying, “I’ll continue to sit. … I’m going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed. To me, this is something that has to change, and when there’s significant change — and I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, and this country is representing people the way it’s supposed to — I’ll stand.”

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Needless to say, this incited a boisterous outpouring of condemnation for Kaepernick, including fans of the 49ers burning his jersey, political pundits blustering that he should give up his job and leave the country and others who blasted him for his political stance. A much smaller segment of the population recognized the reasoning that Kaepernick was using but thought he could have done something other than not stand for the Anthem (for the record, Kaepernick said the protest was in no way a reflection on the military men and women who defend the country). An even more microscopic group agreed with Kaepernick, at their own risks.

First off, let’s look at the rules. There is NOTHING that states the athletes have to stand for the National Anthem. This is the path that officials for the 49ers took, issuing an official statement of support for Kaepernick but stating, “The National Anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony…In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose to participate, or not, in our celebration of the National Anthem.” The NFL echoed the 49ers brass, with spokesman Brian McCarthy saying, “Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the National Anthem.”

Secondly, it isn’t the first time such a situation has occurred. Former National Basketball Association guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (born Chris Jackson) refused to stand for the National Anthem during a game in 1996 because of his religious beliefs. This resulted in a one-game ban by then-NBA President David Stern that was quickly rescinded because of Abdul-Rauf’s religious convictions (the two parties eventually negotiated a deal where Abdul-Rauf would recite Islamic prayers yet stand with his teammates for the National Anthem).

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It seems that the problems arise when people – some who would normally be the staunchest defenders of the “freedom of speech” – forget that this caveat of the First Amendment also applies to things to which you don’t agree. Everything is good for people when they are supportive of the messages put into the ethosphere, but when something is stated that violates the bubble that people have put around themselves, then they begin to deride someone’s “freedom of speech” to the point of having it taken away. Many have stated that Kaepernick should be forced to stand for the National Anthem, depriving him of his First Amendment rights.

As a Marine veteran, we are sworn in on an oath to defend the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. This oath also includes defending discussion that you don’t necessarily believe in, such as the statement that Mexicans are rapists or throwing a party for Martin Luther King Day that is questionable in nature. It is only through the respect of all speech, including that type of speech that you find objectionable, that the freedom of the First Amendment – and, by extension, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution – are truly exercised.

This seems to be lost on most, however. Some cite their service or that of another family member and view it as an affront (if they truly considered that oath that I spoke of earlier, they’d know they were wrong). Some cite that, by saying Kaepernick was wrong and being criticized for it, THEY are being silenced are also out of line…you can make your statement, but you also have to respect the rights of Kaepernick to his stance and not state that HE should be silenced. The rights granted by government cover a wide range of issues, including flag burning and having a Nazi rally march through a Polish neighborhood, and are not limited to just what is pleasant in your mind.

Kaepernick has made his statement and he is the one who has to stand with it and defend it. Whether you agree with him or not, you have to respect his right to be able to make the statement. Once you start to abbreviate or censor a form of thought, then that First Amendment begins to shrink, something that no one should desire.

Freedom of Speech Only Goes So Far…

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Earlier this week, former Boston Red Sox pitcher and ESPN baseball commentator Curt Schilling offered up on his Facebook account an anti-transgender meme that has been making its rounds on the internet. In this particular meme (I’ll refrain from putting it on here because…UGH!), a rather unattractive man is wearing female clothing with the quotation beside him, “LET HIM IN! To the restroom with your daughter or else you’re a narrow minded, judgmental, unloving, racist bigot who needs to die!!!” Schilling shared the meme and, after a moment’s thought, deleted it, but not until after some people had screen-captured what he’d done.

To take it a step further, Schilling then stepped to his personal blog and tossed more gasoline on the raging fire. To give him credit, Schilling didn’t shy away from his personal beliefs (“There are things I have deeply held beliefs in, things that are core to who I am, things I am passionate about…whether you like that…or not is completely up to you.”), but he also had to know what was coming (more on this in a moment). That “other shoe” that Schilling might have been expecting came on Wednesday night when his employer, ESPN, terminated his contract, stating simply “ESPN is an inclusive company. Curt Schilling has been advised that his conduct was unacceptable and his employment with ESPN has been terminated.”

This wasn’t the first time that Schilling had stepped down this path. He was suspended after first Tweeting a meme that compared Muslims to the 1930s Nazis and, once ESPN kicked him off the broadcasts of the Little League World Series, followed up with a defensive post to another blogger that cost him the remainder of the Major League Baseball season (despite the factor that the post also defended the person who replaced him, former U. S. Olympic softball star Jessica Mendoza, against comments the blogger made). And this doesn’t count what other memes that Schilling shared over his Facebook feed.

Opinion over what Schilling has shared over his social media – this week and previously – takes an interesting course, one that requires some thought before making a statement. Plenty of people believe that Schilling was simply “saying what a lot of us are thinking. Apparently you can’t have an opinion at ESPN if that opinion isn’t a liberal opinion.” Others believe that Schilling will be quite happy on the unemployment line (probably not; Schilling’s video game company, 38 Studios, filed for bankruptcy protection in 2012 and Schilling has sold off personal memorabilia to cover his expenses), saying, “Who would want to work for a company that would punish you for telling the truth?”

There are those that take the other side. “Schilling’s freedom to say what he wants hasn’t been denied; the government has not punished Schilling for what he said,” one person stated. “ESPN, however, has the right terminate his employment.”

That is the key point that many are missing with this situation. Schilling has all the “freedom of speech” rights in the world. The government cannot come after him and tell him “you can’t say that, Mr. Schilling, otherwise we will have to put you in jail.” It is one of the tenets of the First Amendment that allows everyone the right to speak out about…well, whatever they feel are the injustices of the world.

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What many seem to forget, however, is that with the freedom of speech also comes the consequences of that freedom. For example, it is allowable to be able to burn the U. S. flag in protest (and to dispose of it, but that’s another story), encoded by the U. S. Supreme Court decision Texas v. Johnson (1989). While you can go ahead and burn the flag, you also have to accept the consequences of what might happen if you do that; in some cases, there may be a major league ass-kicking that comes along with it…not condoning physical violence, but it is a potential consequence. In Schilling’s case, he perfectly has the right to freedom of speech, what he forgot was the consequences part.

ESPN is a part of the massive Disney empire, which is the target of boycotts by one organization or another probably several times a day, 365 days per year. They try to minimize those issues by offending as few people as possible with the multitude of entertainment options that they provide (this is probably why they chuck the Disney girls who come up through their shows out before they go wild…look at the recent arrests of Debby Ryan and Kelli Berglund and let’s not even get into Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears). Thus, when someone continually chafes their audiences through poking the proverbial bear with their social media actions (as Schilling has done here and in the past), there comes a point when ESPN can decide enough is enough and remove the problem by dismissing the person.

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It isn’t the first time that ESPN has done something along these lines. After a profanity-laced tirade at a roast for Mike and Mike hosts Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic in which she went off on Golic’s alma mater Notre Dame by saying “Fuck Notre Dame, fuck Touchdown Jesus…and fuck Jesus,” former ESPN anchor Dana Jacobson was suspended for a week from the ESPN airwaves after irritating the Catholic League. Commentator Stephen A. Smith was suspended for his comments on domestic violence and SportsNation host Max Kellerman earned a suspension for his comments on the same matter. These barely even broach the suspensions and/or firings that have been handed out by ESPN in its history for “freedom of speech” violations.

Freedom of speech is a guaranteed right under the U. S. Constitution, but it is only guaranteed when you are speaking about the government. You can criticize the President, Congress, our military actions (or lack thereof), our political directions and decisions or an array of other things and there isn’t a thing that the government can do about it. They cannot come to the street corner where you might be ranting about these things, they cannot censor what you write on the subject and they certainly cannot arrest you for what you’ve said (within reason, of course…advocating for armed treason is one of those areas that they might have actionable cause).

When it comes into the private arena, however, the game completely changes. A company can (and does) look into your personal background, your social media (some companies nowadays ask for your social media names, at the minimum; state and federal legislatures are trying to prevent this) and monitor for where their employees might discuss the company. If this is a surprise to you, I’ve got a story that will emphasize the point for you from more than 15 years ago.

While working in the public sector, I worked with a gentleman who went into an online chatroom and discussed the company we worked for at great length. Needless to say, he wasn’t exactly glowing in what he said about our company as he detailed out what he felt were problems that the organization had. Although he thought he had an online ‘handle’ (screenname) that would prevent him from being identified (they could trace ISP addresses, even back then), the company found out who it was and terminated him immediately, despite his protests of “freedom of speech” (this is an old refrain).

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How many of us would be willing to lay our social media accounts in front of our employer and let them have a look at what we think and say? How many of us would be able to pass the scrutiny of such an examination that our employer wouldn’t have to dismiss us out of protection of their organization? I’ll be the first to say I’m probably not perfect as to some of what I’ve written on social media; I wonder how many people who read this can be that honest.

So it isn’t the factor that Schilling’s freedom of speech is being violated. It is a factor that Schilling didn’t consider the consequences of what his freedom of speech might bring onto the company he represents. For those who contend that a “liberal company” is “silencing” a “conservative” thought, it isn’t that at all; it is a business looking to protect its bottom line by eliminating a loose cannon that could cost it money, plain and simple.

And The Chickens Come Home to Roost…

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Currently on the cable news channel CNN (and why it’s on there I have no clue, except for the factor that news channels are “entertainment” channels nowadays) is a six-part documentary series (ah, THAT’S how they play it off as “news”) delving into the history of the campaigns for the Presidency of the United States. Race for The White House, narrated and produced by House of Cards actor Kevin Spacey, looks back at six campaigns from the jaded history of the country and the lengths (some would say depths) that people would go to ensure that their candidate was ensconced in the White House. Last week’s episode dealt with the 1960 Presidential election between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon (I already knew the story and thusly bypassed it) and this week’s episode – unless its preempted for “Breaking News” (“Hey, someone found a piece of that Malaysian plane that’s been missing for two years!”) – will look at the 1860 fight between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas.

To say that the 2016 Presidential campaign has been unique and may someday be a part of the 75th anniversary of Race for the White House on the Interstellar News Network (INN) would be an understatement. For the most part, however, it isn’t two parties or candidates going after each other that have made this a campaign that has either been memorable or an embarrassment, depending on viewpoint. It is one person whose repeated usage of inflammatory rhetoric has, indeed, drawn an audience of knuckle-draggers out of the woodwork that have repeatedly attacked even the slightest hint of protest at his campaign rallies. Now, however, the chickens are coming home to roost.

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Of course, we are talking about Donald Drumpf, who has led the charge for the Republican Party after eight years of heated, borderline racist rhetoric of their own that castigated the twice elected President Barack Obama. It started for Drumpf with the 2012 election when he drove the “birther” movement (even after it had calmed down in most Republican circles) and Trump himself fanned the flames higher. “You won’t believe the information my investigators have found,” the Orangutan Mutant crowed in news conferences – that was before Obama stood up, showed a full birth certificate showing his place of birth to be Hawaii and basically told Drumpf to put up or shut up (note:  Drumpf shut up).

When Drumpf announced his run for President in 2016, he simply continued the divisive, racist, xenophobic and misogynist rhetoric that he has parroted since he entertained thoughts of running for the office in the late 1990s. No matter the nationality or region – Mexican, Syrian, South American, Asian – nor the ethnicity or religion, Drumpf has cursed them all, pumping his StormTrumpers with an Aryan vision of “making America great again.” Then, when things got violent, Drumpf simply ratcheted the verbosity and tension even more.

Since that day in June 2015, Drumpf has continually encouraged his rallygoers to verbally and physically attack those in the crowd that would even think to disagree with him. In February, Drumpf literally said if someone at one of his rallies saw someone even giving the slightest appearance of trying to disrupt his speech to “knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously. OK, just knock the hell – I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise, I promise.”

So what do you think happened?

On March 8, a member of the Drumpf crowd DRESSED IN HIS KOREAN WAR VETERANS ASSOCIATION GARB pushed and threatened a black protestor in Louisville, KY, forcing the WOMAN from the rally for apparently protesting too much (there is no video of what she did). The man, Al Bamberger, has since repeatedly apologized to his Veterans’ Chapter and his family, but basically has handed out a big “fuck you” to the woman whom he assaulted. So has Drumpf, who encouraged the actions from the stage (as he has virtually every one of the altercations at his rallies).

Another Drumpf rally on March 10 got even worse. As Cumberland County Sherriff’s Department officers escorted two men from the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville, racial epitaphs reportedly were hurled by the crowd towards both black men. Then another man, John McGraw, stepped up and sucker-punched one of the men as he walked by. Instead of apprehending McGraw for the assault, Cumberland County officers tackled the punched man and quickly got him and his partner out of the Coliseum. It wasn’t until the next day – and after the tabloid show Inside Edition interviewed McGraw with him saying “Yes, he deserved it. The next time we see him, we might have to kill him…he might be with a terrorist organization” – that the Cumberland authorities got around to arresting McGraw for assault (an investigation is ongoing by the Sheriff’s Department as to why they didn’t act at that time).

Then there’s Drumpf’s treatment of the press. Breitbart.com reporter Michelle Fields – and Breitbart is a conservative-leaning website that has been VERY closely associated with promoting the Drumpf campaign – was allegedly accosted by Drumpf campaign manager Corey Lewandowski while the campaign was in Florida on Friday. Fields filed charges of assault against Lewandowski and displayed bruising on her arm where she said she was “forcefully grabbed” by Lewandowski, who doesn’t say he didn’t do it but calls Fields “delusional” and the campaign says is “entirely false.” There is video, however, of Lewandowski being within close proximity to Fields while Drumpf is departing a press engagement and, at a point, her body jerking back violently, giving credence to her side of the story. The investigation is ongoing.

And this all has gone on while the Orangutan Mutant continues to up the ante, increase the bile in every speech and ratchet up the rhetoric to histrionic proportions. But what happens when the odds are evened up and it isn’t a screaming horde of a few hundred people against one or two? Drumpf and his supporters scream like little weaklings with their panties in a bunch and say that their rights are being violated!

On Friday, Drumpf scheduled two rallies, one in St. Louis and the other in Chicago, and everything short of street warfare broke out. Outside of the St. Louis rally, protestors from both sides clashed and, in what has become a usual occurrence inside a Drumpf rally, the speeches were interrupted on more than a dozen occasions. That just served as the appetizer for Chicago, where the crowd was evenly split and, this time, Drumpf’s campaign decided not to hold the rally out of “security concerns.”

Now these protesters were apparently organized by the Black Lives Matters and MoveOn.org groups, but that isn’t a point worth arguing. When it came time for Drumpf to actually have to face off against those whom his supporters have targeted for attacks time and time again, they decided to back off. Drumpf himself then whined about his “First Amendment” rights and how he had a right to hold his rallies.

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Let’s get something straight here. Yes, everyone has a First Amendment right to say whatever the hell they want to say (and that the First Amendment is there to prevent the GOVERNMENT from infringing on that right). In utilizing that First Amendment right, you also have to accept the ramifications of what comes from that exercise. If your rhetoric is constantly demeaning of – well, virtually everyone – then you have to expect that you are going to get some backlash at some point from the targets of your vitriol.

Those protesters have the same right to be heard. Now there may be a question as to the usage of violence (and that is one that can be asked on both sides), but there should be no question that protesters can call out the Orangutan Mutant and his slobbering horde for their idiocy. That First Amendment thing? It works both ways.

What doesn’t work is to try and act like you haven’t done anything to aggravate the situation. For most of Friday evening and into Saturday (a Cincinnati Drumpf rally was also canceled due to “security concerns” while another in Dayton saw the Secret Service perform their duties admirably when a potential threat rushed the stage, surrounding Drumpf in a protective cocoon), Drumpf tried to say that he hasn’t said anything onstage to encourage his supporters to take the actions that have occurred, that there is nothing he regrets having said, that he is completely innocent regarding the “issues.”

To that, everyone – whether you agree with the Orangutan Mutant or don’t – has to raise up and loudly say “BULLSHIT!” Drumpf is the one that has turned the 2016 Presidential campaign into the shitshow that it has become, that has tossed it into the racial commode and continues to stir the malodorous pot. There’s an ever-so-slim chance that someone might get to Drumpf and see if he can walk it back a bit…if not, then I fear it’s going to get worse, perhaps to the point of dead bodies worse, rather than improve.