The World We Live In

Things have gotten so crazy and divisive lately that it’s now increasingly obvious that people are living in alternate realities. Our filter bubbles have become so completely isolating that they are impervious to commonly understood baseline facts such as science and reason. Some examples:

And today Vox has a terrifying piece which imagines a world where even a well-documented case of malfeasance by the current administration might be rejected out of hand by a misinformed and untrusting public.

That insular partisan far-right media is also full of nonsense like Pizzagate that leaves the base continuously pumped up — outraged, infuriated, terrified, and misled. At this point, as the stories above show, the conservative base will believe anything. And they are pissed about all of it.

At least the stock market is still breaking new records. I shudder to think what will happen if the economy takes a turn for the worse.

Hillary Clinton on Trump

HRC is on tour to promote her book, What Happened. She was on the popular liberal podcast, Pod Save America and shared this snipped which I’ve transcribed and linked to below.

I wrote this book to come to try to come to grips with what happened but also to sound the alarm about what I think could still and may well happen.

I think Trump, left to his own devices, unchecked, would become even more authoritarian than he has tried to be. Also remember, the right wing, aided and funded by Mercers, Koch brothers, etc, is very serious about calling a Constitutional Convention. They need 34 states, last I checked they were at 28, 29.

Part of their gerrymandering is to control state legislatures, elect republican governors and to call a Constitutional Convention. If you really get deep into what they’re advocating, limits on First Amendment, no limits on the Second Amendment, limits on criminal justice, there is a very insidious right wing agenda.

So when I say that he doesn’t just like Putin, that we wants to be Putin. I’m not saying he’s going to start killing journalists but I am saying he likes the idea of unaccountable, unchecked power. We’ve never had to face that in a serious way in our country.

https://breaker.audio/e/22734699 (jump to 35:54, I have also left a comment on the page)

Everyone’s Neighbor on the Chopping Block

The late-Mr. Rogers melted hearts in 1969 before the Senate Commerce Committee stressing the need for publicly-funded educational television and defend funding for the nascent Corporation for Public Broadcasting (the main source of funding for PBS and NPR).

This speech is all the more poignant in light of the proposed elimination of CPB to help fund the expansion of the military and fund the proposed Trump wall in the latest draft budget.

h/t Mashable

Truth to Power

It’s no secret that the disinformation swirling around our new president and how he got elected have been a boon for the troubled media business. Americans have taken a new interest in good journalism and are looking more carefully at where they get their information.

Subscriptions are up at places like the New York Times and New Yorker and we’ve been seeing record activity here at SmartNews. People want the truth.

Hollywood is getting in on the boom. Today, Steven Spielberg announced that he will direct The Post, a film about the Washington Post’s role in the release of the Pentagon Papers in 1971. Tom Hanks will play Ben Bradlee, the paper’s editor and Meryl Streep will play Kay Graham, the publisher.

In an age in which a sitting president loudly and routinely attacks the media and dubs credible outlets the “enemy of the people,” it’s more vital than ever to remember the lessons that history has already taught us. – Vanity Fair

To get a sense of the epic battle that is brewing, check out this conversation between Walt Mossberg, Kara Swisher and Marty Baron, the current editor of  the Washington Post (Baron played a central role in the reporting that led to the film Spotlight). The entire 45-minute talk is worth listening but I’ve called out some memorable quotes.

When asked, to respond to Trump’s criticism that he has a “running war” with the media, Marty replies,

The way I view it is, we’re not at war with the administration, we’re at work. We’re doing our jobs.

Replying to the comment that the media is an, “opposition party,”

We don’t act like a party, the press doesn’t coordinate with each other, we compete. We like a party but we’re not a party. We’re not the opposition, we’re independent.

And about “alternative facts”

We have to understand that the alternative to facts is not alternative facts. It’s fiction…I think this is a really concerning development, that we seem to say there is no such thing as an objective fact. It’s all just a matter of personal opinion.

Times like these will produce great journalists.

Caught in the Crossfire

The hastily announced executive order banning people from several Middle Eastern countries for 90 days and all refugees for four months caused confusion, anguish, and anger across the United States this past weekend. As I monitored the stories that were coming in from airports across the nation, it was the stories of innocent people caught up in the mess that drove home the cruelty of this most “un-American” regulation.

5-year old boy separated from his mother at Dulles Airport


Raya Bidshahri studies neuroscience at Boston University. Because her parents are Iranian, she is worried that they will not be able to visit to see her graduation. Once she is out of school, her visa expires and she fears she will not be able to stay in the United States.


Meanwhile, Ivanka Trump shows off her new dress on social media which results in howls of protest


Luca Freschi, an Italian microbial geneticist at Laval University, in Québec, Canada, had planned to move to Harvard Medical School in March. But the US immigration ban has disrupted those plans, because his Iranian wife Maryam will not be able to come with him. She has encouraged Freschi to go without her. – Nature


Suha Abushamma, who is also a Sudanese citizen, was given the choice of withdrawing her visa application “voluntarily” or being forcibly deported and not allowed back to the U.S. for at least five years. – ProPublica


Even BART was getting snarky – suggesting that you could take their train directly to the protests at SFO.

And just in case they weren’t clear enough,


“They called the husband, he’s from Minnesota,” Abi explained to ABC, “They told him that you have to get your children because they’re U.S. citizens, but your wife we will deport to Africa — we’ll send her back to Africa today at 10 a.m. So if you don’t come by 10 a.m. we’ll deport her.” – Woman And Her 2 Children Held At Dulles Airport for 20 Hours With No Food


At 11:45pm Senator Cory Booker showed up and pushed through the crowd to talk with the Customs & Border Patrol agents who, despite a federal court order suspending the detainments, still held several people for questioning.

“I am now of the belief that though this was issued by the judicial branch, that it was violated tonight,” he said. “And so one of the things I will be doing is fighting to make sure that the executive branch abides by the law as it was issued in this state and around the nation. This will be an ongoing battle.”


Then there’s this story of told in a series of tweets from a vet who served in Iraq.


Echoing Gov. Jerry Brown’s remembrance of Woody Guthrie’s anthem, This Land is Your Land, protesters in Philadelphia broke out into song.


Want to do something? Here’s a continually updated list of resources for those in trouble and those that want to help.

California and Sanctuary Cities

I think it’s charming that the California State Legislature opens the session with a prayer from a Buddhist priest. I also love that the Governor begins the swearing in of the new Attorney General with a jocular, “Are you ready?” and ends with a casual, “That’s it! Congratulations!”

But if you want to skip ahead to Governor Jerry Brown’s fiery defense of California’s philosophy of inclusion, scrub up to the 20 minute mark.

I’m proud that not only my congresswoman but also my senator is speaking out for inclusion, Affordable Health Care, and clean energy. Ending his speech with the words of Woody Guthrie, Gov. Jerry Brown quoted “This Land was made for you and me which took on new meaning and emphasis in his speech. “California is not turning back. Not now, not ever!”

But the state’s stance on sanctuary cities is what is front and center today. Up and down and across the country leaders are speaking out against the new administration’s threat to withdraw federal support from sanctuary cities.

There’s a study out today that has shown that communities that devote their resources to actually fighting crime (instead of rounding up illegals) are actually safer.

I’m proud to say that my city too has taken a stance and declared itself a sanctuary city on the eve of Trump’s inauguration. When friends and family ask about the significance of this I point to this speech given in front of the City Council by Reverend Michael Yoshii of the local Buddhist temple who reminded everyone present that it was in Alameda, because of the proximity of the naval base on the West End of the island that the first Japanese-Americans were rounded up to live in the local horse track stables while the internment camps were being built that would house them during WWII.

They were rounded up because, in Michael’s word, war hysteria and paranoia ran high in the days after Pearl Harbor and, “no one spoke up.” Without a law or policy in place that set up a moral true North, no one spoke up.

We must not let this happen again.

h/t to local blogger Lauren Do for the pointer to Reverend Michael Yoshii’s speech

We’ve been hacked before

If you look hard enough, current events always have precedence in history. Maybe the players are different and the circumstances changed but, to turn a phrase from Mark Twain, “History may not repeat itself but it does rhyme.”

In a few days we will swear in a new president whom many think was put in place thanks to third party meddling. True or not, it’s interesting to note that this isn’t the first time strings have been pulled by an overseas power in order to influence our election to favor a particular outcome.

Steve Usdin, who is working on a book about the topic, posts on Politico about a time when our closest ally, the United Kingdom, resorted to all manner of subterfuge to influence the largely isolationist United States to enter into the war against Germany.

British intelligence employed the full range of cloak-and-dagger techniques in America in 1940 and 1941: forgeries, seductions, burglaries, electoral dirty tricks, physical surveillance, intercepting and reading letters sent under diplomatic seal, illegally bugging offices and tapping phones. British intelligence even listened in on a telephone call in June 1940 between President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the White House and his ambassador to Britain, Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. A report on the call was quickly relayed to Churchill, alerting him that the U.S. was making contingency plans in case the U.K. fell to the Nazis.

Wartime England even used another familiar ruse in order to sway public opinion. Fake News went by another name in Churchill’s England.  “Sibs,” short for sibilare, the Latin word for whisper or hiss were the brainchild of a secret clandestine government outfit, the Underground Propaganda Committee.

While rumors spread in Europe by word of mouth, in the U.S., they were disseminated through a network of friendly reporters and, starting in the spring of 1941, by the Overseas News Agency, a news service that received subsidies from, and was controlled by, the BSC. ONA articles appeared in newspapers around the country. Especially prior to Pearl Harbor, these stories were picked up by newspapers in Germany, Japan and occupied countries.

Using intelligence hacking and fake news to swing an election? Same as is everwas.

What happened last night?

There’s a video is going around in Japan trying explain to people there how Donald Trump tapped into the under-represented and dispossessed to win the election. Over the moaning cellos from Hans Zimmer’s Interstellar soundtrack, Michael Moore rants in a clip from his latest movie TrumpLand against a gliding montage of Ken Burns-ed images of Trump supporters. Moore warns of the political landslide to come, something he saw plain as day, written across the faces of those in his native rust belt.

“Trump’s election is going to be the biggest ‘Fuck You’ ever recorded in human history.” It’s a powerful message, driving home the power of our democracy to collectively shape our future. With it’s built-in mechanism to overturn the establishment at regular intervals, it’s an incredibly resilient way to let off steam, for better or worse.

But if there is one thing we learned from last night, is that it’s important to put things in context. As powerful as that piece may be, it was served up with a perspective, a point of view. That particular cut faded out and and did not include the second half of his speech, the part that Michael Moore himself included in his clip from the same speech. Here’s the rest of it.

Careful what you wish for, the ballot is not an “anger management tool.” Moore’s broader message is that we need to be skeptical of a quick fix promised on incomplete information.

Today Moore posted this on his Facebook page today under, “Morning After To-Do List”

Everyone must stop saying they are “stunned” and “shocked”. What you mean to say is that you were in a bubble and weren’t paying attention to your fellow Americans and their despair. YEARS of being neglected by both parties, the anger and the need for revenge against the system only grew.

Now more than ever, we cannot be lazy and take in truths that are fed to us in sound bites and campaign slogans. The broader truth comes from multiple points of view and first-hand experience. Seek out new sources of information, talk to one another and compare notes. Americans pride themselves on their innovation – there’s a better way to do this – let’s get to work.

Fun with Google Trends Real Time

Google Trends announced last week that they’ve upgraded their service to be real time. Using their tools, I created a dashboard so you can quickly see who’s trending in Google Search for the past 7 days. If I did this right, this page should continually update.

I’ll manually add/remove names as the list of candidates change.

Democratic Party

Republican Party*

*There are too many in the field to fit on Google’s graph (Google Trends only takes up to five terms to compare). I took the top five announced candidates in the polls.