Of Facebook and Twitter

We’re going to play hypothetical in response to a bad faith argument the Republicans are circulating.

You are a young conservative activist and with a group of like-minded friends, you start a small website for sharing news about politics and religion.

As your site grows, you add in a message forum for your regular readers to discuss the topics you curate on the front page.

Your forums become very popular and you develop an app that directs to the forums.

Your site gets some media attention and with some savvy marketing, you grow it into a large site on the Internet.

You update your app and allow users to share pertinent articles and forum threads with each other.

Eventually, this morphs into a stream of updates.

While anyone can participate on your site/app, you are still focused on discussing topics of interest to conservatives and Christians.

You eventually write an algorithm that highlights discussions and articles that are focused on these areas.

Quiz time!

Has your site broken any laws?
Has your site broken any ethical norms?
Has your site, by targeting these specific topics, done anything that warrants a Congressional hearing?


You may post whatever content you’d like on your site. You may encourage others to post any content you’d like on your site. You may restrict others from posting any content you’d like on your site. It’s your site and if you want it to contain only posts about Christianity, that’s perfectly fine and no one would say a peep.

Republicans are up in arms, as they have been for some time, about Facebook and Twitter’s editorial decisions. (This is despite the fact that conservative pages DOMINATE Facebook’s engagement metrics). According to them, Twitter and Facebook must provide some sort of partisan balance acceptable to Republicans else they have done something unethical, perhaps illegal.

This is ridiculous horseshit.

Like our hypothetical above, Facebook and Twitter may promote any content they want. They can restrict any content they want. People are free to disagree with those decisions and to express that disagreement. But ultimately, the decisions of what content these companies choose to promote or not promote is SOLELY up to them and requires not one pen stroke of government intervention.

But that isn’t good enough for the “party of limited government” so right now, in the middle of a pandemic which has killed over 215,000 Americans, they are clamoring for legal action taken and hearings held regarding what people Tweet.

Don’t fall for it.


Trump Daily 9/19/2020 – In Other News

Wiser people are publishing about the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg so I won’t be focusing on that here. Virtually no one has had a larger effect on US law and this is obviously now an election issue, but the news cycle doesn’t stop so here are the other stories from the week:

  • Another woman has publicly accused the president of sexual assault. Amy Dorris says Trump forced his tongue into her mouth and groped “my butt, my breasts, my back, everything.” There are credible witnesses saying Dorris told them about the assault when it happened. Dozens of women have accused Trump of sexual assault of various forms up to and including rape. Trump himself bragged about walking in on his underage pageant contestants while they were nude and getting away with it.
  • The president continues to insist the vaccine will be available in a short period of time, this time saying 4-8 weeks. This is a lie.

The atrocities predicted when Trump withdrew US forces from Syria’s border with Turkey happened as predicted – rape, torture, looting, and hostage-taking done by Turkish backed forces.


Challenger and Coronavirus

Last night I watched the Netflix mini-series on the Challenger accident. It had some nice personal moments from family members of the crew and even two of the decision makers who insisted on the launch despite the warnings. I enjoyed it and it’s worth watching but ultimately it didn’t break new ground. After all, we’ve known for decades why seven people unnecessarily died in 1986.

I’m not referring to the failure of the O-rings or Morton Thiokol’s flawed joint design on the SRBs. I’m referring to the human failures which culminated in the explosion.

I attended the presentation by an engineering firm into the findings of the causes of the Bonfire disaster at Texas A&M 20 years ago. The physical cause wasn’t nearly as pertinent as the organizational issues. Complex systems can have catastrophic failures. This necessitates multiple barriers to failure. Ideally, in a system with multiple barriers, having a small number of failures won’t lead to an undesired outcome as the other barriers will catch the error.

So why do we see disasters like Challenger or what happened at Texas A&M? Human elements overwhelmed the system. Groupthink and hubris combined with outside pressures focused on outcomes rather than safety bypass enough of those barriers to failure as to result in tragedy.

In NASA’s case, the public had been sold the idea that the shuttle system was safe, little different than flying on a plane. The public assumed this was a freak accident, impossible to foresee. That wasn’t the case. Engineers had been warning for years about the design problems with the boosters and the potential of the O-rings to fail in cold weather. In fact, there was a recommendation to overhaul the entire SRB design. NASA shot down this recommendation. Why? It would have grounded the fleet for two years. The day of Challenger’s launch, engineers who knew the SRB best said the shuttle should not be launched. Morton Thiokol initially took the stance of their engineers but pressure from NASA caused them to change their advice – they said it would be safe to launch.

Engineers and scientists, the foremost experts in the world in their areas of expertise, were overridden when they were flat out saying “If you ignore us, people will die.” The pressure from the government to have more launches was too strong. The pressure to act as if the shuttle fleet didn’t face catastrophic problems on a normal basis was too strong. The science and the data were ignored because groupthink decided the actions taken if the science were followed were undesirable and therefore it didn’t matter what the science said.

This entire process got repeated when Columbia was lost to a different design elemental but the same behavioral failures.

And we are in the middle of watching this same process unfold right now. Only now instead of 7 dead, it’s over 200,000 dead. Trump is a huge part of the process, but he isn’t the only contributor.

This chart is of the positivity rate in my state of Texas. (You can view the data yourself here. Read the yellow line.) I’ve added two lines. Towards the end of May, Texas relaxed restrictions and bars began to re-open. As you can see, the positivity rate skyrocketed. In July, Governor Greg Abbott finally acquiesced and advocated masks in public in most Texas counties. The positivity rate began a steady movement downward.

The scientists were correct. And those in charge chose to ignore the science for no other reason than they didn’t like the outcome if the science were followed. Our barriers have again failed.

Covid-19 is Challenger. It’s Texas A&M’s Bonfire collapse. It’s Columbia. We are repeating all the same mistakes over again. Except now the death toll is tens of thousands of times worse.

So is all hope lost? Of course not!

Firstly we’re likely looking at a change in national leadership in January. National messaging, coordination, supply chain management, etc… will all improve. But secondly, most people ARE behaving as they need to in order to slow the spread of the virus. Yes, we have individuals and systems contributing to the spread, but a larger number are isolating as much as possible and wearing masks.

Keep wearing your mask. Keep limiting your contact with others. And vote.


Trump’s Contempt for the Miltary

Multiple news outlets are confirming this story.

Trump canceled a visit to a WWI cemetery because he didn’t want his hair to get wet. He said the cemetery was “filled with losers.”

He said a group of 1,800 marines killed in action were “suckers” for… getting killed in action.

He asked who “the good guys” were in WWI and didn’t understand why America fought on the side of Great Britain and France, the latter being the oldest American ally on the planet.

He often refers to POWs and shot down pilots as “losers,” including George HW Bush.

While standing next to the grave of John Kelly’s son, who was killed in Afghanistan, he asked “I don’t get it. What was in it for them?”

While planning a military parade, Trump asked that amputees not be included because “nobody wants to see that.”

“Trump finds the notion of military service difficult to understand, and the idea of volunteering to serve especially incomprehensible.”
This is the monster some of you chose to lead us.



Trump Daily – The GOP Convention

This year’s convention was, unsurprisingly, a parade of lies, fear-mongering, and egregious violations of ethics and law. Bizarrely, a primary theme was pointing towards current civil unrest and saying this is what America will look like under a Biden presidency. Students for Trump today tweeted out Trump touring a destroyed area labeling it “what Biden will do to America” which is peculiar as it happened while Donald Trump was president.

There is too much content to cover everything, but I want to hit on a few particular areas. Let’s look at some of the speakers chosen to represent the Republican Party:

  • Mary Ann Mendoza lost her son in a car crash involving an undocumented immigrant. She was scheduled to speak on the first night. Hours before the convention began, Mendoza tweeted out a thread touting the conspiracy theory that rich Jews were secretly in charge of, well, everything, and were using this influence to exterminate gentiles. The tweet promoted an infamous document about Jews controlling everything which was fabricated over a century ago. It also promoted Qanon, the conspiracy theory that Democrats are leading a massive Satanic cannibal child sex trafficking ring which Donald Trump will be exposing any day now with the help of Robert Mueller and JFK Jr, who faked his own death. A sizable portion of Republicans believe in Q. This one was invited to the convention. They pulled her spot after this tweet, but Mendoza has been tweeting out similar content for years. They either did not bother checking up on her in any way or they didn’t care.
  • Natalie Harp had a rare bone cancer and spoke about her treatment only being available because of the Right to Try law signed by Trump which opens up experimental treatments for terminally ill patients. She’s been lying about this for years. Firstly, the treatment she received was an off-label use for an approved drug. That’s been legal for decades. But in case that’s questionable, Harp’s treatment took place BEFORE Trump signed the Right to Try law.

Multiple people who participated in the convention were either lied to about their appearances or misled.

In an egregious ethical breach, the convention included a naturalization ceremony at the White House (more on this later). The participants in the ceremony were not informed their naturalization would be part of the GOP convention. Donald Trump usurped their moment for his own political gain. Lynne Patton, who planned Eric Trump’s wedding before landing a job she wasn’t qualified for at HUD, interviewed several public housing residents about their homes. The piece was one of several with minorities expressing support for Donald Trump. They weren’t told their interviews would be used for the convention or to support Trump. Several of the interviewees are furious, with one openly calling Trump a racist.

There were too many lies to cover here. Daniel Dale is a fastidious fact checker and I’d point you to his articles about the convention: night one, night two, night three, and night four. We saw lies about nearly every topic: the pandemic, the economy, Biden’s views on policing, the Veterans Choice Act (Trump has lied about signing this over 150 times. Obama signed it), immigration, mail-in voting, etc…

The Hatch Act is a 1939 law with a simple goal – preventing executive branch employees from campaigning and preventing government resources form being used to campaign. (I’ll note here that this applies to employees using THEIR OFFICE to campaign. There is nothing wrong with the Secretary of Energy giving a speech supporting a candidate. It’s wrong for them to do so at an agency meeting.) The goal here is a simple one. The federal government belongs to us. The office of the president belongs to us. The White House belongs to us. These things represent the entire United States and should not be used to support one political party. The Trump administration has constantly violated the Hatch Act, but we haven’t seen anything on the level we saw last week in American history. Several convention videos were filmed from The White House. The acting head of DHS conducted a naturalization ceremony from The White House, without informing the participants they were going to be part of the convention. The Secretary of State, after instructing State Department employees to not participate in the conventions, appeared from Israel in the middle of an official trip, on our dime. The South Lawn of the White House was where Trump formally accepted the nomination, with his name on massive signs on either side of the White House. And then to end the night, fireworks appeared over the Washington Monument, spelling “Trump” and “2020.” These properties are not his. They were not his to use. They are OURS. But Donald Trump does not care about any of this. The concept of public ownership doesn’t register with him. He decided the optics of using the National Mall to help his re-election worked so there was no consideration of the ethical violation of all of this.

Finally to illustrate there are no depths as to the pettiness of the Republican Party, the convention asked Leonard Cohen’s estate to use Hallelujah during the closing of the convention. They were refused. They used the song anyway.


And WHAT is the DEAL with the Post Office?

The Trump era has been a daily exercise in media literacy. One of the challenges has been sorting through negative information about the administration to determine what is true vs what is untrue as well as what things are disturbing, but also mundane. Several times now a negative story has circulated which has been troubling, but also something common to most recent presidencies. Going to go over some of what I’ve seen about the USPS and which parts are genuinely troubling and which parts are not.

An image of a large number of stacked post office boxes behind a fence went viral as evidence of the Post Office taking boxes off the street in Wisconsin. This image IS of post office boxes stacked at a company. And they were stacked there because that company refurbishes and refinishes Post Office boxes before returning them back into use. In other words, this was completely innocent and routine.

Now have there been collection boxes removed? Yes, absolutely. However, that too is routine. As population density shifts, the USPS removes boxes from low use locations and moves them to higher use areas, or removes them all-together when the need for a drop-off location lowers. DeJoy has said this process, though routine, has been halted until after the election. There MAY have been nefarious intent in some of these removals, but that would be nearly impossible to prove as having removals happening is routine.

Has USPS been removing sorting capacity to target swing states? Not at all. They HAVE been removing sorting machines. DeJoy’s defense is that these are simply not needed. He is, at least in part, correct. Lost in this discussion is the fact that mail volume has been steadily decreasing for decades, at least for flat mail. (Packages are a different beast but also do not run through these sorting machines). With email the norm for most people and billing for nearly everything going online, flat mail simply isn’t used as much. So there is justification for reducing sorting volume. HOWEVER postal employees across the country have said these cuts are too deep. Though DeJoy halted the removal of the machines, the USPS director of maintenance ordered facilities nationwide to not reconnect any of them. In Seattle and Dallas so far, postal workers are ignoring that directive and reconnecting decommissioned machines.

As for targeting states specifically for removal, absolutely no, that isn’t happening. There is a strong correlation between the number of machines removed and Democrats living in the area they were removed from. But there’s a reason for that – urban population centers are where Democrats live. Quite simply, more machines have been removed from large cities because there were more machines in those large cities to begin with.

Has the mail slowed down because of DeJoy’s changes? YES. Absolutely yes. DeJoy testified this week and the metric he continually cited was the number of USPS trucks leaving on time. This is a great metric for measuring costs if you’re a first year business student. It’s a terrible metric for measuring efficiency. Why? Because they’ve achieved the goal of having more trucks leave on time but sending them out without some of their mail. That mail then gets to sit and wait for another truck instead of a slight delay and sending the truck out at capacity. The delays are real and they’re causing problems, like animals dying and medication facing long delays. There are Republicans in Congress arguing there are no delays and this is a conspiracy theory. Per the USPS’s own internal documents, they’re wrong.

How much of what’s happened has been done intentionally to alter the election? Here’s the answer no one will like – it isn’t possible to tell. Does Trump want to limit mail-in voting? Of course he does. He’s been running a one man marketing campaign against it all year, yelling about non-existent fraud and insisting absentee voting and mail-in voting are different things. They are not. But it isn’t clear how many of the USPS changes are being done intentionally with that goal vs being done because of incompetent management. And ultimately, we aren’t likely to know.

So Trump and the GOP aren’t taking direct action to limit mail-in voting? Oh, they are! While we can’t be sure if the USPS changes happening are due to this, the Trump campaign and the Republicans have filed lawsuits in multiple states to limit mail-in voting. This follows a long history of Republicans attempting to limit the number of people voting. What’s peculiar though is there isn’t actually any evidence that increased mail-in voting helps Democrats. In several key states, the party realizes this and has to push back against Trump’s attacks on the process. Florida comes to mind where the senior citizen vote, a huge mail-in voting bloc, is key to any Republican victory.

How is this going to affect the election? If you have a definitive answer for this, could I get some lotto numbers from you? The USPS sent a letter to nearly every state warning that the current slowdowns could potentially mean votes not being counted before local deadlines. However, several states are reacting to that by altering their deadlines and procedures. The House just today passed a bill to shore up the postal service’s funding and roll back several of the delay causing changes DeJoy implemented.

Has USPS been hiding the extent of the problem? Yep. Multiple stories now about sorting centers hiding how bad things are from Congressman. This may not matter at this point as the House investigation has hard data on how bad the delays have been.

In summation are there changes happening at USPS which can affect the election? Yes. Does the president want mail-in voting limited? Yes. Are the changes being done intentionally to harm the election? That’s difficult to say either way. Are actions being taken to remedy these issues? Yes.

What should you do? This one’s easy. Check your registration. If you message Resistbot on Facebook “check registration,” the bot will look you up and walk you through registering if you aren’t. If you’re voting by mail, request your ballot (if required) AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE and return it as early as possible.


Trump Daily 8/21/2020 – They Knew

The Senate Intelligence Committee released its final report on Russian election interference this week. This post will be solely about that. As you read, keep a few things in mind. This report comes from a Republican run committee. The Democrats attached their own points at the end, but I’m not covering those. Everything you’ll read here came from Republicans. And every single one of those Republicans voted not just to acquit the president earlier this year, but voted against hearing ANY witnesses regarding his actions. They knew everything you’re about to read. They knew how incredibly corrupt he is. They knew his campaign was working with a hostile foreign intelligence agency. They knew and they did absolutely nothing about it.

  • The Republicans concluded that Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was “a grave counterintelligence threat” explicitly because he opened the campaign to Russian influence by handing over campaign data to Konstantin Kilimnik. No one from the Trump campaign has ever offered an explanation as to why they were sending internal data to a Russian intelligence agent.
  • The Republicans concluded Kilimnik was involved in Russia’s hack of the DNC email system. Kilimnik was a key figure in the Mueller investigation as he previously worked with Paul Manfort in supporting Ukrainian dictator Viktor Yanukovych. (Yes, the president’s campaign manager did PR for a foreign dictator)
  • The Republicans concluded that Michael Flynn lied to investigators about his conversations with Russian ambassador Kislyak. The Department of Justice is currently trying to get Flynn’s case dismissed after he pleaded guilty.
  • The Republicans concluded that Donald Trump lied to investigators regarding conversations with Roger Stone regarding Wikileaks. The president said in writing he had never discussed Wikileaks with Stone. He did on multiple occasions and directed Stone to start working with Wikileaks to learn when information would be released.
  • When the Trump campaign learned the Access Hollywood tape of the president bragging about grabbing women “by the pussy” was going to be released, Roger Stone immediately contacted an intermediary to ask Wikileaks to released the emails Russia had stolen from the DNC. Wikileaks complied and the emails were released half an hour after the Access Hollywood tape aired. The Trump campaign directed the timing of the release of data stolen by the Russian government.
  • The Republicans concluded that the Trump administration hid information from both the investigators and from Congress via dubious claims of executive privilege.

We learned this week that last summer the Senate Intelligence Committee issued criminal referrals for Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Steven Bannon, Erik Prince, and Sam Clovis. These were criminal referrals for lying to Congress issued by Republicans. It is unknown if the Department of Justice did anything with these referrals, but it’s not likely under Barr’s leadership.

Marco Rubio, Richard Burr, Jim Risch, Susan Collins, Roy Blunt, Tom Cotton, John Cornyn, and Ben Sasse all knew that Donald Trump’s campaign was sending information to a Russian intelligence agent. They knew that Trump lied to investigators. They knew the Trump campaign arranged for data stolen by Russian intelligence to be released at a time to help the Trump campaign. They knew multiple members of the Trump administration and campaign lied to Congress. They knew the Trump campaign was a dire intelligence risk. They knew all of these things and they chose to do nothing at all about them.


Trump Daily 7/17/2020