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Cybercrime

Report: Pandemic Stirs

63% Spike In Cyber Attacks

Security Efforts, Priorities Lag Behind


By Steve Rensberry
RP News
-------------------

ISSA graphic. One survey response.
   EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. - (RP NEWS) - 8/1/2020 - A newly released report from the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) and Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) says the COVID-19 pandemic has presented a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” for cybercriminals, and cites the results of a survey showing a 63 percent increase in cyberattacks since the crisis began.
   The survey was conducted by the two groups, culminating in a report representing input from some 364 cybersecurity and IT professionals.
   “COVID-19 had a wide-ranging impact on individuals on the security staff. With 84 percent of cybersecurity professionals working exclusively from home during the pandemic and almost two-thirds believing that their organizations will be more flexible with work-at-home policies moving forward, COVID-19 has personally impacted cybersecurity professionals in their jobs and in their lives,” Senior Principal Analyst and ESG Fellow Jon Oltsik stated in the July 30, 2020 release. “This is in addition to the ongoing impact on organizations and security teams from the yearly worsening problem of the cybersecurity skills shortage,” Jon Oltsik, Senior Principal Analyst and ESG Fellow. 
   An associated report, The Impact of the COVID 19 Pandemic on Cybersecurity, is available here.
   Highlights of the report, as noted in the release:
  •    Organizations were only fairly prepared for the global pandemic. Thirty-nine percent of respondents claim that they were very prepared to secure WFH devices and applications while 34 percent were prepared. Twenty-seven percent were underprepared. Therefore, the pandemic drove rapid changes, changing workloads, and new priorities.
  •    COVID-19 and WFH are driving improved collaboration. Slightly more than one-third of organizations have experienced significant improvement in coordination between business, IT, and security executives as a result of COVID-19 issues and 38 percent have seen marginal relationship improvements.
  •    COVID-19/WFH have had an impact on cybersecurity professionals and their organizations alike. The research indicates that COVID-19 has forced cybersecurity professionals to change their priorities/activities, increased their workloads, increased the number of meetings they have had to attend, and increased the stress levels associated with their jobs. Meanwhile 48 percent say that WFH has impacted the security team’s ability to support new business applications/initiatives.
  •    Most organizations don’t believe the pandemic will increase 2020 cybersecurity spending. Only 20 percent believe that COVID-19 security requirements will lead to an increase in security spending in 2020, while 25 percent think their organizations will be forced to decrease security spending this year. Where they expect their spending to increase, at least half pointed to priority areas being identity and access management, endpoint security, web and email security, and data security.
  •    COVID-19 may impact cybersecurity priorities. ESG/ISSA believes that while it is noteworthy that 30% of the cybersecurity professionals participating in this project say that cybersecurity will be a higher priority, 70% report that they don’t know or don’t believe that this crisis will lead to cybersecurity becoming a higher priority.
   ISSA International Board President Candy Alexander expressed surprise that cybersecurity has not become more of a priority after all that has happened.
   “While it’s promising to see that the majority of organizations were able to handle the COVID-19 pandemic fairly well, it is surprising that we are not seeing an increase in cybersecurity spending or prioritization following this event,” Alexander said. “If anything this should serve as a wakeup call that cybersecurity is what enables businesses to remain open and operational. Organizations prioritizing cybersecurity as a result of the pandemic will likely emerge as leaders in the next wave of cybersecurity process innovation and best practices.”
   The increase in cyber attacks and cybercrime has been noted by several news outlets, over the past couple of week especially.
   “Large swaths of the global economy have shut down during the global COVID-10 pandemic, but cybercriminals haven't been taking any time off. On the contrary, cyberattacks actually spiked during the first half of 2020 with attackers finding new ways to exploit the conditions brought on by widespread lockdowns,” writes Freelance Journalist Cynthia Harvey in a June 24, 2020 article for Information Week, available here: 10 Cyberattacks on the Rise During the Pandemic.
   Harvey cites an FBI spokesperson as saying the Internet Crime Complaint Center received close to the same number of complaints as of May 28 this year that they had for all of 2019.


Politics and Culture

Epistemology, U.S. Politics,

and the Social Construction of Reality

By Steve Rensberry
Opinion/Analysis
----------------------
  
BergerLuckmann / Wikimedia Commons
EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. - 7/28/2020 -
In the late 1980s, I was a fired up, eager-to-learn sociology major at Greenville University, eager enough to never miss a class with either of my two main sociology instructors, professors Rick Stephens and James DeLong. I respected both as knowledgeable experts in their field, though each later went on to teach elsewhere while I decided to make a switch and transfer to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville to study journalism.
   Sociology is a field of study I admire for a lot of reasons, but one concept I found particularly intriguing was called “the social construction of reality.” If you've ever had even an entry-level sociology class, you may recall the phrase because it's a major sociological theory, introduced in 1966 through a book written by Thomas Luckmann and Peter L. Berger, entitled: The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. (Penguin Books, New York, 1966)
   Thinking about this theory the other day, it suddenly dawned on me just how much of a living example today's tumultuous situation is. Are we witnessing “the social construction of reality” in action, in all its messy, dirty and chaotic glory? Maybe so.
   It's not a simple concept, but in short, “the social construction of reality” refers to the idea that:
  •    People are shaped by their life experiences, backgrounds and interactions with others, including their perceptions of reality.
  •    An inter-personal and social process of repetition and “habitualization” leads to the creation and institutionalization of various social structures, reciprocal roles, and moral codes. See: Introduction to Sociology
  •   What people understand as “reality” is really the product of a complicated interpersonal social-interaction and negotiation process that societies go through in determining what is socially acceptable. See: Identity and Reality
   According to the Thomas Theorem, “successive definitions of the situation” play a key part in establishing such norms of social acceptability. Other sociologists have described the process, on the individual level, as a type of self-fulfilling prophecy -- such as when a false idea or rumor, if actually believed to be real by the person who holds it, can end up having real-world consequences. In other words, the individual's reality, though false, was essentially “constructed by an idea."
   Well what I see happening is just that -- one big mammoth struggle to “define the situation,” to define who we are as a country, as a culture, and as human beings, to establish meaning and values and our shared “social reality,” and ultimately to see whose definition will stick.
   Add to that the influence of an epistemological divide that has existed in Western Civilization since its inception, and the current state of U.S. politics and the cultural divide becomes more understandable yet.
   What type of evidence is sufficient on which to pin a belief, especially one that would rise to the level of foundational?
   Does subjective, emotional evidence suffice? What about empirically-based evidence? Or evidence that you can only touch, see and verify with the senses? What about revelation-based or supernatural evidence? Does evidence only qualify as valid if based on group identity? These are straight up epistemological questions about the validity of knowledge and how to attain it -- and how you answer them is every bit related to our current state of affairs, I'd say.
   Do you believe that truth, values, and knowledge are easily discernible through intuitive means, emotive reasoning, common sense or are simply innate to human nature? Or do you believe they are only really trustworthy when they correspond with hard facts, experience, science, and logic? You can see where I'm going with this.
   I should also say that I'm not the first to point out the “epistemic crisis” we're experiencing.
   “The US is experiencing a deep epistemic breach, a split not just in what we value or want, but who we trust, how we come to know things, and what we believe we know -- what we believe exists, is true, has happened and is happening,” writes David Roberts in a Nov. 2, 2017 Vox piece entitled, America is facing an epistemic crisis.
   Roberts blames “the US conservative movement” for much of the crisis, through its attacks and rejection of the mainstream media and other institutions, such as science and academia, which “society has appointed as referees in matters of factual dispute.”
   I would agree that what we're seeing today has been exacerbated by partisan attacks on key social institutions -- institutions of the kind you might even expect to play a roll in the theorized “social construction of reality,” but Roberts should know that progressive interests have attacked the credibility of various institutions that conservatives respect as well, religious organizations being one of them, and from the view of conservatives have been doing it for a long time. I'm not taking sides, but I know how they feel.
   Roberts does make a good point though, by pointing out some fundamental differences.
   “The pretense for the conservative revolution was that mainstream institutions had failed in their role as neutral arbiters — that they had been taken over by the left, become agents of the left in referee’s clothing, as it were,” Roberts writes. “But the right did not want better neutral arbiters. The institutions it built scarcely made any pretense of transcending faction; they are of and for the right.”
   I don't disagree with him.
   My opinion: Today's glaring ideological polarization seems to me to be just more of the same old “way-of-thinking” drama that has been playing out on the world's stage for centuries, interspersed with relative periods of peace before the next crisis in truth, trust and knowledge flares up, as it has now, like a bad virus. Complete prevention may be impossible, but not letting it get out of control by selecting leaders with level heads and the ability to speak truthfully and with love for all of humanity, rather than put up walls, would seem to me a good idea. I believe that this goes for all leaders, whether in government, ecclesiastical institutions, academia, private organizations, or in the world of business.
   One more suggestion: pay attention to your teachers and professors, because you never know when some of the wisdom they impart -- while appearing irrelevant at the time -- just might be of value years down the road! I'm sure glad I did.

Further reference:

Illinois and Local News

Woman's Murder Near Troy Remains

Unsolved 30 Years Later


By Laurel Sexton-Juenger

Laurel stands near where the body was found.

   (TROY, Ill.) - 7/27/2020 - The slight granite tombstone sits alone and isolated from the family of other stones in the St. Jerome Catholic Cemetery on Troy O’Fallon Road near Troy, Ill.; just a few yards away from a field of beans. It was the same type of bean field, and just down the same Troy- O’Fallon Road that 30 years ago, on July 20 1990, that the mutilated body of a young woman was found dumped and left to decompose in the sweltering Mid-west July sun.

   The name on the polished grey stone is JANE DOE as the body was never identified and the murder never solved. The white female was, 25 to 40 years old, 5’4” to 5’6” and weighed 120 to 130 pounds.The victim was stabbed and cut about the neck and torso which was believed to be her cause of death. Authorities estimated at the time that the body was left two or three days prior to the discovery 1/10th of a mile west of Troy O’Fallon Road and 40 feet north of Lebanon Road. The only article found with the body that is mentioned in published reports is a heart shaped turquoise ring.
A marker at the location.



   A notice on the Illinois State Police website encourages anyone with information regarding the identification of the unidentified victim is urged to contact Madison County Sheriff’s Department at 618-692-0871 or call Crimestoppers at 1-866-371-TIPS(8477)

   One wonders in this age of DNA identification if this nameless victim can one day be identified.

Reprinted with permission
Photos by Laurel Sexton-Juenger











Conflict Continues in Portland

Trump's 'Secret Police Force' Casts 

a Dystopian Pall

By Cheryl Eichar Jett
Opinion/Analysis
------------------------
   EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. - July 24, 2020 - Citizens of the fictional country of Oceania feared the Thought Police in George Orwell's dystopian – some say prescient – novel entitled 1984. After Donald J. Trump won the 2016 presidential election, Amazon sold out of Orwell's book. Will the outrage over the unmarked military police at the Portland, Oregon, Black Lives Matter protests spike another round of social protest book sales?

The Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse. Photo by Steve Morgan. Creative Commons License.


   While the Oceania Thought Police are fiction, the unmarked military descending from unmarked rental vans to harass, injure, and kidnap protesters in Portland are disturbingly real. Real enough to cast a dystopian shadow across the United States as U.S. President Donald J. Trump and his willing sidekicks, Attorney General William Barr and Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, violate civil rights in Portland and threaten to send uninvited federal law enforcement into other major U.S. cities to do their bidding.
   Against the background of intense and ongoing Black Lives Matter protests, unidentified (except for a generic “police” patch on their camo uniforms) paramilitary showed up in Portland earlier in July. And they are still there. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) claimed them and insists the forces are in Portland to defend federal buildings against violent anarchists, although the statement they initially released simply lists instances of graffiti. Meanwhile, the protesters aren't backing down. If anything, their numbers are increasing as the “Wall of Moms” and subsequently the “Portland Dads with leaf blowers” have shown up to help protect the young protesters. Ironically, consider the pepper spraying of Portland's Mayor Ted Wheeler at an anti-police brutality protest.
  Condemnation of the troops' presence and actions has been swift and fierce. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr, urging that “the Department of Justice (DOJ) must begin the necessary, independent, and thorough process of appointing a special prosecutor to investigate and, if warranted, prosecute, those responsible for ordering and carrying out attacks on protesters.” Democratic mayors of major cities across the country have also pushed back in a letter sent to both DHS and DOJ.
   During the past several days, criticism has been relentless. On Tuesday, July 21, on the MSNBC TV show “Deadline Whitehouse,” journalist and national-affairs analyst John Heilemann called the unmarked military in Portland a “trial run” for actions in additional cities. Heilemann posed the question, “Is this going to be used as voter intimidation on Election Day?” Eric Holder, former U.S. Attorney General during the Obama administration, also appearing on the show, said that Trump “may be planning to delegitimize the election this way.”
 
  Also on Tuesday, Retired Three-Star Lt. General Russel Honore, who became the voice of reason and an American hero with his decisive and effective action after he was put in charge of the Hurricane Katrina effort in 2005, was on fire on “The 11th Hour with Brian Williams.” Honore, with a long and well-respected military career behind him, vociferously decried the paramilitary actions, “What kind of bullsh** is this? Wolf [DHS Acting Secretary] needs to be run out of Washington. He has no business being in charge of Homeland Security . . . they have denigrated this to a lawless group who go around and think they can suppress demonstrators.”
   On Wednesday, the concern clearly grew. Appearing on “Meet the Press Daily” (MTPD), Sen. Ed Merkley, D-Oregon, opined that Trump is simply planning to stir up more trouble in order to present himself as the savior. Also on Wednesday's MTPD, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon said that we are “looking down the barrel of martial law during an election.” In reference to the Black Lives Matter protest, Wyden stated that Donald Trump and Chad Wolf have “basically inflamed the situation.” Yet another guest was Mayor Quinton Lucas, D-Kansas City, Missouri, who quipped that instead of a dog whistle it's “dog barking” from Trump.
   On Wednesday evening, on “The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell,” Neal Katyal, an MSNBC contributor and Professor of National Security Law at Georgetown University Law Center, formerly Acting Solicitor General of the U.S., analyzed the situation. In terms of policy problems, “we see secret unmarked agents beating and teargassing the American people,” Katyal explained. “Legally . . . what we are seeing is rebellion against our deepest constitutional principles. This is a betrayal of what America's about.” An hour later on “The 11th Hour with Brian Williams,” Steve Schmidt, the always-eloquent former Republican strategist and founder of the Lincoln Project, called the deployment “federal thuggery.” He added, “It's out of control, and no American should stand for this.”
   This week, an Oregon court is hearing a lawsuit seeking a restraining order barring federal agents in Portland from restraining citizens. Sen. Ron Wyden testified that these actions by Trump are nothing more than part of his re-election campaign, with film footage being obtained for his “law and order” platform. A ruling is expected yet this week.
   Chad Wolf, the former lobbyist appointed by Trump to the position of Acting Director of Homeland Security, defended his actions in a July 21 press conference, and in subsequent appearances on news shows. “We will not retreat,” he stated. Wolf was previously an architect of the Trump administration's family separation policy.
   Trump is threatening to deploy federal forces to other major cities (with Democratic mayors) in what he calls “Operation Legend.” Acting DHS Secretary Wolf insists this is different from the situation in Portland, making the distinction that in Portland they are protecting federal buildings from violent rioters, while in the other cities the intent is to assist with overcoming a high violent crime rate. Trump's “Democrat cities” rhetoric and a crackdown on local crime are being conflated, and mayors aren't buying it. Both Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzger and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot have pushed back strongly against federal forces arriving in Chicago.
   Trump's authoritarian deployment of unmarked baton-wielding federal troops into America's major cities against the wishes of their mayors is a chapter that's going to be hard to close the book on any time soon. This is not dystopian fiction, but the sad and shocking reality, and it's still being written.

Conspiracy Watch

Conspiracy Theories, Straw Man Arguments,

 and Far-Right, Political Crackpottery

By Steve Rensberry
Opinion/Analysis
-----------------
   EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. - July 21, 2020 - Under the right conditions and the right circumstances almost every human being, I think, can find themselves tempted to climb aboard the conspiracy crazy train, cockamamie reasoning and all. Newer research has begun to show us why some people seem particularly susceptible to it, but my guess is the risk is there for all of us under times of stress, being the imperfect creatures that we are.
Note: Venn diagram is for illustration purposes only. See ref for link.
Fortunately, cold hard reality has a way of straightening most of us out most of the time, after we discover that the sky really isn't falling like they said it was, or that the government really isn't coming to take away our guns after all. But such theories don't die easily, especially in the kind of complex, internet-driven, changing world of today, a fact that has been brought to light in multiple news stories in recent months. In some cases, perpetrators have acted on such beliefs in violent and socially harmful ways, one example being the case of Robert D. Bowers in Pittsburgh. See: Pittsburgh Gunman Embraced Conspiracy Theories. 
   “More than a quarter of the American population believes there are conspiracies 'behind many things in the world,' according to a 2017 analysis of government survey data by University of Oxford and University of Liverpool researchers,” writes Melinda Wenner Moyer in a March 1, 2017 Scientific American essay, People Drawn to Conspiracy Theories Share a Common Cluster of Psychological Features.
   Citing research by Stephen Lewandowsky of the University of Western Australia (Psychological Science, 2003), Moyer adds: “New research suggests that events happening worldwide are nurturing underlying emotions that make people more willing to believe in conspiracies. Experiments have revealed that feelings of anxiety make people think more conspiratorially. Such feelings, along with a sense of disenfranchisement, currently grip many Americans, according to surveys. In such situations, a conspiracy theory can provide comfort by identifying a convenient scapegoat and thereby making the world seem more straightforward and controllable.”   
   Moyer cites research questioning the wisdom of even trying to counter conspiracy theories with logic or evidence, noting older research that suggested it can just cause some adherents to dig in deeper, but I'm going to give it a shot.  See: Joseph Uscinski
   With that said, I came across a piece recently that I can only describe as a phenomenally fragmented and hysterical piece of mind-numbing conjecture. It was posted on the online site “americanthinker.com” and is basically a conspiracy theory mash-up piece, written by someone going by the name of “Dex Bahr” and entitled “Know Your Enemy: Undeniable Truths About the Left.”  I am not linking this document as I do not want to promote it, but a simple title search will do the trick for anyone interested in seeing the entire piece.
   One thing the article does do rather nicely, intentional or not, is roll just about every far-right conspiratorial idea making the rounds into one little narrative, awkward but concise, and perfect for a bit of literary and logical dissection.
   They're all here: heavy pro-Trump ideation, the denigration of the Black Lives Matter movement, the Covid lockdown “hoax,” Marxist/Socialist/Leftists/Communist/Democratic Party collaboration, and the “sycophantic media." Add to that conspiratorial actions by Google, Facebook and Twitter to squelch conservative voices and influence. Such persecution. Social justice and multiculturalism take a hit, China takes a hit as the source of the “Wuhan virus,” Democrat governors and mayors take a hit, and ordinary citizens in general concerned about systemic racism and inequality in America take a conspiratorial hit. It's all black and white and crystal clear in Mr. Bahr's mind. You're either part of the freedom-loving, patriotic, God-fearing conservative right, or you're a violent, power loving leftist who loves Maxism, authoritarianism, and control. It is an argument stealing and psychological projection masterpiece in some ways, exemplifying that which it criticizes and reapplying many of the identical arguments and criticisms the left uses, in mirror-image fashion.
   One thing that Mr. Bahr's article definitely does not contain, despite its claims, is a list of “undeniable truths.” Instead it contains some rather glaring falsehoods which, if taken literally and acted upon by unstable individuals, could lead to some serious and real harm.
Falsehood No. 1
    Quote: “First, we must begin by properly labeling the truth as it is,” he writes. “For example, everything that is happening now is because the left's plans to remake the United States from a Constitutional republic into (a) borderless global state were (sic) thwarted by the people electing Donald J. Trump for president.”
    The idea that Trump “saved” a country on the brink of a complete leftist takeover is all over the conservative web universe, on sites like “theconservativetreehouse” and “americanthinker,” as is idea of a “borderless global state,” a conspiracy theory centered around George Soros' supposed personal quest to create a borderless utopia. I'm not advocating for any one particular vision, but one thing left unanswered is why such a so-called utopia would not be preferable--conceptually speaking--to living in a “massively-bordered hellhole,” which is more or less the opposite he seems to be advocating for.
Falsehood No. 2
   Quote: “The left not only hates Trump for beating their savior Hillary Clinton, it also loathes the citizens who voted for him.”
   The problematic part of this “undeniable truth” is that it really just insults and broadly stereotypes any American citizen who happens not to be a supporter of the president, for any reason, people who the author just lumps into one giant ugly category he calls “the left.” He is right that a lot of people do loathe citizens who voted for Trump, but what is not to understand about that when some people sincerely believe that Trump is a dangerous and unstable individual? Bahr is being ridiculously over-simplistic and engaging in mere character assassination, attempting to undercut the integrity of law-abiding, patriotic Americas who he doesn't even know.
   Finally, no one I know thinks of Hillary Clinton as anything other than a decent though imperfect human being, least of all a “savior.”
Falsehood No. 3
    Quote: “Once you honestly grasp the level of hatred the left has for us, you begin to understand that the Wuhan virus extended lockdowns and the Black Lives Matter/Antifa led riots are for (sic) express purpose of bringing misery and terror to those who dared to vote for Donald Trump in 2016 and those who are planning to vote for him in November.”
   It's hard to know whether he seriously knows what he's even writing about, least of all understand the principle of cause and effect, but once again he is just insulting and mocking those more liberal than himself, downplaying the lockdowns and protests, misidentifying them as “Antifa led riots” and maligning a movement genuinely concerned with racial justice and equal freedom under the law.
    He's on a hunt to demonize, it appears, at a time when others are trying to work constructively toward a better and more inclusive America, failing to understand because he doesn't want to.
Falsehood No. 4
    Quote: “If past behavior is any indication of future behavior, then the Democrats will continue to scapegoat you for all that is wrong with the country. This is exactly what they are doing now when they speak of white privilege and systemic racism.”
   This is one of those statements that tells us more about the writer than it does about the intended subject matter. The Democrats who I know don't do a lot of scapegoating, but understand that a lot of factors are at play in the country's struggles. Mr. Bahr, however, makes it clear that he thinks white privilege and systemic racism are illegitimate causes.
   Who is scapegoating who? Once again, the author takes a common criticism of the right, as scapegoating negative outcomes by blaming “the media” or Democrats, or left-wing radicals, and attempts to turn it around to use against his enemies.
Falsehood No. 5
   Quote: “The left hates any American who disagrees with them.”
   Sorry, but there's not much that's “undeniable” about this so-called truth either, which is just another case of over-generalization and psychological projection. Traditionally it has been the conservative right who has behaved with intolerance, defending cruel and inhumane punishment, torture even, and hating those who disagree with them in predicable, knee-jerk fashion, a fact which I suspect the writer is keenly aware of.
   And who is this “left” he keeps talking about? It's brothers, sisters, cousins, neighbors, co-workers, pastors, parishioners, sometimes husbands and wives who just might happen to differ in their political views, as leftists, rightists, centrists, or as nothing at all.
   He doesn't know them from Adam, but wastes no time painting them as hateful and hyper-intolerant human beings who can't stand disagreement. He is really just describing himself.
Falsehood No. 6
    Quote: “Leftists hate free speech, especially if it criticizes their agenda.”
   Well, you know, nobody likes their agenda to be criticized, but what difference is there between his obvious hatred for “leftist's speak” and what he presumes is leftist hatred for his far-right conservative speech? Not much at all.
   The thing that bugs me the most about this tired old conservative talking point and slur is that rarely does anyone say exactly what kind of speech they feel so restricted from engaging in. Are they angry because that they can't say the “N” word? Is it because they want to be able to call women sluts and dames in public, without repercussions? Is it because public lying, slander and hate speech, speech that hurts and abuses people, has become culturally unacceptable?
   Mostly, the statement is just false, ridiculously broad and simple-minded.
Falsehood No. 7
   Quote: “Leftists love Marxism and therefore hate liberty.”
   Yet another slur and term which many conservatives imagine to be true about “the left,” all evidence aside, and also one which presents a false dichotomy. There may indeed be some left-leaning Americans who love Marxism, as there are right-leaning Americans who are dangerous anarchists and fascists, but I am not one of them and neither are any “leftist” that I know, and to use that as a defining term for the entire spectrum of left-leaning Americans is just ignorance in motion.
   As for hating liberty, I just don't see it in the left's fight for worker's rights, public health, environmental concerns, and marketplace fairness. Bahr wants “the left” to look very evil though, to fire up his buddies, so he tries very hard to make them look that way, by definition. One could equally say, however, with the same evidence-less bluster: “Rightists love fascism and therefore hate liberty,” then call it an undeniable truth.
Falsehood No. 8
   Quote: “The Democrat Party has been hijacked by the Marxist left.”
   This is really part of the same definition and word play the author engages in when he says that “leftists love Maxism,” and another imagined reality without a real-world connection.
   I would agree that the Democrat party has been influenced by the left, but they have also been influenced by moderate and conservative wings of the party. Both parties have undergone shifts in recent years, with one of the most noticeable shifts being a Republican Party's shift to the right, accelerated by Tea Party supporters and the current president's election in 2016, while the Democrat Party hasn't changed nearly as much.
Falsehood No. 9
   Quote: “Marxism is the theory behind socialism and communism, although they all lead to the same result of despair and slaughter. Both are the antithesis to capitalism, yet our federal government and many of our state governments continue to fornicate with socialism? Obamacare, anyone?”
   While Marxist ideas did have an influence on European social democratic parties in the 19th century, the author is simply incorrect to say that Marxism is the de facto theory behind socialism and communism. Socialism can be traced back to the 1789 French Revolution, while Karl Marx didn't pen The Communist Manifesto with Friedrich Engels until 1848, with the specific term they used being “scientific socialism.”
   While the idea that you can group, mix-and-match, or interchange the words socialist, communist, Marxist, leftist, and the like may be popular among the hard right, it really smacks of shoddy research and a lack of scholarly due diligence. He could start with the Encyclopedia Britannica's entry on Marxism. See: Marxism
Falsehood No. 10
Quote: “Socialism is the foot in the door under the guise of equality and communism is the thug who breaks down the door, holds your prisoner and forces you to work for his benefit.”
   It's a nice way to frame a political theory, using an allegory, but once again we can equally say in this preachy word-definition game he likes to play, that “Capitalism is the foot in the door under the false promise of easy property ownership and easy wealth, and the unregulated free market is the thug that breaks down the door, holds you prisoner and forces you to work for his benefit.”
   Bahr's consistent problem is phrasing things in such broad, universal terms that the meaning is all but lost. He's grandstanding to get applause from the converted and taking pot shots at the concept of equality. Its the talk of a privileged and contemptuous mind, not of one which cares much about those less fortunate or in need, unless perhaps spiritual conversion is involved.
Falsehood No. 11
   Quote: “Leftist governors and mayors have gone full communist under the guise of safety in their removal of freedoms during the Wuhan virus lock downs”
   Here we are once again with the communism and leftism tirade, and a gross misrepresentation of the health restrictions put in place to save American lives during a worldwide pandemic. The virus threat has never been a political issue, but this writer is intent on making it one.
   “Mayors have gone full communist!” he says.
   Did they seize all private property? Have they suspended all travel and the entire Bill of Rights?
 I'm sure that Mr. Bahr knows quite well that the virus is more than just “a Wuhan virus” and that the restrictions on his freedoms are only temporary, but he's got an axe to grind and is obviously all-in with defending the president and his judgement. He's playing a game of politics, not undeniable truths.
Falsehood No. 12
    Quote: “They went after our right to peaceably assemble, our free exercise of religion, and our right to free speech. The left went after our right to peaceably gather by limiting the number of people we could congregate with and initiating social distancing. Next, they impeded our free exercise of religion by deeming churches as non-essential and forbidding us from gathering for church services; even if they were drive-thru services. Finally, free speech was attacked when leftist social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter censored any posts or tweets that went against the Covid-19 media narrative.”
   Once again, this is a gross misinterpretation and downplaying of the danger posed by the Covid19 virus and the extenuating circumstances surrounding it, with the limitations put in place after they were urged by non-partisan entities, scientists and health care professionals all across the country and globe, explicitly for reasons of public health. Bahr, however, is doing his best to politicize it and make Covid-19 seem like a weapon “the left” is using against the right merely to limit their freedoms. This is not a partisan issue, but he wants it to be. As for limiting speech, he cites policy changes Facebook and Twitter made to limit fake news and false information from being spread about a serious health issue, then claims both are “leftist social media platforms.”
   Bahr likely knows that the charge of social media bias cuts two ways. Both major platforms have been criticized by the left for their perceived conservative biases, as well as from the right. Think about it though. If Twitter was a “leftist social media platform,” as he says, would it have tolerated Trump's tweets for one day, never mind for three years going on four?
Falsehood No. 13
    Quote: “Google even controls what information you have access to with a search and now is even manipulating stories regarding the up-tick on positive cases of Covid-19.”
   Not to leave out anything, the author next goes after Google, alleging that it manipulates the Covid-19 numbers. The proof? A phenomenon he says occurs whenever you type a number into the Google search bar along with the phrase “new covid cases” after which it always scores a hit. “Think I am kidding” he says, “Just enter any random number and 'new covid cases' and you'll get a series of stories with the numbers you want.”
   This is both bizarre and inaccurate. I personally typed in several numbers that brought up zero hits. Likewise, the frequency of any random number being associated with a Covid-19 search is really not all that surprising is it, given an infection rate that has risen exponentially in just a few short months?
Falsehood No. 14
    Another unfounded assertion he makes is that the Democrats, the media, or “the left” as he imagines it, is playing fast and loose with polling data in an effort to manipulate people into thinking Trump is doing poorly, and to therefore just give up.
   “This is all to dispirit you. Since March, there has been a non-stop pile-on of your emotions. This, in (sic) an all-out, no holds barred effort to convince you to give up all hope and reject President Trump,” he writes.
   I'm sure glad he knows exactly why the Democrats do what they do, and exactly why the polling data is in error, but it sure would be nice if he would present at least some evidence to justify it. Polls are easy to criticize, we all know that, and they also are notoriously upended in due course, and we all know that, but calling this some kind of intentional, underhanded trick the Democrats are playing to deceive the public is lame at best, least of all indisputable.
Falsehood No. 15
    Quote: “The left is willing to destroy race relations, shred the Constitution, call for the defunding of the police, and validate lawlessness, all for the express purpose of achieving an election victory in November.”
   Please tell me the writer isn't so out of touch that he really thinks that everyone to the left of his far-right political philosophy are that shallow and insincere, because they're not. Sorry, but I'm not buying it and Bahr presents not a shred of evidence to justify it.
   The fact is, Trump himself has been accused of shredding the Constitution, destroying race relations, and validating lawlessness, repeatedly and with good evidence. The quote, as well, is worded to once again undercut the integrity of the Black Lives Matter movement, by framing it as a mere political tool used to hurt Trump's re-election chances.
Falsehood No. 16
    Quote: “They claim to offer new enlightenment to the sins of our forefathers, but all they can offer is condemnation as if they are judge, jury and god . . . In the absence of worshiping a Creator, the left blasphemes by making themselves little gods where everything they demand should be a dictate for all and nothing they say is worthy of criticism.”
   Though mostly a religious tenet of the kind that one hears from the pulpit, the author presents this snidely phrase as yet another “undeniable truth about the left,” which it clearly isn't.
   I understand his angst, I really do, and it's informative to know that this is how he and some others on the far-right think, by he should know that there are a lot of people who say the exact same thing about hard-right orthodox conservatives like himself, dogmatic hard-liners who “claim to offer new enlightenment” of some kind, but instead deliver nothing but pain and restrictions -- and act like they are judge, jury and god. Some, in fact, attribute this exact behavior to our current president.
Falsehood No. 17
   Quote: “Arrogance and hubris are two other truths about the left . . . ”
   I realize that this is what the author believes, and that he wants others to believe it too, but it's really just another boring insult and falsehood. Ironically, judging by Mr. Bahr's lengthy rant and the tone of it, he could not fit the description any better himself if he tried. Although he may be a nice enough individual in person, his article is written in a way that makes him appear arrogant, full of hubris, and self-righteous.
Falsehood No. 18
    Another falsehood the writer puts forth is the idea that African-American or black support for President Trump, and Democrat fears about him getting re-elected, is “a huge reason for the left fanning the flames of racial unrest under the lie of systemic racism and white privilege.”
   One thing he does do with this statement is make clear what he thinks about systemic racism in America, which is not very much. Ditto for the idea of white privilege.
   I would serious question, however, whether one single Democrat has ever even considered using race or racial tension as a political tool. I know, as an ex-conservative, that a lot of conservatives and right-leaning Americans have a hard time believing that a lot of liberals or leftists actually care about people, sincerely and deeply, but they do.
Falsehood No. 19
   The author's finally “truths” are all aimed at what he called the “sycophantic media,” a phrase which is seriously ironic given that the Trump administration is considered by some to be one of most sycophantic administrations ever. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/04/08/sooner-or-later-they-all-go/).
   Attacks on the mainstream media by conservatives are nothing new. The truth is, more than one study has shown conservative media influence in the United States to be just as biased, if not more so, than its liberal counterpart, and far more influential in many areas of the country when talk radio, conservative regional newspapers and other independent religious or conservative media entities are taken into consideration.
Falsehood No. 20
   Quote: “We are in the midst of a cultural revolution brought to you courtesy of the left.”
   This is an interesting statement but another example of argument stealing and projection.
   Simply put, Bahr is looking for intent and malice where there is none. Maybe a cultural revolution is needed., you know, like it has been needed time and again throughout history. Those are the issues he should be addressing.
    As far as who started the "revolution," all I can say is that religious conservatives began waging a "culture war" on the nation and on non-believers more than 40 years ago. My own bookshelves carry several titles about the “the culture war,” going back to the early 1980s, and every last one of them is written by a Christian conservative writer, most of whom were calling not for the war to end but for Christians to jump in with both feet and gain control of every aspect of society and government for Christ and his church. Norman Geisler, Francis A. Schaeffer, Herbert Schlossberg, Marvin Olasky, George Grant, John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute, et al, have sounded the same repetitive and hollow note, fighting to stop "secular humanism" from having a place in American society or the world. They want to dominate.  It's not the American way, nor is it the democratic way, in my opinion, but they're convinced they're right.
   Who is Mr. Bahr? That's the million dollar question. You won't find his picture on the internet, but you will find a link to his book, written in 2010, called “No Christian Man Is An Island.” Published by Xulon Press, described as the nation's largest self-publisher of Christian books, the work is a 270-page diatribe saturated with religious allegories and spiritual warfare talk. It takes on secular humanism, the political left, and all the rest of the demons that religious conservatives have created for themselves decades ago. Some sites list the author's name as “Stacy Barr” and others as “Dex Bahr,” which makes me suspect one or the other, or both, are just pen names. No photos accompany any online article or links to the author's book, city or state of residence is given, and the author has no personal website of his own or social media page with any “real-person” information.
   One short bio online says he is a freelance writer, former broadcast news reporter, and has been a Christian since 1980. In the book's acknowledgements he credits his Lord, “my heavenly Father,” a former paster, a friend, some heroes he admires, namely George Washington, General Patton, Ronald Reagan, Jackie Robinson, and Clarence Thomas. Then comes the last line: “I also thank my contemporaries, like James Dobson and Rush Limbaugh, for their immense talent in speaking the truth and for their inspiration.” There's his worldview, in a nutshell.
   It's informative to know how a document like this, as full of confusion and falsehood as it is, can get posted on so many conservative websites, blogs, and news networks, dozens of them, without so much as a single-word being edited or the truthfulness of the article questioned, apart from some negative feedback in the comment sections.
   Around the second week of July, 2020, the entire document, word for word, was published on americathinker.com, together with several other right-wing sites, including: indynews.org, abjure, financialsurivival network, reddit channel “DescentIntoTyranny,” reddit channel “freeworldnews,” worldpronnews.com, paradigmsanddemographics.blogspot.com, franklinncgop.com, gunownersofamericaradio.lybsyn.com, lock N Load with Bill Frady podcast, fsmandfsmwo.blog, freedomandlibertylive.blogspot, stupidfrogs.org, patriotsandliberty.com, fatherlyadviceandrants.com, conservativeammo.com, cosmoscon.com, magatracker.com, orthodoxytoday.org (the voice blog on facebook), conpiracy411.info, rabblerouseruminations.wordpress.com, orthodoxnet.org, anniefields.com, iamamalaysian.com, conservative-headlines.com, riffenberg.wordpress.com, redpillow.net, ccrofnyblog.wordpress.com, akdart.comconservative-headlines.com, orthodoxmartyria.blogspot.com, americanchristiancivilrightsmovement.com, ruthfullyyours.com, and thelibertybeacon.com., and others.
   Two conspiracy-stoking religious sites, Jesus-our-blessed-hope.com, and abundanthope.net/pages/, posted the article; as did a dozen or more with Russian and other foreign domain addresses. I have, by choice, not made an exhaustive and complete investigation of every site the documents has been posted on, which would no doubt take considerable time.
   Two other articles with the “Dex Bahr” byline were posted in similar fashion approximately two months ago, Trump with his bible: Fighting for the soul of America, in which Bahr goes full throttle in defending the president's use of St. John’s Episcopal Church as a photo op during protests ; and Everything with the left is political -- representing another attempt to steal a criticism that has been levied repeatedly at Trump and his supporters. Apart from right-wing websites, a search of Facebook shows the article “Undeniable truths” has made the rounds there too, and probably continues to, with many obvious supporters of the president posting it at length. “A lot is said here,” one person commented. “Much of which can give us hope that even some of the left is seeing their party attempting to destroy their homeland, Keep your Faith and Trust that God Will not abandon his choice for PRESIDENT of our Nation. Know Your Enemy . . . ”

Rensberry Publishing Company / Copyright - 2020 

Election Battle

Voting Rights Advocates File Suit

Over Texas Election

SAN ANTONIO, Tex. - (BUSINESS WIRE) - 7/20/2020 - Mi Familia Vota, the Texas NAACP, and individual Texas voters filed a lawsuit in federal court in Texas on July 16 challenging Texas’s in-person election practices, which is says are unsafe, high risk, and unequal during the COVID-19 pandemic. Free Speech For People, the law firm of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, and the law firm of Lyons & Lyons represent the plaintiffs in this case.
  
The lawsuit alleges that the state’s reliance on repeat-touch voting machines, its insufficient number of polling places, its limited and inaccessible early voting locations, and its voter identification requirements will result in unsafe voting conditions and increased risk of coronavirus transmission, which in turn will result in voter suppression.
   They allege that the health risks and adverse impact of these policies will place an undue burden on the right to vote and be borne disproportionately by voters of color, in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment guarantees of due process and equal protection under the law, the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment and Fifteenth Amendment, and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
   “Latinos are fired up and ready to vote in Texas. Our community is being hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. No one should have to choose between voting and getting sick during this crisis. We know that voting is a constitutionally protected right, and, in these uncertain times, we should be giving Texans voting options that are all safe, healthy, and accessible, so that they can decide the one that best fits them,” Mi Familia Vota Texas State Director Angelica Razo said.
   More than 2.3 million Americans have contracted COVID-19 since the pandemic began. 120,000 have died; many others experienced a debilitating disease that has resulted in hospital stays and lengthy recovery times.
   In Texas, the first surge of the pandemic is still trending upwards, with the number of cases, hospitalizations, and fatalities on the rise in June. Public health experts warn that the crisis will likely to worsen in Texas without immediate and serious interventions.
   Moreover, public health experts warn that a second wave of COVID-19 is likely to occur in the fall, coinciding with the November 2020 general elections, and may be worse than the first. Due to existing socioeconomic and healthcare disparities, Black and Latino citizens have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and are at higher risk of serious COVID-19 illness, resulting in higher rates of COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, and death.
   “Today we stand for the people of Texas, because unless someone can step outside the proverbial political bubble and act with clarity, we will all suffer greatly without regard to our political affiliation. The United States Supreme Court has already invited a case to address polling place safety in a Covid-19 environment, and since our State's current guidelines offer no real value to protect voters, it is incumbent upon us to bring such a case forth for the sake of all Texans. It is Constitutionally impermissible to require voters to unreasonably risk their lives in order to exercise their cherished right to vote,” Texas NAACP President Gary Bledsoe said.
   Through the lawsuit, plaintiffs seek injunctive relief to secure safe, constitutional voting practices for Texas. Specifically, the complaint seeks:
  • Suspension of Texas law that limits mobile early voting, to enable counties to bring early voting to rural and mobility-limited populations in a safe manner.
  •  Extension of the duration of early voting
  • Prohibition of any reduction in the number of polling places in Texas
  • The opening of additional polling places in counties where lines typically exceed 20 minutes
  • The option of voting on hand-marked paper ballots, while maintaining working machines that are thoroughly disinfected after each vote to protect voters who need to use these machines to vote.
  • Implementation of social distancing at all polling places

Free Speech For People, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, and Lyons & Lyons LLP represent the plaintiffs pro bono. The lawsuit names Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs as defendants. The complain can be viewed here: Plaintiff's Complaint

Trump's Racism On Display At Mount Rushmore Rally

By Cheryl Eichar Jett
Opinion/Analysis
------------------------
   EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. - July 15, 2020 -- U.S. President Donald Trump's racism against Native Americans was on full display at his rally at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota on July 3. And he used a full arsenal of insults to underscore it, although he really got the job done before he even opened his mouth. “On Friday [July 3], President Donald Trump continued his tour of racism and colonialism, moving from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to the sacred Black Hills. Make no mistake, this divisive visit was an attack on indigenous people,” said Nick Tilsen, president of NDN Collective and a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation (as quoted from his article for NBC News).
      No one can accuse Donald Trump of not being inclusive when it comes to racism. He's targeted African Americans (think Central Park Five or his “birtherism” conspiracy theory against Barack Obama), Muslims (think the travel ban targeting Muslims or his attacks on Muslim Gold Star parents), Asians (think “Chinese virus” or “kung flu”), Hispanics (think “They're rapists” or the Hurricane Maria response debacle), and Native Americans (think the “Pocahontas” tweets or his green-lighting of pipelines across native treaty lands).
   But Trump's choice of location and holiday on Independence Day Eve should leave no one, least of all the South Dakota tribes, wondering about the depth of his disdain for our country's indigenous peoples. The Mount Rushmore rally was just another self-created opportunity to double down on his white supremacist stance.
   Attacks and policies against Native Americans are not exactly revelatory news with this president. For instance, his outrageous January 2019 tweet which referenced Wounded Knee was widely condemned. (Wounded Knee Creek was the site of the U.S. 7th Cavalry's brutal massacre of hundreds of Lakota on December 29, 1890.) Trump's green-lighting of pipelines across native treaty lands and support of voter suppression laws which affected Native Americans have also been widely covered.
   However, at the Mount Rushmore event, he solidified, in at least a half-dozen ways, his prejudice against Native Americans. His range of insults ran the gamut from his careless disregard of environmental issues to his focus on his hero Andrew Jackson to the very land on which he harangued.
   First of all, the choice of the Mount Rushmore monument was clearly a slap in the face, as Native Americans have long regarded this region as their sacred land. The 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie gave the Black Hills of South Dakota over to the Sioux. But by 1877, after almost an additional decade of conflict, the U.S. seized the land. Besides the very land it rests on, the Mount Rushmore monument itself is perceived by Native Americans as a symbol of white supremacy, and its honorees carved into the monument, particularly Washington and Jefferson, are seen as colonizers. “To me, Mount Rushmore is a symbol of ethnic cleansing, forced assimilation and the theft of our territory,” said Phil Two Eagle, executive director of the Sicangu Lakota Treaty Council (as quoted in Voice of America VOA News).
   As for the Independence Day weekend chosen for the rally, it's important to remember that the July 4 holiday is not celebrated universally by Native Americans. The Declaration of Independence cemented Jefferson's vision of manifest destiny, the never-ending push west deeper into Native American territory.
   But the venue and the holiday weren't enough for Trump to make his point. He extolled his favorite muscle man Andrew Jackson, son of the south, public hero for defeating the British at New Orleans in the last battle of the War of 1812, and the bane of the Cherokee and Choctaw during “Indian Removal” as he sent them on the Trail of Tears in 1831-1833 (Choctaw) and in the harsh winter of 1838-1839 (Cherokee).
   Of course, for the most part Native Americans, especially the Navajo in the Southwest, have suffered disproportionately during the pandemic due to their underfunded health care system from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and chronic medical conditions among many tribal members. The Cheyenne River Sioux in South Dakota, however, have garnered extensive coverage of their embrace of science and effective measures in preventing the spread of infection. No wonder that tribal leaders were concerned about the rally and its draw of Trump supporters from beyond the immediate area, potentially sparking a virus outbreak. “The president is putting our tribal members at risk to stage a photo op at one of our most sacred sites,” said Harold Frazier, chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe (as quoted in Time Magazine).
   Perhaps a less obvious insult was Trump's blatant disregard for the danger of wildfire. Fireworks have not been held at Mount Rushmore since 2009 due to fire concerns. The Ponderosa Pines surrounding the monument and their devastation by a Japanese Beetle infestation make the area particularly susceptible. Native Americans, of course, revere the natural world. But an impressive fireworks display was high on Trump's list, and so to hell with anyone's concern about wildfires.
   Of course, South Dakota Republican Governor Kristi Noem was all in for the Trump rally. She refused to endorse or enact regulations providing for social distancing (the seats in the natural amphitheater were tied together) or masks, making her complicit in the slam against the roughly 71,800 Native American citizens of South Dakota. That said, as if Trump needed much assistance in his steam-roller approach to inviting himself into a Covid-19 hotspot or a controversial location for one of his rock 'em sock 'em rallies.
   However, the president did receive some assistance in adding insult to injury that day from the National Guard and from Trump supporters. As anti-Trump protesters, most who were Native American, were pepper sprayed (and 15 were arrested), Trump supporters, ironically, yelled, “Go home.”
   They were home, on sacred ancestral land.

Rensberry Publishing Company / Copyright - 2020 

Further reference:
Trump uses Mount Rushmore address to rail against removal of monuments
Native Americans and Mount Rushmore
The Horror of Trump's Wounded Knee Tweet
Trump's Mount Rushmore fireworks show is a Fourth of July attack on Indigenous people
Whose Independence Day is it?
American Indian Protesters Told to “Go Home” by Trump Supporters at Mount Rushmore

Skadden Arps Under Fire

   Group Calls on Governor

to Cut Ties With Skadden Arps


 WILMINGTON, Del. - (BUSINESS WIRE) - 7/15/2020 - Advocacy organization Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware called on Governor John Carney today to sever all government contracts with the beleaguered law firm of Skadden Arps, a firm conflicted with numerous ethical challenges, including its involvement in the Ukranian voter suppression scandal, and a staggering lack of diversity among its partner and associate classes.
 
Skadden Arps has been awarded millions of dollars in contracts and no-bid legal fees from Delaware’s Government and Court of Chancery while making no meaningful improvements on supporting black lawyers or partners.
   In June, Reverend Al Sharpton called on Skadden, Arps to increase inclusion and support of black lawyers and partners but the firm ignored the request. Skadden Arps lack of diversity is striking; over the past three years, Skadden Arps has named 38 new partners, only two of whom are black and the firm’s Wilmington office has zero black partners and only one black associate.
   As prominent social justice organizations across the country call for governments to acknowledge systemic racism and support black-owned businesses and increase the representation of people of color, Governor John Carney continues to appoint from and give contracts to Skadden Arps regardless of their nascent diversity numbers. Recently, Delaware’s Chancery Court, led by Chancellor Andre Bouchard, was again noted for its questionable connections to Skadden Arps, his former place of employment.
   “Skadden Arps received over 15 million dollars from the TransPerfect case alone when Chancellor Bouchard appointed his former colleagues as the custodian. Governor Carney and the state of Delaware cannot continue filling the pockets of these white lawyers with no bid legal fees and contracts that should go to firms with real diversity numbers that support black lawyers and partners. If Skadden Arps refuses to make meaningful improvements on diversity, it is essential that Governor Carney exerts his power and stands up for the racial, ethnic, gender, and socioeconomic diversity of Delaware’s communities. We must demand better from our leaders if we want better for our communities.” CPBD Campaign Manager Chris Coffey said.

Cal Thomas Twists Facts To Defend A Divisive President

By Steve Rensberry
Opinion/Analysis
-----------------------------
EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. - July 12, 2020 -- Pundit and Christian conservative icon Cal Thomas took his penchant for exaggeration and his undying devotion to our current president to new heights in a recent column, in which he responds to criticism of the president's July 3 Mount Rushmore speech as being divisive.
      I hate to say it, but in the past 40 years of sharing his views on politics and religion in public life, I don't think Thomas has learned a thing.
“One reads and hears this from every media outlet and Democrats in Congress. President Trump is dividing America. Talk radio is divisive. The right wing is undermining our 'unity,'" Thomas writes. “What is really meant by the divisive slur is that conservatives decided not to take it anymore. They are pushing back and the biggest push-backer of all is the president.”
    Say what?
Overlooking the literary awkwardness of Thomas' comments, notice that he does not really deny that the speech was divisive, but rather reframes it, then more or less asserts that what is really going on is just the actualization of a necessary and just cause, being led by righteous, angry, fed-up conservatives.
It's a mighty strange and inadequate defense, however, and a distraction from the real issue. Thomas' comments also fly in the face of what millions of Americans heard and saw with their own eyes, from both left and right. Trump supporters themselves have as-much admitted embracing division and chaos as a political strategy, with the goal of toppling the presumed “liberal establishment.” They wanted to shake things up, clean the swamp and take down the status quo, isn't that what we heard?
Have there been any voices at all in the Trump camp who have tried to build constructively on the successes of the previous administration? Has Cal Thomas tried? No. They've blocked, tried to repeal, divided, denied and destroyed jobs and careers in the pursuit of total control and ideological purity. The one and only thing they have tried to build is a wall along our southern border. Trump and Thomas are both guilty of fanning the flames of the culture war, the consequences of which have pitted family member against family member, neighbor against neighbor, and public servant against public servant, and for what? Over the desire to divide, control, and dominate in a changing culture, rather than learn how to get along with others, to peacefully coexist?
One highly critical response to the Mount Rushmore speech, addressed to conservatives no less, came from an opinion piece written by Mona Charen and published in the Chicago Sun-Times.
Speaking about Trump's remarks on protecting Confederate-era monuments, Charen wrote: “The conservative reflex to resist accusations of racism is worse than misguided in this instance. Why? Because in this case the accusation is not false. It’s blatantly, obviously true. Where is the 'white supremacy'? How about the fact that Trump is threatening to veto the National Defense Authorization Act if Congress follows through on plans to rename military installations named after Confederate generals? This is not a conservative making the case against racial preferences. It is not a reasoned argument about school choice, or welfare reform, or disparate impact. It is straight-up white supremacy. The Confederacy was not the United States of America. It was a whole other country. So, no, that’s not patriotism. It’s kind of the opposite.”
The words Trump used in his speech to describe American protesters, as though they were foreign enemies, also was divisive and unbecoming of a president.
“Trump’s chosen message on Independence Day was the good news that 'I am deploying federal law enforcement to protect our monuments, arrest the rioters, and prosecute offenders to the fullest extent of the law. ... I am pleased to report that yesterday, federal agents arrested the suspected ringleader of the attack on the statue of Andrew Jackson in Washington, D.C., and, in addition, hundreds more have been arrested.' News of arrests is supposed to make patriotic hearts swell with pride? Leadership of a large diverse nation requires certain grace notes that every president in living memory has found it in his heart to pronounce on important occasions. This president has chosen and continues to choose division and vitriol,” Charen said.
Having downplayed the divisiveness of his political idol, Thomas then does the one thing he never tires of doing: he creates a straw man argument to bash the imaginary villains he assumes are behind everything that is wrong with America, which to him include abortion, the welfare state, the “entitlement mentality” and a weird thing he calls “the promotion of 'any human relationship that can be conjured up in the most twisted of minds.'”
Judging by just about every column Thomas has written on gay rights and family relationships, it's obvious what he means by “the most twisted of minds.” It's also ignorant. I'm not saying he doesn't have a right to say what he feels, but he should expect to be criticized if he does.
Christian conservatives like Thomas love to play the part of victim and firmly believe that they are being systematically persecuted at the hands of mean, secular, immoral perverts, that is “the left,” which has become the current catch-all phrase for every evil deed they can imagine, and for people who they wrongly assume want nothing except to control your life and usher in a totalitarian, godless global state.
It's nothing but a grown-up fairy tale and scapegoat, and easily refuted by the evidence, but without things to demonize and fears to stoke, people like Thomas just might have to rethink some of those hateful, divisive thoughts they keep having.
That fear mongering is a part of it should come as no surprise. What was the title of Thomas' column, published in the July 8, 2020 online edition of the Washington Times?: “Democrats want to impose socialism and worse on America.” Right, Thomas barely talks about socialism, and barely even defends against the accusation of divisiveness, and this is the headline they give it? No fear mongering going on here.

Further Reference:


Election Trends

Democrats Gain Ground In Race

For Control of U.S. House


By Steve Rensberry
-----------------------------------------------
EDWARDSVILLE, IL - July 8, 2020 -- All 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives will be up for election on Nov. 3, with most forecasts showing a tight battle in many states, while leaning toward continued control by the Democrats. Significant uncertainty remains, however, with a full 118 days left until the big day.
The 2020 Consensus map compiled each election by the site 270toWin shows, as of June 2, the Democrats with a likely 223 seats and the Republicans with 193, with 19 seats forecast as “toss-ups.”
Of the 223 forecast for the Democrats, 181 are designated at “safe,” 27 are designated “likely,” and 15 are designated as “leaning.” Of the 193 forecast for the Republicans, 158 are designed “safe,” 21 as “likely,” and 14 as “leaning.” The Democrat currently control the house and will need to win 218 seats to maintain that advantage.
Rachel Bitecofer of the Washington D.C. Niskanent Center posted an update of the center's projections on June 7, speculating that the Democrats would capture 50 Senate seats to the Republican's 47, with three considered toss-ups. In the House, the Niskanen projects the Democrats will capture 241 seats to the Republican's 182.
“Whatever 2020 turnout is, barring something extraordinary that disrupts the election, if more Democrats and left-leaning independents vote than did so in 2016 and pure independents break against Trump and congressional Republicans, Democrats will not only hold their 2018 House gains — they are poised to expand on their House majority and are competitive to take control of the Senate,” Biecofer stated in her report.
She cited the rising Covid-19 death toll, a leveled economy, and the significant impact polarization is having on the process. She draws an interesting parallel with Jimmy Carer's reelection campaign in 1980, not facing a polarized nation did face an economy in a downward spiral from oil shortages, inflation and unemployment, then was hit with the Iranian hostage crisis.
“Sound familiar? It should, because in the electoral bloodbath that followed, down-ticket Republicans flipped control of the Senate from Democrats for the first time in 25 years. They also used the chaos to remake the American economy, but that is a story for another day,” Bitecofer stated.
For a look at the full Niskanent Center update and report, see Negative Partisanship and the 2020 Congressional Elections.

Misery Index Update

Report: United States Misery Index

Hits High of 13.42

By Steve Rensberry
-------------------------------------------------
   EDWARDSVILLE, IL - July 5, 2020 -- Recent data from the U.S. Misery Index, compiled in May 2020, lists the current U.S. economy at 13.42 on the scale, just one step behind the last major high of 19.72 during the Jimmy Carter Jr presidency. To be fair it has not been a normal year, but the numbers are sobering nevertheless.
   The Misery Index is calculated by combining the unemployment rate with the inflation rate, with the most recent rate derived from an April unemployment rate of 13.3 and an inflation rate of 0.12.
   The Trump administration has fared better in terms of yearly Index averages since 2016, benefiting from an economy on the upswing, but this year has not been good. The first three years of Trump's presidency saw Index values of 6.49 (2017), 6.34 (2018), and 2019 (5.44).
   One group critical of the current administration, in particular its handling of the coronavirus threat, has created a Trump Misery Index, which it says is a composite measure of the current unemployment rate, the current inflation rate, the aggregate number of COVID-19 cases in the United States and the aggregate number of COVID-19 deaths in the United States.
   "The Trump Misery Index is calculated by combining the total number of COVID-19 deaths and cases divided by 1,000 and then adding the sum of the current unemployment and inflation rates," the group states. See: Lincoln Project Trump Misery Index
   The last four years of the Obama administration averaged 8.83 on the Index, with the numbers for each year as follows: 8.86 (2013), 7.80 (2014), 5.40 (2010), and 6.13 (2016). The Obama administration gets credit for reducing the index from 10.15 in 2012 to 5.4 in 2015, before rising to 6.13 in 2016.
   Administrations with the five highest Misery Index numbers have included four Republican administrations and one Democrat, those being the administrations of Gerald R. Ford (12.66), George H. W. Bush (10.07), Richard M. Nixon (17.01), and Donald J. Trump (13.42). The Index hit its highest however, under Jimmy Carter Jr., (19.72).
   The Index's all time high was in June 1980 at 21.98. The all-time low was in July 1953, at 2.97.