WTF? This isn’t funny.

The President of the United States has lied to the American public so often, that the White House press secretary made a joke about it, and reporters in the room laughed along with him.

Yesterday, The Washington Post’s, Philip Bump wrote about a “typical” 3 hours in the Trump administration. From threats to reporters by DJT’s “security” (remember that guy who punched a protester in the face? Yeah, that guy) to Spicer making a joke about Trump’s past lies, the things which occurred yesterday, would have all been lead stories in past administrations. Today’s WTF? is how incidents like these have become so commonplace that they only qualify as a footnote in the day’s news.

Bump wrote:

Asked about the jobs numbers released Friday and Trump’s past insistence that unemployment data was misleading or phony, Spicer cracked a joke:
“I talked to the president prior to this, and he said to quote him very clearly, ‘They may have been phony in the past, but it’s very real now,'” Spicer said. (Reuters)

REPORTER: In the past the president has referred to particular job reports as phony or totally fiction. Does the president believe that this jobs report was accurate and a fair way to measure the economy?

SPICER: Yeah. I talked to the president prior to this and he said to quote him very clearly: “They may have been phony in the past but it’s very real now.”

Spicer and reporters in the room laughed.

Trump regularly disparaged official government data during the campaign, but it wasn’t hard to see that his attitudes would change once he entered office. Considering only those economic metrics Trump focused on during the campaign, the economy is in as bad shape as it was under Obama.

Spicer and reporters in the room laughed. The President of the United States has lied to the American public so often, that the White House press secretary made a joke about it, and reporters in the room laughed along with him. We did not go from “28, 29, as high as 35. In fact, I even heard recently 42 percent,” as Trump told his supporters last February to the 4.7% which was reported this week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Their metrics haven’t changed, just Trump’s opinion of the information. He constantly smeared the BLS and President Obama throughout his campaign stating the low unemployment rates were fiction, but now that he’s president, suddenly the reporting is accurate? Trump supporters are okay with this lying and lunacy? This isn’t funny. It’s terrifying.

Overwhelmed

The sheer volume of WTF moments is so overwhelming, that I’ve almost reached the stage where I’m numb. However, I think that is part of the evil genius of Steve Bannon. Throw so much shrapnel that we miss the bullets (or bombs) because we’re focused on the other flying debris:

A while back, I decided that I would intermittently post about some of the lunacy in and around DJT’s administration. I thought I’d be able to pick a topic, really wrap my mind around it, and peacefully dissent. I’m almost yearning for those days in December and early January when the incoming Trump administration wasn’t so off the rails that I could focus on one subject.

The sheer volume of WTF moments is so overwhelming, that I’ve almost reached the stage where I’m numb. However, I think that is part of the evil genius of Steve Bannon. Throw so much shrapnel that we miss the bullets (or bombs) because we’re focused on the other flying debris: DeVos and Perry being completely unqualified for their positions; KAC’s publicly endorsing Ivanka’s products with the f***ing PRESIDENTIAL SEAL right behind her head; Steve Miller with his nearly “heil Trump” appearances on the Sunday morning shows; ridiculous debates about a wall which will never be built (or paid for by Mexico); assertions that there was massive voter election fraud for which there is absolutely no proof; Insulting the Prime Minister of Australia, arguably our staunchest ally, by hanging up on him; Continuing to lie about something which has been said, documented and refuted; Those poorly composed, typo ridden, misspelled daily tweets by our commander in chief, who appears to be under the delusion that he still has to campaign constantly by appealing to his base with frequently inflammatory and often incorrect information; The deflect and divert strategy employed by all of the White House surrogates. This is all shrapnel. Painful, dangerous, and definitely not good for our country, but still not as devastating as the bullets and bombs heading our way.

Here come the bullets, the things which have the potential to rip our country apart. The firing of Acting Attorney General Sally Yates. Someone who warned White House counsel that Mike Flynn was at risk of being blackmailed by the Russians; Current Attorney General Sessions refusing to recuse himself because of his obvious conflicts of interests with his current post, and any possible investigations into the Trump campaign; congress not immediately making the investigations into Flynn and the Trump campaign’s connection to the Russian’s independent; Comey… Seriously, Comey? How can we have any confidence in this man not being political within the scope an FBI investigation?

This week there was a Russian ship sitting 30 miles south of a U.S. Navy submarine base in New London, Connecticut. Today, it’s reported to be off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia. Last week, a Russian patrol plane buzzed the USS Porter, then two Russian jet fighters were followed a short time later by a third.  US officials called the fly-bys “unsafe and unprofessional.” We’ve also learned this week that Russia has recently deployed a surface-to-surface cruise missile that violates a Cold War treaty which bans intermediate range nuclear missiles in Europe. By not firmly denouncing all of these aggressive actions by the Russians, DJT is sending a message that he is weak. That we will tolerate, and not even respond with forceful commentary, to this type of aggression. Instead he calls it “Not good!” and indicates his “supporters” would prefer him to “blow it out of the water.”

Okay. Wait. Is this man so driven by popularity that he can’t even commit to condemning aggressive actions by a country which clearly interfered with our election (by his own admission during the campaign)? An enemy which continues to posture and poke at our military and intelligence community? Is he so driven by the need for approval that he hides behind the words “my supporters?” instead of personally and unequivocally denouncing the actions? Is this guy President or not? Take a stand Mr. Trump because this lack of backbone when other countries posture to test our resolve are the things which will lead to figurative, and literal, bombs if you continue to appear weak on these matters. You don’t get to pick and choose. Aggression is aggression, whether it comes from North Korea (I can’t even go there with the intelligence briefing at a country club) or Russia. These are the threats, not the NASA scientist, Harvard doctoral student, 5 year old boy put in handcuffs at Dulles.

Meanwhile, during a presser with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Wednesday (good Lord was it only two days ago?), Trump casually shrugged off two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict and suggested that Netanyahu hold off on building in the West Bank. This is something he might have thought to mention to CIA director Mike Pompeo who met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Tuesday. Abbas immediately seized on Trump’s comment and demanded a complete halt to settlement building in the West Bank (which Palestinians see as meant to deny them a viable state) and said he remained committed to “the two-state solution and to international law.” The whole thing was messy and devoid of any real foreign policy position on the matter. This indifferent attitude tends to reinforce the fear that this administration is taking our country further towards US isolationism.

I said months ago on Twitter and my old FB account, that this man would cause the loss of American life in ways which would make Benghazi look like a blip in history. Yemen? He didn’t have to pull the trigger. As president he could have delayed it. I fear the Yemen raid is just the start of bad decisions which will be devastating to our military and civilians caught in the crossfire. The total lack in foreign policy and random statements like ‘We are officially putting Iran on notice” without any follow up as to how, are going to drive anti-US sentiment. Be strong, not ineffectual.

And finally, I return again to our democracy. I posted this DJT RT in 2015:

The words and actions of this administration have shown little respect for, or even knowledge of, the constitution and the checks and balances system our democracy. Stephen Miller’s words last Sunday demonstrated that verbally.  At this point I don’t have the energy to begin to go into the ways our democracy is threatened. And that, is perhaps the biggest bomb of all. Exhaustion from fighting all the shrapnel and bullets being fired our way by the lunacy which reigns at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. I worry we won’t have the energy to fight the figurative bombs this pilotless aircraft is going to drop.

Despite the politics, 2016 was a good year for us.

Reflecting on 2016

If you were my friend on Facebook (pre-reset) or follow me on Twitter, you might think 2016 was a personal catastrophe. Despite the time I spent on my political soapbox, not so quietly freaking out about the rise of DJT, and the off the rails 2016 election cycle, it was a really good year at a personal level.

We kicked off 2016 in the UK surrounded by family and friends. We travelled to St. Barthélemy for a job, a project which ended up being one of the highlights of my career. We watched our daughter graduate from high school. We spent father’s day in New Orleans with my Dad (who was nominated for his 4th Emmy in 2016). And, we celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary in Washington, D.C.

We filmed 13 weddings. I photographed 46 families, 15 seniors, and three proposals. Rob sold a bunch of houses.  I have absolutely no complaints about how 2016 treated us professionally.


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Really, because of the 2016 presidential election, I’ve learned to narrow my circle, and that’s not a bad thing. Our biggest tragedy was losing Rob’s Dad, but at 90 years old, we all feel he had a good run. Rob was able to be with him when he passed, and for that we were very grateful.

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And, my Noles had a pretty good season, so that always makes me happy!

What does 2017 have in store? Hopefully, personally and professionally, another great year. Onward.

WTF? Why I “narrowed my circle.”

Last night I was confronted with another example of why I had so desperately needed to narrow my circle. Again, it’s political.

I took a little “hiatus” from Facebook after the general election and decided I really needed to narrow my circle. There were just too many people and too much noise. Facebook had become distracting, disappointing and divisive for me.

As you can see the journalist in me loves alliteration. That’s another reason I had to step back. Not because I love to bend words, but because I’ve spent the majority of my life around newsrooms. In every single one of those news operations, there was an expectation to report the news without imposing  personal opinions into a piece. This was taken seriously, right down to carefully constructing stories with thoughtfully chosen verbiage, so as not to be appearing to lean one way or another on an issue. Andrew Seaman, SPJ Ethics Committee chair recently cautioned in an article regarding the use of the term “alt-right,” that “Journalists must carefully choose their words, especially when sensitive topics are being discussed. When in doubt, journalists should always err on the side of specificity and context.” This article by Seaman is an excellent example of the expectation  (and reminder) that journalists need to be careful with the language they employ.  I truly believe the majority of our journalists in newspaper, local stations, and the major *traditional* networks still follow this dictum. The cable news networks, I concede, not so much. With the endless pundits and talking heads they employ to try and fill the 24 hour news cycle, cable news definitely blurs the lines of reporting and opinion. Regardless, journalists are my people. It’s still a big part of my identity. In the months leading up to November 8th, 2016,  was very difficult to constantly listen to people I once liked and respected, attack part of the essence of who I am. It felt personal, hearing so many “friends” harp on about the corrupt media. 1000 voices were too many. So, I killed my old Facebook, stepped away for a few weeks, and started fresh.

When I started my new account, I thought carefully about who I was going to let back into the minutiae of my life. My qualifier was, if all I had to offer was friendship (take away my photography, filmmaking, writing skills and/or my famous father), who would still be around?  I’ve found over the years, everyone in my circle might not be in my corner, and that’s been a tough life long lesson for me. The flip side has been God placing strangers in my life, who have showed me love and support can come from completely unexpected sources. I started to bring people back into my circle. Slowly and deliberately. Some of them people I’ve known my whole life, others I’ve only met briefly along the way. Many of them have wildly different political views than my own, but I have enough faith in our friendship to be myself with them, and I care enough about them to try and understand where their hearts are on topics when we (sometimes vehemently) disagree.

Last night I was confronted with another example of why I had so desperately needed to narrow my circle. Again, it’s political. Where I live in Florida, Bay County, is heavily Republican. Something which really didn’t bother me until this election because (mostly) our local government does what’s best for the community without a lot of partisanship.  That could be because the the Republican to Democrat electorate is 60/30 (with the other 10% hanging out elsewhere) and most of the people in office locally are Republican. Bay County just never struck me as dangerously nationalist, or civil liberty threatening conservative. The article below is similar to stories published all over the country by local newspapers. It’s the responses to this article which made me reel.

I understand wanting change. I understand wanting to reduce government. I understand our partisan identities get tied up in our personal identities. I understand that DJT campaign did a masterful job appealing to disenfranchised white male voters who felt the strength of their majority slipping away. What boggles my mind is that anyone could justify meddling in our electoral process by a foreign country no matter how hey voted in the general election. Moreover, that they would dismiss the conclusions of the FBI and the CIA so carelessly. Even Fox news called out DJT on his ridiculous comments regarding Russia’s interference. Do we have a bunch of unknown Russian assets (a la The American’s) here in Bay County? You’d think we do with the comments in that thread… Release those taxes Donald, prove to us you don’t have business ties to Russia.

So, to illustrate why I needed so desperately to narrow my circle… Bay County, the News Herald’s Facebook page, and Facebook trolls bring us to today’s WTF??? {sigh} Onward.

Fox in the Hen House. Today’s WTF

Again, WT everlovin’ F DJT? Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency? The AG is currently suing the EPA. The guy is figuratively the “fox in the hen house.” So much so, that one of the letters supposedly drafted by Pruitt to the EPA in 2011, was actually written by lawyers for DEVON ENERGY!  The lazy bastard just did a cut and paste and got caught. Not only are Pruitt, and many other Republican State AG’s, in collusion with the big energy companies, Pruitt went so far as to have Harold Hamm, the CEO of Continental Energy, as a chairman of his 2013 re-election campaign.

In the current Obama administration, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency is Gina McCarthy, who has spent over 30 years (at all levels) working on critical environmental issues. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Social Anthropology from the University of Massachusetts at Boston and a joint Master of Science in Environmental Health Engineering and Planning and Policy from Tufts University. She is extremely well versed in actually “protecting human health and the environment” the key part of the EPA’s mission. Do you get this DJT? The point is to protect us and the environment, not advance the interests of energy companies shareholders, right?

Scott Pruitt vs. someone like McCarthy? WTF?

 

Seriously. WT everlovin’ F?

I am coming to the conclusion I’ve become all the Obama bashing Republicans who I abhor.

Give DJT a chance? I’m trying but the appointments of some of the clowns he’s choosing for his cabinet, are proving my fears were right. So, I’ve decided I’m going to post an occasional “WTF,” to illustrate why this man and his cronies are completely ill equipped to run our country in any way but into the ground.

Rick Perry in the Department of Energy is today’s WTF??? We’ll be going from Obama’s appointee, Ernest Moniz, who is a Nobel Prize-winning nuclear physicist with a PhD from Stanford University to… a guy who was on Dancing With the Stars, has a degree in Animal Science, and who infamously wanted to abolish the very department he couldn’t remember the name of, and will now run. WTF DJT??

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Peaceful Protest

And finally, there was Washington, D.C. itself. A city full of diverse culture and people, yet the embodiment of America. We walked this city and stood in awe of it. A collection of heritage, government, remembrance and hope.

For our 20th anniversary on November 16th, 2016 Rob and I took a trip to Washington, D.C. to celebrate. So, a week after the election, we found ourselves walking the streets and visiting the sites of our beautiful capital city. It’s no secret that I was feeling devastated after the general election. The bogey man had been elected president, and while I was afraid the very city which embodies democracy would be turned on it’s head on January 20th, 2017, I came away hopeful.

There were peaceful protests. I saw for myself how organic they were. Grandmothers sitting in front of the White House. School girls, too young to vote, at the Washington Memorial. People of every race and background marching down Pennsylvania Avenue chanting “The people United will never be Divided” and “Love trumps Hate.” Democracy was in action, and it was tangible.

Peaceful Protest Peaceful Protest

If you’ve been in any large American city in recent years and taken a taxi or Uber, you know, the majority of the drivers are immigrants. My motto has always been, “Better to know you for five minutes, than never to have known you at all,” because I truly feel everyone has a story, and who knows what you might learn from them? One of our Uber drivers was from Ethiopia and he talked about the political unrest in his country:

“You don’t have the right to speak. If you do, you don’t know who is listening. The police came to my house and killed my brother-in-law for speaking about the government.”

He watched his brother-in-law murdered in his own home, and speculated that he’d been turned in by one of their neighbors. Then we discussed living conditions, government corruption and the inequality of wealth distribution in Ethiopia. He basically told us, no matter how bad the president-elect is, he’s still light years away from the Ethiopian government.

Another driver was from the Philippines. If you’ve only followed American news, you might not have heard about Duterte’s genocide of suspected dealers and drug users in the Philippines, and his chilling call to “slaughter them all.”  Over 2000 people have been shot and killed by officers in self-defense during anti-drug operations since the president took office on July 1, 2016.  So… the Filipino government is saying here that over 2000 people resisted arrest? That’s hard to believe, but it doesn’t begin to touch the total death toll. Another 3000 deaths have been recorded since the start of Duterte’s drug war. In July. This started in July, and over 5000 people are dead. Think on that. Then think on the people you know who are in recovery because they were able to overcome their addiction. Imagine life without them. Now research the methods used by the police in the Philippines, and consider, while many of these people were users (arguably already victims), and very few were actual “drug lords.” It’s genocide. The president-elect may be a lot of despicable things, and, according to Duterte, approves of his methods, but I don’t really think he’d try to get away with genocide. Even though I might think of Trump as the bogey-man (and I do, I think he’s going to be an unmitigated disaster as president), he’s got nothing on Duterte, and it took a couple of conversations with immigrants from countries experiencing unimaginable atrocities to remind me of that.

Then there were the monuments to great men who lived and led our country, in extremely difficult times. I read their words, sometimes written in despair, and found hope. Hope that things do change. Fear, selfishness, and greed do not ultimately prevail. Change happens. The journey might be painful, but rights are recognized, roads are built, the hungry fed.

These images are from the FDR and MLK memorials. FDR was commenting on the Great Depression and WWII. MLK on the Civil Rights movement. Three incredibly difficult times for American’s, and yet all of these quotes resonate strongly for me today.

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And finally, there was Washington, D.C. itself. A city full of diverse culture and people, yet the embodiment of America. We walked this city and stood in awe of it. A collection of heritage, government, remembrance and hope.

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The building where my Grandmother Elena worked during WWII.
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Side note: This is exactly the same statue of Andrew Jackson which stands in Jackson Square in New Orleans.
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A sweet “Thank You.”

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Democracies are fragile, but the American people are not. I love my country and believe in it’s resilience. We will find a way forward. I will find a way forward. Most importantly, I will hold on to faith and hope.

Always hope.

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I will not hold that shoe.

Rallying against racist rhetoric in recent months, I’ve heard “welcome to the south.” To that I said, “my south is not your south.”

Gene Patterson is the reason I finished my college degree, and later went on to be accepted into a Masters program at St. Edward’s University. Without his faith in my abilities it would not have happened. I had incredible grandparents, and a wonderful great uncle and aunt in Gene and Sue. Their debates over the dining table as I was growing up taught me much about grace and healthy discourse.
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Rallying against racist rhetoric in recent months, I’ve heard “welcome to the south.” To that I said, “my south is not your south.” This gentle man, from rural Adel, Georgia, with his soft southern accent, his empathy, and his strong will to see change where there was injustice, taught me that.

He wrote in his unflinching article “A Flower for the Graves” about the bombing which killed 4 young girls at a church in Birmingham, AL in 1963:

“We — who go on electing politicians who heat the kettles of hate.

We — who raise no hand to silence the mean and little men who have their nigger jokes.

We — who stand aside in imagined rectitude and let the mad dogs that run in every society slide their leashes from our hand, and spring.

We — the heirs of a proud South, who protest its worth and demand it recognition — we are the ones who have ducked the difficult, skirted the uncomfortable, caviled at the challenge, resented the necessary, rationalized the unacceptable, and created the day surely when these children would die.”

Basically, Gene said, as Southerners who enabled racism, we had to own those murders. I’ve been saying something along the same lines the last six months. Steve Bannon, KKK endorsements, hateful, xenophobic, homophobic, misogynistic, and racist rhetoric, by the president-elect, are causing us to slide backwards to a time we should not be proud of in American history.

The president-elect’s supporters need to own their part in that regression. Not saying anything would make me every bit the enabler the “heirs of a proud South” were to the bombers of that Birmingham church 50 years ago.

So, I will harp on. I will continue to be vocal about the dangers of someone like Steve Bannon having access and influence over our future president. I will call bullshit on fake news, rationalization, and normalization of things which we should abhor. I will remind you, we can’t sit idly by and accept this. Whether or not you agree with me, I will probably annoy you at some point.

What I won’t do, is say nothing. I will not hold that shoe. (Read Gene’s full article here – http://www.poynter.org/2013/a-flower-for-the-graves/4761/).

Congratulations to my Uncle Gene for being recognized and inducted into the 2016 Atlanta Press Club Hall of Fame (another accolade to add to his legacy). I wish he could have been with us for this moment of recognition. However, a part of me is glad he isn’t here to witness the direction our country is taking.