People are chuckling about the doctored video and I’m thinking, “Holy Shit!”

I would have liked it if publications like The Hill and Huffpo didn’t use the word “accuse” in their headlines about Sarah Sanders sharing a doctored video to promote the lie about Jim Acosta “placing his hands on a young woman”. The video is definitely doctored and she definitely shared it. Since when do we say someone is “accused” of tweeting something that she tweeted?

The Washington Post has a good side-by-side so you can see how the video was altered (along with a good suggestion about how this should be handled).

And the Independent nailed it:

Many social media users accused Ms Sanders of posting footage which sped up the contact to make Mr Acosta’s movement appear more aggressive.

But according to analysis by The Independent, the video instead appears to have been doctored to freeze for three frames the moment before Mr Acosta’s hand pushes down on the aide’s arm.

Sure, they used the word “accused” but only to differentiate the assumed method by which the video was doctored with the actual method. That the video was doctored is not in question.

And The Independent’s analysis is right. If you stop the video and use your mouse to slowly slide back and fourth at around time 0:14, you will see where the frame freezes for a moment. After the frozen part there is a jump to the next frame, and there it looks like Acosta made a chopping motion when what really happened was his arm brushed against hers.

Word of this malfeasance is spreading throughout social media, but I don’t think enough people are saying “Holy Shit!”. I’m saying “Holy Shit!” for two reasons.

First, The nation’s highest office is using doctored evidence to support a lie, and using that lie to justify action against a reporter. Think about all those “lock her up” rallies and how close we are to becoming the kind of nation that locks up the political opposition. Well I think we just got a lot closer.

Second, video technology is scary. Today it’s a cheesy alteration that several entities were able to point out. Tomorrow it could be advanced computer aided editing that’s not so easily discerned.

We’re not going to be able to tell truth from fiction by ourselves. We need people who have dedicated their lives – and in many cased risked and sacrificed their lives – to bring us the truth.

We need to protect our press.

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Rebecca Colaw Supports Background Checks. Her opponent didn’t say.

At a forum in Smithfield, Virginia, the candidates for Virginia’s 64th House of Delegates district were asked about their position on background checks. The Republican candidate Emily Brewer said that she supports the Second Amendment. She said that gun sellers have a right to refuse to sell to anyone they don’t want to. She said she supports the right to carry. She said nothing about background checks.

Rebecca Colaw, the Democratic candidate, was clear: She supports them. She said that as a lawyer, she knows where criminals get guns. They get them from gun shows.

In 2013, Emily Brewer tweeted her support for President Obama’s executive order on background checks, and now she won’t mention background checks while answering a question about them.

I find it disturbing when a politician who knows what’s right is afraid to say so.

Background checks won’t prevent every tragedy and won’t stop every criminal or mentally ill person from getting guns. But they’ll make it harder. Some will get caught using fake ID’s and some will get caught because their mental state prevents them from understanding the consequences of trying to get a gun. Others will have to work harder to arm themselves or supply guns to others.

Rebecca Colaw is a gun owning Democrat who believes in our right to bear arms and clearly states her support for background checks. Most Virginians support background checks, too. We should work to elect candidates who agree with us and aren’t afraid to say so.

Your 2nd Amendment Rights are Protected in Waller County, Texas

It’s good to know that your Second Amendment rights are protected in Waller County, according to the home page of the Waller County Sheriff’s Department. But if Sandra Bland was removed from her vehicle for a minor traffic violation, beaten for speaking out, held in jail for 3 days over trumped up charges, and finally executed in her cell, then Waller County would seem weak on protecting some of those other rights.

I did a Google news search on Waller County, restricting the date range to before July 2015. Waller seems to have more than it’s share of corruption and misconduct. It’s not a scientific study, of course, but it seems a little high. I don’t know what the results will be of the investigation into Sandra Bland’s suspicious death. I suppose it’s possible that the seemingly normal, educated, and well loved woman who was in town to start a new career was inexplicably belligerent enough during a routine traffic stop to justify her arrest, then killed herself in her cell without leaving a note while nobody noticed. But whatever the results, it might be a good idea for the Sheriff to emphasize more than just the 2nd Amendment. Maybe if the website said, “All of your rights are protected in Waller County”, it would help foster a better attitude of public service.

Jeanne Assam was a Cop

Making rounds in the Internet is an image macro which describes how Jeanne Assam shot a church murderer in Colorado in 2007. The image praises her for pulling out her “legal, concealed gun”, then says you would never hear about her from the “Liberal Media, because she is an inconvenient fact in their war to disarm America”.

According to the image, the liars who take credit for it are TeaPartyCommunity.com.

They are lying only by omission when it comes to the shooting and the heroic take-down by Ms. Assam. They are leaving out one important fact: Jeanne Assam was a retired cop and she was on duty as a security officer when she pulled out her “legal, concealed gun”.

That’s a big omission, because the so-called liberal plan to disarm America would not have extended towards Jeanne Assam. Even people calling for tighter gun control generally aren’t saying we should disarm cops and qualified security guards. In fact the Colorado Springs shooting might be a perfect example of the point that Liberal America is trying to make: It should be harder for deranged lunatics to get guns, and guns belong in the hands of properly trained public servants.

Tea Party Community may be lying by omission about Assam, but they are lying directly about the media. The incident was covered at the time. In fact, the press coverage of Assam was extensive enough to be used as an example in this critique by NBC on the use of the word “exclusive”:

I’m tired of these fake so called exclusives wherein networks make us to believe that the only place to have a certain of information. If you’re watching cable news Monday night, you might have seen interviews with Jeanne Assam, the volunteer security guard who killed the gunman at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs. She was on CNN on Monday night as indicated in their exclusive banner and the next hour, she was on FOX News. If you tuned in to GOOD MORNING AMERICA on Tuesday morning, lo and behold, GMA exclusive.

And the website for Assam’s book has quotes from the press. Four years later Ms. Assam was in the spotlight again, when she said the church which she so bravely defended asked her to leave because she was gay.

So another right wing lie goes viral and those willing to take a little time to do some fact checking bang our heads in frustration.

Edit 2015/6/21: The Snopes article originally failed to mention Jeanne Assam’s police background, but has been updated, so I removed this paragraph: Sadly, Snopes has the misleading image macro in an article which explores the question, “Was a church shooting foiled by an armed woman in the congregation?”. Indeed the answer to that question is “yes”, but Snopes, like Tea Party Community, fails to mention that Assam was an ex-cop and a security guard, and the use of the image in that article strongly suggests that the words in the image are true.

That misleading question about enforcing labor laws in Texas

I tried to watch some of the Attorney General confirmation hearings with an open mind but my mind could only stay open for about ten seconds of Ted Cruz. His petulant apology on behalf of Democratic Senator Whitehouse turned my stomach. Whitehouse had appropriately criticized so called “witnesses” who had nothing to say about Loretta Lynch and were only there to spew hate about President Obama and Eric Holder. You may have heard Whitehouse’s remark by now, “I regret that this hearing and this solemn occasion has been co-opted to that extent, and turned into what appears to be a soundbite factory for Fox News and conspiracy theorists everywhere.”, but it’s worth hearing the preceding four minutes or so where Whitehouse established that the witnesses were not there to contribute anything useful to the hearings.


(The above picture is a link to the MediaMatters page that includes the video).

Ted Cruz went further, and devoted precious time to shedding crocodile tears with True the Vote head Catherine Engelbrecht, asking her to tell us “How did it make you feel to be targeted by the government for persecution?”, and rehashing debunked accusations that President Obama was to blame for the investigations of TTV by the IRS and other federal agencies.

The time Cruz didn’t spend accusing Obama of persecuting non-partisan charitable organizations and their angelic founders was spent discussing his misleading hypothetical questions about whether or not the president can decide not to enforce labor laws in Texas, and if the president has the authority to decide not to collect taxes above 25%. The bizarre scenarios were supposed to be analogous to the president deciding not to prosecute certain undocumented immigrants. Cruz was unhappy that Lynch didn’t give him the kind of direct answer he was looking for the day before. Of course she didn’t.

The questions were not asked in search of knowledge. They were asked in the search of soundbites as Senator Whitehouse stated. The answers to those questions are clearly, “No”, but if Lynch were to respond as Cruz would have liked, her words would have been twisted into a condemnation of the president’s actions. It’s typical Republican style propaganda. Republicans are all about the “if this, then why not that?” types of questions. “If we keep guns out of the hands of criminals, than why not grab everyone’s guns?”, “If we give people healthcare, than what’s to stop the government from assigning death panels to kill our grandmothers?”, “If we tax the rich, then what’s to stop us from throwing Jews into ovens?”, “If the president decides not to prosecute illegal immigrants who aren’t causing any trouble because we barely have enough resources to catch those who are causing trouble, what’s to stop him from deciding not to enforce labor laws in Texas?”

It’s all fake. Deciding not to enforce labor laws in Texas isn’t like deciding not to prosecute illegal immigrants who aren’t causing trouble. It would be more like deciding not to prosecute anybody named Teo. Cruz’s scenaries imply the use of arbitrary criteria rather than prioritizing in accordance with established guidelines. A better labor law analogy would be: Can the president, if he barely has enough resources to close down millions of sweatshops, decide not to prosecute companies for violations of ergonomic standards?

The answer to that question would be “Yes”.

Cruz’s questions weren’t designed to learn anything about Loretta Lynch. Almost everyone, including Republicans, seems to agree that she’s well qualified for the job. Republicans just want to use these hearings as yet another forum to to attack the president, and it seems they’re willing to deny the country the appointment of a very competent attorney general unless she provides them with soundbites that would help them do so.

I Clicked to Joe the Plumber’s Website

I had to visit Joe the Plumber’s website because despite the write ups in Raw Story, Huffington Post, Salon, and others, I still had trouble believing that he actually wrote, in an “open letter” to families of Elliot Rogers’s murder victims:

I’m sorry you lost your child. […] But: As harsh as this sounds – your dead kids don’t trump my constitutional rights.

Joe the Plumber's Website

Joe’s words go nicely with these gems from Todd Kincannon:

No idea how my son will die, but I know it won’t be cowering like a bitch at UC Santa Barbara. Any son of mine would have been shooting back.

It’s too bad that the gun rights arguments are so dominated by chimp-brained Right Wing thugs like Joe Wurzelbacher and Todd Kincannon because not every argument for gun rights is wrong.

Technically, what Wurzelbacher wrote is true, but the fact that he doesn’t have enough normal brain cells in his head to realize how wrong it is to publicly berate a crying man less than a week after his son was murdered makes him and others like him an embarrassment to the people and the arguments he should be supporting. In fact, they’re an embarrassment to the nation.

I wouldn’t want the Left to win every gun control argument. Some of my fellow Liberals want to go a lot farther with gun control then I feel comfortable with. The Second Amendment must be interpreted by people who can read at an adult’s level of comprehension (who don’t think “shall not be infringed” means any weapon carried by any person in any location”) but it can’t be interpreted away as if it didn’t exist. If it were, we would effectively nullify the Bill of Rights and perhaps be in more danger than we are now with our heavily armed criminals.

We should have intelligent conversations about gun control, with Lefties admitting that the 2nd Amendment, like it or not, dictates that their will be more guns, more gun violence, and more gun accidents than they’ll comfortably accept and Righties accepting that even in the early days there were gun control laws so the 2nd Amendment doesn’t necessarily mean what they think it means.

To give credit where credit is due, Open Carry Texas asked it’s members and supporters to stop carrying long guns into business where they’re not invited to do so. We Liberals, justifiably, had a field day laughing at their failure, but we should acknowledge that at least somebody in the group had enough sense to eventually realize that acting like stupid, violent thugs isn’t the right way to win support.

I guess Todd and Joe didn’t get the memo.

Money, Speech, & Bullshit

Conservatives and Liberals can disagree, and genuinely believe that their own points of view are valid. But more and more I’m coming to believe that most conservative points of view are lies that conservatives tell themselves to justify doing what they know is wrong. It’s like telling yourself that ice cream is healthy because it is made out of milk. It’s like a bully complaining that a nerd’s face keeps hitting his fist.

The McCutcheon decision is bullshit. The idea that money is speech is bullshit. I have a right to express my opinions, but the First Amendment doesn’t guarantee every method available for doing so. The First Amendment doesn’t guarantee my right to shout my opinions louder than local noise ordinances permit, or to paint my opinions on the sides of public buildings. Megaphones are not speech. Neither is spray paint. Neither is money.

The Supreme Court has often ruled that speech can be restricted for valid reasons. When you consider all of the restrictions on speech that exist despite First Amendment protections, such as restrictions against libeling, threatening, talking about classified information, or amplifying your voice above certain volumes, it’s absurd that that something which can only be considered speech in a highly metaphoric application of the word has more protection than actual speech does.

In the National Law Journal, James Copeland compared limits on campaign spending to limits on legal defense, or to telling people that they can’t spend money on abortions (apparently referencing Eugene Volokh but I can’t find the original). Do Mr. Copeland or Mr. Volokh, both men much more knowledgeable than I am, even think such analogies make sense? I could spend all the money I have on legal defense and still not match the resources available for my prosecution. And I can’t even grasp enough of a correlation between campaign finance and abortion spending to criticize the analogy.

With patriotic language about how the government shouldn’t restrict access to the political process, the Supreme Court restricted access for millions of ordinary people. This was the same court that overturned the Voting Rights Act, telling us that our country no longer requires such protections, because it has “changed”. And it was just one large step in a march to eliminate the voice of the people completely. In the past several years, the Supreme Court has used bullshit logic to reverse over a century of progress toward making the First Amendment meaningful to ordinary citizens. And it will continue to do so until we replace at least one conservative justice with one who will start with the law and reason outward, rather than start with ideology and interpret the law accordingly.