The Reporter covers Miller, Morgan and Camden County in Central Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks and is published once per week on Wednesdays.


(Updated May 10, 2023)

Guest Editorial - Everything old is old again

(Published May 3, 2023)  

It’s official, President Joe Biden has officially announced he will be seeking a second term. That didn’t surprise anyone since everybody in the administration had been saying he would for months.

Good for him; it’s always nice to see a man of his advanced years still have ambition.

Let’s hope he’s actually capable of fulfilling the duties. That seems to be an open question today. Imagine what he’ll be like five years from now.

Honestly, every American should want their president, no matter which party they are from, to be physically and mentally vigorous enough to perform the duties well.

We may not always (often) agree on the policies, but you want to know the commander-in-chief is ready to act on a moment’s notice to defend the country, and that the chief executive is actually the one making the big decisions, and not some nameless, unelected staffers.

Mr. Biden doesn’t really project an aura of vitality. If your only source of news is the liberal media, you may not notice it. They do a good job of covering for him. If you frequent the right wing channels, its the polar opposite, and he is the senile-grumpy-get-off-my-lawn-old-man-in-chief.

The most likely answer is something in between. The president’s staff does their best to keep him out of situations with potential for embarrassment. They keep his hours to a minimum, presumably so that he is rested and ready to take action. To be fair, you make the best of what you’ve got to work with. If you’re a sprinter, avoid marathons.

If you don’t believe Mr. Biden is able to function at all, think back to every time it’s been predicted he would fall apart and reveal himself to be completely incapable. Somehow, he always pulls through. Having the bar set really low actually helps make that possible.

People who don’t think the president’s staff is working overtime to keep him from bumbling around, haven’t been paying attention.

Just last week there was a minor scandal when it was revealed Mr. Biden wasn’t just randomly calling on reporters at a press conference. Cameras caught the cheat sheet he was using which had the name and picture of the reporter he was to call on, and the question she would ask. That’s light years from Jim Acosta going bare knuckles with Donald Trump.

Aside from heavily managed moments, the president frequently exhibits blunders big and small. That includes wandering around lost on stage after speeches, forgetting he just spent a week in Ireland, and all the sentences that ramble and fade to nothingness.

The man has what is likely the toughest job in the world. It takes a lot out of anyone who holds the office. People make a huge deal about all the days presidents take off. That’s nonsense; there is no such thing as a day off with that job.

A president may be on the golf course, but he started the day with a classified briefing, and a few feet away is an aide with “the football” with everything needed to launch a nuclear attack. The job is 24/7.
Look at pictures of the prior presidents who served eight years. The difference between taking and leaving office is stark.

Which goes back to the harsh reality of the president’s age. We all know people in their 80s and 90s who look and act decades younger. Unfortunately Mr. Biden doesn’t project that. He looks every bit of his 80 years, the oldest president in history.

Mr. Trump, the Republican front runner, is only four years younger. On election day 2024, those two men would be a combined 158 years old. By comparison, Barack Obama is still only 61. Years after their terms, both George W. Bush and Bill Clinton are 76.

Which begs the question of why old politicians want so badly to stay in power, and why do we vote to keep them there. For those of us who dream of retirement while we’re still young enough to enjoy it, that is baffling. The reason seems to be as much about holding onto power, personally and for the party, as anything else.

Plus, it’s easier for the golden oldies. Those old politicians have famous names, which go a long way toward reeling in the votes. Elections are a steep climb for challengers, and generally a more mild slope for incumbents. That helps allow Nancy Pelosi to hang onto her party’s leadership in the House until the age of 82, only giving it up when her party lost the majority. Mitch McConnell, Senate minority leader, is 81. Majority leader Chuck Schumer is a pup by comparison at 72.

There is also poor Dianne Feinstein, at 89, and rumored to be cognizantly unable to perform her duties.

(The opposite is true when selecting Supreme Court justices, who seem to get younger with every selection. If the trend there continues, expect to see justices chosen out of middle school.)

Not everyone on the scene is an octogenarian. Nikki Haley, a GOP presidential candidate, seems to actually be angling for Mr. Trump’s V.P. spot. She’s only 51, or as Don Lemon famously put it, “past her prime”.

And, of course, Vice President Kamala Harris is only 58 and a grand orator: “So I think it's very important, as you have heard from so many incredible leaders for us at every moment in time and certainly this one, to see the moment in time in which we exist and are present, and to be able to contextualize it, to understand where we exist in the history and in the moment as it relates not only to the past but the future.”

That word salad only sounds like someone with dementia. - Frank Mercer

Guest Editorial - Lots of money

(Published April 26, 2023)  

Fox News is shelling out major bucks to settle the Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit.

The total, $787,500,000, is the largest settlement of that type ever. Doesn’t matter how rich your are, it’s a lot of money. Rupert Murdoch probably won’t be fishing around in the couch cushions to get it, but still.

However, it is significantly less than the $1.6 billion originally sought in the lawsuit.

Dominion had claimed that Fox, including its executives, journalists, on-air personalities, and guests, had aired false accusations about their voting machines which hurt the company’s business and reputation.

Immediately after the 2020 election when president Donald Trump started making claims that the election was stolen, Fox gave air time to claims that Dominion machines were used to change the intent of votes.

Some of those claims and the people making them came off as pretty far out there, yet a large number of people across the country still believe it to this day.

The lawsuit opened up a lot of Fox documents, including e-mails, which were never intended for public consumption. Some of them looked like they would be really damning when presented to a jury. Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham, the network’s three prime-time hosts, all expressed opinions privately which differed from their on-air segments.

There was also evidence that the network presented the claims not because they thought they were true, but to keep from losing viewers.

If proven openly in court, that would damage Fox’s credibility much more than any settlement could.

The worry about ticking off viewers was legitimate after election night when their experts called Arizona for Joe Biden way early, sparking anger.

The rest of the media, which has hated Fox since they broke their liberal choke-hold on the news business, jumped on this case and couldn’t devote enough time or space to it.

According to them, the trial would be a slam dunk loss for Fox News, and it was purely a matter of how much money they would be forced to pay.

A series of rulings by the judge didn’t do anything to dissuade that argument. His every action seemed to be unfavorable to the defense.

After the settlement, reports said Fox’s lawyers didn’t share the pessimism. They were said to be confident of an aquittal, if not in the trial, then on appeal, even if it meant going all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Looming over the Dominion suit was the pending $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit by Smartmatic, another voting machine company. It seems likely now that Fox will make every effort to reach an agreement there as well. Any bets on Smartmatic playing hardball for a larger payoff?

Like any lawsuit, this was never an absolute given, no matter what they were saying on MSNBC.

Dominion needed to not only prove Fox knew the information was false, but they acted with malice. That is a very high bar in the legal system.

The network claimed all along that they were simply airing allegations being made by the president’s team on a national issue. That actually could have been a successful defense.

Would it have been? We’ll never know. Fox executives apparently didn’t feel like rolling the dice on an $800 billion gamble.

Dominion obviously felt the same way. They said what they wanted was compensation and an apology. They got about half of the first, and none of the second.

Here is Fox’s official statement: “We acknowledge the Court’s rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false. This settlement reflects Fox’s continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards. We are hopeful that our decision to resolve this dispute with Dominion amicably, instead of the acrimony of a divisive trial, allows the country to move forward from these issues.”
That isn’t exactly groveling.

One other result of the settlement is that it crushed the dreams of the liberal cable channels.

They had envisioned hours of coverage of every juicy detail, with accompanying boosts in ratings and more ad dollars. Pity all the poor contributing panelists missing out on those paychecks.

The decision to settle a big lawsuit isn’t exactly a first for Mr. Murdoch. Over the years, his companies have paid out more than $2 billion to make lawsuits go away. (Most famous was the e-mails and phone hacking scandal involving his UK tabloids.)

Fox is far from alone either. Big media companies often pay up to avoid the chance of a much bigger loss and an ugly trial.

Sometimes you know the number, like ABC shelling out $177 million over the “pink slime” beef additive suit a few years back. Sometimes you don’t, like NBC and CNN’s payouts to Covington kid Nick Sandman.

There is a real problem in today’s media landscape. It seems many of the decisions being reached in newsrooms have more to do with preaching to the choir than finding truth.
You could safely bet money that the decision to report every bat-excrement-crazy “scoop” about Mr. Trump has had more to do with a desire for it to be true than actual solid fact.
Maybe this case will shake up the big media companies to make them take a harder look at their reporting, instead of just presenting what they think their audience will like.
Don’t bet on that though. - Frank Mercer

Guest Editorial - News vs. opinion

(Published April 12, 2023)  

The lines between news and opinion in American media get more blurred for consumers every day.

Not long ago, it wasn’t difficult to know what was presented was either opinion or straight reporting. That was a simple process, because it was clearly labeled. That still survives in places. When you started reading this column you knew it was opinion. In most publications, it appears on an Opinion or Editorial page. If not, there is a header which alerts the reader that it is some guy mouthing off. You may agree or disagree, but you’ll never confuse it for straight news reporting.

Knowing what you’ve encountered makes a great deal of difference. Suppose you come across a headline, “Governor discovered to be thief.” Your take on the article will vary enormously depending on if it the product of a team of unbiased investigative journalists or the conclusion of a writer armed mostly with a point of view. Because of the way media now works, that distinction has disappeared almost entirely. Sometimes it is nearly impossible to know if what is put in front of us is supposed to be news or opinion. You see it time after time in the “unbiased” corporate media. Sometimes it’s subtle like the choice of words.

For example Democratic action is generally described in positive terms. Dems advance ideas with unity; they stand up to the opposition. No matter how far to the left side of the political spectrum they may be, the words paint a picture of trustworthiness, compassion, and rationality.

Republicans get sterner coverage. They’re said to proceed blindly in lockstep, and they pounce on opponents to sow dissent. In fact, Republicans are said to pounce so often they should switch symbols from elephant to tiger. The GOP is usually portrayed as angry, perhaps dangerous, or even unhinged.

Unconscious bias plays some role. The vast majority of journalists are left of center, most quite a ways to the left. When 95% of the scribes are pulling for one team, there shouldn’t be a huge shock when a side is praised and one is savaged. That bias, not always unconscious, explains why right wing protests are all a threat to democracy, while left wing ones, even riots, are always “mostly peaceful.”
Today’s most honest media puts their bias out on a shingle. They are dedicated to one point of view and make no bones about it.

Those companies harken back to the early days when media was newspapers, and they were basically the public relations arm for a prefered political party. You couldn’t miss who they were cheering for; it was often right in the name of the publication.

A reader could almost always get a good idea what was really going on by reading two opposing publications. Whatever was common ground was likely accurate.
You can experience that today by going to Axios, or Slate and their brethren, and then Breitbart News or The Federalist and the like. Their takes on any topic of the day will be wildly different. Even if you don’t achieve factual clarity, you’ll at least know what each side is thinking. And, if you visit one of those sites and don’t figure out in just a few seconds which team they are rooting for, the fault lies with you.

However, that isn’t how most people consume news. Usually, it is pushed forward by an algorithm which does its best to give you more of the same. That way, the consumer stays engaged and in contact with the advertisers. Through that process, without any conscious effort, a person can end up in a bubble which reflects their preferred viewpoint with no glimpse that any other even exists. You never realize you’re being fed a diet of left or right.

If you want to test how that works, try clicking on a couple of stories about a topic you care nothing about. Soon, you’ll have an endless supply of the same headed your way.
All of the fog about opinion and news is compounded by a recent move by journalists to switch from at least attempting to be unbiased, to activism.

It had been a gradual change, but took off like a rocket because of Donald Trump. Before he was elected, a New York Times columnist claimed that the candidate was so dangerous, reporters should throw off the standards of objectivity. Vast numbers adopted that approach, and the willingness to accept any negative claim about him was soon prevalent in reporting.

The “unbiased” approach was always flawed, but tossing it out while attempting to camouflage its demise is worse. This move is most apparent in left wing journalism’s war on “both-side-ism”.
It has been standard procedure for a long time for journalists covering a story to get both sides of an issue.

With the growing certainty that there really is really only one side to an issue, presenting both is seen as not only unnecessary, but a disservice or even dangerous.
This change is most prominent in politics and, the ongoing culture war, but it isn’t limited to just there.

The COVID-19 pandemic proved just how far the practice has advanced. For example, while the truth about the origins has always been in question, the media was rock solid behind the sanctioned line that it occurred naturally.

Wondering if the virus could have possibly been created in a Wuhan coronavirus lab was immediately shut down as “a debunked conspiracy theory.”
That closed minded approach and willingness to stump blindly for one side has caused even more damage to the reputation of journalism, something the entire profession can ill afford. - Frank Mercer

Guest Editorial - Now that’s interesting

(Published March 22, 2023)  

There’s an ironic old line, “May you live in interesting times.” Some say it’s a blessing, others a curse.

Your interpretation may depend on just how interesting the times are.

There is a lot of worry about the banking sector after the failure of two high-profile institutions. That’s interesting, sure, and also terrifying.

The FDIC was created to keep depositors from losing everything the way they once did when a bank failed. Deposits are insured up to $250,000. That’s good enough for most folks. Not so in this situation.
When Silicon Valley Bank collapsed, followed two days later by Signature Bank, it was revealed that 90% of deposits in both were above that threshold. Obviously, they weren’t focused on working class stiffs with a few thousand in a savings account.

Some of their practices had more to do with catering to the sensibilities of their wealthy depositors than sound business practices.

The failures had the big brains debating the right and wrong moves while anxiously awaiting whatever was next. President Joe Biden quickly stepped in and announced the government would guarantee all deposits in the two banks.

That move wasn’t met with universal praise. The FDIC limit is there for multiple reasons. One is to keep banks (at the behest of their investors) from getting involved in stupid practices.

Even though your local bank is solid, safe, and well run, they’ll end up getting punished anyway, because the guaranteed result of a scare like this is politicians enacting more regulations.

It’s easy to say that the Biden Administration should have stayed out and let the customers take their lumps. Maybe that’s true, but without a crystal ball it’s impossible to know what would have happened to the economy.

However informed and enlightened we may be, people are still susceptible to herd mentality. One or two failures can lead to a domino effect and what used to be called a “panic”.

You only need to look as far back as the 2008 financial crisis to see that a disaster for the big boys ends up being bad times for the little guy.

One story over the weekend reported that as many as 200 banks are at risk because the assets they hold have dropped in value due to high interest rates. If large numbers of depositors decide to suddenly withdraw their money, that could be a problem. Let’s hope cool heads prevail.

If all of that doesn’t make for interesting enough times, Donald Trump announced that he expects to be arrested some time this week. Interesting, baffling, annoying, you pick.

First, as always, it’s impossible to know if Mr. Trump has actual information for this, or he’s just irritated at what’s happening with the drawn-out investigation. Ether is plausible.

There is no doubt that Mr. Trump has been targeted for prosecution since he emerged as a serious threat to the old-school way of politics.

As far back as 2016, there has been serious discussion about charging him with something...anything. Each new outrage was the one which was going to land Mr. Trump in jail. It’s been something of a cottage industry.

This case, paying a porn actress to sign a non-disclosure agreement about an affair, was headline news long ago.

But the investigation, in what the Washington Post called a “zombie case,” never stopped. The determination to keep digging, no matter how long it took, in order to find anything to bring charges for, gives credence to those who say it’s a political attack of the banana republic variety.

There may be questions about motivation, but one thing is certain. Two groups really, really want to see Donald Trump as the GOP presidential nominee in 2024. The Republicans who still love him, as well as Democrats and the liberal media.

Even if Mr. Trump is charged as he expects, and if conviction could prevent him from serving, there is zero chance this gets through the courts before the presidential campaign is over.

While charges might dissuade some Republican voters from supporting him in the primary, most of those people got off the band wagon long ago. Other GOP voters would be strengthened in their resolve due to what will be seen as using the justice system for overtly political purposes.

The other side desperately hopes he is the GOP candidate. Mr. Biden himself makes no bones about wanting Mr. Trump to be the one he faces for reelection.

Confronted with pushback on inflation and overall leftist policies, the Democratic Party leadership thinks Donald Trump is the one candidate who surely lets them hold the White House.

Hey, when your candidate has terrible approval ratings, you want to run him against somebody whose numbers are even worse.

The left wing media also, not so secretly, hopes for the return of Mr. Trump. Their ratings and revenue plummeted after he left office. As rabidly negative as they are about him, hating him lined their pockets. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Yet another interesting event was Wellesley College students passing a resolution to admit transgender men.

The school currently admits only “cis, trans, and nonbinary” women. So, under the resolution, only “cis men” would be excluded. Huh?

But, if, as the activists say, trans women are women and trans men are men, how then could the school justify excluding anyone?

Since you can’t tell the players without a scorecard, and I don’t have one, let’s leave it at that for now.

It’s too darned interesting. - Frank Mercer

Guest Editorial - Conspiracy no more?

(Published March 8, 2023)  

It’s become more and more clear that a great deal of the reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic was purely tribal.

The idea that the virus could have escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China, was once branded as a racist conspiracy theory. Now, we are finding out that reasonable people, including (gasp) scientists, thought it was a possibility all along.

The U.S. Energy Department now says the pandemic likely started with a laboratory leak, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal.

That department is the agency which oversees the national laboratories doing serious research on things you really don’t want getting loose in the world. Which makes them experts on the topic.

The story says they have “low confidence” on the lab origin theory. NPR is quick to point out that four other intelligence agencies still think the virus evolved naturally. Those agencies have “low confidence” in that theory; So, nobody is 100% convinced.

The FBI, with their microbiologists and immunologists supported by the National Bioforensic Analysis Center, has “moderate confidence” in the lab theory and said so a while back. That apparently makes them the most sure.

All this follows years of the very idea of a lab leak being strictly forbidden under threat of labeling as a racist, mouth-breathing dirtbag.

Early in the pandemic, the question arose that, since the outbreak originated in Wuhan and there is a facility in that city to study such viruses, couldn’t a lab leak be a possibility.

That type of speculation is logical.

If you find a puddle of water in front of the kitchen sink, you investigate. It could be a broken pipe. But, maybe the drain is leaking, or someone splashed it there. You don’t just decide it’s the pipe, shut off the water to the house, and call a plumber.

Yet, the very idea that COVID-19 could have come from the Wuhan Institute of Virology wasn’t just dismissed, it was attacked as evil. Those who even pondered the idea were labeled racist crackpots hooked on a “discredited conspiracy theory.”

The only origin acceptable was the one where bats gave it to some exotic critter which ended up in a “wet market,” only to be consumed, but not before spreading the virus to humans.

That was the path they traced backward to discover the outbreak of the SARS epidemic in 2002 so it’s hardly dumb to give it credence.

Yet, no conclusive origin has been found, leaving the door wide open. And, some people haven’t wanted to hear a lab in China could be involved.

Let’s be clear; there are folks on opposite ends of the coronavirus pandemic debate who are complete whack jobs. They firmly believe only what they believe and no amount of facts or argument will move them one iota.

The majority of the U.S. people fall well in between the polar opposites. Back when it started, the average person wanted to do the right thing, and had faith in what experts said.

A funny thing happened along the way. It became obvious that there was a lot of absolute certainty about what must and shouldn’t be done pertaining to a virus with a lot of unknowns.

People could see with their own eyes that the experts were often wrong. You remember the highlights. Two weeks to slow the spread...disinfect every will be years before there is a vaccine...the vaccine will make you immune. And on and on.

Now, there is nothing shameful about not knowing how to handle a virus the world has never seen before. But they didn’t say “We don’t know, but we think this is the safest approach.”
It quickly became, “We absolutely have the answers; and, if you don’t obey, you will kill people.”

Quickly, the divisions split along Red and Blue lines, with the media calling the balls and strikes.

It didn’t end with the idea that a lab leak was ridiculous; it grew from there. For example, New York with stringent lockdown was said to be doing it right, while Florida which quickly reopened was literally killing people.

The number of pro-lockdown leaders caught vacationing in sunny Florida proved what they actually thought.

Now, even some of those who most loudly blasted the idea of a lab leak are admitting they may have refused to consider the possibility because Donald Trump suggested it.

That was the pattern all through his presidency, but it was never more obvious than during the pandemic months of his term.

When he mentioned a common anti-malarial drug being tested by some doctors, the overwrought response was that people were dying by ingesting, fish tank cleaner with a similar name.

When he talked about ivermectin as having possibilities, the talking point was that it’s a horse dewormer.

Neither drug turned out to be the cure-all for COVID-19.

At the time, nobody knew that, and reasonable people were giving them a look. Trump’s encouragement became the kiss of death to rational discussion.
Take a look at the people who said they wouldn’t trust a vaccine approved by the Trump administration.

Then, follow how that entire debate took a 180 if you want to see tribal behavior.

So, now it’s safe to admit sloppy lab procedures could have had a hand in unleashing COVID-19 and have a reasonable discussion of the idea.

Maybe we’ll eventually be able to take a serious look at which moves to combat the virus were effective, which were a waste of time, and which were purely political.
Just don’t expect to see that anytime soon, though. - Frank Mercer

Guest Editorial - It’s alien to me

(Published February 22, 2023)  

China floated an absolutely enormous balloon over the United States earlier this month and now we’re seen under reaction, over reaction and exciting conspiracy theories.
It was admittedly shocking that a balloon with a payload about the size of your average fast-food hangout dangling beneath could take a leisurely tour across Alaska, Canada, and then diagonally across the U.S.

Most shocking: In the age of satellites which are reported to be able to read a license plate from space, balloons are still a thing for spying. Who’d a thunk it? Next we’ll find out that all the really super secret spies actually do play baccarat and demand their martinis shaken, not stirred.

Balloons were once more front of mind. They were the main way to conduct high-altitude scientific research or study weather. If you’re of a certain age, you probably remember seeing a weather balloon floating across the sky. My folks once found a downed one, with the instructions for sending the instrument package back.

More secret, were the projects run for military purposes, like Operation Mogul which was developed to help keep an eye on nuclear advancements in the Soviet Union. A crashed balloon from that top secret project in 1947 is said to have been the debris found at Roswell, N.M.

A report went out that it was a crashed flying saucer. Then, it was amended to be a downed weather ballon, not a top secret one, just the regular kind.

That announcement and denial really lit a fire under UFO conspiracy theorists.

Rampant through the 1960s UFO craze was the go-to explantation: the sightings were weather balloons. This became shorthand for ridiculus government cover up and an insult to the intelligence of the American populace.

A similar situation seems to be playing out now.

Hot on the heels of shooting down China’s big balloon, the Air Force blasted three more objects from the sky.

Then they said they didn’t really know what they were. Followed immediately by speculation about UFOs.
President Joe Biden has taken a lot of heat for under-reacting and not downing the big China balloon much earlier than was done.

Depending of who is making the claim, this slow reaction was due to:
1. Prudence.
2. Cowardice/incompetence.
3. Being a puppet of the Chinese regime.
4. Thinking that the risk of what the PRC might learn did not outweigh the risk of squishing someone with essentially the world’s largest cartoon anvil.
I’d like to think it was the fourth option. Plus, it was made by China, so it’s hard to say what was in the thing.
It could have been powered by a nuclear reactor...while incubating the next bat virus. Hey, nobody wants that dumped in their backyard.

Since the uproar got so huge, everybody involved became embarrassed and decided they needed to take it up a notch to show they’re now really alert.

We’re all familiar with how this works. Like the wonderful safe feeling of walking barefoot through an airport detector while watching grandmas and toddlers being patted down.
This time around, to prove we’d never be caught off guard again, they cranked up the sensitivity on the radar all the way to an 11.

And, holy turns out there are all kinds of stuff out there which wasn’t being detected on the old radar settings.

Since nobody wanted to be accused of failing to take action the fighters were scrambled, and three additional objects shot down. With $400,000 Sidewinder missiles. Except for the one that missed the first time so it took two. This is the budget equivalent of killing a spider on your wall by hitting it with your new Ford F450 dually.
At that point, the general in charge of U.S. airspace lit up all the UFO conspiracy folks in a big way.

When asked if the objects might be of extraterrestrial origin, he didn’t snicker and say, “Maybe they’re from Uranus.”

Instead he answered, “I’ll let the intel community and the counterintelligence community figure that out. I haven’t ruled out anything.”
Also, the new name for UFOs, unidentified anomalous phenomena or UAP is terrible. Come on man!

While not as much fun as thinking we just blasted E.T. and maybe started an interstellar war, there is a much more likely explanation for the stuff turning up with the new radar settings. There’s just a lot of stuff floating around out there that has been (snicker) flying under the radar.

According to experts there are nearly 1,000 balloons released daily worldwide for meteorological study alone.

Additionally, the shapes, altitudes and payloads of the three bogeys shot down match those of common pico balloons, which are mylar balloons with trackers and a small scientific instrument cluster. In fact, a group with the sinister sounding name, the Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade, reports theirs went dark just after circling the globe seven times.

It seems it was last reported to be near where one of the unidentified objects was shot down.

The founder of a company that makes these balloons for hobbyists said he tried to contact the military to fill them in, but got “the runaround.”
He added, “And they’re going to look not too intelligent to be shooting them down.”

At least he claimed to be a California man.

Could his origins be a little farther than light years? - Frank Mercer

Guest Editorial - Admitting it

(Published February 8, 2023)  

It’s likely you’ve been in the situation of witnessing somebody finally admitting a truth that has long been obvious to everyone else.

You know what I’m talking about. The person denies the obvious facts for a long time, maybe years. Then, when they finally own up, you’re left wondering what took so darn long.

We’ve just seen two recent examples of that situation play out in the national forum; the ownership of Hunter Biden’s laptop, and the end of the COVID-19 emergency.

First, a bit of history on Mr. Biden’s computer. Just weeks before the 2020 presidential election, the New York Post published a story which detailed possible corrupt dealings overseas gleaned from its hard drive.

The information came from a laptop brought in for repair to a Delaware computer shop and abandoned. The shop owner contacted the FBI when he noticed files he thought were national security concerns and even money laundering evidence.

Nearly a year after the FBI took the laptop, Rudi Giuliani was given a copy and shared the contents with the Post. What followed was a story about Mr. Biden using his father’s name to swing shady business deals. The story also tied candidate Joe Biden to the deals. Ten percent for the Big Guy.

In short, the perfect October surprise. Except, instead of covering it, nearly the entire media went on defense for the Biden campaign. Instead of investigating the story, they simply disputed it.

The tech giants went even farther, burying or blocking access to the article. Twitter went so far as to lock the Post’s account.

Just five days after the story broke, 51 former intelligence officials issued an open later stating the laptop “has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.”
That was spun to be outright proof the laptop was fake and the story essentially vanished from everything except conservative media.

After the election was safely over and won by Joe Biden, the media began to wade ever so slowly into the facts of the case. A slow drip of confirmations started to emerge.

It was grudgingly done, in the manner of covering one’s behind against the day indictments made it undeniable. Anyone paying attention, even the most ardent Biden defenders, gradually came to recognize the Post had been accurate, and there was no doubt who owned the computer.

Then, Feb. 1, Hunter Biden’s legal team went on the attack against a host of people.

According to CBS, the Biden lawyers were, “demanding state and federal investigations into the dissemination of his personal material - purported to be from his laptop.”

Which essentially confirmed the device and its contents were his. This essentially made team Biden the last to admit what everyone else knew.

But not so fast, one of his legal bunch told CBS that the flurry of threats wasn’t really a confirmation at all. Thus, they still reserve the right to call it fake when expedient.

The entire situation continues to be a huge embarrassment for a supposedly hard-nosed-fact-seeking press. Time and again, they’ve proven a willingness to accept claims, no matter how outlandish, against Republicans while ignoring plausible claims against Democrats. Until they absolutely can’t. Steele Dossier anyone?

The second case of belatedly admitting truth comes from President Joe Biden, who announced last week that the COVID emergency is over. At least it will be May 11. That is when the national emergency and public health emergency declarations expire.

May 2023 will be ages after the vast majority of the country went back to normal.

It will be more than a year after the federal requirement for masks on planes was struck down. That was the final situation where most Americans found themselves obeying COVID rules.

The timeline for extreme concern about the virus seemed to vary depending on what party controlled the state legislature. Everybody shut down in the face of the unknown. Some opened back up as quickly as possible, while other resisted and resisted.

Most people now spend little time thinking or worrying about COVID. There are still occasional dire warnings of the newest strain being much more transmissible than the last one; they just lack a fearful impact.

Americans are assessing their risks and acting accordingly. There are people with good reason still masking up and getting vaccine boosters.

The vast majority of people are just taking the precautions to avoid COVID which they do for flu and every other known communicable disease...little or none.

Not everyone agrees with the president’s decision to wait to shut down the state of emergency.

The Republican-controlled House passed a bill to end the emergency rules now. It was passed on party lines, and has no chance of reaching the president’s desk for a veto.

Democrats called the bill reckless and irresponsible. They cited nearly 500 daily COVID deaths in the U.S. Recent reports cast doubt on the counting process, citing the difference between dying from, and dying with COVID.

Irregardless, the main reasons the emergency wasn’t repealed long ago are money and power. Every major spending bill and the president’s proposed student debt write-off gave a nod to COVID as a reason for existence.

As Rahm Emanuel said, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” Or, in this case, go away. - Frank Mercer

Guest Editorial - Candy surprise

(Published February 1, 2023)  

Different ages throughout time are known by names representing the major events which shaped them.

The Renaissance, the Age of Enlightenment, the Industrial Age, and the Atomic Age, for example.

May I respectfully suggest that our current times should end up categorized as the Age of Stupid.

Let’s face it, it gets really dumb out there.

Just how stupid is it? Its gotten to a point that a multi-national candy giant says they’ve dropped a long-running campaign because the social criticism got too hot. It has generated massive coverage. (Yes, even here.) On top of that, a lot of people really care.

That’s right, M&Ms have put their “spokescandies” in the bag of shame for being too controversial.

Mars, the parent company, isn’t completely an innocent victim. They followed in the footsteps of a long line of corporations which caved to social media and political pressures to try to stave off controversy.
A move which always invites much greater controversy.

The examples are legion. Most prominent would be Major League Baseball which pulled the All-Star game out of Atlanta over outrage about a new “Jim Crow” voting law. Georgia ended up with record turnout last year under those laws that were said to be designed to suppress votes.

Disney shook its three-fingered white-gloved fist at Florida over the “Don’t Say Gay” law (which prohibits teaching about sexuality to the youngest of elementary children). The mouse house found out taking sides in politics can be costly when the state yanked a bunch of tax breaks.

Most corporations have traditionally tried to stay out of the culture fray, rightly recognizing that consumers on both sides have buying power. Michael Jordan once succinctly summed up the attitude, “Republicans buy sneakers, too.”

Which brings us back to the downhill slide to the dusty stockroom shelf for the loveable Mars mascots.

For the uninformed, M&M has used anthropomorphic candy pitchmen for decades without much controversy.

The mascots resemble large pieces of the candy with arms, legs, eyes, and mouths. They are shaped exclusively like M&Ms. After all, they’re supposed to represent the candy, not the human race.

The ads prominently featured a red M&M who was sharp-tongued (dare we say “hard-shelled”) and his larger, loveable but stupid, yellow-coated friend of the peanut variety. Think Abbott and Costello. Red was originally voiced by Jon Lovitz and Yellow by John Goodman.

They met celebrities and Santa, and found themselves in countless humorous situations all with the goal of selling more product for Mars.

The gang expanded over the years, most notably with the inclusion of a “girl” M&M. This green dynamo ran roughshod over the boys, but the only way to see her “femininity” was the long eyelashes and go-go boots. Again, we’re talking about candy here.

Then, a year ago, the company announced a “global commitment to creating a world where everyone feels they belong, and society is inclusive.”

Could this be because so many people looked at the mascots and thought, “I just don’t see me”? And, if this is the case, are those people getting much-needed help?

The company promised “A fresh, modern take on the looks of our beloved characters and more nuanced personalities to underscore the importance of self-expression and power of community through storytelling.”

If that sounds like woke-speak to you, you’re nowhere near alone.

Following the announcement, two of the “female” spokescandies changed footwear. Green shed the boots for sneakers, and Brown ditched her stilettos for low heels.

The dialog about that got heated. Hot enough to melt an M&M in your hand. But, like all such controversies, it died out over time.

Then, Mars announced bags filled with only the colors corresponding to the “female” characters for International Women’s Day. The bag featured the green, brown, and purple mascots flipped upside down so the emblems appeared as Ws. W for women, get it?

Again, outraged pundits demanded to know why Mars was politicizing chocolate. That uproar was still making news when Mars announced they were sacking the characters indefinitely.

In part, the release said, “America, let’s talk. In the last year, we’ve made some changes to our beloved spokescandies. We weren’t sure if anyone would even notice. And we definitely didn’t think it would break the internet. But now we get it — even a candy’s shoes can be polarizing.”

The company would “take an indefinite pause from the spokescandies.” They announced the new spokes-human for the brand would be Maya Rudolph. Oh, and be sure to watch her Superbowl commercial.
Which brings us to more evidence of the Age of Stupid. Many are speculating that the entire shelving of the mascots was purely a publicity stunt to get people talking about the candy.

That is not without precedent. Planters went so far as to kill off Mr. Peanut three years ago. They quickly revived him in the form of Baby Nut during their Superbowl spot that year.

So don’t be surprised if walking, talking, colorful chocolates turn back up as early as two weeks from now.

Corporate America might play on our stupidity, but it doesn’t mean they are stupid. - Frank Mercer

Guest Editorial - Sorry, that’s classified

(Published January 18, 2023)  

It’s a bad idea to brand something as egregiously criminal if there is even the slightest chance you will one day be caught doing the same.

Say you’ve gone to the city demanding fines and other punishment, because your neighbor’s dog got out of a fenced yard. Then, you used social media to label the escape unforgivable and your neighbor stupid and irresponsible and expressed incredulity how any person could ever allow such an horrendous thing.

Then, your dog gets out and scatters trash over three blocks.

That’s the regular-person version of the situation President Joe Biden found himself in this week. After excoriating Donald Trump for keeping classified documents resulting in an FBI raid on his residence, it was revealed that V.P. Biden had taken home a few top secret missives of his own.

They turned up just days before the midterms, where mishandled classified papers were a huge election issue.

Attorneys found the stash in a closet at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in D.C.

In the interest of complete transparency they immediately called the FBI to report a crime.

Ha! Not really. Instead, they called the National Archives and had them come get the documents. Then, miracle of miracles, there were no leaks for two months, until an “it’s all under control” public statement was made.

The day after that announcement, more documents were found in a second location.

They were in a guarded bank vault.

Ha! Again, just kidding. These were in a box in Mr. Biden’s garage next to his vintage Corvette. Then, more turned up in the house. And, then, even more in the house.

Democrats and the mainstream media first attempted the “But Trump was much worse” defense.

Unfortunately, they’d made such a ginormous deal over Mr. Trump’s situation the media was confronted with a bar so low they couldn’t slide under.

With an effort to save face, the coverage switched from downplaying and forgiving to something which could be described as “modestly chastising.”
Missing from the Biden round of document discovery is all the speculation about nefarious purposes.

When Mr. Trump was in the crosshairs, the speculation leaned toward treasonous motives, including selling the nuclear codes to China or Russia.
Hey, everybody knows those codes are never changed and the U.S. arsenal could be launched from a pay phone in Moscow.

This time, the speculation about cause leans toward sloppiness; and, at worst, embarrassing oversight.

Two big differences are apparent. Mr. Trump knew he had documents and was lawyered up against the National Archives to keep them.
Mr. Biden appears to have had no idea his were in an office closet, the garage, and elsewhere in his house.

Unauthorized possession of classified documents is against the law, yet only one of the two cases is unambiguously a crime. Mr. Trump, as president, had the ability to declassify his and floated that as a defense.

Mr. Biden’s backers can only speak about lack of intent to break the law. That was the standard out of thin air Hillary Clinton was held to in 2016.

What isn’t getting much play is why most Americans can’t get terribly worked up over either circumstance.

We all know that there are different levels of classified work, and literally tons of secret documents are generated every year.

If either man had a list of deep cover operatives in foreign lands floating loose, that’s a big deal. On the other hand, if it was a report that Benjamin Netanyahu might have been coming down with a cold in March of 2014, not so much.

In the middle of all this hubbub, we should take a moment to pity poor John Lausch.

You may be asking who the heck is John Lausch and why he is worthy of pity.

He’s the U.S. attorney who was minding his own business in his Chicago office when he got a real stinker of an assignment dumped in his lap. His immediate boss, Attorney General Merrick Garland, gave him the type of task which chills the blood of the most stalwart political appointee. I’d like to think there was a conversation along the following lines.

Garland: Remember how President Joe Biden gave you this job?

Lausch: Yes, sir.

Garland: And remember how the president has been vilifying Donald Trump as irresponsible for having taken home classified documents? And how our entire party wants Trump jailed, prosecuted, then barred from ever seeking office again since this is the worst offense ever, ever, ever?

Lausch: I’m very aware of it, sir.

Garland: Well, the president did the same thing when he was V.P. I’d like you to investigate to see if a special prosecutor is needed.
Lausch: (Long pause) Umm, thank you, sir?

Luckily, Mr. Lausch was able to labor in secrecy, with, amazingly, no leaks, then pass the hot potato.

He recommended a special prosecutor and A.G. Garland assigned one just three days after the first disclosure.
Now the whole situation can quickly fade into the background until enough time has safely passed to announce no prosecution. - Frank Mercer

Guest Editorial - Not that easy

(Published January 11, 2023)  

Kevin McCarthy was elected Speaker of the House early Saturday morning after 15 grueling ballots.
He quipped, “That was easy, huh?”

The election was the longest process needed to elect a speaker since the Civil War.  So at least he didn’t exceed that. Much of the struggle can be boiled down political maneuvering...but a big portion points to a serious split in the GOP.

Many of the holdouts had specific items they wanted addressed before giving their support.  Others were not going to vote for McCarthy no matter what and even though there was no viable alternative.
Six holdouts, including Matt Gaetz, Fla., and Lauren Boebert, Colo., ended up voting present instead of no.  That made the total needed to elect only 216 which finally secured the post for the California Republican.

The Democrats had no trouble keeping unified, which isn’t that hard when there was no serious chance they were going to accomplish anything. Well, maybe they did a little.  House Minority Leader Hakeem Jefferies outpolled Mr. McCarthy for the first 11 ballots, which was humiliating.

The newly sworn-in speaker cautioned Mr. Jefferies about how that could change, “I’ve got to warn you — two years ago, I got 100% of the vote from my conference.”  

At the very least, the Democrats were enjoying witnessing the pandemonium.  GOP Rep. Kat Cammack,  perhaps in jest, accused them of bringing, “popcorn and blankets and alcohol” to the spectacle.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said on Twitter, “If Dems took a shot every time McCarthy lost a Republican, we’d all be unconscious by now.”

It wasn’t all fun and games on the Republican side of the aisle.  Rep. Mike Rogers, Ala., had to be held back from attacking Mr. Goetz after the 14th vote.  The sight of Rep. Richard Hudson with his arm across the shoulders and hand over the mouth of Mr. Rogers quickly made the rounds.

To get the cooperation of the reluctant GOP members, Mr. McCarthy had to make one large concession.  After fiercely opposing changing the requirements for triggering a vote for a new speaker, he caved.  That would mean a return to only one vote needed on a “motion to vacate” instead of the current five.

The media painted the other demands holding up the works as unrealistic and extreme right positions.  Some don’t seem that unrealistic or extreme.

They wanted a seat for the Freedom Caucus on the House Rules Committee. That is where the decisions are made when, or even if, a bill gets to the floor and if it can be changed.
That doesn’t guarantee the conservative group will get their way, but gives them a seat at the table.

Also not unreasonable is the idea of cutting back on spending.  The holdouts demanded discretionary spending be held to 2022 levels and that debt ceiling increases be tied to budget cuts.
If you’re at all concerned about the U.S. debt being  $31 trillion and growing, that doesn’t seem exactly nuts.

Also not crazy was the demand to give 72 hours for legislators to review bills before they vote. That would end the “We have to pass it before we know what’s in it” norm of recent years.

The conservative holdouts wanted to do away with the giant “omnibus” bills which get steamrolled through every year under the threat of government shutdown.  Not that there’s anything hidden in those omnibus bills.

Less practical were the demands for  votes on issues which seem purely symbolic.  That includes a balanced budget amendment, congressional term limits, and (sadly) border security.  
Most political of all, and probably most necessarily after the humiliation dished out, the holdouts extracted a pledge from Mr. McCarthy to keep a super PAC he’s tied to from operating in Republican primaries.

Politics ain’t for the faint of heart, and actions like those taken by the six holdouts can have consequences.  Take, for example, former Kansas Congressman Tim Huelskamp who was stripped of his Ag and Budget committee assignments for “inability to work with other members.” After that, he lost his next primary by 16 points. 

While all the bickering makes the House Republicans look weak and unorganized, which they likely are, it doesn’t change the fact that they can still accomplish one important job. With only minimal unity, they can come together to block the type of ultra, progressive legislation Democrats were able to pass in the last Congress.

As someone who believes a deadlocked Congress is generally preferable to one blithely passing every lame-brained bill which comes before them, that’ll do.

Guest Editorial - It’s how you say it

(Published January 4, 2023)  

The country got an early Christmas present in mid December in the form of a brilliant satirical piece by humorists at Stanford University.

The article titled, Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative, slyly blasts woke language police. It is laugh-out-loud funny, start to finish.

Sorry: I’ve just been informed that the writing in question is in fact completely serious and an effort to, “eliminate many forms of harmful language, including racist, violent, and biased (e.g., disability bias, ethnic bias, ethnic slurs, gender bias, implicit bias, sexual bias) language....
Which makes it even funnier! Let’s dig in and see what they have to say.

There are categories. After each bullet point is the targeted word, then the replacement in parenthesis, followed by the reason for offense.
• basket case (nervous) Originally referred to one who has lost all four limbs and therefore needed to be carried around in a basket.
• blind study (masked study) Unintentionally perpetuates that disability is somehow abnormal or negative, furthering an ableist culture.
• crazy (surprising/wild) Ableist language that trivializes the experiences of people living with mental health conditions.
• handicap parking (accessible parking) Ableist language that trivializes the experiences of people living with disabilities.
Culturally Appropriative
• chief (the person’s name) Calling a non-Indigenous person “chief” trivializes both the hereditary and elected chiefs in Indigenous communities. Calling an Indigenous person “chief” is a slur.
• too many chiefs, not enough indians (a lack of clear direction, too many competing ideas) Trivializes the structure of Indigenous communities.
Gender Based
• “preferred” pronouns (pronouns) The word “preferred” suggests that non-binary gender identity is a choice and a preference.
• freshman (frosh, first-year student) Lumps a group of students using masculine language and/or into gender binary groups that don't include everyone.
• man hours (person hours, effort hours, labor time) This term reinforces male-dominated language.
Imprecise Language
• American (US Citizen) This term often refers to people from the United States only, thereby insinuating that the US is the most important country in the Americas (which is actually made up of 42 countries).
• intellectual (person given to learning and thinking ) Disparages different cognitive levels and abilities.
• straight (heterosexual) This term implies that anyone who is not heterosexual is bent or not “normal.”
• user (client) While often associated with one who uses (software, systems, services), it can also negatively be associated with those who suffer from substance abuse issues or those who exploit others for their own gain.
Institutionalized Racism
• blackballed (banned, denied) Assigns negative connotations to the color black, racializing the term.
• gangbusters (very successful) Unnecessarily invokes the notion of police action against “gangs” in a positive light, which may have racial undertones.
• convict (person who is/was incarcerated) Using person-first language helps to not define people by just one of their characteristics.
• beat(ing) a dead horse (refus(e/ing) to let something go) This expression normalizes violence against animals.
• rule of thumb (standard rule, general rule) Although no written record exists today, this phrase is attributed to an old British law that allowed men to beat their wives with sticks no wider than their thumb.
• trigger warning (content note) The phrase can cause stress about what's to follow. Additionally, one can never know what may or may not trigger a particular person.
Additional Considerations
• hip-hip hurray, hip hip hooray (hooray) This term was used by German citizens during the Holocaust as a rallying cry when they would hunt down Jewish citizens living in segregated neighborhoods.
So, there is just a sample. May I suggest one more they should include:
• Spew nonsense (produce insightful societal-healing academic work) Implies that oversensitivity to words and phrases, including those whose origins are obscure, is a silly waste of time and makes language less precise and understandable.

Also, full disclosure, I made up one inclusion on the list. Did you catch it?

Intellectual does not appear in their ban, but shows how easy it is to believe the authors could be offended by almost any word. - Frank Mercer

Guest Editorial - Looking back at ‘22

(Published December 28, 2022)  

The year 2022 is rapidly coming to a close. Here’s a look back at some big events.

At the top of the list is horrible inflation. It has been so bad, you could be forgiven for thinking the 70s are back and donning platform shoes and a leisure suit.

Inflation isn’t something politicians can deflect away by pretending what you’re experiencing at the cash register isn’t really happening. You feel it in your wallet when a tank of gas costs over $100, or a head of lettuce is creeping up on $5.

President Joe Biden is now taking a bow because the inflation rate has decreased. But he shouldn’t bow too deeply. While 7.1% in November is better than the 7.7% from October, it’s still a long way from getting back to the about 2% rate we had all come to expect until recently.

Speaking of Mr. Biden, he thinks he’s doing a darn good job in the office. “No one’s ever done as much as president as this administration’s doing. Period.” And, from the Democratic perspective, it’s hard to deny.

All the political big-brain types expected a big Red Wave election. Instead Republicans had a pretty darn poor showing at the polls. Mr. Biden can point to the fact that his party lost the House by the narrowest of margins, while gaining governorships and other state offices.

All of this in spite of the fact that the president’s approval numbers are in the low forties.

Before Mr. Biden grabs all the credit, it would only be fair to admit that he had a lot of help from Republican primary voters, Donald Trump, and the mainstream media.
Republicans voters have a distressing tendency to vote for candidates they really like but are hard to push over the finish line in November. That was made worse by Mr. Trump doing his best to keep the narrative focused on him and the 2020 election. The media, of course, remains nearly indistinguishable from the Democratic party P.R. machine with their threat-to-democracy storyline.
Another big story of the year also helped the Dems in the midterms. That was when the Supreme Court ended the “federal right to abortion.”

Roe v. Wade became the battle cry of the left’s get-out-the-vote effort as the idea was pushed forward that the single most important right for all Americans had just been taken away.
This ignored the fact that the ruling really only put the issue back into the states. Which means some states have very rigid restrictions on abortions while others, like glow-in-the-dark-blue New York, allow the practice up until about age seven or so.

In reality, the ruling did nothing to calm activists on either side of the issue. Those who believe a fetus is a baby want abortion stopped, period; and, those who consider it a “women’s health issue” demand it be legal everywhere. So, battle lines remain drawn.

A battle darn few thought would last anywhere near this long is the one between Russia and Ukraine. Back in January and February when it was becoming obvious Vladimir Putin would invade, experts thought the conflict would be over in a matter of days.

Darn few expected the Ukrainians to stand their ground and even retake seized territory. That doesn’t mean the outcome is decided. Much of what the Ukrainians have been able to accomplish has been made possible with billions of dollars in aid from the west. There is no way of knowing how long that cash pipeline stays wide open.

The other absolute wild card is Mr. Putin. He retains the historical predisposition of his country’s leaders to accept massive casualty counts in service of his goals. Plus, having and threatening to use nuclear weapons keeps the entire world on edge.

For most of us, one of the world’s greatest mysteries is, “what the heck is crypto currency, and how exactly does if differ from Monopoly money?”
The correct answer may be that no one, not even the supposed experts, know for sure. That doesn’t mean that common people and big-time investors alike can’t get hurt trying to find out.

Take, for example, the collapse of crypto exchange FTX. The venture collapsed spectacularly over the course of 10 days, going from a worth of about $32 billion to nothing.

The founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, who didn’t dress like someone you entrust with the cash for a coffee run, was considered a financial genius. Now, he is accused of running one of the biggest frauds in history, and his cohorts are entering guilt pleas.

Part of what kept him under the radar was political donations of about $40 million which went almost entirely to Democrats.
A cynic would note that he wasn’t arrested until after the midterms. Instead, it was busted just before he was to testify to Congress. But none of us are that cynical. Right? - Frank Mercer

Guest Editorial - Not really that paranoid

(Published December 14, 2022)  

To borrow a line: It’s not paranoia if they’re really out to get you.

For years, conservatives and Republicans on Twitter have complained that the platform suppressed their tweets and limited their ability to be seen by others on the platform.

That contention was dismissed as paranoid delusion. Twitter claimed the entire process was controlled by an apolitical algorithm and there was no way the overwhelmingly left wing people at Twitter were doing anything unfair. Like the Head of Trust and Safety (Censorship Czar) who once tweeted about actual Nazis being in the Trump White House.

Since Elon Musk bought out the service triggering the end of civilization, according to the hyperventilating left, it’s become obvious that it wasn’t delusion at all.

Over the last several days journalists have produced “the Twitter Files” using internal e-mails to show that it was human bias, not faulty machine logic, that was driving the process.

There was a bit of a hiccough when it was discovered that Twitter deputy general counsel James Baker was vetting which e-mails to turn over to the journalists. This is the same James Baker, who was FBI general counsel and played a key role in Russia-gate. Mr. Musk promptly bid him adieu.

In spite of that setback, the reports touched on big controversies, like the New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop article being suppressed until after the 2020 election, and the steps taken to permanently suspend Donald Trump .

The e-mails show is that those in charge at Twitter twisted their rules into knots in order to justify taking the steps they wanted to take anyway.

When the Twitter Files broke, it ignited a media frenzy, as journalists denounced the apparent suppression of free speech organized by the company.

­­Oh wait, sorry, that’s what should have happened. What they actually denounced was the journalists involved in the expose. The main talking point was “selling out to do PR for the world’s richest man.”
As to the reveals from the Twitter e-mails, the media mostly yawned and pounced on the first opportunity to go after Mr. Trump, the standard move.

Not that Mr. Trump didn’t display his all too common ability to say exactly the wrong thing at exactly the wrong time. Instead of announcing something along the lines of, “I’m vindicated by this reporting,” he wrote on Truth Social, “A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution.”

That allowed the entire media to swivel to “Trump calls for termination of Constitution,” and bludgeon Republicans on the Sunday shows. The problem with big, shocking reveals, like the Twitter Files, which put the left in a bad light, is that they are only big and shocking to the right.

What these e-mails revealed to the left is the powers at Twitter bending rules to service their agenda. Far from being seen as nefarious, the actions were seen as praiseworthy. It is exactly the type of action which was being demanded of Twitter at the time.

The Biden campaign had a fast track to get tweets they didn’t like taken down? Good, it was misinformation or lacked context anyway.

The Babylon Bee and Libs of TikTok were suspended without actual violations of policy. Not to worry, it was hate speech and dangerous.

Rules were twisted to permanently ban the sitting president of the United States? Excellent, but shame on Twitter for not doing it years earlier.

Witness the example of NPR’s Terry Gross on Fresh Air interviewing tech journalist Casey Newton about Mr. Musk and Twitter. They discussed the Twitter Files for just a few seconds, included a warning that Republicans would use them to start hearings in the House next year. “So all these things are just sort of, you know, Elon being a good conservative and riling up that base. And he has spent a lot of time since he took over Twitter doing just that,” Newton said.

Gross pointed out that 64,000 banned accounts had been reinstated, “...why would he want to bring back people who were responsible for hate speech?,” she asked. “Hate speech is dangerous. It can really physically harm people.” The rest of the interview focused on how badly Mr. Musk was messing up Twitter.

Here’s a position not widely shared: what Mr. Musk is doing, and what the former Twitter execs wouldn’t have been, if they were up front about it and playing by the same rules.
Both are examples of acting as a publisher, and as such they should be held accountable under libel laws for content. Thousands of publishers operate under those laws every day.
Accept that restriction, or open the platform back up as an actual place for free speech for all political stripes. - Frank Mercer

Guest Editorial - Problem Children

(Published October 12, 2022)  

There is no more time honored tradition than that of thinking the following generations really have it too darned easy.

You can bet old fogies thought the invention of the wheel meant kids were going straight to heck. “It used to take 20 trips to haul that firewood. Now they pile it up on those new-fangled carts. No wonder they have so much time to get into trouble.”

Most of human history has been a struggle to make sure there was enough food for the family. “Life is short and then you die” had a much harsher tone when you could reasonably only expect to make it to 40 or so.

It is true that the last couple of generations have seen times which have been significantly easier in many ways. Still, I for one, can think of large numbers of those “improvements” I’m glad I didn’t have to deal with when growing up. Not every change in society or improvement in technology is 100 percent rosy.

Right now, we are seeing the first generation of Americans who are being told by popular culture that they can’t do better than their parents.

The idea that the American Dream is dead is accepted by growing numbers of young people. That’s a darn shame because it ignores an important portion of the ideal. The dream was never that you would be handed everything you wanted, but that through hard work you could earn it.

Rags to riches used to be a pretty common theme. Now it’s preached that there’s no reason to try, because you can’t make it. Listen to that and you certainly won’t.
Along those lines, it’s sad to see the notion that victimhood is the ultimate virtue gain so much traction. We end up with a weird intersectionality competition to see who can wear the crown for the title of “most oppressed”. And so many want to at least be a competitor.

Unfortunately, when people believe the deck is stacked against them, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Every setback is an immovable barricade, not just an obstacle to be overcome.
Today’s technology would have been nearly unimaginable back in the 50s and 60s. It’s absolutely fabulous, and, boy, aren’t all we old codgers glad we didn’t have it growing up. The reality is that, for all the great things the supercomputer carried around in our pockets provides, it also presents traps for young people.

First and foremost, is when the device stops being a tool and starts being an overlord.

Few young people today can escape the tyranny of their phone. They need it to stay connected to their friends, for information, and for entertainment.

There’s a dark side to that. One, you’re never really disconnected. You can’t go five minutes without looking at it. It’s an insult to not respond to friends immediately.

Meanwhile, with so much available on your screen, the need for getting out and interacting with other people just isn’t as great. Even when they do, it’s not unusual to see groups all sitting together, yet completely engrossed in their phones.

Studies have shown that loneliness is listed as a top challenge for those in their 20s. Online interactions are vast; real life experiences are lacking; so, more connected, but more isolated.
Some old folks can be just as dependent on the phone, but since we grew up without that’s less likely.

Social media is another thing to be glad you didn’t have growing up. Never have bullies had so many opportunities to find such abundant prey. Where once you could take a break from the bad parts of life by going home for the day, now young people take their bully home in their pocket.

Constantly being immersed in how great other people’s lives appear has also been shown to lead to depression.

And, talk about peer pressure. Your buddies may once have influenced you to get into some wickedness. Now, entire platforms are pressuring young people to do the current big thing. Multiple participants in TikTok challenges have found themselves facing criminal charges.

Heaven help the unwary poster who puts up something pounced on by cancel culture. For those of us who grew up in a time in which the height of liberal thinking included protecting speech we disagreed with, today is stark.

Now, young people are taught that speech is violence, that inaction is bigotry, and facts are phobic. It makes the Red Scare of the 50s look like a picnic in the park. Now, young people are getting to share things Boomers didn’t want to see recreated from the past...high inflation and the threat of nuclear war.

A real truth about life that most old people have discovered and that most young people will, is that every generation has its blessings and challenges. It’s what you do with them that makes the difference in your life. - Frank Mercer

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