Thursday, January 20, 2022

Lawsuits silence first amendment rights of independent journalists

 Article Notes - The Legal War Against Mother Jones by Monika Bauerlin, Mother Jones, Jan/Feb, 2022, p.4

Using money to silence the exercise of first amendment rights.

We learned a big lesson from that case. Not “don’t publish hard-hitting articles because you don’t want to get sued.” But “lawsuits aren’t necessarily about winning. Some are just about inflicting as much pain as possible.”

It’s not about right and wrong, justice. It’s not even about the plaintiff wanting to win its case against the defendant. It’s about making the defendant pay exorbitant legal costs so that they avoid getting sued in the future by forgoing any thoughts or actions objectionable to the plaintiff. In other words, lawsuits become a mechanism used by those with money to silence those without it.

Support for independent journalism includes legal defense of first amendment rights.

In total, our legal costs over the past two and a half years have approached $400,000, not including the cost of insurance. The Covington case alone has cost $150,000.

It is very important for citizens to support independent journalism. This support includes not only the cost of producing the journalistic product, but the legal costs of defending their right to publish it when powerful interests object to it and attempt to silence it by suing.

Lawsuits for trivial reasons can do a lot of damage to independent journalism.

We’re dealing with a broader movement that is going after facts and truth wherever they manifest themselves—in science, public health, journalism. And one of that movement’s tools is litigation, because they know that, win or lose, litigation is a way to inflict pain. (Donald Trump has always known this: He used to say he was glad he sued reporter Tim O’Brien, even though Trump lost.) If you can force news organizations—especially independent ones—to constantly run up legal bills for comparatively trivial reasons, you can do a lot of damage.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Good news - Volunteers convert farmland into forest and meadow in Pennsylvania


Community gathers to plant 640 trees

Volunteers from Landisville Mennonite Church and the community pose together after planting 640 trees on the church’s property. — Ryan DavisVolunteers from Landisville Mennonite Church and the community pose together after planting 640 trees on the church’s property. — Ryan Davis

Volunteers gathered on two Saturdays in November at Landisville Mennonite Church in Pennsylvania to convert 3.65 acres of farmland into forest and meadow as part of the congregation’s efforts to improve water quality, expand pollinator and wildlife habitat and address climate change.

More than 80 volunteers planted meadow seed Nov. 6 on 1.25 acres. The following Saturday, more than 100 volunteers planted 640 tree seedlings on 2.4 acres.

For more click here

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Sore losers threaten democracy

This creates a potentially dangerous situation for the United States. Acceptance of electoral defeat, something political scientists call “loser’s consent,” is essential for stability and order in democracies.


‘Sore losers’ can drive terrorism

Democracy is based on a compact: Election losers agree to accept the results and encourage their supporters to do the same.

In exchange, losing politicians get a chance to run, and win, in a future election.

However, loser’s consent is fragile. And when it is broken the risk of political violence increases. In a recent study I published, I conclude that when election losers in democracies reject election results, becoming “sore losers,” trust in political institutions is eroded, political polarization and tribalism grows and mistrust thrives.

For more click here.

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Ted Cruz and Fox Entertainment

 The American people have to become smarter and more discerning in electing who they choose as their representatives. While Senator Cruz's behavior is highly dysfunctional, the people who elected him should examine their consciences.

What do you know?

Epistemology teaches us that there are different kinds of knowledge.

There is ontology, technology, teleology, and values.

Ontology = facts
Technology = skills
Teleology = purpose
Values = preferences and motivation.


Knowing what
Knowing how to
Knowing why
Knowing what is wanted for people.

Knowing what is quickly outdated.
Knowing how to does not become outdated as quickly.
Knowing why may take decades
Knowing what is wanted for people may never change if one has their mind in the right place.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

What about all the time we are wasting when there is so much to be done?

When I think about all the time people waste nowadays on social media I am reminded of the Stoci philosopher, Seneca's  observation, "How many have laid waste to your life when you weren't aware of what your were losing, how much was wasted in pointless grief, foolish, greedy desire, and social amusements - how little of your own was left to you. You realize you are dying before your time!" Seneca, On The Brevity Of Life.

Monday, January 3, 2022

Don’t look up! - Movie review



Don’t Look Up is a star studded Netflix movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio,  Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchette, and others. It is a story about two academic astronomers discovering a comet 10 kilometers wide hurtling through space on a trajectory taking it to hit dead smack Planet Earth probably destroying all human life on the planet.

The two academic astronomers are dismissed and marginalized by the governmental officials in charge of managing the crisis who are more concerned about the P.R. spin that the substance of the information. Sound familiar?

While the movie is satire, it is true enough to life to scare the hell out of anyone who is living through the current era of top level governmental incompetence.

The movie is targeted to an adult audience mature enough to appreciate the satire.

The moral of the story (spoiler alert) is that humanity ends badly because of governmental incompetence and meddling by billionaires who control government policy, decisions, and behavior. The moral of the story may elude many of the viewers because of their need to depend on public officials and the 1% for their survival and sense of security. 

Another lesson is that governmental officials primary incentive is to maintain their political power rather than serve the public even if their machinations lead to deaths.

The movie is highly recommended for people interested in political science and who take their responsibility for competent governance seriously. The movie presents a narrative that is very upsetting on a conscious level and it may be that the biggest benefit of viewing this film for individuals and society will come from its unconscious influence.

Don’t look up is streaming on Netflix

The movie earns a rating of 5 out of 5.

Sunday, January 2, 2022

The media, “Who is doing what to whom for what purpose?

Ever since the few began to control the many, disinformation, fabrications, and distractions have been used to shape consent, impose submission, and maintain domination. Whether by the invoked authority of God, the divine right of kings, the dictatorial embodiment of a fatherland, the “dictatorship of the proletariat,” or the tyranny of commercially managed marketplaces, the casualty of such control has always been the ability of ordinary people to give voice to their own realities, needs, demands, and grievances. Given the inherent pragmatism of the human mind, the oppressed have often found it safer to believe rather than think, to obey rather than dissent. Today, such a path is reinforced by a plutocratic political economy that allows corporations to dominate mass media, education, and the production of knowledge and memory. Human history, however, has not been

Huff, Mickey; Higdon, Nolan. United States of Distraction (City Lights Open Media) (p. 15). City Lights Publishers. Kindle Edition. 

This quote is from Ralph Nader’s foreword to the book, United States of Distraction. It describes the  imbalance of those in power to control the narrative.

Beliefs lead to actions. Beliefs are formed by what people are told. People are told what the people in power want them to believe so that those in power can benefit. These ideas are fundamental to the questions “What is the media for?” “Who controls the media?” What do those who control the media expect to gain by controlling the content?” “How to the targets of the media respond?”

This month on Markhams’ Slow News we will be discussing the news behind the news. Who is doing what to whom for what purpose?

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Have you ever literally stepped in shit?

I bought myself one of those day by day calendars for Christmas entitled, "Don't Squat With Your Spurs On" which is 365 daily pages of cowboy wisdom and jokes.

January 1/2/2022 the page is "Life is like a cow pasture. It is very hard to get through it without steeping in some muck." The word "muck" is a nice word for "shit."

I am 76 and remember, as a kid, being on my Grandfather Markham's dairy farm. I was in the cow barn to help with the milking and out in the fields to get the cows for milking. I am very familiar with the cow pies and the need to walk around them.

These childhood memories led me to the realization that my nine children and 15 grandchildren have never experienced this. This is an experience that many people in my generation and prior generations grew up with, the stepping around animal dung.

There is some increasing discussion in popular articles, essays, and books about current generations being raised out of touch with nature. A term has been coined, "Nature Deficit Disorder," NDD, not to be confused with ADD or ADHD. The need and ability to care for live stock is a lost skill and way of life. Now it has been industrialized and far removed from most humans experience in the Western World. There is something lost in this economic and social change.

So the funny observation that life is like a cow pasture might go over the heads of younger generations or even if they appreciate the reference they won't find it as funny as us older folks who have actually, inadvertently, stepped in it.