*Test: My Arrest

Don’t believe everything you read about my arrest. There is much more to the story. I know I will be vindicated in court.


*This is part of my fact-checking final for Piedmont College, MCOM 2200, Media Writing I. So chill out mom, I wasn’t really arrested 🙂

Tethered to the Truth

Rising above partisan loyalties

img_5715-1James Comey’s memoir, “A Higher Loyalty,” undoubtedly will be remembered for the final three chapters and the epilogue, in which the former FBI director recounts his interactions with President Trump.

Culled from since-released memos he wrote immediately after his encounters with Trump, Comey provides significant detail of his Presidential encounters, noting everthing from the firmness of a handshake to the location of the grandfather clock in the Oval Office. But more than just being there with Comey, the reader gets rare insight into how a career federal law enforcement official thinks. Tethered to truth and justice — a “higher loyalty” — Comey shows no deference to his former boss, calling the President “ego-driven,” “morally unfit” and a “mob boss.”

Many readers will do themselves a disservice and skip to the highly-publicized back of the book seeking to confirm their own criticisms about Trump, or discrediting the author as a self-righteous media hound looking to capitalize on Trump’s unpopularity. By doing so, they’ll likely see Comey as no different from any left-wing partisan who is critical of the President.

But if you read the book from beginning to end — starting with Comey’s time prosecuting the mafia (and Martha Stewart), his internal fights over spying and torture in President Bush’s administration, and finally his handling of the Hillary Clinton email scandal while serving under President Obama — you’ll see that Comey’s actions back up his assertion that he has “a higher loyalty.”

Democrat or Republican, mafia or Martha Stewart, Comey was never afraid to pursue the truth. Partisan pundits who criticize this demonstrated altruistic relationship with justice as being “self-righteous” simply reinforces Comey’s assertion that Trump — and his supporters — are “untethered to the truth.”

Joe’s Judgement: 5.0/5.0 stars

Rambo is real, killing Americans by the dozen with an AR-15

Rambo-like bloodshed is happening with legally available weapons

Originally published on Patriot Not Partisan

In 1985, Sylvester Stallone single-handedly killed 58 people over 96 minutes. Of course, the deaths were onscreen in the movie, “Rambo: First Blood, Part II,” which was critically-panned and labeled unrealistic because there’s no way a single person could to take out an entire army.

More than 30 years later in America, there’s real-life, Rambo-like bloodshed, only the death toll is higher, and the people being killed are innocent. Rambo’s once seemingly unrealistic death toll of .60/kills per minute, pales in comparison to the 17 killed by the Parkland shooter in just six minutes, a rate of 2.8/kills per minute, or the 58 people killed in under 10 minutes by the Las Vegas shooter, a rate of 5.8/kills per minute.

In six of the deadliest mass shootings in American history, the gunman used an AR-15, which allows the shooter to fire off dozens of shots in under 10 minutes. The Las Vegas shooter fired a whopping 1,100 bullets in 10 minutes, an average of 110 bullets in one minute – that’s roughly two shots every second.

These murderers attained the weapons, magazines and accessories to complete their killing sprees legally. Our government believes the Parkland shooter, who was 19 at the time of his killing spree, wasn’t old enough to purchase a beer. But he is old enough to purchase an AR-15 and enough ammunition to kill hundreds of people.

Weapons like the AR-15 serve one main purpose — to kill multitudes in a short amount of time. They’re not used for hunting. They’re not used for self-defense. They’re used to kill as many people in as little time as possible.

Republicans continue to offer “thoughts and prayers,” either saying “it’s too soon” to talk about solutions or using mental health as their scapegoat (as if mental illness is a new development in the last decade). But past history indicates there is a solution that has worked in this country just 25 years ago.

In 1994, with overwhelming bipartisan support, the federal government passed an assault weapons ban that made guns like the AR-15 illegal to own. The ban expired in 2004. During the 10 years the law was in place, there were a total eight mass shootings resulting in 51 deaths. Six of the eight massacres involved semiautomatic weapons purchased legally before the assault weapons ban took effect in 1994. The two mass shootings featuring illegally acquired weapons — Columbine in 1999 and Edgewater Technology in 2000 — resulted in 20 combined deaths.

The assault weapons ban worked. Obviously, assault weapons and the ease of purchasing them is not the sole reason for the spike in mass casualties. However, the link between the spike in mass killings and the expiration of the assault weapons ban is undeniable.

We never thought the mass murder Rambo inflicted could be possible, but with assault weapons like the AR-15 easily attainable, Rambo has become real. And he’s after our children.

Fire and Fury … but fake?

Insightful book, but bad journalism.

img_5058-2“Fire and Fury” gives an unflinching look at the Trump White House. Wolff’s recounting of his conversations with Trump staffers reinforces several unflattering notions about the President: his inability to focus, he’s hot-headed and short-tempered, his narcissism and ultimately he doesn’t really care about the issues and only cares about being liked. It also sheds new light on the Bannon / “Javanka” rivalry, Trump’s frustration with a revolving door of Cabinet members, and how deep the Russian investigation may go. In the end, Bannon comes off like a genius mastermind — much to the dismay of the President — and the Trump administration is doomed.

The big concern with this book is that Wolff admits in his prologue that some of the content is essentially made up — what the author believes to have been said behind closed doors, rather than actual accounts of what was said. Wolff’s recollections align with popular perception, but is the perception feeding the narrative or the narrative building the perception?

As a journalist, the latter should be the case. But Wolff, a veteran journalist, breaks all journalistic rules by (admittedly) constructing some conversations with which he was not a witness, leaving the reader questioning what is actually true. And as President Trump continues to blur the lines between reality and “fake news,” this book does a disservice to credible journalism.

Joe’s Judgment: 2.0/5.0

“What Happened” … and much more

Originally published on audible.com

I was hoping this book would provide unique insight into the 2016 election. It did, but it steered in many different directions, from Hillary’s childhood to her love of her grandchildren. That made the book a little disjointed.

Critics of “What Happened” complain that Hillary shuffles blame for election defeat. That is flat-out wrong. In the book, Hillary is constantly playing the “what if I ….” card and acknowledges her errors. However, she correctly points out the many factors she had no control over — the constant Comey conferences, Russian interference, the continuous “fake news” stories circulating on social media, the endless Benghazi hearings. Criticizing her for pointing out these unprecedented attacks on her character are unfair. They definitely had an impact on the election.

Hillary ends the book with a call to readers to work Onward Together, and promises to keep fighting. This offers members of the “Pantsuit Nation” some inspiration after a devastating defeat. Hopefully, though, it won’t be too late.

Joe’s Judgment: 3.5/5.0

I just wanted to swim with the other kids

Originally published on Patriot Not Partisan

BJ_1980
Me in 1980 – 4 years old.

When I was growing up, our neighbor had an above-ground swimming pool, a rarity in the tiny backyards of the homes on the Southside of Chicago. We could see the pool from our kitchen window.

I often played with the kids who lived in that house and considered them friends. But come summertime, they naturally spent their days in the pool. On any given day, lots of neighborhood kids could be seen playing in that pool. I wanted to play, too. After all, I was a neighborhood kid. But my parents said it would be impolite to ask — I needed to be invited. I watched them play from our kitchen window, sometimes even wearing my swimming trunks just waiting … but that invitation never came.

That’s the first time I learned that I was different from the neighborhood kids. Chicago was — and in many areas still is — highly segregated.  We lived in a white neighborhood. As a half-Filipino, half-white child, I was generally tolerated in my neighborhood, but never fully accepted (outside of my best friend and his family). At my Catholic elementary school, a few of my classmates would call me a “Filipino fart.” In high school, the kid who sat behind me in homeroom would often tell me to “go back to your country, wherever that is.” When I told the teacher about this, he told me to “just ignore it” and asked if I had finished my work. He completely dismissed my concerns, instead of addressing the situation.

Although I brushed off the racist rhetoric and actions, it did significant damage to my soul. I was severely wounded. I would bury myself in writing poetry, listening to heavy metal and dabbling in whatever substance I could get my hands on. One day, I wanted to end it all. And I almost did.

Twenty years later I found myself surrounded by people who accept me — and even celebrate me — for who I am. Of course, I knew there was still hate in the world. I wasn’t naive. I knew many people, especially blacks, Hispanics and gay people, still faced significant discrimination. And I always tried to stand with them. Although an ally against racism, I no longer felt like a victim. The wounds I endured in childhood were permanently healed, I thought.

Then Charlottesville happened, and more specifically, President Trump’s response. Like most Americans, I was shocked and saddened by the events of Saturday. And I was stunned by the tepid response given by the President. But I dug into my diversity training playbook and gave him the benefit of the doubt. As someone who has always been rich, white, straight and male, he cannot possibly understand what racial discrimination feels like. And on Monday, Trump at least made an effort to say the right thing.

Then his press conference on Tuesday happened. And the wounds in my soul that I thought were long healed began to flare up. When President Trump said, “there are bad people on both sides,” that little boy in his swimming trunks staring out the window occupied my mind. When the President said, there are “many fine people” among the neo-Nazis calling for an ethnic cleansing of our nation, the faces of the boys calling me a “Filipino fart” appeared. And when Trump promoted his winery in Charlottesville — “one of the largest wineries in the United States” — that teacher who dismissed my concerns was back.

In my diversity training, I learned there are actually very few racists in the world. Most people are just ignorant. I always thought our President fell into the latter category. But after his passionate statements Tuesday, and his continued unwillingness to consider the hurt his words have caused, it’s difficult not to consider him a racist.

And if you’re willing to overlook this fact and still support him, then you are no better than my high school teacher.