The inauguration of Donald Trump (what I saw and heard)

What I saw and heard:

12:42: And as I make it to Union Station, I’ve found the protest march.

Photo: Anthony Moretti 20Jan2017

Photo: Anthony Moretti 20Jan2017

12:21 p.m.: People now leaving my section and all the others; I’m amazed at how much room there is around me.

12:17 p.m.: Trump: “You will never be ignored again.”

12:16 p.m.: There goes another protester; he seems to want to stay but a cop is having none of it.

12:14 p.m.: Trump: “When America is united, America is unstoppable.”

12:13 p.m.: Rain nothing but a drizzle now, as Trump commands “a total allegiance to the United States.”

12: 12 p.m.: Trump: “Two simple rules: Buy American and hire American” gets sustained applause.

12:11 p.m. Trump: “We will bring back our borders.” Not sure what that means.

12:10 p.m. Trump says “America first,” and that gets strong applause.

12:09 p.m.: A couple police officers moving through my section. The protester is on his way out, and that’s probably best for his safety.

12:08 p.m.: So far, I’m not hearing a unifying address.

12:05 p.m.: Rain getting heavier, but there is no wind or cold with it. Amazingly comfortable. And this man has stood respectfully from the beginning.

Photo: Anthony Moretti 20Jan2017

Photo: Anthony Moretti 20Jan2017

12:04 p.m.: I can’t see him, but there is a protester in my area; he’s getting the verbal barrage from a few men around him: “Get out of here. We don’t want you here.”

12:02 p.m.: Rain getting heavier.

12:01 p.m.: He’s now President Trump.

11;58 a.m.: First drops of rain begin falling. Light. Will they get heavier?

11:54 a.m. Man, maybe 10 feet behind me: “See you, Biden!”

11:53 a.m.: Mike Pence takes the oath of office as Vice President of the United States.

11:48 a.m.: If the crowd didn’t like hearing Pelosi’s name, then they really don’t like listening to Rep. Charles Schumer. Lots of phrases such as “shut up” echo around me. Civility is obviously not ingrained in a few people around me.

11:38 a.m.: Crowd told that today is “not a celebration of victory but of democracy.” Perhaps this woman chose to jot down those very words.

Photo: Anthony Moretti 20Jan2017

Photo: Anthony Moretti 20Jan2017

11:33 a.m.: Trump waves; applause seems muted. Where is the enthusiasm that should accompany the inauguration of a president.

11:31 a.m.: And here comes Trump.

Photo: Anthony Moretti 20Jan2017

Photo: Anthony Moretti 20Jan2017

11:31 a.m.: Loudest boos I’ve heard so far from my area as Nancy Pelosi’s name is mentioned as part of the escort team.

11:27 a.m.: “Trump” chants begin, as crowd anticipates him coming into view on the big screen. “There he is! There’s the man!” the man in front of me yells.

11:25 a.m.: Some cheers mixed with mostly boos in my section as President Obama is introduced.

11:24 a.m.: Bernie Sanders appears on the big screen close to me. One man boos. The man next to him says, “Today is not the day for that. We won. Be respectful.”

11:15 a.m.: I’ve made it into my section. The crowds all around me are much smaller than they were in 2009. There’s almost a sense of disbelief among the Trump crowd, as if they can’t believe what they are about to witness.

Photo: Anthony Moretti 20Jan2017

Photo: Anthony Moretti 20Jan2017

11:10 a.m.: Polite applause from a few people around me (it took me less than 10 minutes to get through the security detail) as a group of military men and women walk past us.

Photo: Anthony Moretti 20Jan2017

Photo: Anthony Moretti 20Jan2017

10:55 a.m.: This guy is getting a few laughs from those who are here to celebrate the inauguration and those here to protest.

Photo: Anthony Moretti 20Jan2017

Photo: Anthony Moretti 20Jan2017

10:53 a.m.: Almost no signs of protests (or crowds for that matter until now) as I approach the entrance I’m allowed to use to get into the inauguration areas.

Photo: Anthony Moretti 20Jan2017

Photo: Anthony Moretti 20Jan2017

Posted in America, Trump administration, United States, Washington DC | Leave a comment

Chill out. Russian hackers did not change your vote.

Photo: Anthony Morett 18Oct2015

Photo: Anthony Morett 18Oct2015

It is a theme of the 2016 presidential election that will not go away: Russia’s ability — and perhaps with great success — to influence how Americans voted.

Far-fetched? No way a foreign power could flip enough minds (and therefore votes) to ensure a victory for one candidate and a defeat of another?

As you determine your answer, consider the Columbia Journalism Review’s examination of the sophisticated propaganda machine at the disposal of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Mainstream journalists have seen their worlds turned upside down by the realization that 75 percent of news consumers can’t tell a fake news story from a real one. Putin, meanwhile, seems to have understood the gullibility of news consumers all along. US media and intelligence agencies are only now beginning to grapple with the consequences of Russia’s misinformation campaign.

And lest you think Putin is satisfied with whatever role he might have played in Trump’s victory, read the next sentence from the same CJR article:

…the same Russian trolls, bots, and state-run websites that promoted anti-Hillary, pro-Trump propaganda have set their sites on upcoming European elections.

There is a critical point here: No U.S. voting machine was hacked during the election, meaning no actual votes were turned into Trump votes. But the propaganda influenced enough people to believe Trump was the best candidate for America without telling them that the Kremlin believed he also was the best candidate for Russia.

A separate CJR report suggests that while this idea that an outside power could affect how Americans voted might seem evil, it would be deemed impressive if America had been the benefactor.

These changes are part of a more subtle and efficient strategy referred to as “shaping the narrative.” The Russians discovered it was enough to inject a drop of poison into the information bloodstream and let biology do its work. For example, says Khomenov, a news report might contain true facts alongside a false one. Other news reports might have true facts but false conclusions.

They’ve also pioneered new, computerized ways to pollute the information ecosystem. The Russians were among the earliest to massively scale up and deploy trolls and bots, Potemkin communities of fake users that support or oppose various positions.

Finally, as you notice your hate for Russia increasing, just remember one very important point: The CIA has been influencing elections — and often successfully — around the world for decades. The medicine is bitter because we ingested it; millions of people around the world long ago had.

Posted in 2016 presidential election, America, Cyberattacks, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, political campaigns, political reporting, politics, propaganda, Putin, Russia, United States | Leave a comment

It’s called the alt-right. But who are its members?

Photo: Anthony Moretti 19Jan2017

Photo: Anthony Moretti 19Jan2017

Politico takes a look at whether the alt-right — whose members strongly support Donald Trump — have any chance to advance their cause with him in the White House.

They don’t lack for grandiose ambition: Disdaining the traditional Washington think tanks as passé, they’re taking aim straight at America’s sense of its own identity, with plans for “culture tanks” to produce movies that make anti-immigrant conservatism look cool, and advocacy arms that resemble BuzzFeed more than The Heritage Foundation. They talk elliptically about internet memes replacing white papers as the currency of the policy realm, pushed out by “social media strike forces” trained in the ways of fourth-generation, insurgency-style warfare. There’s the idea of taking over the Republican Party with a wave of Tea Party-style primary challenges in 2018 that will rely on novel campaign tactics like flash mobs and 24/7 streaming video of candidates’ lives. There’s even a new right-wing hipster fraternal organization started by Vice co-founder Gavin McInnes, the Proud Boys (motto: “The West Is the Best”), which promises to serve as an amateur security force at political events, including the Inauguration.


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Washington, on the eve of inaugurating its next president

A few photos from a beautiful late afternoon in the nation’s capital.

Photo: Anthony Moretti 19Jan2017

Photo: Anthony Moretti 19Jan2017; a glance at the front of Union Station

Photo: Anthony Moretti 19Jan2017

Photo: Anthony Moretti 19Jan2017; the sun sets behind the Capitol, my favorite place in Washington

Photo: Anthony Moretti 19Jan2017

Photo: Anthony Moretti 19Jan2017; another view of the Capitol

Photo: Anthony Moretti 19Jan2017

Photo: Anthony Moretti 19Jan2017; the Reflecting Pool offers a wonderful view of the spot where tomorrow’s inauguration takes place

Photo: Anthony Moretti 19Jan2017

Photo: Anthony Moretti 19Jan2017; another look at the inauguration spot

Photo: Anthony Moretti 19Jan2017

Photo: Anthony Moretti 19Jan2017; the Newseum reminds us of an important element to the Bill of Rights

Posted in the importance of history, Washington DC | Leave a comment

I’m attending the inauguration of Donald Trump

My ticket to the 2017 Inauguration

My ticket to the 2017 Inauguration

The conversation goes something like this:

“You’re going to the inauguration? But you didn’t vote for Trump.”

“Yeah, so?”

“You don’t even like Trump.”

“Yeah, so?”

“There’s almost nothing he stands for that you stand for.”

“Yeah, so?”

“Would you please stop saying that and actually tell me why you are going to his inauguration? I sure as h*ll wouldn’t.”

“The inauguration of a president is a celebration of his moment. And, yes, someday, there will be a her moment. But it’s also a celebration of our democracy. Sure, that sounds a little but Pollyannish, but the key word is ‘our’ democracy.

“Trump is not a ‘your’ president. He is an ‘our’ president, no matter what we think of him and no matter who we voted for last year. As Americans, it is our responsibility to hold the president accountable; and although you and I know that I won’t get close enough to say anything to him, it’s important that I — as an American citizen — am there. By being there, I’m acknowledging my engagement with the political process and my intention to keep an eye on what the new president will be doing.

“You’re right, there is not much that he and I agree upon. But if supporting our democracy is only appropriate when I’m celebrating the successes of my candidates, then I’ve reduced politics to mere sports: root for my team and hate the opposition.

“I refuse to do that, though many people I know on the left and the right won’t. For them, partisanship is everything.

“Everyone at the inauguration will be lumped into one of three categories. There will be a ‘love Trump’ group that will be well represented. They will relish almost everything that happens at the inauguration, except for the rain that’s expected to fall. They cannot wait to see him take the oath and replace President Obama.

“There will be a ‘hate Trump’ group that will use the inauguration as a public platform to indicate they see him as a threat to all sorts of American values.

“And then there will be the smallest group; that’s the one I’ll be in. Whether we voted for Trump is irrelevant, though I expect that an overwhelming majority of us did not. We are letting him know that any efforts to erode civil liberties will be noted and challenged.

“So, does that tell you why I’m going?”

“Okay, but what if it rains. It’s supposed to you know?”

“Then I’ll watch it on television. I’m not getting wet for this guy.”

“Now, there’s the sarcastic Anthony that I know.”

“Rock on, my friend. Rock on.”

Posted in citizenship, Donald Trump, political activism, political credibility, Washington DC | Leave a comment

Exit Obama, enter Trump; journalists await possible tempest

2016 Military Bowl, 27Dec2016, Wake Forest vs Temple; Photo: Anthony Moretti

2016 Military Bowl, 27Dec2016, Wake Forest vs Temple; Photo: Anthony Moretti

President Obama held his final press briefing with reporters on Wednesday. He offered a frank and positive assessment of his eight years dealing with the White House press corps. Yahoo News offered this review of what the president said.

And he delivered a strong defense of the news media, which Trump has repeatedly denounced as dishonest, corrupt and even “scum.”

“America needs you and our democracy needs you,” Obama said. “My hope is that you will continue with the same tenacity that you showed us, to do the hard work of getting to the bottom of stories and getting them right and to push those of us in power to be the best version of ourselves and to push this country to be the best version of itself.”

Obama’s relationship with the news media has been complex, and sometimes deeply adversarial. He has pursued more leak prosecutions than all of his predecessors combined. His Justice Department spied extensively on reporter James Rosen of Fox News, an outlet that the White House at one point declared was not a legitimate news organization. He has overseen the construction of a highly sophisticated digital communications operation that, like a virtual state-run news organization, competes with traditional media. Members of the media have butted heads with the White House over the practice of excluding reporters and photographers from events that were then “covered” by official photographers or video makers.

“I have enjoyed working with all of you. That does not, of course, mean that I’ve enjoyed every story that you have filed,” Obama said. “But that’s the point of this relationship: You’re not supposed to be sycophants, you’re supposed to be skeptics, you’re supposed to ask me tough questions.”

Suffice to say that the man who becomes president on Friday doesn’t approve of the idea of journalists as “skeptics” who are “supposed to ask” tough questions. Donald Trump regularly has shown contempt for multiple news organizations, calling them “fake news” outlets and using Twitter to advance his notion that almost all of them are out to get him.

The National Review jumped right on board in supporting Trump a few days ago. Conrad Black’s essay suggested that the media have walked lockstep with a host of other institutions in moving America away from the righteous strength of the Reagan era into something, well, wimpy. And Trump might be the man to, yes, make this country great again:

The real message is that they all failed: both parties, the Bushes, Clintons, and Obamas, Dukakis, Gore, Kerry, McCain, and Romney. Ronald Reagan left the country the world’s only superpower, prosperous, united, and content, set at the head of a respectful and grateful alliance. Then, as happens in the lives of great nations and empires, unchallenged by obvious threats, decay advances quickly on hairy, scurrying feet. The mountebanks of the global-warming fraud assaulted energy production and capitalism generally. These were not legitimate conservationists and vigilant environmentalists; they were frauds, demanding, for pseudoscientific reasons, the elimination of carbon use. The political landscape was also swarmed by the dopey-dreamy believers in the borderless state; the rich lefties, from the cleverest — Warren Buffett, padding around in corduroy trousers and a Viyella shirt asking that his taxes be raised while opening his pockets to receive the largesse of the Obama regime — to the dumbest, the physically well-favored Hollywood airheads and cokeheads calling for social justice while neglecting to pay the minimum wage to migrant aliens rolling their tennis courts and mowing their lawns. They became the iron-clad, locked-arm conventional wisdom.

Whew. Americans really goofed over the past 30 years. We apparently elected dolt after dolt, espoused idiotic idea after idiotic idea, wantonly trampled on Reagan’s legacy (which is not as glorious as Black would like you to believe) and provided opportunities and benefits for millions of people who shouldn’t have had them.

What nincompoops we were.

Okay, returning to Trump and the media…

The Guardian presented an interesting European perspective as Trump as media manipulator.

Anticipating that their relationship with Trump will be rocky, multiple news agencies and journalists endorsed an open letter to the president-elect. The Columbia Journalism Review posted the letter on its website.

Among the highlights:

It will come as no surprise to you that we see the relationship as strained. Reports over the last few days that your press secretary is considering pulling news media offices out of the White House are the latest in a pattern of behavior that has persisted throughout the campaign: You’ve banned news organizations from covering you. …

But while you have every right to decide your ground rules for engaging with the press, we have some, too. It is, after all, our airtime and column inches that you are seeking to influence. We, not you, decide how best to serve our readers, listeners, and viewers.

But those words will mean nothing if the White House press corps and the leading journalism organizations pull back after the first call that they are being biased. (And that call should come before 1:00 p.m. EST on Friday, or less than one hour after Trump is sworn in as America’s 45th president.)

This is no game. This is no fictional television program. This is a president-elect who has rarely been held accountable for his actions assuming the most high-profile political position in this country.

He cannot drive the media away. Unless they allow him to do it.

Posted in Donald Trump, freedom of the press, Investigative journalism, Journalism, media analysis, media and government, media and politics, Media bias | Leave a comment

Did President Obama do the right thing in commuting Chelsea Manning’s sentence?


It took mere seconds for the controversy to erupt.

President Obama commuted the sentence of former U.S. military analyst Chelsea Manning late yesterday afternoon, ensuring she would be set free almost three decades early. In its examination of the decision, Reuters notes:

Manning has been a focus of a worldwide debate on government secrecy since she provided more than 700,000 documents, videos, diplomatic cables and battlefield accounts to WikiLeaks – a leak for which she was sentenced to serve 35 years in prison.

Obama, in one of his final acts before leaving office, reduced her sentence to seven years, angering some Republicans.

“This is just outrageous,” House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement. Ryan, a Republican, said the decision was a “dangerous precedent” for those who leak materials about national security.

The New Yorker applauded the move, suggesting Manning had demonstrated multiple times that he (then Bradley) was cracking under the pressure of what he was doing:

Quite apart from whether the Army ought to have spotted a security risk, Manning deserved help, like any soldier, and didn’t get it.

The Washington Post argued that Obama made a terrible decision, stating:

An administration that understandably went ballistic when the leaks first occurred and has prosecuted more leaking cases than all his predecessors combined, looks feckless, to put it mildly.

At a time when we are battling cyberattacks and combating the notion that WikiLeaks is a respected news organization setting Manning free seems to convey exactly the wrong message to our enemies and to potential leakers at the wrong time.

The move now puts WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on the spot: Will he follow through on a message WikiLeaks’ Twitter account posted just a few days ago? (I wouldn’t hold my breath, but, hey, I could be wrong.)

Posted in Obama administration, WikiLeaks | Leave a comment