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Martin Dyckman: The Red Menace redux

Early in the Cold War, Hollywood was targeted by politicians and flag-waving pundits who accused Communists in the motion picture media of trying to subvert the United States with pro-Soviet propaganda.

Hundreds of people were blacklisted and 10, including the Oscar-winning screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, went to prison for refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee.

The 2015 film “Trumbo” deals with that episode and how the blacklist finally was broken.

There was never any evidence, though, that the Hollywood Ten had accomplished anything more dramatic than joining what was a legal political party.

But 70 years later, the Kremlin has exploited a more modern mass medium — the internet — to subvert the United States to the extent that Josef Stalin, the Soviet dictator, could not have imagined.

If owning a piece of the American president-elect isn’t subversion, what ever could be?

The Soviet Union is history. Russia, its largest component, is now nominally capitalist rather than communist.

But its president, Vladimir Putin, who is not much less of a tyrant than Stalin was, is hellbent on rebuilding the Soviet empire, one piece at a time — first Ukraine, then Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. No nation in Eastern Europe is safe.

Toward that end, Putin is intent on destabilizing if not demolishing NATO, the American-led alliance that won the Cold War — or so we thought.

Nothing could be more helpful to Putin than an American president who is disinterested in NATO, and whose chosen secretary of state — the recipient of a high honor from Putin himself — personifies a historic conflict of interest. Rex W. Tillerson presently heads ExxonMobil, which had an Arctic drilling deal with Putin that was blocked by U.S. economic sanctions over the aggression in Ukraine.

If those sanctions are off the table, ExxonMobil stands to make billions from Russian oil. Blind trust or not, Tillerson would be in line for enormous stock profits, not to mention the moral disaster of legitimizing Putin’s conduct.

Donald Trump is more than merely a friend and apologist for the new Russian tyrant. The income tax returns he has yet to release despite promises may conceal massive debts to Russian banks. His national security adviser took money to go to Moscow to sit beside Putin at a ceremony honoring him.

The evidence is overwhelming that Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee and other targets to selectively leak information damaging to Hillary Clinton‘s campaign and helpful to Trump.

The intelligence agencies have consensus on that. The only disagreement is whether Russia meant to actually elect Trump or only to shatter faith in the American election process. What’s the difference? The result is what matters. Whether Putin’s cyber warfare actually tipped the election to Trump is beside the point. At the very least, it helped immensely—and Trump knows it.

The proof of that is his savage denunciation Saturday of the intelligence agencies that will soon be under his control. Although he’s been too busy holding Nuremberg-style victory rallies to attend intelligence briefings, his transition dismissed the consensus as coming from “the same people who said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.”

That they were wrong then doesn’t mean that they’re wrong now. Or does Trump think the Democrats hacked themselves?

He should have said something like this:

“I denounce and deplore any foreign intervention in our election, and I strongly support a bipartisan investigation by the Congress.”

But by simply denying the evidence, without proof, Trump tacitly concedes Russia’s guilt and his own debt.

For frightening insight into the perils of the internet, see The Atlantic’s November cover story—published before the election—”How Social Media Got Weaponized: War in the Digital Age.'” It is well worth your time. Here’s the link.

War is not too strong a term for it, even if the aggression was carried out remotely.

It’s not just Russia that has made the internet into a theater of war. ISIL’s mastery of the medium has figured hugely in terrorizing targeted populations in Iraq and Syria and in recruiting adherents in Britain, America and elsewhere.

The article describes in detail how the Kremlin assigned vast resources “to studying the finer details of how the internet works, coordinated by the Russian Federal Security Service—the successor to the KGB.”

The Russian cyber warriors do more than hack. They post false news stories, troll people who post comments critical of Russia, and do everything imaginable to undermine faith in western institutions including election processes.

“Russia’s infiltration and invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine was preceded by a relentless online campaign to stoke pro-Russian protests and cast the new (Western-friendly) Ukrainian government as, quite literally, a bunch of Nazis,” the article says.

According to The New York Times, Russia is suspected of planting child pornography on the computers of critics whom it wants to destroy.

In Charleston, meanwhile, a young man is on trial for his life for the murders of nine people at a church that had welcomed him to a Bible study session. Dylann Roof has said he was inspired by racist content on the internet. In Washington, another young man awaits trial for an armed invasion of a pizza parlor where — he had read on the internet — Hillary Clinton was participating in a child sex slavery ring.

Every invention can be a tool for evil as well as good. In the case of the internet, it’s the evil side that seems to be winning.

___

Martin Dyckman is a retired associate editor of the newspaper now known as the Tampa Bay Times. He lives in North Carolina.

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Blake Dowling: Amazon Go storefront, the next big disruption in retail, society

When it comes to the home theater experience, we used to rent movies from Blockbuster and Movie Gallery. VHS came and went. Then DVD, which is gone (for the most part).

In regards to transportation, there are still taxi cabs out there, but everyone I know contacts Uber to get a ride.

Have you bought a CD lately? I know plenty of music execs who wish they could turn back the clock when there were huge margins on tapes, LPs and CDs.

And in the world of politics, Hillary Clinton was all set to become President, but here we are.

Granted the last one isn’t so much about technology but, for whatever reason, the experts didn’t see it coming.

Disruption can take on many forms.

We now have a new one, which is about to ruffle some serious feathers and it won’t just affect grocery stores, but retail in general.

Imagine a grocery store experience where you just walk into and grab what you need and leave. It’s opening in 2017. It’s called Amazon Go. It’s real, so to all the experts out there, take note.

Here’s how it works: After entering the store, you scan an app. Select items to put into your cart and the store tracks what you pick up. You already have an Amazon account, so it’s just a matter of sensors tracking you correctly.

The Amazon Go storefront is small; it is not a Wal-Mart type of set up. It has essentials and — for downtown residents of a major city — it seems like a perfect fit.

For example, I was shopping at Publix on Spring Street this past weekend, just before the SEC Game in Atlanta. If you could take the lines and congestion out of that place on a busy day, it would be wicked.

The ways in which this type of disruption would affect retail (and our society) seem to be endless. Where to start on the domino effect? Let’s see there are over 3 million cashiers employed in our country making minimum wage. With that wage about to go up, retail execs are bound to be thinking can’t we automate this? The self-checkout kiosks were just the beginning of a labor issue for the cashiers.

What about criminals? Those who misbehave with tech are drooling over this as well. Credit card numbers and personal info are being zapped around rampantly.

Or what about someone just walking into the Amazon Go store without scanning the app. In that scenario, I could imagine some rambunctious teens stealing beer. In this kind of world, I suppose you must have a significant security presence.

How will other stores catch up? Publix, for instance, doesn’t have your credit card info on file. And, personally, I don’t want them to have it.

In the past four years, I have had two credit cards digitally stolen. The first time it happened, American Express did an excellent job notifying me via the AMX app. Once I declined the purchase through the app, I soon received a phone call with details.

In hindsight, it was kind of funny: “Mr. Dowling, are you in Milan attempting to purchase a fur coat?”

That would be a negative, boss. Thanks for the heads up.

The other incident was more recent; the local bank involved was just as meticulous.

Hopefully, these types of stores will offer anti-skimming devices throughout the location to block the possibility of digital theft.

This is going to be a significant movement, and all eyes will be on both Amazon and this Seattle storefront to see where they succeed and where they fail.

Disruption never stops; who knows what’s next?

Personally, a grocery store with no line sounds like heaven. Clean up on aisle 4, LOL.

___

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies in Tallahassee; he writes columns for several organizations. You can contact him at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

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LeBron James sports safety pin on Sports Illustrated cover

If you take a close look at LeBron James‘ recent cover photo for Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year award, a safety pin can be spotted on the NBA superstar’s lapel.

No, James isn’t suffering some sort of wardrobe malfunction. Since last month’s presidential election, the safety pin has become a symbol of solidarity with those Americans who fear they’ll be disenfranchised by a Donald Trump presidency. The pin is intended to show that the wearer is a safe person to turn to.

James campaigned for Democrat Hillary Clinton in the days before the vote. During a recent road trip, James opted to stay elsewhere than the team’s official Trump-branded hotel in New York. He called the decision a personal preference.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Ahead for Michelle Obama? Figuring out what comes next

It’ll be one of the most watched midlife career changes in recent memory. What does Michelle Obama do next?

After eight years as a high-profile advocate against childhood obesity, a sought-after talk show guest, a Democratic power player and a style maven, the first lady will have her pick of options when she leaves the White House next month.

In this photo taken Oct. 18, 2016, President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama waits to greet Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and his wife Agnese Landini on the North Portico for a State Dinner at the White House in Washington. What does Michelle Obama do next? After eight years as a high-profile advocate against childhood obesity, a sought-after talk show guest, a Democratic power player and a style maven, the first lady will have her pick of options when she leaves the White House next month. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Just as the first lady’s role is undefined, with each woman molding it to her personality, interests and comfort level, there is no script for what comes after the first lady finishes the job.

The widowed Jacqueline Kennedy remarried and became a New York book editor. Laura Bush continues her advocacy for literacy, women in Afghanistan and preservation issues. Hillary Clinton launched her own political career with her bid for the U.S. Senate, even before her family left the White House.

Here’s a look at what Mrs. Obama is likely to do, or not do, when at 53 years old she becomes a private citizen again on Jan. 20.

LIKELY TO DO:

R & R

President Barack Obama says he’s taking her on a “really nice vacation, because she deserves it. She’s been putting up with me for quite some time.” (Twenty-four years of marriage, to be exact.)

WRITE A MEMOIR

FILE — In this Oct. 27, 2016 file photo, first lady Michelle Obama takes the stage with then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, during a campaign rally at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C. What does Michelle Obama do next? After eight years as a high-profile advocate against childhood obesity, a sought-after talk show guest, a Democratic power player and a style maven, the first lady will have her pick of options when she leaves the White House next month. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

Practically all first ladies do. As the first black woman in the role and as someone who has said little publicly about her private life in the White House, book publishers would offer to pay millions for the rights to Mrs. Obama’s insider account. Clinton got an $8 million advance for her 2003 memoir, “Living History.”

SET UP HER FAMILY’S NEW HOME

Breaking from post-presidential tradition, the Obamas plan to stay in Washington so their 15-year-old daughter, Sasha, can finish high school. Presidents usually leave Washington when they leave office, but the Obamas are renting a home in the wealthy Kalorama neighborhood, near what will be the official residence of Vice President-elect Mike Pence. The home is large enough to be a hub of social activity, but it’s far from clear whether Mrs. Obama will become Washington’s new power hostess. Ex-presidents tend to keep a low profile in the first year or so after they leave office.

The Obamas also still own a home in Chicago.

STICK WITH HER INITIATIVES

FILE — In this Oct. 5, 2016 file photo, a new paver etched with markings “White House Kitchen Garden” is seen at the entrance to the White House Kitchen Garden at the White House in Washington. What does Michelle Obama do next After eight years as a high-profile advocate against childhood obesity, a sought-after talk show guest, a Democratic power player and a style maven, the first lady will have her pick of options when she leaves the White House next month. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

Mrs. Obama has said she’ll stay engaged in public service and will keep working on the issues she focused on during her tenure. They included childhood obesity and education for girls around the world.

“I’ve always felt very alive using my gifts and talents to help other people. I sleep better at night. I’m happier,” she told Vogue for an interview in the fashion magazine’s December issue. “So we’ll look back at the issues that I’ve been working on. The question is: How do I engage in those issues from a new platform? I can’t say right now, because we can’t spend that much time really doing the hard work of vetting offers or ideas or options because we’re still closing things out here.”

COULD DO:

JOIN SPEAKER’S CIRCUIT

Mrs. Obama put her oratory on display with a well-received speech on opening night of the 2016 Democratic National Convention. She followed up with a series of campaign speeches criticizing Republican Donald Trump, now the president-elect, as unsuitable for the nation’s highest office. Her friend, media mogul Oprah Winfrey, said the first lady will be “one of the most in-demand speakers” as a result of her convention performance. “That speaking fee just quadrupled,” Winfrey joked during an interview with The Associated Press.

Clinton earned millions of dollars giving paid speeches after she stepped down as secretary of state. Laura Bush also keeps a robust public speaking schedule.

In this photo taken Dec. 1, 2016, first lady Michelle Obama and President Barack Obama watch the musical performances at the 2016 National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony at the Ellipse near the White House in Washington. What does Michelle Obama do next? After eight years as a high-profile advocate against childhood obesity, a sought-after talk show guest, a Democratic power player and a style maven, the first lady will have her pick of options when she leaves the White House next month. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

HOST A TELEVISION TALK SHOW

Mrs. Obama has demonstrated a knack for talk-show banter, and an ease in front of the TV cameras. She co-hosted “The View” before the 2008 election and recently co-hosted Ellen DeGeneres‘ hourlong gabfest. Roy Ashton, head of television at the Gersh Agency in Los Angeles, says Mrs. Obama would be a “no-brainer” to have a show of her own.

“She could pick up where Oprah left off, or something else,” Ashton said. “I think Michelle Obama has a ton to say.”

SERVE ON CORPORATE BOARDS

She has some experience with corporate America, but she’ll want to choose carefully. Mrs. Obama resigned from the board of a food supplier for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in 2007, shortly after her husband announced his presidential bid. He had been a critic of the retail giant. Mrs. Obama had cited the increased demands of the campaign for leaving the board of Illinois-based TreeHouse Foods Inc.

“It will be fun to see what she actually does,” said Kimberly Archer, head of the Washington office of Russell Reynolds Associates, an executive search and assessment firm. “Wherever she does decide to focus, I would say, ‘Lucky them.'”

LIKELY WON’T DO:

RUN FOR PUBLIC OFFICE

FILE — In this April 5, 2010 file photo, President Barack Obama, accompanied by first lady Michelle Obama and daughter Malia Obama, reads “Green Eggs and Ham”, as they hosted the annual White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. What does Michelle Obama do next? After eight years as a high-profile advocate against childhood obesity, a sought-after talk show guest, a Democratic power player and a style maven, the first lady will have her pick of options when she leaves the White House next month. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

Both the president and first lady repeatedly have said she will not run for president — despite pressure from Democrats wowed by her campaign speeches challenging Trump.

Obama has said she doesn’t have “the patience or the inclination” to be a candidate and is “too sensible to want to be in politics.” Mrs. Obama said “No, no. Not going to do it,” when asked earlier this year about following in her husband’s footsteps.

RESUME PRACTICING LAW

Mrs. Obama, a Harvard Law School graduate, practiced at a Chicago firm but abandoned a legal career after the deaths of her father and a close friend. She entered public service, working for the city of Chicago and running an AmeriCorps service program before she joined the University of Chicago Medical Center as a vice president for community and external affairs. It was the last paid position she held before become first lady.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Right to the end, Donald Trump campaign spent less than Hillary Clinton’s

Donald Trump‘s campaign spent about $94 million in its final push for the White House, according to new fundraising reports filed Thursday.

The Republican continued his campaign-long trend of spending far less than Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. Her campaign blew through almost $132 million in its closing weeks, according to reports filed Thursday with the Federal Election Commission. The latest reports cover Oct. 20 through Nov. 28.

Over the course of the primary and general elections, the Trump campaign raised about $340 million. That included $66 million that the billionaire businessman contributed from his own pocket. The Clinton campaign, which maintained a longer and more concerted fundraising focus, brought in about $581 million.

Brad Parscale, Trump’s digital director who was empowered with spending decisions across the campaign, credited strategic last-minute investments with helping propel the political newcomer to victory.

Specifically, he told The Associated Press, the campaign and Republican Party spent about $5 million in get-out-the-vote digital advertising targeted in the final few days to Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida. That proved critical; some of those states were won by razor-thin margins.

“You think, what if we hadn’t spent that?” Parscale said. “We might not have won.”

Another investment that he said paid dividends was $7 million to air a two-minute “closing” television commercial. “Our movement is about replacing the failed and corrupt political establishment with a new government controlled by you, the American people,” he said as images from his rallies rolled across the screen.

The final FEC report showed the extent of the Trump advertising splurge. The campaign spent nearly $39 million on last-minute TV ads and another $29 million on digital advertising and consulting work done by Parscale’s firm.

Clinton’s campaign placed a far greater emphasis than Trump on television advertising, a more traditional way of reaching swaths of voters. She spent $72 million on TV ads and about $16 million on internet ads in the final weeks.

The former secretary of state also spent more than $12 million on travel — about double what Trump spent. Clinton, who not only had a money advantage over Trump but a staffing edge, spent more than $4 million on a nearly 900-strong payroll.

Still, Clinton’s top campaign aides have acknowledged in post-election appearances that it didn’t always spend money in the right places.

Her campaign manager Robby Mook said at a gathering of political strategists and journalists last week at Harvard University that he regretted not putting more staff in Michigan. When the state certified its results — 20 days after the election— Trump had won by just under 11,000 votes.

Outside groups that spent money on the presidential election also filed reports Thursday.

Trump got help from the super political action committees Future 45, Make America Number 1 and Rebuilding America Now.

Future 45 and a partner nonprofit that does not disclose donors spent late in the campaign but became Trump’s biggest outside investors. Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, together gave $10 million to Future 45 in the final weeks of the campaign, the new reports show.

Former wrestling executive Linda McMahon, who Trump named this week as head of the Small Business Administration, gave $1 million to the group in October. She’d earlier given $6 million to Rebuilding America Now.

Make America Number 1 benefited from a $1 million donation by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, now an executive on the Trump transition team.

On Clinton’s side, Priorities USA — which raised and spent more than any super PAC in history — landed $16 million in the final weeks of the campaign. That brought its total haul to about $192 million.

Some of the group’s final seven-figure contributions came from its most loyal donors: media mogul Haim Saban and investors James Simons and Donald Sussman.

The 2016 election is over — but the fundraising continues.

The president-elect has raised millions of dollars since Nov. 8. That money is coming in mostly through purchased merchandise such as hats and ornaments and is paying for Trump’s “thank you” tour, which took him to Ohio and Iowa on Thursday.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Andrew Gillum is “real deal” for governor, supporters say

The push to draft Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum to run for governor has picked up two more supporters.

Mayor Lauren Poe of Gainesville and Mayor Eric Jones of West Park hopped on the bandwagon Thursday.

Gillum, a 37-year-old Democrat, has been the capital’s mayor since 2014. He first was a city commissioner, the youngest person ever elected to that body.

“As mayors from across the state of Florida, we know the importance of having a governor who understands the needs of our cities,” Poe and Jones, both Democrats, said in a joint statement. “We believe that Mayor Andrew Gillum’s nearly 14 years of local government experience will be a huge asset as the next governor of our state.

“We have admired Andrew’s innovative, inspired and forward-looking leadership,” they said. “He created a jobs program to help young people find quality work, and he has developed unique ways to make it easier for entrepreneurs to start businesses.

“Under his leadership, Tallahassee was named one of the top cities nationwide to receive designation as a TechHire community by President Obama’s White House, allowing residents to train for the jobs of tomorrow’s economy,” the mayors added. “In short, Mayor Andrew Gillum is the real deal.”

The jockeying for the 2018 governor’s race already has begun; current GOP Gov. Rick Scott is term-limited.

On the Democratic side, outgoing Congresswoman Gwen Graham, also of Tallahassee, has announced she is considering running. Other names mentioned include Democratic mayors Bob Buckhorn of Tampa and Philip Levine of Miami Beach.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam so far is the most likely Republican candidate to announce a run for 2018.

Gillum’s star has been rising steadily, especially after disclosures that his name was on a short list to be running mate to then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

He also flirted with running for the newly redrawn, Democrat-heavy 5th Congressional District that stretches from Jacksonville to Gainesville. But Gillum stayed out of the race, and former state lawmaker Al Lawson, another Democrat, won the seat.

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Mitch Perry Report for 12.7.16 – The Hillsborough County DEC melts down

“Image is everything” that great philosopher, Andre Agassi, once said in a series of television ads for Canon in the early 1990’s.

Though a bit of an exaggeration, there’s no question that the image of the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee has taken a significant body blow following its reorganization meeting on Monday night.

To recap: Party Chair Ione Townsend concluded that the party’s by-laws precluded Democrats elected to nonpartisan positions from voting in the local DEC elections. The upshot was that the local party, in effect, “disenfranchised” some of the most prominent Democrats in the county – specifically five members of the Tampa City Council and two Hillsborough County School Board members, who did not take their banishment very calmly, let’s say.

Why would there even be by-laws that would do so? Allegedly it’s because nonpartisan officers, unlike Hillsborough County DEC members, don’t have to take a “loyalty oath,” which means not endorsing Republicans in partisan races. As was mentioned the other night, not every Democrat who wanted to vote in the election could say that (specifically Frank Reddick, who endorsed Republican Shawn Harrison over his former colleague, Lisa Montelione, in the recent House District 63 race).

I would argue that one of the reasons why people are turned off by political parties (and they are) is because one is forced to sign a “loyalty oath,” but that’s just my opinion.

A couple of other thoughts from the meeting.

Although I’d hardly call members of either the Hillsborough County School Board or Tampa City Council “elite,” (none make more than $41,000 annually), that’s apparently the perception of some of the members of the Hillsborough DEC, which had no qualms at all putting these elected officials in their place for having the temerity to question how their Democratic Party bonafides could be questioned.

And let’s not forget the anti-Alan Clendenin factor. In my reporting on his attempt to defeat the Debbie Wasserman Schultz/Bill Nelson establishment pick of Allison Tant to lead the Democrats to the promised land in the January of 2013 election, I learned that there were definitely some local folks who wanted to bring down Clendenin, a longtime Democrat who has been a committeeman at the Democratic National Committee, a local committeeman in Hillsborough County, and was given the (token) title of Florida Democratic Party Vice Chair after his loss to Tant.

There definitely seemed to be some of that same scent in the air for those who supported Hillsborough County DEC Chair’s decision to challenge the current by-laws regarding whether Democrats from nonpartisan races should be prohibited in voting in certain locations. The conventional wisdom is that all seven of those Democratic officials who attended Monday night’s meeting were pro-Clendenin votes. He ultimately lost by 12 votes to Russ Patterson, so technically the decision to ban them from not voting didn’t cost Clendenin the election to committeeman, which could have put him in position to run for state chair again last month.

Can you imagine if the margin had been by six votes or less?

Frankly, there wasn’t a whole lot of noble behavior on the part of Democrats regardless of where they stood on the issue on Monday night. The fact that the meeting was held at the Letter Carriers Union is proof that after Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump in the electoral college last month, Democrats around here appear ready to want to participate more than ever in the process. But events like Monday night are why people don’t get involved – when it seems to be about personalities, or by-laws, instead of inclusion and changing policies.

In other news….

Luis Viera has defeated Jim Davison by just 65 votes in the special Tampa City Council District 7 run-off election last night.

Sarasota Congressman Vern Buchanan is warning President Obama not to pardon U.S. Army veteran Bowe Bergdahl before he leaves office next month.

Newly elected Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren has made his two first personnel selections to join his administration next year, including nabbing former HD 59 candidate Rena Frazier to be his communications chief.

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is checking in with his constituents about his ambitious plans to have a streetcar run from Miami to Miami Beach.

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Martin Dyckman: Spreading fake news, a dangerous bell that can’t be unrung

So Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring out of a Northwest Washington restaurant. Imagine that.

Actually, someone did. The fake “news” then raced around the internet like chicken pox through a kindergarten.

But who could possibly believe such trash?

Actually, people did. The restaurant and its neighbors were besieged with death threats.

And Sunday, a man from North Carolina barged into the restaurant with an assault weapon to search for the children he believed were being held there. He reportedly fired at least one shot as everyone fled.

No one was hurt — this time.

The nation is on notice now that the clamor over fake “news” on the internet is more than much ado about nothing.

Our nation abounds with fools who are willing to believe anything they see, no matter where they see it, especially if it caters to their prejudices.

Internet fakery contributed to Clinton’s defeat — to what extent, we may never know.

The worst of it is not personified by Edgar M. Welch, the 28-year-old from North Carolina who took the sex ring slander seriously and whose two children may have to visit their father in prison for a long, long time.

No, the worst of it is the people who have duped so many folks like him. They belong behind bars even more than he does, but can’t be put there.

Where they definitely don’t belong is in public offices like that of the president-elect’s national security advisor-to-be, retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn.

Both he and his son, Michael G. Flynn, have used Twitter and other social media to spread some of the lurid stories associating Clinton with sex rings and other crimes. On Nov. 2, for example, the general posted this to Twitter:

“U decide — NYPD Blows Whistle on New Hillary Emails: Money Laundering, Sex Crimes w Children, etc. … MUST READ!”

You decide?

Flynn attached a link to his source, truepundit.com, which is to the internet as the National Enquirer is to print. The defamatory article is still featured on its site.

After Sunday’s alarming event, Flynn’s son, who was said to be on Donald Trump‘s transition team, took to Twitter to defend the slander that had provoked it.

“Until #Pizzagate proven to be false, it’ll remain a story …” he said.

Hours after Mike Pence insisted that the younger Flynn had “no involvement in the transition whatsoever,” the transition spokesman admitted in effect that he had been, but was no longer involved.

Both Flynns should have been fired.

What will deservedly remain a story is that Trump chooses advisors with such base instincts and execrable judgment. The possibility that the Russians originated these libels makes the national security adviser’s irresponsibility all the more ominous.

If somebody puts out the false news that North Korea is preparing to invade the South, would the national security adviser retweet that, saying U decide?

Trouble is, Trump’s own instincts are as bad, or worse. He plays Twitter like a pipe organ without a care as to whether what he tweets is true. His apologists would have us believe that it’s like shooting the bull over beers in a bar, that he doesn’t care that much whether what he says is true. Nonsense. He cares. He lies deliberately, knowing that the bigger the lie, the more people will swallow it.

There wasn’t a speck of evidence or truth in his Twitter claim that he would have won the popular vote but for 3 million illegal voters. To their credit, most of the media finally called the lie on that one.

But that bell can’t be unrung. There are doubtlessly more than 3 million fools who will go on believing it, and other Republicans are counting on them to help sell more voter suppression schemes to compliant legislatures and gullible courts.

“The long-running Republican war against the right to vote has now gone national at the instigation of President-elect Donald Trump,” observed a New York Times editorial.

Vice President-elect Pence, who surely knows better, was on ABC Sunday defending Trump’s “right to express his opinion.” When host George Stephanopoulos challenged the truth of it, Pence replied, “I don’t know that that’s a false statement, George and neither do you.”

This is the same deplorably deceitful diversion as Michael T. Flynn’s tweet, “U decide” and his son’s claim that the “Pizzagate” lie will remain a story until it’s proven false. The bigger the lie, paradoxically, the harder it is to prove to some people that it’s false. But that’s beside the point. If Trump or Pence have any evidence of anyone voting illegally, let them produce it.

They won’t—because they can’t. Indeed, in Michigan, Trump’s lawyers opposed a recount, saying that “all available evidence” shows that the election “was not tainted by fraud or mistake.”

At least truth still matters somewhere, if only in courtrooms.

___

Martin Dyckman is a retired associate editor of the newspaper now known as the Tampa Bay Times. He lives in North Carolina.

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Rio2016, Election2016, PokemonGo top global Twitter trends

The Rio Olympics, the American presidential election and Pokemon Go were the top global trends on Twitter in 2016.

The social media site says Rio2016 was the most tweeted-about topic around the world, followed by Election2016 and PokemonGo. Euro2016, Oscars, Brexit, Trump and BlackLivesMatter also made the top 10.

A Spanish gamer known as elrubius originated the year’s most popular tweet: It reads “Limonada” (lemonade) and was retweeted more than 1.3 million times. One Direction’s Harry Styles had the second most-repeated post — quoting a Taylor Swift song — with more than 700,000 retweets. A postelection tweet from Hillary Clinton encouraging little girls to recognize their power and seize opportunities was the third most popular of the year with 634,560 retweets.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Mitch Perry Report for 12.6.16 – “Run, Joe, Run” was so 2015, wasn’t it?

One of my favorite sections of Bernie Sanders interview with Matt Taibbi in the current Rolling Stone is when the curmudgeonly Vermont Senator bitches about the corporate establishment media.

“They live in a bubble, talk about their world, worry about who’s going to be running 18 years from now for office,” he says. “Meanwhile, people can’t feed their kids. That’s something I knew.”

I write that as a prelude to the stories that floated yesterday that Joe Biden made some offhanded remark about perhaps running for president in 2020.

Really?

“I’m going to run in 2020. For president. So, uh, what the hell, man,” the departing vice president told reporters Monday with only a slight smile on his face. He then took it back. Slightly.

Asked if he was joking, he said: “I’m not committing not to run. I’m not committing to anything. I learned a long time ago, fate has a strange way of intervening.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that, “based on those remarks, Jon Cooper, who was national finance chairman for last year’s Draft Biden effort to coax the vice president into the 2016 presidential campaign, purchased a series of web domains including draftbiden2020.com, biden2020.net and runjoerun2020.com.”

Is this the time we mention that the 74-year-old VP will be 78 in 2020?

The obsession in this country with who will be president is so complete that when Donald J. Trump actually takes the oath of office in January 20, there will be some (maybe even the President) who are bored with the fact that there will be at least a year’s moratorium on speculating on who is running in 2020 – unless issues of impeachment come up.

We can’t forget that, since there were certainly Republicans hinting that they would go after Hillary Clinton if she were elected in the ugliest presidential election of our lifetime.

Look, from all the reports, Biden though hard of running for office as last as September of last year. There was considerable concern in Democratic circles that the FBI investigation into Clinton could result in an indictment, and then who’s your backup? But not only was Barack Obama firmly “with her,” but so was the entire Democratic Party establishment -embodied by the leadership of Debbie Wasserman Schultz at the DNC. There was no path for Biden, as much as he wanted to pursue the presidency for a third time.

So we should let Biden spout off – it’s something he’s done a lot in his professional career, which spans 46 years. But let’s not take it too seriously. There’s enough going on in the world today.

Meanwhile, Democrats at a local level are having their issues. We were at last night’s Hillsborough Democratic Executive Committee meeting – and our story on that event will be up by 8:30 a.m. today. Check it out.

In other news..

Rick Scott is staying mum about the proposal that would repeal the law he signed in 2014 that allows for undocumented immigrant students qualify for in-state tuition for Florida colleges and universities.

The Governor was in Tampa on Monday, championing the men and women who work in state law enforcement and hyping his proposal to give them a raise.

Early and voting by mail totals favors Democrats in the Tampa City Council District 7 race taking place tonight.

North Carolina GOP Governor Pat McCrory finally gave up his month-long quest to save his job, and Equality Florida couldn’t be happier.

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