On important political events (Episode 55)

What does it mean to be aware of a political event? We all have so much to pay attention to in life so how then do we determine just how much attention to pay to politics? As I wrap my mind around this question it shapes my understanding of the aesthetics of the personal journal podcast genre, for what is an account of life without an awareness and understanding of and personal connection to consequential political happenings? In this context then, I examine the relationship between introspection and political awareness and how my interest in political awareness evolves from first hearing of President Clinton as a kid, through 9/11 as a teenager, and in the age of Trump as a man in his early 30’s. What are we, as Americans, beyond the punditry and commentaries, to make of today’s Mueller testimony to congress? 

***PUBLIC COMMENT is a personal journal podcast about a political and philosophical millennial in search of ever greater clarity and honesty who shares with you his contemplative thoughts as he tries to wrap his mind around the complexities of the human experience.****

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On Mueller Statement, Keeping a Diary, Finding a Niche (Sean O’Connor’s Public Comment Video Diary Vlog– Episode #23)

That the president, even if he or she in theory indeed committed a crime, is essentially above the law, and, from Mueller’s point of view, should only face congress—if they choose to examine the president– this is literal unfairness. This is a perfect example of what is wrong with American society today. Special treatment for people who are lucky enough to know how to abuse the system to protect themselves from criminal and abusive and unethical behavior. I try not to get too caught up in my emotions but this angers me.

TRANSCRIPT:

Hello dear audience! I hope your day is going well. Around 11 AM this morning former Special Investigator and FBI Director Bob Mueller spoke.

I got an alert on my cellphone a little bit prior to his brief statement being made and kept the TV on to hear him but the damn “smart” TV my wife bought… there seems to be something wrong with it…specifically the YouTube TV app because it turned off without me realizing.

(YouTube TV works on all our other devices so I blame the TV which we bought at Best Buy which of late has not seemed to me…the “best buy” as there are now so few items in stock at the store –if you enjoy the experiencing of actually shopping at a store, physically, as opposed to only online. I don’t hate online shopping…it saves time where this is a lot to do but I also enjoy actually shopping in a store…moving my feet, grabbing an item to look at it physically… also, two items within the last year which I’ve purchased at Best Buy turned out defective).

Mueller said really quite little but I think the take away was that he made no effort to imply in any way, shape, or form, that he viewed the president as innocent of a crime. Instead he reiterated that Department of Justice policy advises against indicting a sitting president.

Politically, in the context of our current climate, I can understand that decision, however, in a more ideal…ethical…sense…a more just sense…the president should not be so protected politically as he or she is today.

That the president, even if he or she in theory indeed committed a crime, is essentially above the law, and, from Mueller’s point of view, should only face congress—if they choose to examine the president– this is literal unfairness. This is a perfect example of what is wrong with American society today. Special treatment for people who are lucky enough to know how to abuse the system to protect themselves from criminal and abusive and unethical behavior. I try not to get too caught up in my emotions but this angers me.

I always think back to the thousands of dollars I was fined for speeding related traffic violations when I was 23 and how that kept me from driving throughout most of my 20’s…the president however, can in theory, conspire with a foreign enemy and obstruct justice and if congress doesn’t care it’s an open invitation to get away with it.

This is a travesty and I hope…dear audience…that we will not stand for this and that as we conceptualize what the politics of our future ought to be, we include fairness, and true equality under the law as the 14th amendment of the Constitution suggests we should.  

***

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of the diary for just about the last day– my thoughts on the concept have evolved over the years….though I’ve been writing probably since about I was about nine, I have been keeping notebooks (to the best of my memory) since I was 19.

I don’t remember exactly when it became a habit though I know for sure by 19 I often wandered around with notebook in hand, usually writing little poems.

Around 2008 at some point I started a prayer diary.

Here is one of the oldest notebooks I could find..

It’s from the Fall of 2006/Winter of 2007— roughly….mostly from when I lived in South Beach.

I’m tempted to throw it out because I despise who I was and the things I wrote then…but… just because I dislike who I was does not, in my view, justify destroying records of it. (There are some things I am tempted to destroy….especially certain videos…I’ve not decided where I stand on records one should keep versus the ones worth destroying. What would the proper principle be? What do you think? I could use your advice on that.)

When did I first start just taking “notes” as I do now throughout my day? (My good friend Bernard Foyuth also does this. It’s a very good habit in my opinion.)

I experimented with this a little bit in 2009 when I began investing more in the keeping of a diary and would weave between sketching “notes” and writing out thoughts more fully. But I think by 2010 I largely abandoned this diary practice, taking more interest in simply “writing” and at the time working on selling my awful book though I would stick to keeping notes in little notebooks. At some point in the fall of 2010 I did attempt a sort of “public diary” but failed to commit. I was briefly quite interested in tracking every movie I watched, book I read, et cetera.

I’m not sure why I abandoned the interest except to say my mind was very all over the place (it was this way since childhood) and I was very conflicted about what the hell I was doing with myself. I had been seriously convinced when I self published that this book would succeed.  

Damn cockiness. How it can destroy your life.

With my sense of self as a failure as opposed to any sustained sense of self merely needing to conquer adversity I…again…went “all over the place” in mind…anything to distract myself from those bad feelings.

By early winter 2011 I think (?) I grew quite depressed with a failed attempt to sell the book, I had despised a novel I wrote, and attempted a sort of vlog/internet live stream talk show concept and to compile ideas I was interested in talking about. To the best of my ability this was when I began the notebook keeping method as I still more or less maintain today.

My fascination with keeping a video diary ultimately has to do with…as I’ve been saying…interests in preservation of thoughts, and sharing of them, and self expression in general…

One issue that’s been pressing me is not wanting to sacrifice one’s self expression to the confines of what one thinks about how one ought to according to others. But important to think also about how to “sell” one’s self in the sense of knowing your value! Your uniqueness. so here comes questions of finding one’s niche.

A lot of sources insist on having a narrow specialization  / niche to market. But what’s my niche. Not quite a philosophy vlog though I am philosophical… but I’m interested in more .. in thought process and sharing it… so why not “essay”? Why not personal essay? I think… or theorize (?) a real quality “essay” reads formally enough that it’s been significantly revised. This is merely looked over and fixed up for the purpose of enjoying the experience of looking over a thought before sharing. I want something… as I’ve said… raw… but not so raw that it hasn’t been looked over for a basic vetting and some kind of directed structure.

This is what prompted me to really understand my interest in public diary/ video diary as opposed to just thinking about this effort as “vlogging” in general.

What KIND of vlog is this? What is my “niche?”

Must I have one?

If I have one…it begins with my desire to think freely quite “Wide & deep” as opposed to with the narrowness that comes with specialization. Ironically I think that is narrow, specialized & niche in itself so now I am experimenting with the tagline

Thinking deep & wide, providing fresh air for niche specialists

Do you think that sounds pretentious? I’m always paranoid of sounding either stupid or so pedantic as to be pretentious!

But while that describes the essence…the function…or distinctness of what I do here now with this vlog I still needed to conceptualize it ….categorically for a lack of better terms.

I began thinking…..video diary….but with respect to how to market this I began having a kind of semantic paranoia.

DO I call it a “vlog diary” or “diary vlog” or “video diary vlog” or just “video diary?”


I literally spent hours on my smartphone last night googling this really to little avail though pure logic helped me deduce that “video diary” is a perfect description for this kind of vlog. As oppoised to saying “vlog diary?” Actually I’m still not positive but aesthetically I like the expression “video diary vlog” because it’s direct in saying exactly what kind of vlog….as opposed to what kind of diary….but why? I really may want to develop and clarify this more.

Beyond that I have also been thinking of structure here…That to me is an important part of this… doing “thought scans” (that is the term I use… “thought scans” based on my top interests… news/politics, culture (from philosophy to technology) and self ( from deep questions to readings/ viewings and other contemplated experiences. )

I want to make one last comment today.

In my last vlog I lamented the war in Afghanistan.

My Friend Rahinne Ambrose inspired me to read up on Yemen.

Makes me think of how Afghanistan is not the only war/ military entanglement we Americans are involved in.

The gist of what I learned is some of the history. I used my old textbook from the course I took on Modern Middle Eastern Civilization which was helpful, and also a BBC article.

The one thing I didn’t really figure out yet is exactly what the Houthis in North Yemen want that those in South Yemen don’t want…I mean beyond the fight over whether or not Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi who essentially is the president though in exile …and I don’t yet know the more nuanced policy debates in Yemen though I do know there’s a power fight between Iran and Saudi Arabia for influence over the country’s politics and that we– the United States— have been supporting to some extent, Saudi Arabia. Oh, always more to learn.

I’ll talk to you tomorrow.

My name is Sean O’Connor and I thank you for checking out my video diary vlog. I call it “Public Comment” to underscore the value of commenting on one’s most valued thoughts publicly, of soul-sharing. Though I like to think wide and deep in our increasingly specialization -and -niche oriented international society the three most basic subjects my diary tends to focus on focus on include politics, culture and self. Though my approach is philosophical, political and intellectual, I’m also emotional and artistic. I’m a registered Democrat and thus lean liberal but I don’t bind myself to any political party. I’m 33, live in New Jersey with my wife, recently graduated William Paterson University with a BA in Liberal Studies, and currently work as a writing tutor for Mercer County Community College. Please enjoy my videos, subscribe if you want to follow along, and join the conversation in the comments sections.

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Navigating Through the Debris of Information Overload (Sean O’Connor’s Public Comment video diary vlog–episode #7)

LISTEN TO THE PUBLIC COMMENT PODCAST

How can we gain a sense of the world, of life, living it to the fullest, appreciating all that’s “out there” with such a bombardment and deluge of information…an overwhelming plethora of options to contemplate everywhere? How does this impact the way we process, say, the news, for example, when historical, monumental, complex events transpire: I’m thinking of President Trump’s Attorney General William Barr who faces Contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with the House Judiciary Committee’s subpoena for the unredacted Mueller report, and how this thrusts us, (say Judiciary Committee Nadler and Speaker Pelosi) into a “constitutional crisis.” What does that mean? What does it mean for the future of our country, our democracy, and the rule of law as the president persists in obstruction of justice and his executive branch plays along?

This conflict of prioritization has bothered me for a long time. Back in the Spring of 2011, for the first time, I identified my “priorities” of awareness. This was when I discovered the value and importance of the news, politics, & philosophy.

Read the New York Times article: “House Panel Approves Contempt for Barr After Trump Claims Privilege Over Full Mueller Report

Since then though, the struggle to determine exactly how much attention one should pay to the news has been yet another complex question for me, which persists, not because I’m a news enthusiast or “politics junkie.” Rather, I cherish basic awareness; I consider it a fundamental ethical principle.

And then I wonder: which news sources should I prioritize. I love the New York Times and the Washington Post, but I can’t read every article they publish. What about Foreign Affairs, Newsweek, The Daily Beast, Politico, et cetera?

And what about the challenge of sorting through all of the news’ complexities? The details, the confusing concepts and contexts which require deeper understanding…additional research?

And beyond the news reports (the articles, the television commentaries, interviews, segments, et cetera) there’s accounting for, and mentally processing official government business: official documents, pending legislation, proposed budgets– to name some examples.

Read the resolution recommending Barr be held in contempt of congress

And what about the rest of the day?

How do we fit in our meditation, exercise, work, entertainment, cleaning, paperwork, social media feeds, all the while trying to acquaint ourselves further with art, science, technology?

It could be argued of course that the world has gone “niche” but it seems so cheap to me to abandon a holistic perspective, as if it leads to a denigration of life…of the universe and the miracle of experience.

“A Dull Aching Pain”- Impeaching Trump; Bernie or Biden for President? (THE FIRST PILOT)

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST

OR WATCH THE VIDEO

…Trump’s threat to congressional oversight, the difference between a Democratic Socialist and a Social Democrat, and biases in the Democratic primary election….

I was feeling exceptionally depressed, still processing my failure to obtain a paid teaching assistantship and paid tuition from a Creative Writing MFA program, unable to find a job in the various job listings I was sorting through, troubled by the political state of things, tangled in my thoughts on aesthetics, neglecting a variety of other personal, philosophical, and practical thoughts, and like an inevitable mansoon I just had to talk…just had to get a few things “off my chest” as some might like to put it.

I was thinking of Howard Stern and my envy for how he was able to just talk straight about whatever was on his mind. I felt a similar envy towards Michel de Montaigne who wrote the most beautifully free flowing essays I ever read, with a fascinating integration of autobiography, scholarly contemplation, and philosophy. Then there was the love I felt for the pundits on MSNBC, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, who work with such dedication to analyze what’s going on in the news.

I wished I could somehow be like some combination of these wonderful, inspirational people.

I was also feeling a little mad to learn that people on Twitch get paid to play video games in front of a webcam. I thought, there’s got to be something I can do in front of a webcam that is constructive too.

The PUBLIC COMMENT began here with a tremendous deal of uncertainty. Just a little under two years earlier, when I began writing my column for the College VOICE my adviser– Holly Katherine Johnson– asked if I had any ideas for a name, and “Public Comment” came to mind. I thought of it because I could never get out of my mind the intensity of my experiences during the so-called “Public Comment” periods of the East Windsor Town Council Meetings, where I really discovered, for the first time, the full significance of one’s freedom of speech, and just how much those who feel threatened by free speech desire to find ways to curtail it. For example, it was often the case that Mayor Janice Mironov of East Windsor would interrupt me and tell me things like “wrap it up,” or when I asked a question, or asked how she thought I was contradicting myself, she would just say things to the tune of “are you finished Mr. O’Connor? You’re five minutes are almost up.”

Just about a year after I began my column, I experimented with the idea of a vlog series called Public Comment via live-streaming on Facebook to voice my political concerns but I was also preoccupied with completing my BA at William Paterson University and offering my best as a columnist, plus I was trying to figure out what the hell I was supposed to do with myself occupationally after I graduated. So I quickly abandoned the Public Comment idea.

Though compelled to “just talk” I was quite uncertain of what I was going to do with this extemporaneous, sort of “stream of consciousness” style talking. The only radio experience I’d had consisted of a few episodes at the student station at Mercer County Community College back in 2014, which I gave up on quite quickly.

I had no “team” to help me research, figure out how to integrate media mediums into a palatable program, or to suggest how I might want to experiment by ways of style and approaches.

I had just my mind, my voice, my ideas, my experiences, my laptop and its webcam.

Then a friend and co-worker suggested I make a podcast so I began experimenting with a combination of articles, vlogs, and podcasts to see what would stick, or what method of employing all three would stick.

Yes, the President Can Be Indicted

Yes, the president of the United States can, legally, be indicted.

I made that declaration in front the Capitol Building- home to the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Not only did I say the President could be indicted. I added that he should be indicted.

A number of legal and policy experts however, beg to differ  though their analyses are not legally binding. They are mere opinions of the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel tasked with giving the President and the Department of Justice legal advice.

In response to my video, some of my Facebook “friends” showered me with insults. They say I have “Trump Derangement Syndrome” and shouldn’t discuss the law because I didn’t get a degree in law (meanwhile they never address the actual arguments I make, which those with just a little background in philosophy would know amounts to the ad hominem fallacy).

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Despite the fact that my critics did not refute or even address my arguments, I wanted to delve into the proof that indeed the president can be indicted.

In my latest episode of PUBLIC COMMENT LIVE I discussed a letter addressed to former Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr.

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This letter was written by Law Professor Ronald D. Rotunda thoroughly citing remarks made by our Founding Fathers, constitutional law, Supreme Court decisions, and other legal experts demonstrating the “Indictability of the President.”

Watch my explanation below:

Trump/Putin Trying to Control Our Minds: Resist and Spread the Message- #ImpeachTrumpNow

President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin and everyone in their cultish gang are working desperately to control our minds and taking blatantly unconstitutional approaches to achieve those ends. I know! It sounds crazy. I feel like I’m dreaming (and it’s a nightmare) but alas let us review recent attempts on the part of president Trump and his administration to prevent dissent and criticism from reaching the media whereby the public can see at large the president’s treason, incompetence, and severe shortage of ethics.

It is crucial, I believe, for me to submit my evidence with also providing context. First of all, I am far from the only person sounding these alarms. Yesterday Washington Post analyst James Hohmann published an article with a headline reading : “Trump creates an alternative reality, and he wants you to join him there”

Hohmann cites a revealing quote from president Trump: ““what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.” I want to repeat those words from the President of the United States one more time so that it can be made perfectly clear that the president wants to encourage people to doubt their most basic perceptions and instead put all their faith in him: the textbook method of establishing totalitarian, dictatorial, Orwellian, authoritarian, despotic, tyrannical power. Textbook, ladies and gentleman. It’s what Putin does. It’s what Kim Jung Un does. It’s what Stalin did. It’s what Hitler did. 

“Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth”- so went the Nazi Germany mantra. It was their fundamental principle of propaganda and mind control. There’s a really valuable and elucidating article published by the BBC, written by Tom Stafford on October 26 2016 with the headline “How liars create the ‘illusion of truth’  citing multiple psychological research findings that find that “Repetition makes a fact seem more true, regardless of whether it is or not. Understanding this effect can help you avoid falling for propaganda, says psychologist Tom Stafford.”

Let’s make the context a little deeper now. It is important. According to the Toronto Star as of now President Trump has told 2083 lies.

CNN (which Trump calls fake news [pay attention to that]) puts the count at over 3000.

The Washington Post puts it at 3,001.

I think the takeaway should be that it is widely accepted among the media and civil society that Trump is a pathological liar. So when a pathological liar says to the American people (most of whom know he is a pathological liar)  “what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening” it is blatantly clear that Trump is striving desperately, perhaps by banking on the power of shock and audacity, to pressure vulnerable minds to reject what they perceive and take Trump’s word for everything.

That’s the context. Now let us consider president Trump’s attacks on dissent and his approaches. Yesterday, as the Huffington Post reports, CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins “said she was called to White House deputy chief of staff Bill Shine’s office, where Shine and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders disinvited her from the next press event.

CNN said in a statement that Shine and Huckabee Sanders told Collins her questions were ‘inappropriate.’ I didn’t know that the first amendment listed “inappropriate questions” as one of the exceptions of the free press or free speech. Since it’s not written in the constitution Shine and Sanders will have to let us know where they got that one from.

The Huffington Post adds this:

Collins was serving as the network pool reporter, representing all of the major news networks, for an event with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday. At the end of it, she and other reporters asked Trump a few questions ― as is common for journalists who attend such gatherings. (Trump sometimes answers questions in these situations; other times, he chooses not to.)

According to CNN, Collins asked Trump questions about Michael Cohen, his former attorney who is under federal investigation and whose secret recording of Trump was recently released. She also asked about Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom the Trump administration planned to invite to Washington. D.C., this fall before pushing back the meeting.

Other journalists at the event, including HuffPost’s Ryan Reilly, also asked the president about Cohen’s tapes multiple times as staffers ushered them out of the office.

Worth repeating is this: “Other journalists at the event, including HuffPost’s Ryan Reilly, also asked the president about Cohen’s tapes multiple times as staffers ushered them out of the office.”

Thankfully people on the left and the right in the media community are condemning these actions. Even the president of Fox News had this to say, according to the Huffington Post:

“We stand in strong solidarity with CNN for the right to full access for our journalists as part of a free and unfettered press,”

Now let’s talk about Trump’s desire to revoke security clearances for people in the intelligence community who are critical of him. You’ll notice strikingly similar language in the justification out of the mouth of Press Secretary Sara Huckabee Sanders:

“Making baseless accusations of improper contact with Russia or being influenced by Russia against the president is extremely inappropriate and the fact that people with security clearances are making these baseless charges provides inappropriate legitimacy to accusations with zero evidence,” Sanders told reporters Monday. (That’s from The Hill)

Note that word “inappropriate.” Reporters are asking “inappropriate” questions and critics are expressing “inappropriate” concern and criticism. According to the White House “inappropriate” behavior (not illegal behavior, and not verifiably dangerous behavior, just “inappropriate behavior”) is grounds for harassment, intimidation, and silencing dissent.

Inappropriate behavior: I thought president Trump’s reference to “shithole countries” was inappropriate.’  I thought it was inappropriate for the president to boast about how he grabs women by their genitalia  without their consent. I thought it was inappropriate of the president (treasonous even) for the president to publicly humiliate US intelligence officials in front of the entire world and say Putin (who murders his critics) is the one who has it all correct, it is Putin, Trump said who is “strong and powerful” compared to our invalid intelligence community. I am just putting it out there for what ever it is worth.

I’m not the only one in the world outraged by this by the way. Again, from The Hill:

“It’s never happened before and sets a bad precedent,” said Jim Lewis, a former U.S. official and expert in foreign policy and intelligence at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The New York Times adds to Huckabee’s desperate attempt to find a clever sounding ‘justification’ for a lack of better words, The president is exploring the mechanisms to remove security clearances because they politicized, and in some cases monetized, their public service and security clearances.”

Meanwhile President Trump monetizes his public service (though I think of it more as a disservice) at the Trump hotel in DC where members of foreign governments stay and thereby bribe him in attempts to influence his policy decisions which each dollar they pay for services there.

Lies and hypocrisy and attempt to crush dissent.

Some people argue that the people Trump are targeting don’t need their security clearances anyway. But as the New York Times points writes:

“Former high-ranking officials in defense, intelligence, diplomacy and law enforcement usually maintain their clearances to advise those still in government, former officials said. A clearance also serves a more personally profitable function: helping departing officials get jobs at security contractors or similar firms.”

“Revoking their access to classified information could weaken their ability to work as consultants, lobbyists and advisers in Washington.”

More from the NYT:

“It is intended to punish and intimidate his critics and is shameful,” said Jeffrey H. Smith, a former general counsel for the C.I.A. 

Ah, but what is it our president tells us: “what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.” Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in utterly rejecting this occultist behavior of a treasonist, criminal, and despotic president and calling congress to demand that they impeach Trump now!