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Senators Marsha Blackburn and Richard Blumenthal are launching a bipartisan investigation of Facebook, following a blockbuster investigative piece by the Wall Street Journal. It found that Facebook was keeping secret from the public internal research that shows that Facebook’s photo social media platform Instagram was harmful to the mental health of users, particularly teenage girls. The research showed that teens blamed Instagram for increases in anxiety, depression and poor body image. This is especially worrisome since Facebook is planning a version of Instagram for children 13 and under.

https://www.theepochtimes.com/mkt_morningbrief/facebook-faces-senate-probe-after-report-reveals-instagrams-harmful-effects-on-teenage-girls_3999329.html

The Senators said in a statement, “It is clear that Facebook is incapable of holding itself accountable. The Wall Street Journal’s reporting reveals Facebook’s leadership to be focused on a growth-at-all-costs mindset that valued profits over the health and lives of children and teens.”

While it’s a welcome development that someone is finally paying attention, I don’t know which is less of a surprise: that social media is harmful to the minds and bodies of young people (it isn’t doing many favors for the minds of some adults, either) or that the people running Facebook don’t really give a hoot. Senate hearings might drag some of this out into the light of day, but if they’re like most Senate hearings, nothing will come of them except providing a few days’ worth of TV footage of Facebook executives feigning shock that anyone would think they’re not acting with the purest of motives, and then it’s right back to being evil.

While I’d like to see a miracle, like the government reining in Big Tech or Big Tech oligarchs magically developing consciences, short of that, the only solutions are much harder: Self-control (breaking yourself of the social media habit) and parenting (not letting your kids fall into that rabbit hole.) Remember, like any parasite, social media platforms live off of what they suck out of you (in their case, personal data.) If you don’t want the parasite to make you sick, then shake it off and avoid it.

A couple of new polls show the public is about evenly split on President Biden’s recent vaccination mandates, although the mandate on companies with over 100 employees has approval of 53-46%. Larger percentages of Americans approve of other levels of government-enforced COVID measures, such as vaccine mandates for various groups such as health care workers and teachers, mask mandates and social distancing guidelines.

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/americans-divided-biden-covid-poll

And, feeling their oats after the failed recall of Gavin Newsom, Los Angeles County officials plan to lead the way with the strictest “Show us your papers!” rule yet. They plan to require people to show proof of vaccination to enter indoor bars, wineries, breweries, nightclubs, and lounges and proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test for "outdoor mega-events" such as Dodgers, Rams, and Chargers games. They will also recommend, but not require (for now) customers at indoor restaurants to show proof of vaccination. As usual, there’s nothing about exceptions for people who’ve actually had the disease and may have natural immunity as good as or superior to vaccination. This is the government, after all, so one size fits all.

I continue to believe that it’s wise for most people to get vaccinated (I am), providing their own doctors okay it, but I don’t believe the government should be forcing people to do it, or denying you basic rights and freedoms until you submit to having something injected into your body that you object to. If vaccinations work, then how are the unvaccinated a danger to anyone but themselves?

My bigger concern is that even after COVID is under control, with authorities having tasted this unprecedented level of power over people’s lives – and the people having willingly given up their freedom for a false promise of security – there will be no end to future restrictions “for the public good.” In that sense, this could spell the end of America as we knew it.

Related: https://www.westernjournal.com/watch-ncaa-athlete-hit-severe-heart-complication-covid-vaccine-warns-vax-mandates/

Disclaimer: yes, this kind of severe reaction is extremely rare. But so is death by COVID in this person’s age group. It’s another reason why vaccination should be a personal decision of risk assessment between you and your doctor and not a government mandate.

Treason Update

September 16, 2021

The Pentagon seemed to confirm Bob Woodward’s claim that Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley attempted to usurp President Trump’s powers by calling his Chinese counterpart and assuring him he would give China advance warning if Trump launched an attack.

https://www.westernjournal.com/pentagon-appears-confirm-bombshell-gen-milley-report/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=huckabee

I’m not going to quote their statement verbatim (you can read it at the link), since it went on at length in the kind of gaseous government-speak that’s meant to make outrageous acts sound not merely defensible and reasonable but downright laudable. Indeed, a lot of liberal news outlets (those that aren’t ignoring this story entirely) are trying to present it that way and hail Milley as a heroic figure for protecting America from the “unhinged” duly-elected Commander-in-Chief that they hated. Biden spokeswoman Jen Psaki called Milley a “patriot.” So chalk up “insurrection” and “undermining our democracy” as yet another area in which the Democrats’ sacred principles are highly situational.

Even Biden himself reportedly said he has “great confidence” in Milley.

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/biden-great-confidence-in-milley-china-calls

Really? So Joe Biden wants to keep a guy around him who has a history of trying to overthrow Presidents whom he thinks are showing mental decline? REALLY?!

If Milley thought it was his duty to step in and take control away from a cognitively-challenged President who was about to commit a dangerous foreign policy blunder, then why didn’t he do that two months ago?

Finally, the line of the day is about this story, and it’s courtesy of former Rep. Trey Gowdy, who said you know who would have appreciated an advance call to warn him of an attack? The Afghan aid worker who was blown up by a drone while loading water cans into his car.

One reason why it’s so hard to get Americans to “trust the experts” on COVID-19 is because the “experts” and “authorities” have given us so many conflicting stories. I’ve always cut them slack for getting things wrong: I get that it was a new disease, and new data can require changing our assumptions. However, we seem to have settled on some official assumptions that are almost impervious to new data. And public trust is eroded further when the “experts” keep dodging basic questions.

One question people have been asking for over a year is whether the hospitalization rates used to justify mass lockdowns, school closures and mask and vaccine mandates are accurate. Are they counting only people who are actually hospitalized or killed due to COVID, or inflating the numbers by including people who tested positive regardless of the actual reason they were in the hospital? The answer may finally be at hand.

https://townhall.com/tipsheet/scottmorefield/2021/09/13/the-atlantic-scoop-almost-half-of-covid-hospitalizations-are-exactly-what-you-suspected-they-were-n2595832

David Zweig at the Atlantic magazine (hardly a rightwing or anti-vaxxer outlet) reports that the VA office of Research and Development backed a study of nearly 48,000 admissions to over 100 VA hospitals nationwide. It found that from March 2020 to early January 2021, before the Delta variant or widespread vaccination, 36% of recorded COVID patients had mild or asymptomatic cases, which makes it questionable whether they were or needed to be hospitalized due to COVID. From mid-January to June, that number rose to 48%. That suggests that nearly half the recorded COVID hospitalizations were mild or asymptomatic cases or else people who tested positive but were hospitalized for something unrelated.

None of this is to downplay the dangers of the disease (that’s still a lot of people hospitalized due to severe COVID.) But the good news is that this suggests vaccination has created more mild or asymptomatic cases. The bad news is that it suggests authorities are relying on misleading data to impose draconian measures on the entire population. And when people know “the experts” are being misleading about the reasons for their policies, it makes it all the more likely that they will reject those policies.

In short, once you lose the public’s trust, it’s hard to get it back. Particularly if you do nothing to earn it back except to say, “I order you to trust me!”

In breaking news Wednesday night, THE NEW YORK TIMES reports that Special Counsel John Durham has informed the Department of Justice that he will seek a grand jury indictment against Michael Sussmann of the law firm Perkins Coie for making a false statement to the FBI.

John Durham, remember him? Even President Trump has wondered from time to time what happened to him. Apparently, he’s just had his head down working, ever since he was assigned to the case by Bill Barr...in 2019. His status was raised to Special Counsel in December of 2020.

The NYT is subscription-only, but Rebecca Downs at TOWNHALL has details.

https://townhall.com/tipsheet/rebeccadowns/2021/09/15/durham-indictment-n2595973?utm_campaign=rightrailsticky1

No discussion of the “Russia Russia Russia!” hoax would complete without bringing in the huge role played by Perkins Coie, the Clinton-affiliated law firm that in 2016 paid opposition research company Fusion GPS to hire former MI-6 spy Christopher Steele to dig up dirt and provide a report on then-candidate Donald Trump. That scheme produced the infamous “dossier” that contained outrageously fake stories like the one we all know involving Trump and some prostitutes in a Moscow hotel. We’ve covered the story of the phony “dossier” from the start and had always hoped the story of how it came to be would be completely exposed. Now, perhaps this is the first shoe dropping.

Incidentally, Perkins Coie was involved in shady activities in 2020 as well. For the year preceding the Trump/Biden race, it was Marc Elias, a partner at Perkins Coie, who coordinated the state-by-state effort to change election laws and procedures in ways that made it much easier to cheat almost undetectably. And never mind that these changes were supposed to be made by the state legislators, not judges and bureaucrats. All those millions of ballots being mailed out to every name on out-of-date voter rolls and stuffed into unmanned dropboxes? For destroying all trust in our election system, we have Marc Elias of Perkins Coie largely to thank.

Sussmann, a former federal prosecutor, is a partner at the firm as well. As reported by the NYT, he represented the Democratic National Committee “on issues related to Russia’s 2016 hacking of its servers.” As you can see, I’m quoting the TIMES there, as we do not actually have evidence that this “hacking” of the DNC servers was carried out by Russia. It’s part of their narrative that the mainstream media take as a given and keep repeating. We don’t.

But the fact that Sussmann was representing the DNC on this matter should tell you he is the Mother Lode of information on what really happened with that and where all the bodies are buried, so to speak. Not that we can pry it all out of him. There’s this little inconvenience called “attorney-client privilege” that limits what investigators can ask.

Anyway, the Special Counsel has been investigating Sussmann’s activities conveying “certain suspicions” about Trump and Russia –- related to what we have come to know as “the Russia Hoax” –- to James Baker at the FBI in September of 2016. Specifically, investigators want to know who his client was at the time. Investigators have been looking into whether he was secretly working for Hillary’s campaign. He denies that.

Sussmann’s reason for meeting with Baker was to further a long-since-debunked story about covert communication through suspicious “pings” between computer servers associated with the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank, a Russian financial institution linked to the Kremlin. That story has been so thoroughly discredited that Special Counsel Robert Mueller didn’t even mention it in his final report. But there was Sussmann, apparently trying to hand the FBI a fake story. I would add that this was the James Comey FBI, which was eager to run with all the anti-Trump stories it could find.

Baker, now out of the FBI, reportedly told investigators he recalled Sussmann saying he was not meeting him on behalf of any client. Likewise, according to Sussmann’s lawyers, Sussmann simply wanted to give the FBI a “heads-up” because he thought the NEW YORK TIMES was about to publish a story about the Alfa Bank allegations. Wasn’t that nice of him? (The NYT didn’t mention Alfa Bank at all until six weeks later.)

One problem, though: in a 2017 deposition before Congress, Sussmann testified that he had sought the meeting on behalf of an unnamed client, a cybersecurity expert whom he said had helped analyze the Alfa Bank data.

Second, even bigger problem: Durham has obtained billing records from Perkins Coie that show some of Sussmann’s time working on the Alfa Bank matter was billed to...(drum roll, please)...the 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign.

By the way, just a month ago, Marc Elias left Perkins Coie to form a separate law firm, Elias Law Group LLP. The press release says this new spinoff firm “will represent candidates, party committees, political committees, nonprofit organizations, entities and voters. Elias Law Group will be mission-driven, focusing on electing Democrats, supporting voting rights, and helping progressives make change.” More details here.

https://www.perkinscoie.com/en/news-insights/perkins-coie-and-its-political-law-group-announce-the-formation-of-the-independent-firm-elias-law-group-llp.html

This new separation “will provide Elias Law Group with the independence to broaden its advocacy and types of matters on which it works, including by engaging more directly in the political and electoral process.”

As if Elias and Perkins Coie haven’t been engaged enough in that already. Elias will have offices in both DC and Seattle, where they’ll be “focused on helping Democrats win, citizens vote, and progressives make change.” And anyone who thought Perkins Coie was some little boutique law firm should think again: Perkins Coie is a huge international operation with 1,200 lawyers in offices “across the United States and Asia.” Watch out –- they’ve made this move as part of their gearing-up for the 2022 elections and are looking ahead to 2024, and judging from their past behavior, I don’t think they’ll waste much time debating the ethics of what they’re doing.

For now, though, Michael Sussmann is a major player who finally appears to have been caught in Durham’s net. Colton Salaz at JUST THE NEWS also has a write-up, and we look forward to investigative reporter John Solomon’s take as well, as he’s been all over this story for years.

https://justthenews.com/government/courts-law/special-counsel-seeks-indictment-against-lawyer-center-steel-dossier

“Mr. Sussmann has committed no crime,” his attorneys told the NYT. “Any prosecution here would be baseless, unprecedented and an unwarranted deviation from the apolitical and principled way in which the Department of Justice is supposed to do its work.”

Are these really Sussmann’s attorneys or a comedy writing team? Because that line about the DOJ is pretty darn funny.

Reeder: RIP Norm MacDonald

September 16, 2021

As the person who covers the entertainment world, it falls to me to write show biz obituaries. While it’s always a sad duty, this one hits especially hard for me and my wife/co-writer, Laura Ainsworth. Comedian Norm MacDonald has died at 61 of cancer, which he had reportedly been fighting for nine years. His producing partner Lori Jo Hoekstra said he kept it a secret because comedy came first and he never wanted that to color how people saw him.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/norm-macdonald-snl-comedian-dies-age-61/

For a comic who never became a major star, Norm’s death was met with a massive outpouring of grief and accolades from fellow comedians and hardcore fans like us. Seth Meyers called him the “gold standard” of comedy and admitted the hardest part of doing “Saturday Night Live’s” Weekend Update was not reading jokes the way Norm would say them.

He had a distinctive voice and delivery, a unique and unpredictable perspective, and most importantly of all in this cancel culture age, he was utterly fearless. If he thought a joke was funny (and to those of us who “got” his sense of humor, he was gutbustingly funny), no matter how bizarre the premise, he would pursue and expand on it, even if the audience greeted it with silence (you could usually hear a few fellow comedians in the back, howling with laughter.) One of the funniest things you’ll ever see on TV is Norm on Conan O’Brien’s show, using up his entire segment to tell an ancient, rambling, deadpan shaggy dog story with a groaner of a punchline that somehow was hilarious all the way through.

When Laura and I used to write our syndicated topical radio service, the Comedy Wire, nothing made me prouder than to write a joke that I could describe as “a Norm MacDonald line.”

These days, what passes for a “joke” on “SNL” is a smug two-minute political lecture. Norm could pack more laughs into two short sentences (“College radio reports that the #1 band this summer was Better Than Ezra. At #2: Ezra!”) He defied orders to stop doing O.J. Simpson jokes even when it got him fired. He didn’t care if he bombed, got fired, the audience didn’t get it or Twitter mobs cried about being offended: if he thought it was funny, he went with it. And to me, he was always right. He ruthlessly mocked leftist icons like Bill and Hillary Clinton at a time when other comics were giving them a free ride. He even dared to joke about COVID (“None of us know how we’re going to die… Well, we know NOW.”)

He was also surprisingly intelligent, once taking home $500,000 on a charity celebrity edition of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” (he also knew the answer to the million dollar question, but Regis talked him out of trying for it.) I still remember him lecturing a comic on a talent show for performing a lazy Christian-bashing bit that the other judges loved.

Norm was a “comedian’s comedian,” but to his cult fan base like us, he was one of the funniest men of all time. You never knew what might come out of his mouth, but you knew it would be hilarious and like nothing that anyone else would think of. And if someone didn’t like it and took offense, he couldn’t care less. Let’s hope more comedians take inspiration from him and reclaim comedy from the humorless woke mobs.

Here are a few of Norm’s more mainstream funny moments, courtesy of Fox News. You’ll find many, many more on YouTube.

https://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/norm-macdonald-snl-late-night-funniest-moments

Wednesday, four female Olympic gymnasts – Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman – came out from behind official anonymity to testify to the Senate about the horrific sexual abuse they suffered from former USA Gymnastics team physician Larry Nassar (now serving a sentence of up to 360 years in prison - yes, you read that correctly.) Much of that was already known, but what also was revealed was the shocking way in which the FBI, then under our self-appointed national conscience James Comey, turned a blind eye to their accusations against Nassar and attempted to cover it all up so the public would never learn about it.

https://pjmedia.com/news-and-politics/stephen-kruiser/2021/09/15/lock-em-up-same-fbi-that-chased-russia-collusion-hoax-for-years-covered-up-sexual-abuse-of-usa-gymnasts-n1479070

As Stephen Kruiser reminds us at the link, this was the same FBI leadership that busied itself with trying to manufacture accusations of Russian collusion against innocent political opponents while at the same time refusing to investigate “a serial predator who was attacking the most vulnerable among us.” He quite rightly calls for us to “start casting a wide net for people within the Bureau who need to be locked up.”

There’s a lot more at the link, including a video of Sen. Marsha Blackburn’s statement (sample quote: “Every single person in authority who turned a blind eye to these young athletes’ allegations is complicit in Nassar’s crime, and each one of them should be considered a predator.”) There’s also video of Ms Maroney’s testimony, which I warn you is disturbing and graphic.

Here’s more on this story from Matt Vespa at Townhall.com.

https://townhall.com/tipsheet/mattvespa/2021/09/15/its-not-hard-to-see-why-the-fbi-didnt-care-about-larry-nassar-raping-scores-of-young-women-n2595948