Three Things You Need to Know - October 12, 2017

Think before you tweet.

That should be our new national slogan.

In less than 140 characters, the President told us what he thought of the First Amendment yesterday.

In response to an NBC news report that he suggested increasing the nation’s nuclear arms stockpile during a meeting with top Cabinet officials, Trump tweeted, "With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!"

Ok, let me break this down.

What is bad for the country is our President advocating for obstructing the free press.

What is bad for the country is violating the Constitution.

What is bad for the country is not understanding the First Amendment at the most basic level. That goes for every American citizen and every elected official serving those citizens.

Look, I get it. NBC can be absolutely shameful. Believe me, I’m not a fan. But that doesn’t mean the President can just shut them down because they say things he doesn’t like.

And even if Trump wanted to challenge their license, he couldn’t. NBC doesn’t have a broadcast license. NBC’s local affiliates do, not the national network. And it would be highly unusual for the FCC to revoke a local license based on a broadcaster’s content. It just doesn’t work that way.

Here’s some free advice for Trump.

One. You need to do some homework. Learn about how the Federal Communications Commission works and re-read our country’s Constitution.

Two. Stop caring about what NBC says about you. They will never be fair to you. I’ve been there. They are not going to like you. Get over it. Try to focus on the things that actually matter like North Korea, Puerto Rico, California, for example.

And three. Always think before you tweet.

Hell has come to California.

22 wildfires have sprung up all over the state of California, scorching everything in their path. As of this morning, 23 people have been killed and almost 300 are missing.

Despite the numerous earthquakes this state has seen, this could be the worst natural disaster in California history. 170,000 acres of land and over 3,500 buildings have been destroyed. 20,000 people have been evacuated, and thousands are without power.

Napa Valley has taken the worst of it. The images are straight apocalyptic. Rivers of wine boil as they leak out of scorched vineyards. Entire communities have been wiped off the map. Neighborhoods near Santa Rosa look like WWII pictures of Stalingrad or Hiroshima.

Many residents in the worst-hit areas never even knew the fires were sweeping down on them until the last minute. All was quiet until the shouts of frantic neighbors jarred people from their homes. As they walked out into their front yards, the sound of smoke detectors could be heard from nearby neighborhoods. Car horns added to the chaos as families sped down the roads in desperation.

Where was the warning? The truth is many people didn’t get any. Cell towers were being wiped out by the fires and landlines were destroyed. The area has access to the federal Wireless Emergency Alert system, but it’s unclear if authorities even used it, and if so, why so many people received nothing.

San Jose has had this problem before. Just a few months ago, the city got nailed for not warning the public of destructive floodwaters. A report found that “there was a general lack of institutional knowledge” on how to use the Wireless Emergency Alert system. I’m sorry but this is just ridiculous. Lives are at stake, and those in charge don’t know what to do. How is this even possible in this area! This is Silicon Valley! The tech community needs to come together and ensure this doesn’t happen again because the local government isn’t getting it done.

A cold front is blowing in this morning creating winds that will keep these fires moving fast. The carnage is expected to last, at least until Saturday. The American spirit has been tested a lot this year. From multiple catastrophic hurricanes to massive floodwaters, and now this. Help your fellow man --- and if you can’t help --- send your prayers toward California today.

U.S. soldiers have been killed in Niger.

It was just supposed to be a “routine reconnaissance mission.” But four American soldiers were killed. It happened last week, in Niger.

Did you even know about it? Did you know that the U.S. has soldiers operating in Niger?

We’re suffering from content inflation --- a fire hydrant of so much useless information and juvenile bickering that we miss stories that are actually important.

The U.S. has 800 troops stationed in Niger to help train Niger’s military and help gather intelligence in the fight against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups in the region.

A dozen Green Berets and 20 Niger soldiers were on a reconnaissance mission when they were ambushed by terrorists driving pickup trucks with mounted machine guns. The fire-fight lasted 30 minutes. When it was over, four Green Berets lay dead and two others wounded. Four Niger soldiers were also killed.

The Pentagon is now investigating the incident, but officials believe Al Qaeda was responsible for the attack. The terrorist group operates along the border between Niger and Mali, near where the U.S. and Niger soldiers were.

The U.S. Defense Department attempts to follow what is known as the “golden-hour standard,” in which the military tries to rescue wounded soldiers within one hour of being wounded. One U.S. general said it’s not possible to have the golden hour standard in Africa because of the extremely remote locations in which some U.S. soldiers operate. Niger is a land-locked, mostly desert nation in northwest Africa, about twice the size of Texas. These remote operations leave U.S. soldiers particularly vulnerable to ambushes.

American helicopters did not arrive to rescue the wounded troops in Niger. French helicopters finally arrived from 275 miles away in Burkina Faso. Some soldiers say the standard rescue wait time in Africa is closer to ten hours.

These are the first American troops to die in the counterterrorism effort in Niger, where the U.S. has been since 2015.

Why hasn’t this story been more prominent in the news? America’s been too busy talking about kneeling during the national anthem. Oppressive statues. Melania’s footwear. Empathy tents. There are bigger issues at stake --- and we’re either ignoring them, or missing them altogether.

MORE 3 THINGS

Stop trying to be right and think of the children

Mario Tama/Getty Images

All the outrage this week has mainly focused on one thing: the evil Trump administration and its minions who delight in taking children from their illegal immigrant parents and throwing them all in dungeons. Separate dungeons, mind you.

That makes for a nice, easy storyline, but the reality is less convenient. Most Americans seem to agree that separating children from their parents — even if their parents entered the US illegally — is a bad thing. But what if that mom and dad you're trying to keep the kids with aren't really the kids' parents? Believe it or not, fraud happens.

RELATED: Where were Rachel Maddow's tears for immigrant children in 2014?

While there are plenty of heartbreaking stories of parents simply seeking a chance for a better life for their children in the US, there are also corrupt, abusive human traffickers who profit from the illegal immigration trade. And sorting all of this out is no easy task.

This week, the Department of Homeland Security said that since October 2017, more than 300 children have arrived at the border with adults claiming to be their parents who turned out not to be relatives. 90 of these fraud cases came from the Rio Grande Valley sector alone.

In 2017, DHS reported 46 causes of fraudulent family claims. But there have already been 191 fraud cases in 2018.

Shouldn't we be concerned about any child that is smuggled by a human trafficker?

When Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen pointed out this 315 percent increase, the New York Times was quick to give these family fraud cases "context" by noting they make up less than one percent of the total number of illegal immigrant families apprehended at the southern border. Their implication was that Nielsen was exaggerating the numbers. Even if the number of fraud cases at the border was only 0.001 percent, shouldn't we be concerned about any child that is smuggled by a human trafficker?

This is the most infuriating part of this whole conversation this week (if you can call it a "conversation") — that both sides have an angle to defend. And while everyone's busy yelling and making their case, children are being abused.

What if we just tried, for two seconds, to love having mercy more than we love having to be right all the time?

Remember when cartoons were happy things? Each panel took you on a tiny journey, carrying you to an unexplored place. In Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud writes:

The comics creator asks us to join in a silent dance of the seen and the unseen. The visible and the invisible. This dance is unique to comics. No other artform gives so much to its audience while asking so much from them as well. This is why I think it's a mistake to see comics as a mere hybrid of the graphic arts and prose fiction. What happens between . . . panels is a kind of magic only comics can create.

When that magic is manipulated or politicized, it often devolves the artform into a baseless thing. Yesterday, Occupy Wall Street published the perfect example of low-brow deviation of the artform: A six-panel approach at satire, which imitates the instructions-panel found in the netted cubbyhole behind seats on airplanes. The cartoon is a critique of the recent news about immigrant children being separated from their parents after crossing the border. It is a step-by-step guide to murdering US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents.

RELATED: Cultural appropriation has jumped the shark, and everyone is noticing

The first panel shows a man shoving an infant into a cage meant for Pomeranians. The following five panels feature instructions, and include pictures of a cartoonish murder.

The panels read as follows:

  1. If an ICE agent tries to take your child at the border, don't panic.
  2. Pull your child away as quickly as possibly by force.
  3. Gently tell your child to close his/her eyes and ears so they won't witness what you are about to do.
  4. Grab the ICE agent from behind and push your knife into his chest with an upward thrust, causing the agent's sternum to break.
  5. Reach into his chest and pull out his still beating heart.
  6. Hold his bloody heart out for all other agents to see, and tell them that the same fate awaits them if they f--- with your child again.

Violent comics are nothing new. But most of the time, they remain in the realms of invented worlds — in other words, not in our own, with reference to actual people, let alone federal agents.

The mainstream media made a game of crying racism with every cartoon depiction of Obama during his presidency, as well as during his tenure as Senator, when the New Yorker, of all things, faced scrutiny for depicting him in "Muslim clothing." Life was a minefield for political cartoonists during the Obama era.

Chris Hondros/Getty Images

This year, we saw the leftist outrage regarding The Simpsons character Apu — a cartoon representation of a highly-respected, though cartoonishly-depicted, character on a cartoon show composed of cartoonishly-depicted characters.

We all remember Charlie Hebdo, which, like many outlets that have used cartoon satire to criticize Islam, faced the wrath and ire of people unable to see even the tamest representation of the prophet, Muhammad.

Interesting, isn't it? Occupy Wall Street publishes a cartoon that advocates murdering federal agents, and critics are told to lighten up. Meanwhile, the merest depiction of Muhammad has resulted in riots throughout the world, murder and terror on an unprecedented scale.

The intersection of Islam and comics is complex enough to have its own three-hour show, so we'll leave it at that, for now. Although, it is worth mentioning the commentary by satirical website The Onion, which featured a highly offensive cartoon of all the major religious figures except Muhammad. It noted:

Following the publication of the image above, in which the most cherished figures from multiple religious faiths were depicted engaging in a lascivious sex act of considerable depravity, no one was murdered, beaten, or had their lives threatened.

Of course, Occupy Wall Street is free to publish any cartoon they like. Freedom of speech, and so on—although there have been several instances in which violent cartoons were ruled to have violated the "yelling fire in a crowded theater" limitation of the First Amendment.

Posting it to Twitter is another issue — this is surely in violation of Twitter's violent content policy, but something tells me nothing will come of it. It's a funny world, isn't it? A screenshot of a receipt from Chick-fil-A causes outrage but a cartoon advocating murder gets crickets.

RELATED: Twitter mob goes ballistic over Father's Day photo of Caitlyn Jenner. Who cares?

In Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud concludes that, "Today the possibilities for comics are — as they've always been — endless. Comics offers . . . range and versatility, with all the potential imagery of film and painting plus the intimacy of the written word. And all that's needed is the desire to be heard, the will to learn, and the ability to see."

Smile, and keep moving forward.

Crude and awful as the Occupy Wall Street comic is, the best thing we can do is nod and look elsewhere for the art that will open our eyes. Let the lunatics draw what they want, let them stew in their own flawed double standards. Otherwise, we're as shallow and empty as they are, and nothing good comes of that. Smile, and keep moving forward.

Things are getting better. Show the world how to hear, how to learn, how to see.

People should start listening to Nikki Haley

ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images

Okay. Let's take a vote. You know, an objective, quantifiable count. How many resolutions has the UN Human Rights Council adopted condemning dictatorships? Easy. Well. How do you define "dictatorship"?

Well, one metric is the UN Human Rights Council Condemnation. How many have the United Nations issued to China, with a body count higher than a professional Call of Duty player?

Zero.

How about Venezuela, where socialism is devouring its own in the cruelest, most unsettling ways imaginable?

Zero.

And Russia, home of unsettling cruelty and rampant censorship, murder and (actual) homophobia?

Zero.

Iraq? Zero. Turkey? Iraq? Zero. Cuba? Zero. Pakistan? Zero.

RELATED: Nikki Haley just dropped some serious verbal bombs on Russia at the UN

According to UN Human Rights Council Condemnations, 2006-2016, none of these nations is as dangerous as we'd imagined. Or, rather, none of them faced a single condemnation. Meanwhile, one country in particular has faced unbelievable scrutiny and fury — you'll never guess which country.

No, it's not Somalia. It's Israel. With 68 UN Human Rights Council Condemnations! In fact, the number of total United Nations condemnations against Israel outnumbers the total of condemnations against all other countries combined. The only country that comes close is Syria, with 15.

The Trump administration withdrew from the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday in protest of what it perceives as an entrenched bias against Israel and a willingness to allow notorious human rights abusers as members.

In an address to the UN Security Council on Tuesday, Nikki Haley said:

Let's remember that the Hamas terrorist organization has been inciting violence for years, long before the United States decided to move our embassy. This is what is endangering the people of Gaza. Make no mistake, Hamas is pleased with the results from yesterday... No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has.

Maybe people should start listening to Haley. Hopefully, they will. Not likely, but there's no crime in remaining hopeful.

Here's a question unique to our times: "Should I tell my father 'Happy Father's Day,' even though he (she?) is now one of my mothers?"

Father's Day was four days ago, yes, but this story is just weird enough to report on. One enjoyable line to read was this gem from Hollywood Gossip: "Cait is a woman and a transgender icon, but she is also and will always be the father of her six children."

RELATED: If Bruce was never a he and always a she, who won the men's Olympic gold in 1976?

Imagine reading that to someone ten — even five — years ago. And, honestly, there's something nice about it. But the strangeness of its having ever been written overpowers any emotional impact it might bring.

"So lucky to have you," wrote Kylie Jenner, in the Instagram caption under pre-transition pictures of Bruce Jenner.

Look. I risk sounding like a tabloid by mere dint of having even mentioned this story, but the important element is the cultural sway that's occurring. The original story was that a band of disgruntled Twitter users got outraged about the supposed "transphobic" remarks by Jenner's daughter.

But, what we should be saying is, "who the hell cares?" Who cares what one Jenner says to another — and more importantly and on a far deeper level — who cares what some anonymous Twitter user has to say?

When are we going to stop playing into the hands of the Twitter mob?

When are we going to stop playing into the hands of the Twitter mob? Because, at the moment, they've got it pretty good. They have a nifty relationship with the mainstream media: One or two Twitter users get outraged by any given thing — in this case Jenner and supposed transphobia. In return, the mainstream media use the Twitter comment as a source.

Then, a larger Twitter audience points to the article itself as proof that there's some kind of systemic justice at play. It's a closed-market currency, where the negative feedback loop of proof and evidence is composed of faulty accusations. Isn't it a hell of a time to be alive?