Three Things You Need to Know - December 7, 2017

Franken Stepping Down

December 7th, a Day of Infamy on so many levels. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, AND today - in 2017 - Senator Al Franken will show the world what it looks like to be thrown under the bus. Now to be clear, he deserves every bit of what he’s getting. Character matters and Franken clearly doesn’t deserve the title of United States Senator. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t think groping and fondling women against their will is conduct becoming an elected official. An immoral man won’t suddenly become moral just because his secret has been outed. He can’t just sit in front of a mirror and say… “look, I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh darn it people like me” and wait for the ethics committee to declare no harm no foul.

However, Franken is clearly the sacrificial lamb here. Do I doubt the sudden newly found scruples of the Democrats? Absolutely. Franken’s announcement was conveniently chosen a full day AFTER a whole slew of Democrats called for his retirement. The intent was clearly to allow a good portion of the party to be able to say, “Hey, this guy really is bad. We decided to to do the right thing for women and for America.” Um yeah. I’m sorry but if you were really sincere and cared about the safety of women you would have done this after the first woman came forward, ok the second, well maybe after the third, fourth, fifth… YOU WAITED FOR THE SIXTH COMPLAINT!

I don’t think this was for the safety of women or for morality at all. What made this even more convenient was that all this comes just a couple days after Republicans, en mass, decided to start endorsing Roy Moore again. The motive for this announcement today seems clear. Franken was thrown under the bus as a sacrificial lamb to regain the moral high ground they’ve been losing since September. And I’ve got to tell you, with the way the GOP has been handling things lately, the Left will not only own the high ground, they’ll be entrenched and fortified in it with concrete bunkers.

Look, it’s absolutely justified to have Franken step down, but it’s also justifiable to call the Left out for their motivation here. Regardless the Democrat’s intentions, if the GOP doesn’t focus on character, and if they continue to handle things like Roy Moore the same, they can kiss the moral high ground goodbye. Character matters, and if the GOP doesn’t start acting like it, December 7th 2017 might be known as their new “Day of Infamy.”

US Officially Recognizes Jerusalem as Capital of Israel

Two words: Donald delivered.

Yesterday afternoon, Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and vowed to move the US embassy to the Holy City.

I’m really proud of Trump today. It was a brave move—one that he will be praised and remembered for-- if he follows through it.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m optimistic--with a dash of skepticism. Trump signed the same national security waiver signed by Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, which will allow the administration to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv for an additional six months. White House officials dismissed this move as “unavoidable because it would take several years to move the embassy staff to a new facility in Jerusalem.”

I can live with that as long as the embassy is moved before Trump leaves office.

The international community can yell and condemn America for recognizing reality all they want. They are wrong. This is a historic step against anti-Semitic hostility in the region and Trump deserves credit for being a strong leader on this. If this is any indication of where Trump is going in the future, I am excited to see what 2018 brings.

Facebook Targets a Younger Demographic

Do you want your six-year-old using Facebook?

This week, Facebook launched a new app called Messenger Kids. It’s an app for children to use on tablets or smartphones, but parents can control it from their Facebook account. Facebook says it’s addressing a need for a messaging app designed specifically for kids, but with the level of controls that parents want.

The app targets users as young as six-years-old. But don’t worry – Facebook says it spent months talking to parenting groups, behavioral experts, and families to develop the app. So it’s safe and probably even healthy for your child. According to Facebook, this “opens up a new world of online communication to families.”

Maybe so, but it also opens a whole new can of worms for American culture. Are we not distracted enough already? Now we need our six-year-olds walking across the playground with their nose in a screen? This app just gives kids one more technology thingamajig to bug Mom and Dad about. And right before Christmas too. Thanks, Facebook!

Another drawback – doesn’t this just provide predators, hackers, and Vladimir Putin with another point of attack?

Facebook says there are no ads in the app and that your child’s information won’t be used for marketing purposes. But that’s all this is, one giant marketing app. It’s marketing Facebook! It’s a massive recruiting tool. Facebook wants to hook kids on their social media product for the long term. You must be 13 to have a regular Facebook account. Facebook says it will not automatically convert Messenger Kids accounts to adult accounts when a child turns 13. But if this plan works, they won’t need to. The kid will already want to be a customer for life.

Part of me wants to resist any new app or technology specifically designed to hook my kids. On the other hand, this is their new reality. It wasn’t for my generation, so that’s why a lot of this stuff seems foreign. 66% of kids age 6-12 have their own smartphone or tablet now. Do we allow our kids to use these kinds of apps to help them be able to swim with the tide? And if so, what age is appropriate?

Each new gadget and app raises new questions. But the technology moves so fast we don’t have time to answer them before the next development.

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?