Category: Conversations

The Twitter Files

No comment here, just embedding the threads for easy retrieval.

Part 1: Intro/Biden laptop story

Part 2: Secret blacklists

Part 3: Jan. 6, 2021 (Toward Trump removal, Day 1)

Part 4: Jan. 7, 2021 (Toward Trump removal, Day 2)

Part 5: Jan. 8, 2021 (Trump removed)

Part 6: Twitter as FBI subsidiary

Supplemental on Part 6

Part 7: More FBI influence, incl. Biden laptop, looking to work Twitter outside warrant process

Part 8: CentComm gets its propaganda accounts verified

Part 9: Twitter and the FBI and ‘other governmental agencies’

Part 10: Twitter labeled as ‘misleading’ tweets and suspended accounts of people who cited published data — some by the CDC — that went against official narratives of COVID and vaccines


Faith, trust and disappointing truths: Sagoyewatha (Red Jacket) responds to Jacob Cram

There’s a story in Judaism that is told in different ways. One version goes something like this:

A prospective convert to Judaism wanted to know if anyone could teach him the whole Bible while he stood on one foot. The great teacher Hillel told him, “Love your neighbor as yourself. The rest is commentary.”

And that’s really what a lot of different religions get after, isn’t it? Be decent. If believing in a God who may punish you for not being a decent human helps you, great. Whatever it takes.


The Seneca tribe of indigenous people in the U.S. lived in what is now Central and Western New York. During the Revolutionary War, they fought with the British. It seems by then enough white men had encroached upon their land that they were already fed up and suspicious.

Sagoyewatha was a tribal leader known for wearing any one of a number of red coats given to him by British forces, so we know him today as Red Jacket. A missionary named Rev. Jacob Cram asked for an audience to attempt to convert some of the Seneca to Christianity and Red Jacket respectfully and succinctly told him to go away.

Red Jacket pointedly says, look, there are lots of indigenous tribes across this land. We’ve battled over resources — land and food, for example — but never over religion. If there’s only one true religion, as you claim, why are white people always fighting over it, and why is it based on this book that somehow only you have and only you can read?

Look, he continues, I would love to trust you about what that book says, but we’ve heard a lot of promises from white men coming over from Britain and most of them have been broken and a lot of us have died because of those broken promises.

He said it all eloquently and succinctly, and sent Cram and his disciples on their way.


“I can’t trust you” is a terrible truth to hear. It’s even worse when two things facing Cram are true: (1) Red Jacket’s distrust of Cram is based on behavior independent of Cram, and (2) Cram may very well have honestly believed that preaching Christianity to the Seneca was an ethically good thing to do.

Red Jacket makes what I think is an excellent point about the Bible. It’s one that carried from Martin Luther all the way through the second Vatican council in the mid-20th century: Hey! How come only the people who ask for money and dole out punishment know what that book says?

I come from a non-missionary faith. You’ll hear some Jews try to convince other Jews to worship the way they worship, but they never approach non-Jews. Surely they’re not getting killed on North Sentinel Island or kidnapped in Haiti.

And I came up in a Jewish sect that encourages asking questions, challenging clergy and lay leaders. No one in my life was ever trying to convince me that something was right; they were trying to guide me toward my own discovery.

I guess I’m lucky in that.

Red Jacket also had to take into consideration that white men who had come to the Seneca before had asked to share land, but had instead taken as much as they could, spread disease, and introduced liquor, killing a whole bunch of Seneca (and other indigenous peoples) before Cram came with Christianity. Why would he trust Cram, who came bearing similar promises to those that came before? That’s not something Cram could control, but he had to deal with it.

Good lesson: When you break trust, you make it harder for others to gain trust.

Cram also had what I’m going to call the curse of faith. He was so convinced he was right that he was disappointed he couldn’t hold an audience with more Seneca. The sort of convinced that might have sent him to North Sentinel Island or Haiti, but sent him to Western New York instead. I don’t know. Maybe it is a blessing to believe that much in something, but it seems the disappointment would come so much worse.


The most important takeaways from this episode are from Red Jacket. Stand up for what you believe. Don’t avoid uncomfortable confrontations. Say what you need to say politely, briefly and clearly.


Telling our stories, remembering our history

I was in elementary school when I learned about the Holocaust. Same with Rosa Parks. I was an adult when I learned about the “Black Wall Street” riot in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

It turns out that last one was sort of by design.

Scott Ellsworth, a native Tulsan, published the first comprehensive history of the riot in 1982, a full 61 years after the neighborhood of Greenwood was destroyed. People simply didn’t want to talk about it. There was a concerted effort by both black and white communities in the wake of what amounted to a full-on overnight race war — large-scale weapons and private airplanes and fires and mass incarceration and rumors of floating bodies downriver to hide the casualty count — from deflecting questions to outright lying about it, the history was either whispered, or, more often, silenced.

Ellsworth wrote a follow-up in 2021, called The Ground Breaking: An American City and Its Search for Justice. It’s very much a memoir of how the first history came about, and about his work with a commission to find bodies of some of the victims in unmarked graves.


The message surrounding the Holocaust for Jews as we grow up is “never forget.” You tell the stories so that future generations know it happened. They watch for the warning signs, and hopefully avoid it, because they’ve heard the stories and have context for them.

That’s vastly different from what happened with Greenwood. As many as several hundred lives were lost. For sure over a thousand people lost homes and/or businesses. That would be a major event even today. To a free black community in Oklahoma in the 1920s, it was downright devastating. It’s not like there was much of a sense of social justice or equity, even if a lot of what we see today winds up being lip service. I’m sure insurance payments weren’t particularly forthcoming.

What’s happening now, though? Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok: these are very-short story platforms. We use them to tell tiny snippets of our stories. Maybe someone, probably at a legacy media company, takes some time to curate a variety of angles and show something of a more complete story, but we seem to have fewer and fewer people telling the whole story from beginning to end, if it’s not their story, specifically. That’s not to say there are none, but there are fewer than there used to be.


We think of journalists and reporters as synonymous, but are they? What do you think about when you think about journaling? Of reporting? Of writing in a journal, of writing a report? Both can be important, but they seem to be different. Robert Woodward is a reporter. He wrote about the Pentagon Papers and the break-in at the Watergate Hotel and some of what was going on in the Trump White House. Hunter Thompson was a journalist. He wrote about riding on a campaign bus and going to see a motorcycle race and the Kentucky Derby and joining the Hells Angels on a trip.

Does the difference make sense? Both important, both interesting, but different.

Lots of people are journalists. We write blogs, or Morning Pages or we open a blank book and start with “Dear Diary.” Few people are reporters, recording history dispassionately and attempting to interpolate the data to make predictions. Scott Adams and Nate Silver are examples, even if they don’t count themselves that way.


There’s also an insidious movement afoot to rid ourselves of offensive language without considering the value of the context. I’m not talking about profanity specifically, or a comedy bit like George Carlin’s 7 words you can’t say on TV. Mark Twain used distasteful words for black people and for indigenous people. That doesn’t mean we should take Twain out of the libraries. His work was, and still is, important. We should discuss the important parts of the work, including the negative. “Hey, we don’t say these words anymore. Here’s why.”

That’s an important discussion. Come to think of it, Carlin’s bit is an important discussion, too. He’s one of the Americans who went to jail to test our First Amendment right to freedom of speech.


Reporter or journalist, storyteller, frequent Facebook poster, neighborhood gossip. These are the people who carry our stories in a variety of different ways, and a story told is a story remembered, whether by generational recall or via digital (re)discovery. When we don’t tell our stories, we forget not only events, but lessons. When lessons aren’t passed on, we can lose great things. We lost the technology for making concrete for over 1,000 years. We’ve lost languages, religions and architectural plans. They weren’t passed down.

Before you keep it all in, consider what future generations might wish to know. Don’t assume someone else will share that knowledge.


JFK’s speech at Rice: Unfolding ignorance and doing difficult things

You know the most famous part of former President John F. Kennedy’s September 1962 speech at Rice University. “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

The rest of the speech, though, is also full of gems.

First, though, let’s accept it for what it is: A justification to the American people for spending lots of taxpayer money on sending Americans to the moon, in an effort to dominate the space arena. A year and a half before, the Soviets had already sent a man to space two weeks before the U.S. did. But the moon? That was a different ball of wax.

Kennedy said that if we compress the entirety of human civilization into 50 years (and recognize that we didn’t know about Gobekli Tepe or some other societies we have since learned about), Christianity was 2 years old and penicillin had been around for a week. You know how I like a perspective shift.

But this is my favorite bit (minus the glad-handing of Rice and Houston and Texas, typical politician stuff):

We meet at a college noted for knowledge, in a city noted for progress, in a State noted for strength, and we stand in need of all three, for we meet in an hour of change and challenge, in a decade of hope and fear, in an age of both knowledge and ignorance. The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds.

“The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds.”

I don’t know has fallen out of favor. Because we all have the ability to look something up with a gadget in our pockets, we are expected to have all the facts available via the device in our brains already. We are expected to have opinions on everything, strongly, without a willingness to change our minds. The worst thing we could do, it seems, is to learn something new, and incorporate that new information into an evolving viewpoint.

That last bit isn’t new. In 1992, an anti-Bill Clinton ad attacked the then-presidential candidate for having at different times held different views on the same topic, and an anti-John Kerry campaign in 2004 attacked the candidate for flip-flopping.

Those were before smart phones, before everything we’d ever said or thought was online and searchable.


It was less than 60 years after Kennedy challenged us to go to the moon that someone taught human brain cells in a petri dish to play a video game.

If you don’t have lots of questions about that, let’s break it down a little bit.

Someone taught human brain cells in a petri dish how to play a video game.

First, someone designed a video game. That was actually almost 50 years ago now, just a few years after we actually went to the moon. And by “we,” I mean people. I had nothing to do with it. In all likelihood, you didn’t, either.

Next, someone isolated some brain cells, replicated them outside of a human body, taught them something, communicating without ears or eyes, and figured out how to allow them to play a video game with no hands or other controlling device.

Are you getting a grasp on how much you don’t know yet?

The more we discover, the more there is to go on to discover.

We’re working on figuring out black holes these days. What questions will be opened up then?

We’re working on mining asteroids for minerals. What problems we haven’t even thought of might those minerals solve?

If Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff is correct, the first time the U.S. sent someone into space, they neglected to think about the possibility a very fit military test pilot might have to pee. A few months ago, we sent a 90-year-old actor who used to play the captain of a space ship on a science fiction television show set far in the future into space, for real this time. He didn’t have to have the same fitness level as a test pilot.


There’s never been a more exciting, interesting, strange time to be alive, and so many of us spend so much of time — that nonrenewable, unretrievable commodity we watch fly by — doing easy things, asking easy questions, because they’re easy, not because they’re hard.

Exactly the opposite of the way Kennedy said we’d do things.


Quiet desperation: On slogans, criticism and self-talk

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” Henry David Thoreau wrote in Walden. Some people use this quote as a motivation to work toward quitting their jobs or getting out of bad relationships. Others scoff at it and say, “This from a man who ran away from society and wrote a book about it.”

Most of us are our own worst critics. Our self-criticism may or may not be well-considered, the same as any bragging we do. Humility is as important in noting our downfalls as it is in noting our accomplishments.

When Thoreau writes about quiet desperation, he might be offering you or me or any of his other readers a tidbit. Or he might be reminding himself, spurring himself forward. However you struggle in this situation, it’s better than living a life of quiet desperation.

It’s the same if you see someone wearing a t-shirt with a self-help motivational slogan. Stay hard. Discipline equals freedom. Nobody cares; work harder. Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional. The shirt is for them, not for you.

If you see it and have a visceral reaction, maybe you want to take a peek inside and see why it hurts so much to read it.

9/11, 20 years on

9/11, 20 years on

On Tuesday, September 4, 2001, a book called Fooled by Randomness hit bookstores. In it, author Nassim Taleb wrote that we should be aware that we don’t know what’s coming, and we should be ready just in case. Just in case what? Well, who knows, maybe a plane could fly into a building I’m working in. What then?

Well, what then? It happened a week later. People asked him how he predicted it. They put him on news shows, on talk shows, on campuses, and he told them all the same story, until he got tired of it. “I didn’t predict it, and you didn’t get the point.” That’s not what he said, but it’s the gist of it.

We don’t know what’s coming, and some things aren’t predictable. Just like COVID-19 shut the world down, no one saw 9/11 coming. Except it was always a possibility, merely a not-very-likely one. For most of our lives, we don’t waste our time protecting against something that’s probably never going to happen. And then something happens, like planes flying into buildings.

If we’ve learned anything, maybe it’s vulnerability. Maybe we’re living a little more like we might die tomorrow because it showed us that we might, in fact, die tomorrow.

But we’ve shown on the larger level — large systems, like TSA and the federal government — that we’re very reactive, never proactive, and we rarely revisit our reactions.

If you are old enough to have flown before 9/11, you’ll remember that your friends and family used to be able to walk you to the gate. Yes, they had to go through security, but security was largely the x-ray machines (small bins for your keys and change, but none of the gray bins we currently put our shoes in, and our belts in, and our laptops in) and a metal detector. Sometimes you had a real metal belt buckle and the detector went off, and you got the wand. Back when we were able to wear our belts through security.

Jim Jefferies has a great bit about it. Language warning.

Humans build our greatest tributes first to our gods, then to our dead. Here in Savannah, there’s a gorgeous cathedral erected to St. John the Baptist. As a Jew, churches often make me uncomfortable — they’re simply foreign spaces with a very different feel from a synagogue, even if the activities taking place there are similar — but I really love this space. I recommend it as a stop for most people who visit, and I bring a lot of people there.

The cornerstone was laid in 1873, and the stucco and spires that completed the building were finished in 1896. In 1898, it burned down. They took what was left and immediately started to rebuild, and managed to hold a Christmas Eve Mass in 1899.

The terror attacks of 9/11 are really our national crisis, at least for the current generations. Pearl Harbor had been the previous attack that devastated the country, killing many Americans. There was the assassination of President Kennedy, which killed two people (Kennedy, of course, and Lee Harvey Oswald, shot by Jack Ruby). Apart from that, very few other things over the past century have happened to “us” as a collective.

And so it had to be remembered. I’ve never visited the 9/11 Memorial, but it looks meaningful. In fact, it’s more than that, as Malcolm Gladwell outlines in an episode of Revisionist History. It had to be completed by a certain date. It had to be a certain size. They had to build below the memorial to keep it from falling onto the subway tracks (or trains) below it.

We don’t do this for the dead, of course, the way we don’t build cathedrals and other houses of worship for God. We do both things for the living. We do it for solemnity and remembrance. To impart importance.

But maybe we do it for a more sinister reason, too. Maybe, just maybe, we build grand cathedrals to keep people in line, not necessarily before God, but before the clergy, the humans who claim the power of the space. And maybe, just maybe, we build memorials to the dead to remind us that the thing that befell them could befall us if we don’t follow new rules we’re told are designed to prevent that thing happening again.

10 Septembers, 20 Septembers »

What we did get out of 9/11, was a national story, surrounding our individual stories. Families and nations, like gods, are built on stories. America was built on George Washington’s cherry tree, on Paul Revere’s ride, on Ben Franklin’s kite. So far as we can tell, only one of those stories is actually true.

We’ve had other stories, of course. Johnny Appleseed, Paul Bunyan and his blue ox Babe, Manifest Destiny, Ford, Disney, the Kennedy clan, and the bulk of the names and events mentioned in “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”

And so, when I was driving from a meeting at our main office to getting set up for my week in our satellite office, I heard Dee Snider, on his syndicated radio show, tell me about the newest American story.

The national story was always going to be part of us, but it would only stir some of us. For the bulk of us, we spent a few days scared or unsure, and within a week we had air travel and baseball again. Some signed up for the armed services. And for some — a not insignificant number — our national story was wrapped up with a new family story, with thousands of family members and friends lost.

My friends group lost Amy, who had been setting up a presentation on a high floor. We got to keep Carol (not her real name), who was just getting a retail shop on the ground floor open when the first plane hit. She managed to run several dozen blocks north and get the last train headed her direction out of the city. We got to keep Jarod (not his real name), who had been in a building nearby when the towers came down; if the wind had blown a little bit in the other direction, his building would have taken a devastating hit and he was probably on a high enough floor that he wouldn’t have gotten out.

One family has the story of The Falling Man. Many people stuck above the impact spot either fell or jumped rather than wait for the inevitable. Esquire photographer Tom Junod was out on assignment when he heard about the first plane hitting, and he ran over to get photos.

One of the photos wound up being the famous Falling Man photo, a picture of a man mid-fall, inverted (that is, upside down), in an apparently casual pose, waiting for impact. After some reflection, it’s clear to the viewer that this “casual” pose is really just a moment in a fall. It’s not a 100-story swan dive. It’s just the luck of the camera shutter.

We don’t know who the Falling Man is. Several families believe he’s a relative, but the photo is taken from too far away to zoom in enough to get a definitive look at his face. He is all of ours, and he is none of ours. Another story.

Cal Fussman has his own special story from 9/11, one that took 10 years to tell. He wanted to learn about wine, and Esquire gave him the go-ahead to take some classes. He got so into it that he spent a night as the sommelier at Windows on the World, the restaurant on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center, not long before 9/11. With the story partly written, everything changed, and his story was finally published in the September 2011 issue of the magazine.

A story interrupted, a story created.


We learned, in the days and weeks after 9/11, what Americans are made of, what we stand for. We wrote and rewrote our stories, and our myths. But we’ve learned in the ensuing years, as well, what Americans will put up with. Tell your story, tell our story, but stay vigilant.

CTRL+Z: Biden and Trump in the perspective of bad code

CTRL+Z: Biden and Trump in the perspective of bad code

When you’re iterating software and something goes amiss, you have two options: write a patch or roll it back.

If you patch the code, it’s like putting a bandage on a wound. You take something that didn’t do what you intended it to do, and you put something new you hadn’t intended to create on top of it to attempt to nullify it. It might have not have immediate unintended consequences, but three or four iterations down the road, it’s another piece of code that could get in the way.

It’s a piano top, if you will.

But unlike a wound, you have the option to just simply delete the iteration. Roll it back to what came before it, and try writing something new again.

Before the 2020 U.S. presidential election, I noted the parts of my life that were verifiably less safe under President Donald Trump’s watch than they were before. Those will take a long time to correct, if they ever do in my lifetime. I’m no particular fan of Joe Biden — who’s been running for president since 1988 — but this election seemed to be more a referendum on Trump than on Biden.

Biden isn’t a new iteration to improve on Trump, he’s a roll-back. An undo. A CTRL+Z on the keyboard of the American presidency.

People wanted a new direction, and Trump certainly offered something new. If you remember back to 2016, the Democratic Party establishment wanted Hillary Clinton in so badly that they worked to stop Bernie Sanders from winning the nomination, and there were a lot of people who were in the give-me-Bernie-or-give-me-Trump crowd, so give me Trump it was for them.

When you try something new and you don’t like it, you can either put something else new on top of it and see if you get something else you like, or you can pull back to the last thing that was minimally acceptable, even if it’s not exactly desirable.

If you don’t like your pulled pork with whipped cream, you can either take the whipped cream off it, or you can toss some clam sauce on it and hope it gets better.

In this case, we took the whipped cream off. Biden isn’t something new and improved on Trump. He’s the minimally acceptable previous step.

With the exception of the four years during Trump’s presidency, Biden’s been part of the federal government since 1973. He’s been a part of the system that led us to want something different for almost 50 years.

So what’s next? Sometimes your game needs a sequel instead of an iteration, a full overhaul that keeps the storyline moving forward but is different enough to make you want to play it instead of its predecessor.

A gratitude for today, and this moment

A gratitude for today, and this moment

There’s a catch-all prayer in Judaism for gratitude. I’ll use my own transliteration here (that is, I’m going to write the Hebrew words using English letters in a rough pronunciation), but the prayer is called the shehechiyanu. The full prayer roughly translates to, “Blessed are you, Lord our God, who has granted us life, sustained us and enabled us to reach this day.” It goes like this:

Baruch atah adonai, eloheinu melech ha’olam, shehechiyanu v’kiyamanu v’higiyanu lazman hazeh (hear it here).

It’s said a lot. The beginning of every holiday. When friends gather for the first time. When family gathers for the first time in a while. The first time you perform a commandment in the new year (such as giving to charity or going to synagogue). The first time eating a particular food in the new year.

It’s an eleven-word gratitude practice you can utilize any time you need one. Twenty words if you want to use the English translation I gave.

In case you want to go deeper:

• My Jewish Learning points out the shehechiyanu is a reminder to stay present.

• The Trust Center for Early Education at Temple Ohabei Shalom points out that the shehechiyanu is a good marker for observing otherwise overlooked events in our children’s lives; birthdays, sure, but also physical growth, science projects and recitals.

• Two rabbis at a Texas synagogue give a sermon on shehechiyanu, including the importance of being alive in regard to prayer.

• Rabbi Yirmiyohu Kaganoff takes a deep dive on when the oral tradition tells us to recite shehechiyanu — and when not to. Note: Bracha means “prayer” (some translate it as “blessing,” but the context is “a blessing over a meal,” not “the post-op nurse was a blessing”).

• Here’s more deep discussion from Rabbi Avi Zakutinsky.

Incidentally, the way rabbis Kaganoff and Zakutinsky discuss the question of when to say shehechiyanu — with reference to various texts, many of them conflicting — is how Jews discuss matters of faith throughout history. It can be very interesting. One example is the argument several rabbis have in regards to when you can say evening prayers. Some say they should be said after sundown but before midnight. Others say evening prayers can be said after midnight but not after first light. Still others argue that the prayers may be said at any time before someone goes to bed, even if it is before sundown or after first light.



That brief, fairly-well supported (I thought) piece I wrote last week on forming a more perfect union?

Facebook didn’t want it. In fact, Facebook seems to think my blog is simply not OK for their platform. And Instagram (owned by Facebook) seems to not want me at all.

This seems like a win. I mean, yeah, Facebook is a good place to share, since everybody’s there, but I’d really checked out of Facebook for the past six months, and now, other than a couple of groups I’m involved in, I suppose there’s not really a reason to go back.

And I was already finding Instagram sucking up too much time so I’d deleted it from my phone (which made it really hard to post), so I guess that’s no longer a concern.

While I do have something planned in this space next week, you may see a bit of a dropoff. You may not, but I have a couple of other writing projects I’m excited about. Hopefully they’ll see the light of day, but the risk of moving off my own publishing platform is that maybe they won’t. Onward.

In order to form a more perfect union

In order to form a more perfect union

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

I barely remember writing about our divided nation in the wee hours following the election last week, so we’re going to go there. And we’re not going to touch on (or link to) the Barack Obama speech that has been dubbed “A More Perfect Union.”

It comes, of course, from the preamble to the United States Constitution. It describes the very reason for writing the document that sets up the basis for our laws, and allows for amendments: in order to form a more perfect union. That’s one of the reasons America’s founders decided to establish the Constitution — importantly, it’s the first reason listed.

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union … do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

It’s why the words we use matter: when we’re gone, we have communicated the words, but not the intent.

A union, by definition, is what you get when you combine two or more things. Unity, on the other hand, is a feeling of harmony or oneness.

We all need a regressive eduction in this topic, I think. Thankfully, the National Endowment for the Humanities offers up a pretty intense curriculum for elementary school students to practice actually forming a more perfect union.

If the genius written into the Constitution is the ability to amend it, understanding that we just can’t predict what the world will be like in the future and we don’t know what we don’t know or what we might have missed (hence the “Bill of Rights” — actually the first 10 amendments, added and ratified because the founders realized they forgot a few things), the genius of its initial creation is the compromise of all the delegates to get it done.

In a two-party system, there’s no requirement to build consensus. Whoever wins gets to make the decisions. It’s why George Washington warned us against political parties. Yes, it’s a faster process when people don’t peacock (if you watched any of the Amy Coney Barrett hearings you know what I mean: 32 hours of speeches and the vote came out exactly as predicted), but maybe when we’re writing the rules and regulations that govern over 350 million people we should spend a lot of time on ironing out the details and not so much time preaching to our respective choirs.

Let’s do better.