Monday, May 16th, 2022

The gun discussion is back in the limelight amid a weekend of tragic circumstances. Shootings in Milwaukee, WI following the Bucks' playoff game left 21 injured. A self-proclaimed white supremacist shot and killed 10 at a supermarket in Buffalo, NY. 1 dead and 4 injured after a shooting in a church in Laguna Woods, CA. Not to mention the 30 people shot collectively in Chicago, IL - 5 of whom passed away.


Politicians looking to position themselves favorably and manipulate the emotions of voters have thrusted themselves back into the gun rights debate. Every time we have a tragedy like what occurred in Buffalo over the weekend, our leaders run to their team's respective "sides" and start pointing their fingers. Our inability to react to these situations in a rational, productive way is the true tragedy.


The political left will make every argument possible to justify their desire to have stricter gun laws, re-implement the assault weapons ban. Meanwhile the right will make every argument possible to explain why the left is wrong. BOTH seem eager to provide more resources to the Dept. of Homeland Security potentially ushering in The Patriot Act 2.0 with much larger surveillance capabilities. But NEITHER even try to attempt to understand any root issues or cultural poisons that often lead to mass shootings. Its either the gun's fault or not the gun's fault. That shallow debate is irresponsible and proof that our elected officials aren't fit for the offices they hold.


If we aren't willing to dissect the why behind these instances with nuance and compassion, we have already failed.


White Supremacy?

This should go without saying, but any act in the name of white supremacy is abhorrent. I am very interested in learning the background of the Buffalo shooter and why, as an 18yr old, he felt the need to target Black-Americans. What about his upbringing and environment bred that within him? I've seen some information showing he trafficked in groups on 4-Chan and Reddit (online message boards), but what about outside the computer? What were his parents doing and how did his home life create this?


Our nation is built on people's rights to believe in whatever they wish to believe. So long as actions taken don't infringe on another's right, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, Anti-Semites, are allowed to organize and even actively spread their message and recruit. This kid went further than a belief and took innocent people's lives. However angry we are about this, we cannot allow it to impede the aforementioned's right to assembly. An attack on the freedom of one is an attack on the freedom of all. I recognize that's a hard pill to swallow but we must remain principled and consistent - no matter how much I'd like to go kick down the door of a neo-Nazi meeting.


White supremacy is not a leading threat to our nation, and anyone proclaiming such is being irresponsible. However law enforcement must stay plugged in and stay vigilant, and we have to discuss what tools they should be allowed to use and if they have the right to monitor those who traffic on hateful online message boards. Crazies are abundant. It is curious that an 18 year old became so radicalized and even created a manifesto with his intentions. Unfortunately, racism and evil will persist no matter what course of action is taken. All we can do is swiftly and collaboratively fight it with true equality and compassion for each other.


The 2nd Amendment Revisited

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

We must continue the conversation, alongside data, to understand if our right as Americans to keep and bear arms has made us more unsafe and has taken more lives OR if it is more so our lack of discipline and responsibility in using said right. Any legislation aimed at banning certain weapons, like the "assault weapons" ban, is by definition unconstitutional - but that doesn't mean the regulation of arms isn't beneficial.


The right must do a better job and eloquently arguing their point rather than knee-jerkingly trashing the left as "anti-gun" or "anti-freedom" while the left must also do a better job at not labeling the right as evil or uninterested in saving lives.


There are areas of agreement. For instance, machine guns (fully automatic) have been banned since the 1930s in an effort to combat mob rule and their firepower over police departments. Courts have upheld this legislation and we as a society, including political players like the National Rifle Association (NRA) agree. There are lines in the sand that most rational voters agree on, and no rational pro 2nd Amendment Republican would ever argue to bring the right to own them back.


Of course the libertarian view is that the 2nd Amendment clearly holds no specification on "arms", so nukes are fair game. Libertarians often cite the market being the true regulator where weapons such as machine guns, tanks, grenades, etc. would be so unaffordable that only the military could ever have them. I think this is an unproductive and pointless argument, but its fun to hear it posed.


The 2nd Amendment is an awesome responsibility, and not one to be taken lightly. Education and awareness of weapons is the most important piece missing from our public discourse and could prevent so many deaths, yet we are so caught up in debating prohibition. If there is anything I know for sure, its that prohibition of anything in this country never goes well. The cure to alcohol related domestic violence wasn't to ban alcohol, it was to promulgate a culture in which responsible drinking was encouraged and expected.


Our founders could have never predicted the weaponry available today, and it makes sense to discuss how to apply the 2nd amendment correctly. That discussion has to be in good faith with the understanding that large sweeping bans aren't effective nor do they even remotely touch on the root issues. Most gun related homicides occur with a handgun that holds no more than 10 rounds per clip. In fact handguns accounted for over 8,000 murders in 2020. Banning "assault weapons" doesn't solve the daily death toll occurring on the streets of Chicago. Additionally, knife/cutting utensil related homicides accounted for more than 1,700 deaths in 2020. Should we ban sharp objects?


Let us also not forget that many equivocate "assault weapon" with "automatic rifle". Assault weapon is just a blanket term that the media loosely applies to weapons that look to be of the military. The AR-15 is often mislabeled as an "assault rifle" when in reality the AR stands for "ArmaLite Rifle". ArmaLite was a small arms engineering company that eventually sold its patent to Colt. The general misconceptions surrounding gun terms like "semi-automatic", "automatic", "bump stock", etc. is one of the major issues in this conversation.


Gun rights activist Colion Noir often wows voters on both sides of the aisle with his eloquent explanations and rational takes on gun issues. You don't have to agree with every point he makes for listening to his perspective to be meaningful an productive. Here's a clip from his appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience in April 2021.


Guns Don't Kill People... And People Need Help

It seems more and more clear to me that this isn't an issue of whatever object is being used, its the fact that evil and mentally ill people exist. Take away the gun and these people will find another way to harm others if they so wish. We must figure out ways to address these problems ahead of the tragedies occurring. A more robust understanding of mental health, and fostering a culture that doesn't promote violent action or sensationalize shootings.


Today we are so fixated on our personal light boxes in our pockets that our serotonin levels are directly in sync with how many likes or shares we get on social media. I have no doubt that many of these killers are lonely and desperate for attention. Maybe they feel ignored or forgotten and they believe the only way to build their legacy is to do something drastic. And of course we blast their face all over the place and make them infamous.


Alongside this, our nation's rhetoric surrounding issues like abortion, gun rights, racial equality, gender, etc. has been increasingly existential. Leaders on both political sides label the other as evil incarnate and sound alarms that embolden people to act irrationally. Look at January 6th 2021. Add this fervor onto our nosediving economy and people living pay check to pay check? The tinder box just got a hell of a lot hotter. People are afraid, backed into a corner, swamped with depression, and will do anything to survive. An we wonder why crime is at an all time high.


A gun, just like a knife or a hammer, is a tool. That tool's power must be understood and respected. Discipline is the most important part of gun ownership, especially when children are around. And even if guns aren't for you, you and yours should take the time to learn and understand gun safety. If we continue to neglect this responsibility, there will be more shootings and death - regardless of any type of weapons ban or magazine capacity limit. More government power just is not the answer here.


We must approach this issue differently if we want to actually effect any change. Legislating culture is nearly impossible, and once we understand that we might be able to have productive conversations about the root issues. Focusing on building more community and stronger character is of the utmost importance - something the suits in Washington D.C. are incapable of doing.


People are in a bad spot nowadays and I can't even imagine the social stress of young adults entering a world where everything is hyper political and partisan. All of us are under the social media microscope. While it may be self inflicted, we are at all time highs for anxiety and depression. All of these things add up and to not account for their contributions to our chaotic culture and violent atmosphere is sorely irresponsible. We will never be able to end all evil. Shootings are going to happen. But rather than ban and over regulate, we can focus on education and awareness along with investing in a more robust mental health apparatus. If we continue to politicize events like this, we are doomed to more bloodshed.



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Part 1 of our 2-part podcast on "The Future of Abortion Rights". is available now! Listen here: https://www.thecoganconvo.com/podcast/episode/24938c57/abortion-rights-pt-1 and watch for Part 2 on May 23rd.

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Friday, May 13th, 2022

No one contests that the actions by Vladimir Putin and his Russian force are abhorrent, but to what degree does the rest of the world bear responsibility in assisting the Ukrainian people's defense? The United States just exited a messy 20 year war costing nearly $3 trillion in Afghanistan, and faces its own domestic economic turmoil. Do we have an obligation to assist and to what end?


On February 24th, 2022, Putin officially invaded the Ukrainian border and brought forth new global tension with fears of World War III kicking off to prevent further Russian aggression. But something miraculous happened. Ukraine fought back, and have since maintained their capital city of Kyiv. Russia's forces have looked inexperienced, under supported, and completely in-effective - an embarrassing revelation for a world leader many feared since his rise to power in 1999.


Common, everyday folk, including farmers and shop owners have taken to the streets with their own weapons to fight back. Ukrainians have no interest in bowing to the Russian regime. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has even been out and about wearing body armor, standing shoulder to shoulder with his own people. Ukraine's resolve has been inspirational and a testament to humanity's dedication to sovereignty.


As the war has raged on, President Zelenskyy - and others in the international community - have consistently called on NATO, the UN, and specifically The United States, to assist in every way possible. Thus far, we have only provided funds and equipment but many fear there will be a time where US troops are called upon. Until that time, how much money are taxpayers comfortable with sending to assist in Ukraine's defense?


On May 11th, The US House of Representatives passed a $40billion Ukrainian aid package that has brought forth more debate of what The United States' obligation is, especially amid our economic turmoil since the pandemic. Inflation is nearing 10% and the Federal Reserve has increased interest rates by 0.5%. The housing bubble has been looming, showing echoes of the 2008 crisis, and gas is up to nearly $5.00 a gallon on average.


How Much Should the United States Help?

With our own house seemingly on fire, including being the most divided politically than ever, should we be so focused on the events in Ukraine? Strategically, I'd say yes. We have to keep our finger on the pulse of all international affairs to remain prepared and informed should anything truly threaten our national security. But Ukraine's situation as it stands today? Should we be expending so much resource? I tend to lean towards no. But that doesn't mean we do nothing.


It is important to note that the US isn't the only nation providing aid to the Ukrainian effort. According to Al Jazeera, there are 17 other nations providing both money and equipment. But the US has by far sent the most in dollar amount much to the dismay of those who believe we need to start chipping away more significantly at our national debt rather than getting involved in another country's conflict.


In my opinion, there is most definitely a number between $0 and $40billion that the United States can commit to, but maybe this is a situation where we either need to commit fully and stand up to Russia's aggression OR we allow Ukraine to handle itself. Many Americans have become so much more isolationist since the failings of the Global War on Terror (GWOT), but when legitimate national security concerns are in play we can't remain neutral. The question is how much does Russia's invasion of Ukraine really affect us and our allies? Or how honest are our government officials being with us?


Is there a threshold in which we get involved? That information, to the extent that it securely can be, needs to be made transparent with clear plans and goals for the American taxpayers to see. Too often, defense contractors stand to make insane amounts of money off of US involvement. Congress lines its pockets with backroom lobbying deals and sells fear of Russia and the potential consequences of Ukraine falling to its constituents. Anything to justify billions in defense spending. We know these Gulf of Tonkin style things happen to justify involvement and pump up the money making machine. We just witnessed 20 years of it.


While our support of Ukraine can exist, must it be $40 billion dollars worth?


Yesterday, May 12th, Senator Rand Paul (KY) derailed a plan to fast-track the $40 billion aid package through the Senate. He has proposed an amendment to assign an inspector general to oversee how the billions were to be spent. Paul has long been an advocate for ending America's role as a policeman for the world and desperately argues for our government and its political players to have power reigned back in. While he delayed the bill to next week and his amendment will be voted on, there is no doubt this package goes forward.

"My oath of office is to the U.S. Constitution, not to any foreign nation. And no matter how sympathetic the cause, my oath of office is to the national security of the United States,"

"Passing this bill brings the total we’ve sent to Ukraine to nearly $54 billion over the course of two months," he continued. "It’s threatening our own national security, and it’s frankly a slap in the face to millions of taxpayers who are struggling to buy gas, groceries, and find baby formula."

A Moral Question

What Ukrainian citizens are dealing with right now is truly horrendous. Countless videos that have surfaced online of alleged war crimes being committed by Russian troops as well as chemical weapon threats from Putin himself show the lack of care for humanity Russia has. If we had a crystal ball and knew that Russia wouldn't stop at Ukraine, perhaps there is an argument to be made for us to join the rest of the world in opposing this threat in a more impactful way. If Poland gets attacked, or another NATO country, I see no reason we don't get involved.


Many believe, including Ukrainians, that the United States with all its power and resources has the moral obligation to help when those are in need. Perhaps we do have that obligation to a degree, but with a crumbling infrastructure and wounded economy are we really in a position to help without further putting ourselves in a hole?


At what point do we have to accept that Ukraine's war with Russia isn't our issue to fight? And if there are massive national security concerns with the outcome of said war and Russia's natural resource control, that needs to be better communicated with the public. Especially with public trust of our institutions at an all time low.


But still, we have to define our line in the sand. What constitutes such an egregious situation in which we have to get involved? If that parameter is just civilians suffering, why haven't we dealt with North Korea, China, or Russia prior to this? Not to mention the Taliban's brutal control of Afghanistan after our exit. Evil in the world will always exist and we can't be the default savior.


If our own house was in better order and our national debt wasn't through the roof, would we then feel more comfortable committing this much aid? I personally would, but I still would be apprehensive in sending troops until it became absolutely necessary.


Ukraine's defense seems to be holding out, but Russia definitely has the ability to swing harder punches than it has been, God forbid they use any of those measures. Putin's unpopularity within his own country may prove to be his downfall, but until then we have to decide how embroiled we want to be in this war. Keeping tabs on intelligence reports and having plans in place is a must, but spending this much money while our own nation's population struggles to pay rent proves our priorities are out of whack.


But our misplaced priorities sadly aren't anything new...


Read more at www.thecoganconvo.com

Listen to our podcast "The Cogan Conversation" on all podcast platforms!


Part 1 of our 2-part podcast on "The Future of Abortion Rights". is available now! Listen here: https://www.thecoganconvo.com/podcast/episode/24938c57/abortion-rights-pt-1

and watch for Part 2 on May 23rd.



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Monday, May 9th, 2022

With so many still unwilling to accept that Donald Trump lost the 2020 election, documentaries like 2000 Mules by Dinesh D’Souza fuels more division and anger, and the rampant censorship of it creates more conspiracy.


To be very clear, given the evidence provided, I have no reason to believe there was enough widespread, coordinated voter fraud to usurp then incumbent President Donald Trump. In fact Trump's own officials, whom he appointed, claim that this was the most secure election in modern history and that none of the claims alleged by the campaign or Mike Lindell of MyPillow are even remotely based in any sense of reality. In addition, Trump's team lost nearly 70 lawsuits at state and federal levels due to the lack of any evidence supporting their assertion that Trump's win was stolen by the Democrats.


But believing all this means you'd have believe and trust our institutions. Right? CNN and MSNBC parroted the "most secure election" line repeatedly. If people are so far down the rabbit hole in claiming that the election was truly stolen, why would a government agency or news organization telling them otherwise convince them? That agency could benefit from getting rid of Trump. Or it could be a part of the "deep state". And we already know how tarnished our citizen's relationship with mainstream media is.


I honestly can't blame anyone who has lost trust in our government or its agencies. We've been repeatedly lied to about less consequential topics, so why wouldn't they try to sweep widespread election fraud under the rug? Our leaders, for decades, have failed to be transparent and honest with us.


Big Tech Censorship (Pre-Elon Musk)

Our biggest mistake has been complacency with big tech censoring differing opinions. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. knee-jerkingly block and ban any claims that are outside the mainstream consensus. Their workforce in California seem to live in a liberal bubble, making it too easy for conservatives to point the finger to their bias in controlling content. D'Souza's documentary, 2000 Mules, has itself been blocked on nearly every platform. All this censorship does is embolden the idea that the government, and the Democratic party, have something to hide.


An even more nefarious tactic is called "shadow-banning" in which social media platforms can "throttle" or slow down organic traffic to your post. For example, Twitter can use an algorithm to flag posts that contain the words "vaccine", "COVID", "Ivermectin", and prevent others from seeing that post without you ever knowing. In fact, this blog post will likely get flagged on social media with a "fact check" link and will have far less reach than it otherwise would. Curious to see how Elon deals with this situation at Twitter.


Sunshine is the most effective disinfectant. I honestly don't care what D'Souza claims in his doc, so long as it doesn't call for any violence (which to my knowledge, it does not). Let it be seen and let truth fight it out and win. Rather than bury any claims of election fraud, shouldn't we at least give people with claims of "evidence" a chance to speak? If they are wrong, so be it?


The seeking of truth and being skeptical should not be partisan issues. Our failure to engage in this complex discourse is one of the most dangerous issues we face, and if we don't start course correcting now? I fear it will be the ultimate demise of our republic.


Democracy is built on choice, and if those choices are illusions or eroded to the point in which trust can no longer exist - how can Democracy stand? If there is any doubt in the results of 2020's election, we should be doing everything we can to bring those accusers to the table and discuss how to move forward. Claims should be adequately investigated, and that process should be wholly transparent.


What is 2000 Mules Claiming?

In 2000 Mules (May 7th, 2022), Dinesh D'Souza alongside Catherine Engelbrecht of True the Vote, claim that at least 2,000 “mules” were paid to illegally collect ballots and deliver them to drop boxes in key swing states ahead of the 2020 presidential election. D'Souza and Engelbrecht use analysis of cell phone geo-location data and ballot drop box surveillance footage to "prove" fraud. Triangulating anonymous users' positions during the election, True the vote labels someone a "mule" if they go near a ballot drop off location more than 10 times AND go to a non-profit more than 5 times. However, experts assert this analysis is flawed due to the imprecision of geo-location.

Statement from Former President Donald Trump as showcased on D'Souza's documentary website.

https://2000mules.com/


It is impossible to know for certain that those who are hitting those arbitrary thresholds are physically going to a drop off location, or simply just driving by it. Cellphone location data, even at its most advanced, can only reliably track a smartphone within a few meters.


The states in question are Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. D'Souza and True the Vote claim to have evidence of payment to these suspected mules yet fail to produce any evidence of such payment.


The film further claims that surveillance footage of certain ballot boxes proves mules were stuffing in favor of the Democrats. People wearing gloves and masks in the dead of winter, during a pandemic, are presented as shifty characters trying to hide their identity and mask their fingerprints. They also point to a number of people on camera dropping off more than one ballot - which is completely normal if one member of the family is dropping of the rest of the family's ballots. There isn't anything inherently illegal caught on camera.


It seems that D'Souza relies on inflammatory assumptions rather than actual cold hard evidence. But does that mean there is nothing here to investigate? I don't know, but I would rather this film not be censored and allow our public discourse to discuss and vet. Lets investigate. Lets have the FBI, DHS, CIA, DOJ, and maybe some third-parties investigate these claims and try to heal this divide.


D'Souza Censored

As someone who is no stranger to the world of censorship, Dinesh D'Souza hasn't let that stop him from speaking from his soap box. Whether he's right, wrong, or just completely full of shit, platforms have routinely blocked his content and throttled access to his conservative films. This has grown a massive base of sympathy for D'Souza and the election fraud cause.


Even conservative personalities like Tucker Carlson have apparently skirted the issue, or are even told to not utter the name of the documentary. Newsmax, often very friendly to the far right, even has blocked coverage of this movie.


YouTube and Facebook have refused to publish it, leaving conservative friendly Rumble and Locals to pick up the slack. Despite this censorship, the documentary allegedly raked in nearly $1million within 12 hours of its release.


What is the proper threshold for preventing media from circulating? Obviously things like child pornography, videos that incite/call for violence, or the doxing of individuals should be prevented - but claims of election fraud or the Wuhan Lab leak theory? Or what about a discussion on vaccine efficacy? What of the flat earth movement?


D'Souza is championed on the right as someone who routinely speaks "truth to power" but sometimes ineloquently finds himself trafficking in the same talking points as any partisan hack. Due to his extreme loyalty discussing what are considered to be controversial issues, he is unfortunately an easy target for platforms who do not want to circulate his information or claims.


But that doesn't make the censorship of D'Souza right.


Remain Skeptical, On All Sides.

I opened Facebook yesterday to mindlessly scroll as I wound down my weekend and found numerous posts claiming they had finally had a chance to see this new documentary, and they voiced their support for D'Souza's claims almost blindly. Comments like "I watched it! The Presidential election was PROVABLY stolen!"


I hate to tell you, but D'Souza has money to make and will grift at any chance he gets. Much like any major figure nowadays, he posts provocative claims for clout just to get clicks and likes. And now, he releases a "documentary" on the 2020 election and he's the ultimate truth teller? Perhaps he's an incredibly good hearted man who just wants to find the truth. Or perhaps he's just another hustling capitalist who is selling snake oil to idiots on the internet.


Regardless of the merit of his claims or findings, remain skeptical. Cross examine the data and double/triple check multiple sources.


Its incredibly disheartening to see loved ones, friends, fellow Americans, get sucked into drinking the Kool-Aid of any political issue or persona. We must remain skeptical of what we are consuming and quit accepting it at face value. Just because it confirms your own bias or suspicions doesn't make it valid.


For every article or documentary out there claiming that Trump won, there are an equal number refuting the claims. Which one is correct? The one you agree with? Is there perhaps truth in the middle somewhere? Or perhaps we've shot ourselves in the foot by repeatedly voting in power hungry narcissists who rely on division to beget authority.


As I stated at the beginning, I have seen no evidence of widespread voter fraud to the degree to what is being claimed. I fully welcome due diligent investigation and I am wholeheartedly against the censorship of accusations or opinions. If claims made by D'Souza hold any merit, they should be discussed and he should be held to account. We cannot block opposing thought or different perspectives just because we don't agree with them. Give everyone a seat at the table and allow the truth to win fairly.


Sunlight is the most effective disinfectant.


Read more at www.thecoganconvo.com

Listen to our podcast "The Cogan Conversation" on all podcast platforms!


Stay tuned for our upcoming 2-part podcast on "The Future of Abortion Rights". Part 1 will be available on May 9th and Part 2 on May 23rd.



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