Archive for December 2016

Who Said it Best Today: Jay Rosen

I have tried to make the point that the press has been abysmal at covering Donald Trump, the issue, or America and the world in general.  It has become solely political news informed by the “get”, the insider interview.  This type of journalism has failed us before in the runup to the Iraq War when the “insider” interview was propaganda aimed at justifying the war, not finding facts.  Apparently the news media learned nothing from this disaster and in partisan times turned to he said/she said interviews where they really weren’t responsible for the facts anymore, just mediating the argument.  So loudest voice became what was true.

Now we have Donald Trump whose grip on the truth is limited at best either as a tactic or as a result of ignorance.  We have his spokesperson, Kellyanne Conway who answers a question with a stream of words that mean little and buried within are lies and misdirection, confusing the total issue, and saying nothing.  The really sad part is that our media seems to admire her for her ability to lie with a straight face in such a nice way, when they should be picking her apart.  But the point here is that we are now entering a new era where propaganda and confusion are exactly what we are going to get from the White House and the question is how do we handle it?

Well, President Obama has not made this simple as James Risen wrote this morning in the NYT:

Over the past eight years, the administration has prosecuted nine cases involving whistle-blowers and leakers, compared with only three by all previous administrations combined. It has repeatedly used the Espionage Act, a relic of World War I-era red-baiting, not to prosecute spies but to go after government officials who talked to journalists.

Under Mr. Obama, the Justice Department and the F.B.I. have spied on reporters by monitoring their phone records, labeled one journalist an unindicted co-conspirator in a criminal case for simply doing reporting and issued subpoenas to other reporters to try to force them to reveal their sources and testify in criminal cases.

So how to cover President Trump comes from a blog written by Jay Rosen, Pressthink, a project of the Arthur L. Cater Journalism Institute at New York University.  Professor Rosen is a professor of journalism and what follows are his words about exact what we are facing from his blog, Winter is coming:  Prospects for the American Press under Trump:

For a free press as a check on power this is the darkest time in American history since World War I, when there was massive censorship and suppression of dissent. I say this because so many things are happening at once to disarm and disable serious journalism, or to push it out of the frame. Most of these are well known, but it helps to put them all together. Here is my list:

1. An economic crisis in (most) news companies, leaving the occupation of journalism in a weakened state, especially at the state and local level, where newsrooms have been decimated by the declineof the newspaper business. The digital money is going to Google and Facebook, but they do not have newsrooms.

2. A low-trust environment for most institutions and their leaders, the same ones who are regularly featured in the news.

3. A broken and outdated model in political journalism, which tries to connect to the public through “inside” or access reporting about a class whose legitimacy is itself eroding. And since almost everyone got the result wrong in 2016, responsibility for this massive error is evenly distributed across the press, which means that no one is responsible for fixing what is broken.

4. An organized movement on the political right to discredit mainstream journalism, which stretches from Steve Bannon in the White House to Trump’s army of online trolls, with Breitbart, Drudge Report, talk radio and Fox opinion hosts mediating between the two, while the “alt reality” fringe feels newly emboldened. Its latest tactic is to shout down as “fake news” any work of reporting that conflicts with its worldview, leaving the term useless as a fraud alert. “Over the years, we’ve effectively brainwashed the core of our audience to distrust anything that they disagree with,” said John Ziegler, a conservative radio host, to a New York Times reporter. “Because the gatekeepers have lost all credibility in the minds of consumers, I don’t see how you reverse it.” In fact, no one knows how to fix this.

5. The rapid escalation of this drive-to-discredit as Trump gained traction with the electorate. Since 1970 it has grown from questioning the motives of people covering a Republican president in the speeches of Spiro Agnew, to countering liberal spin with the personalities at Fox News, to mistrusting all of the mainstream (or “drive-by”) media with Rush Limbaugh, and now to a place beyond that. Sean Hannity — who is probably closer to Trump than any other media figure — recently said on air: “Until members of the media come clean about colluding with the Clinton campaign and admit that they knowingly broke every ethical standard they are supposed to uphold, they should not have the privilege, they should not have the responsibility of covering the president on behalf of you, the American people.” In other words, the mainstream press should not be allowed to cover Trump. A few years ago that was a bridge too far. Now it’s a plausible test of poisoned waters.

6. After the debacle of 2016, trust in the news media as an institution feels lower than ever in living memory, while popular anger reaches an all-time high. The resentment is coming from the left, the right and what remains of the center. Pew Research Center: “Only about two-in-ten Americans (22%) trust the information they get from local news organizations a lot, whether online or offline, and 18% say the same of national organizations.” Gallup in September of this year: “Republicans who say they have trust in the media has plummeted to 14% from 32% a year ago. This is easily the lowest confidence among Republicans in 20 years.”

7. A homogeneity and coastal concentration in American newsrooms that can be described in many ways — lack of diversity is the most common, with disagreements on what kind of diversity is most desired— leaving the press ill-prepared to take creative action across a cultural divide. The situation was summed up in the most quotable line written by a journalist about Trump’s candidacy: “The press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.” (Salena Zito in The Atlantic.)

8. A figure in power who got there in part by whipping up hatred against the press, and who shows no signs of ending that abusive practice… coupled with a disturbing pattern in which Trump broadcasts through his Twitter feed outrageously false statements, the press reacts by trying to “check” them, and the resulting furor works to his advantage by casting journalists in the role of petty but hateful antagonist, with Trump as the man who takes the heat and “tells it like it is.”

9. The emergence of an authoritarian political style in which trashing the norms of American democracy (as when he cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election, or suggested prosecution of his opponent) works to Trump’s advantage with a huge portion of his supporters, while failing to alarm the rest. This is especially troublesome because norms of democracy are what give the press its place in public life and representative government; if these can be broken without penalty that means the press can be shoved aside and not much will happen.

10. The increasingly dim prospect that there will be a fact-based debate to which journalists can usefully contribute when the leader of the free world feels free to broadcast transparently false or ignorant claims… coupled with the full flowering of the “we make our own reality” attitude (circa 2004) into a kind of performance art that simultaneously kicks up hatred of anyone trying to be evidence-based and liberates the speech of powerful actors from even the most minimal factual constraints.

11. An advanced stage of culture war, political polarization and asymmetrical mistrust of the press in which, instead of leading to greater public awareness and a gradual movement toward reform, sensational revelations, hard-hitting investigations and exposés of corruption are consumed as fuel in an accelerating political divide. In other words, Watergate-style journalism increasingly enflames and polarizes, rather than informing and alerting the public. The more damning and irrefutable the findings are, the more likely is this furious reaction, especially when Trump launches attacks on the journalists and news organizations doing the digging.

12. The success of “verification in reverse,” a method on the march, in which a knowing political actor takes facts that have been nailed down, and introduces doubt about them, which then releases energy (controversy, resistance, ready-to-hate news coverage) which in turn helps power a movement among those who wanted the established facts repealed, as it were. This is how Trump launched his political career. He became a birther. Wherever it succeeds, verification-in-reverse is a triumph over the craft of journalism, which has to be pro-verification or it may as well exit the stage.

13. Amusing ourselves to death, as Neil Postman’s 1985 book put it, in which the logic of entertainment overtakes adjacent but nominally distinct spheres that are supposed to be governed by their own logic, as when newsworthiness and the requirements of political debate are subordinated to entertainment values by media companies obeying commercial imperatives, while claiming a public service mantle. For journalists, this is the import of Jeff Zucker’s reign at CNN, and one of the lessons of Trump’s career as a “reality TV” star.

14. A shift in the power-to-inform toward a single platform and attention-economy colossus: Facebook, a creature of the tech industry that feels no native commitment to journalism… that wants to avoid responsibility for editing because editing does not scale… that easily surfaces demand for false stories about real events… and that is slowly taking charge of the day-to-day relationship with users of the news system, especially on mobile devices, which is where the growth is.

15. A proven model — proven, that is, by billionaire Peter Thiel — for bankrupting news companies and driving them out of business by using the court system and jury trials, which can leverage public disgust for The Media  (see no. 6 above) into jury awards that defendants cannot possibly pay. As yet there is no known counter to this strategy. The fact that it worked once has an intimidating effect.

16. A crisis of representation around covering Trump in which it is not clear that anyone can reliably tell us what his positions are, or explain his reasons for holding them, because he feels free to contradict advisers, spokespeople, surrogates, and previous statements he made. As Esquire’s Charles Pierce put it to me: “Nobody speaks for the prez-elect, not even himself.” I list this because the press is not good at abandoning rituals and routines when they cease to make sense. Every interview with Kellyanne Conway or Reince Priebus is premised on a claim to represent the man in power. This claim may be false. But journalists need people to interview! So they will continue to do it, even though they may be misinforming the public. They may even realize this and be unable to shift course. What I’m trying to point out is that existing methods for “holding power to account” rest on assumptions about how it will behave. A man in power untroubled by contradictions and comfortable in the confusion he creates cannot be held accountable by normal means.

17. Weak leadership and a thin institutional structure in the American press, which is not accustomed to organizing itself to fight back or act assertively in any coordinated way, as with the White House Correspondents Association, currently failing even to get a meetingwith the Trump transition team, but still planning to yuck it up with him at the WHCA dinner in the spring of 2017. In many ways the press resembles a “herd of independent minds,” with no one responsible for the beast as a whole, and no easy way to fix broken practices, or re-direct effort. Collaboration is on the rise in journalism, and that’s a good a thing. But while it’s easy to act against the press, it’s almost impossible for the press as a whole to deliberate and act in reply. And even if it could miraculously discover the will to do so, this would probably give new ammunition to political enemies of the press. Remaining a “herd of independent minds,” politically weak, is thus the safest course. Which is not to say it will work.

So that is what I mean by “winter is coming.” All those things 1-17 are happening at once, and strengthening one another. The combined effect is chilling.

The common elements: Low trust all around, an emboldened and nationalist right wing that treats the press as natural enemy, the bill coming due for decades of coasting on a model in political reporting that worked well for “junkies” but failed to engage the rest of us, the strange and disorientating fact that reality itself seems to have become a weaker force in politics, the appeal of the “strong man” and his propaganda within an atmosphere of radical doubt, the difficulty of applying standard methods of journalism to a figure in power who is not trying to represent reality but to substitute himself for it as a show of strength, the unsuitability of prior routine as professionals in journalism try to confront these confusing conditions, a damaged economic base, weak institutional structure and newsroom mono-culture that hinders any creative response, and a dawning recognition that freedom of the press is a fragile state, not a constitutional certainty.

Are there any bright signs? Yes, a few.

18. When you ask about specific news brands (as against The Media) the trust picture looks better.

19. I quote New York Times columnist Jim Rutenberg: “In the weeks since the election, magazines like The New Yorker, The Atlantic and Vanity Fair; newspapers including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post; and nonprofits like NPR and ProPublica have been reporting big boosts in subscription rates or donations.” The Guardian and Mother Jones are benefitting, too.

20. According to news industry analyst Ken Doctor, the Washington Post will add more than 60 journalists in the coming year. The Post is making money again. And its leadership believes that “investigative and deeper enterprise stories are good for the brand and the business”— not an expense that has to be subsidized by lighter fare, but a means to sustainability in themselves. That’s significant.

21. As the scope of the emergency dawns, it is possible that journalists in the U.S. will be inspired to do a better job and change what needs changing. Talent (and tips) could flood in as a slumbering public for serious news awakens.

22. Facing the same kind of hostility in multiple countries where similarconditions are found, journalists may discover a new level of international cooperation that helps them cope with the threat to their occupation. There’s already a global movement for fact-checking in journalism. Maybe another one will emerge around the realization that fact-checking is not enough.

23. In the U.S., the Constitution remains firmly in place, hard to alter. First Amendment protections are real and among the strongest in the world. There are no signs that prior restraint or overt government censorship are on the horizon— though self-censorship is another matter.

What not to do…

24. Don’t recruit Trump loyalists into the news and opinion space (Jeffrey Lord of CNN is the model) as a gaudy show of balance. This will not save you. Conservative, red state, working class and rural American voices may deserve special recruitment, but if they have integrity these people are just as likely to be critical of Trump. 

25. Don’t settle for accusation-driven over evidence-based reporting, just to avoid drawing flak from Trump’s press-hating supporters or demonstrate how even-handed you are.

26. Don’t make it all about access to the President and his aides, or preserving the routines of White House reporting, as the press corps is currently doing— mostly out of habit. A Trump presidency is likely to be constructed on a propaganda model in which fomenting confusion is not a drag on the Administration’s agenda but a sign that it’s working. Access to such a machinery could wind up enlisting the press in a misinformation campaign.

I’ll leave it to you to read the rest of his recommendations in Part II.  We are now living in an era where communications from the White House, instead of clarifying issues,  is intended to confuse or misinform.  So now is the time for our press to either stand up or fold completely.  We live in scary times.  Happy New Year

A Breaking Bad Marathon

AMC just finished a Breaking Bad Marathon and I got dragged in for season 5 (last one) last night.  Now, I have the whole series on DVD, all 5 seasons, but last night the temptation to see the finalé was just too much.  Watching Walter White sink to his lowest and then face his death with dignity trying to finally set things right was too much to resist. You really have to wonder how a high school chemistry teacher could become a murdering drug kingpin?  And make no mistake, Walter White, the mild mannered chemistry teacher learned to survive in his new career by becoming ruthless enough to survive.  But why did so many of us become fans of Walter White and that show?

Well there was great acting.  Bryan Cranston and the rest of the cast were marvelous.  One thing that it depicted was the complexity and messiness of real life.  Sometimes they just bumbled through things, and at others, they had a plan.  But the show with its dark humor, and its cast of characters representing all elements of the human condition and eccentricities, was a metaphor for our lives.  Walter White was all of us and his character kind of explains where we are today in America.

For those of you unfamiliar with the plot, we find Walter a brilliant, yet unrecognized high school  chemistry teacher in Arizona.  He and his wife can barely make ends meet on a teacher’s salary.  Years before, Walter teamed up to form a company, Grey Matters, which he abruptly left, selling his interest for $5000.  There is no explanation of what really happened, but in Walter’s mind, somehow he got screwed as the company became highly successful.  Walter is suffering the disrespect and emasculation of a man whose students could not care less about what he has to teach, and a wife who wishes for more, and suddenly turns up pregnant.  He has a wonderful son who has mild cerebral palsy. And then Walter gets body slammed with cancer. So in Walter’s mind he has been dealt a raw deal in life.  Sound like Trump voters?

Now whether some of this is Walter’s own fault through his life choices is not really the point.  Walter feels emasculated by life and now he is facing his death and wondering how his family will survive.  The system he has worked in has failed him.  And then a chance to make a little money going on the dark side producing meth presents itself.  In many ways it is how many of us co-opt ourselves with little decisions to be a little bad, that lead down the road of no return.  Macbeth if you will.  Walter is living in a corrupt system that has not used or recognized his brilliant mind, and now he is facing the end of his life, and he decides to become part of that corrupt system to “save his family”.

The rest is the long journey to the point where he has to become one of them to survive.  Each step was logical, but there was no going back, and finally at the end, his cancer returning and he is dying, he must find a way to secure the family he has now totally lost in his trip through darkness.  I actually see a parallel here to many of us who have been co-opted by the system to enjoy its bounty and not ask too many questions about the unfairness of it.  I also see the white American vote for Trump as Walter White striking out at the system that has failed them.  Don’t look at his lies, his racism, his ignorance, or his crassness, he makes me feel good and I don’t care anymore.

But I think the most important scene of the last episode (one of the greatest last episodes I have ever seen filmed) is when Walter comes back to settle the score as he is dying of cancer, and visits his wife Skyler living in a dingy apartment where the Feds have taken everything.  He is there to say goodbye and to tell her things will be okay.  There is such tragedy in that moment at what he has lost, the love and respect of his wife and son.  But then he starts to tell her why he did it, and she interrupts to tell him not to say he did for them.  He has lost them forever.  And in a moment of pure clarity, Walter responds with, “No, I did it for myself.  I liked it.  I was good at it.  It made me feel…alive.”  It was a moment of shining truth about all of our lives.  It was an indictment of the system we live in.  And it was a glimpse into our souls.

Sure, Walter could have made other choices and maybe had a life much more fulfilling.  But he was like all of us, flawed, and life is messy.  And in the end, he was at the bottom of heap, life dealing him blow after blow, unfair for sure, but life is not fair.  And then he takes the system on.  He becomes what he has to become to survive, and it energizes him.  It also cost him everything dear to him.  Walter is all of us.  But in the end, he came to terms with what he had become, and in that one moment of clarity, was truthful to himself.  He felt whole even in his loss. His life would mean something even if only to him.  He had the power to make a difference.

I think Breaking Bad, when you take it all in, all the subplots, the almost childish good-guy/bad-guy view of the world of his DEA brother-in-law Hank, the petty jalousies, the sibling rivalries, it is a composite of the life we live and our basic flaws.  And it was like looking in a mirror of what we have constructed and wondering if it is just a life of boredom and failure as it was for Walter.

Walter White, the character Bryan Cranston created so magnificently, will always haunt me.  It is a train wreck I cannot look away from because in many respects it reflects our own struggles to come to terms with the life we have made for ourselves.  And it asks so many questions, the most fundamental of all, was it worth it?  For Walter, his choice was obscurity and leaving his family penniless, but loving him failure, or making a statement and feeling finally in control that  in the end even with their loathing, he could secure their future.  Well it wasn’t that simple and that is why Breaking Bad is a reflection of life.  It is never that simple.

Loss

Last night I watched The Kennedy Center Honors  that I had recorded earlier.  This is our nation honoring those artists who have contributed significantly to the arts. They honored James Taylor, Al Pacino, Mavis Staples, Martha Argerich, and The Eagles, hosted by Stephen Colbert. President Obama and Mrs. Obama were there to honor these artists.  Stephen Colbert made a joke of this, but he said truly,  “Regardless of your political point of view here tonight or if you are watching at home, I think we can all agree last eight years the White House has given us a leader who is passionate, intelligent, and dignified.” Probably we won’t be able to say that for a while so that is the first loss.

But these artists are about my age and were all a part of my life, or at least their art was and is.  From a broken heart in college (didn’t we all have our hearts broken at least once in college?) to the unrest in the country, the race riots, the murders in the South, Doctor King, the murder of a president, the voting rights act, the Vietnam War, a divorce, the end of a marriage, the loss of a child, finding new love, having another son, finding my place in this world, all of these events were defined by the music of the times and helped me through the good and the bad.  It was a trip through memory lane as each of these artists art was performed and that brought tears.

But here is what I really think about.  The civil rights unrest and gains, the murder of John Kennedy, the Vietnam War and the turbulence in our society, the murder of Martin Luther King, the steady gains in our society and acceptance of different were a part of my life.  I lived through them, they are not bullet points in a history lesson.  I felt each one personally and intimately.  The acting of Al Pacino defined the times and the issues, especially the struggles in our souls.  The music of James Taylor, Mavis Staples, and the Eagles define my own internal struggles as well as the nation’s.  It was a collage of my life, the highs and lows.

And it was a stark reminder that we are about to embark on a political journey where all that turmoil and advancement, hard-earned and hard learned, is forgotten.  Where empathy and deep feelings for your fellow-man and his and our suffering is lost on a crass orange topped village idiot and the rubes who elected him that think our lives are about business.  It occurred to me that this was a reminder of where we have been that made us who we are, and it is being destroyed in a moment.  So for me watching this wonderful event, and the artists who have filled my heart and allowed me to better come to grips with life and our humanity, are being lost to the crassness of the next Twit (Tweet).  I just feel a profound loss at this moment. Maybe it is because my days are numbered too.  2016 really sucked.

Israel, Palestine, Netanyahu, Kerry, Obama, and Trump

The United States under the Obama Administration did not veto a resolution in the United Nations admonishing Israel for their continued development of settlements in the occupied territories. Israel, the beneficiary of giant American largeness in the form of $ and weapons, accused the United States of being behind the initiative.  Trump and company are incensed that the President still acts like the President. Secretary of State Kerry then gives an impassioned response to why we abstained from the vote and the problem with Israel building settlements as the end to the two-state solution. ” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded almost immediately to the speech. ‘What he did was to spend most of his speech blaming Israel for the lack of peace by passionately condemning a policy of enabling Jews to live in their historic homeland and in their eternal capital, Jerusalem,’ he said.”

So what are you to make of all this?  I will try to keep it really simple.  First, both sides have committed atrocities, blaming the other side for inciting them.  Israel likes to cite Hamas’s failure to recognize them as a state to ignore reason.  That fails to ever come to grips with putting a whole people in a gulag.   Hamas launches rockets into Israel or uses terrorism to settle the score.  Both have been accused of war crimes.  So going forward, neither side is exactly standing on the high moral ground.

President Obama, and through his emissary, John Kerry continues to see the only viable solution an independent Palestinian State*. Netanyahu pretends to support this, but actions speak louder than words and as Secretary Kerry laid out today, his moves to advance settlements is defeating any hope of a two state solution.  Trump and Netanyahu are friends and there is reason for the Republicans to support Israel beyond reason.  Many of their religious nut jobs believe that the Jews have to take back the Holy land before the second coming of Christ can occur.  Oh, and once, in their little minds it happens, they will be risen up, leaving the Jews behind as not the chosen people. Isn’t religion great?

Also focus on Netanyahu, who like Trump did not win a majority of the votes in the last election and is a right-wing nut job.  Remember when he came to the United States as a guest of the Republicans to speak against the only sane policy with Iran, the nuke treaty?  If you want to know how crazy this is, consider what Republicans would have said if the Democrats invited a foreign leader to enter domestic politics.  Kind of like when Trump welcome Putin in our election.  Put the shoe on the other foot and they would be running around crying traitor and calling for firing squads.

Now comes the really easy part.  What is the alternative to a two state solution?  Ask yourself what was the alternative to the nuke treaty with Iran? Same answer to both, War. I never got the arguments against the nuclear ban treaty with Iran because, first we weren’t the only party to the negotiations so we could not just put back in sanctions,  Second, it was fairly bullet proof, where we actually do inspect, and they actually do have to get rid of nuclear material.  So why were Netanyahu and the Republicans against it?  Do they want war?

Here is what I think.  They’re idiots.  They think a bully always wins. We will crush them once and for all.  Ask yourself when that has ever worked out, and what do hopeless people always turn to?  Terrorism.  In Iran’s case, if they could not break out of the sanctions, then why not develop nukes to protect yourself from the West?  They are killing you anyway so why not have a way to strike back.  Oh, and your arch-enemy Israel has lots of nukes.  What happens in the occupied territories as the people lose all hope? Endless war.

Right wing nut jobs (Netanyahu and Trump) believe that their power will allow them to smash their enemies and secure peace.  All they will secure in that manner is endless war.  That is what Obama and Kerry are trying to prevent.  They know that the only solution is when both sides have a vested interest in making it work, thus the two state solution.  Trump and company will end that.  How do you think that is going to work out?

We love the hero who stands tough to evil and then smashes them to smithereens. The trouble is life is not that simple. WWI begot WWII because we set up a punishing economic penalty that finally resulted in Hitler.  Displacing the Jews got us endless war in the Middle East.  Tyrannical leaders suppressing rights and respecting human dignity gets us ISIS and al Qaeda.  And it goes on and on and if we never look at the root causes and solve them, it will go on and on.

So who gets the Holy land?  They have to share it.  As long as we do not respect the equal rights of others and find equitable solutions there will never be a solution.  John Kerry laid out a way forward.  That will be thrown in the trash can by Trump and company, and we can watch endless conflict brought to you by the bullies of the world and the rubes in white America who enabled this nightmare.

*”That one state, if it granted full rights to the Palestinians within its borders, would eventually cease to have a Jewish majority. Alternatively, by depriving the Palestinians of full political and civil rights, it would confirm the fears of many statesmen, including former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who have warned against the establishment of a de facto apartheid regime.”

We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us!

The press is starting to look at how we got here with the Donald and fake news with this from the NYT:

The right’s labeling of (main stream media as) “fake news” evokes one of the most successful efforts by conservatives to reorient how Americans think about news media objectivity: the move by Fox News to brand its conservative-slanted coverage as “fair and balanced.” Traditionally, mainstream media outlets had thought of their own approach in those terms, viewing their coverage as strictly down the middle. Republicans often found that laughable. As with Fox’s ubiquitous promotion of its slogan, conservatives’ appropriation of the “fake news” label is an effort to further erode the mainstream media’s claim to be a reliable and accurate source. 

As they further try to figure out what has happened, we get this (NYT):

The territory that was at stake was the realm of the true, and how all sides would define it in the hyperpartisan debate to come under a new president…

What the mainstream media did wrong is by now well established. It generally failed to appreciate the power of the anger that ultimately decided the presidency. And that was in large part because it was overly hooked on polling that indicated a Hillary Clinton glide path, overly reliant on longtime sources who believed the rules of politics were immutable and too disconnected from too many workaday Americans. It repeatedly underestimated Donald Trump, not to mention Bernie Sanders. And there could have been a lot more reporting on both candidates’ policy plans, or lack thereof.

What it did right has been less appreciated than it deserves. Faced with a precedent-shattering candidate who made false assertions at a rate none had seen before — one considerably higher than that of his opponent — reporters became more assertive in directly calling out falsehoods.

Oh happy horse shit.  Maybe very late in the game, but not nearly enough on the last part and on the first part, the problem wasn’t sensing what was going on with the rubes, but telling us in a more firm and definitive way about the real issues and not focusing on non-issues like emails.  They were led around like little children while the Trumpees defined the conversation.

If you really want to know what went on, it started years ago when the press quit being the mediator of facts and truth.  Republicans would say outrageous things and we got he said/she said reporting as though that had anything to do with getting at the real truth. You see that today in the Trumpees where their method of communicating is to interrupt and talk over.  Whoever hogs the stage long enough wins.  And the television media let them do it.  And when the Republicans understood that infotainment that drove ratings is what the news focused on, they took over the stage with our major TV news networks being enablers in the discussions of junk that got ratings.  Fake news was number 1 in that the Donald would say something outrageous and incorrect and that lead the news instead of the headline, Trump Lies Again.

The proof was in the election itself when the press was on Hillary’s emails like white on rice, except there was nothing there and there never was anything there, and yet the Republicans pulled them back time and again.  Crooked Hillary did not get corrected or denounced, focusing on the mails legitimizing it. Probably one of the critical issues that swung the election. Benghazi is another one. The facts are out there and there is nothing there, yet they would allow Republicans to go on and on on this things instead of shutting the lies down.

Republicans came on television and lied and lied and lied about everything from the murder rate in the country to the “crisis” at the border, oh, and let’s not forget the unemployment rate, and the Press was mostly passive instead of actively setting the record straight and stopping the string of lies.  And they still do this as I heard a he said/she said screaming contest this morning.  To be a passive referee is not getting to the truth, it is allowing misinformation and lies to be equated with the truth.

The reason we are in the place we are in today with an orange headed village idiot as president is because the press let Republicans bully them.  They did not stand up for the truth as though every argument has two equally legitimate sides. Most do not.  It was their attempt to be “fair and balanced” and what they did was tip the scale toward the unbalanced and untruthful.  They forgot about issues and left the real discussion of efficacy to political spinners instead of real policy experts.  And we are where we are and they still do not get it.  Now granted the print press did better, but the rubes don’t read anything that is not sanctioned by the radical right.

The only solution is for the press to take on the Right on truth.  To turn off their mikes if they continue to disrupt a conversation and focus on facts and data. The talking heads need to do their homework.  Global warming exists and the only real discussion is about the most effective way to deal with it (carbon tax). There is no border issue and we have to find a way to legalize those here already and being a benefit to America.  Oh wait! Would that be taking sides or would that be common sense?  Up to now it has been considered taking sides and we now have idiots driving the car.  We are now at war with people who want to control what is reality. The media hasn’t even begun to look at the damage they have done to this country by tolerated idiots instead of ferreting out lies and misinformation.

Still Counting on the Return of Normalcy?

It is Christmas morning so I will wait to post this until Monday because, well, it is Christmas.  I have been trying to get people to recognize that these are not normal times.  We can’t assume Trump or his team are going to return to sanity.  In fact they won’t.  They live in an alternate reality.  Paul Krugman wrote the other day about how the assumed political norms which establish our baseline for the boundaries in which our politics can function have been obliterated.  As he put it: “Republican institutions don’t protect against tyranny when powerful people start defying political norms. And tyranny, when it comes, can flourish even while maintaining a republican facade.

So the NYT wrote an editorial on Christmas morning about how the Supreme Court 9th seat was stolen by the Republicans, The Stolen Supreme Court Seat:

No matter how it plays out, Americans must remember one thing above all: The person who gets confirmed will sit in a stolen seat.

It was stolen from Barack Obama, a twice-elected president who fulfilled his constitutional duty more than nine months ago by nominating Merrick Garland, a highly qualified and widely respected federal appellate judge.

It was stolen by top Senate Republicans, who broke with longstanding tradition and refused to consider any nominee Mr. Obama might send them, because they wanted to preserve the court’s conservative majority. The main perpetrators of the theft were Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, and Charles Grassley, chairman of the Judiciary Committee. But virtually all Republican senators were accomplices; only two supported holding hearings.

Now here is where they go off the rails:

Can anything be done to repair the harm? One step — as obvious as it is unlikely — would be for Mr. Trump to renominate Mr. Garland…At the very least, Mr. Trump could follow President Obama’s example and pick a centrist — someone who commands wide respect and operates within the bounds of mainstream legal thought. That would be an appropriate gesture from a man who lost the popular vote by more than 2.8 million votes and will enter office with the lowest approval ratings in recent history.

 

Really? appropriate gesture?  We left that universe when the Republicans decided to make President Obama a one term president.  Remember Joe Wilson’s “You Lie!” In the State of the Union?  Have you seen some of the racist comments from Trump’s boys and girls about Michelle Obama?  Appropriate and reasonable went out the window when the rubes elected Donald Trump.  And as noted, had left the building long before the election.  We have entered an era where we are fighting for our democratic lives and the very values the Republic was founded on. Trying to find normalcy and calls for decorum are just wasted breath.

I will sadly remind you where we are again from the show Madam Secretary.  Here is the setup:  The daughter of the Secretary of State, Stephanie McCord, finally scores an interview with the President’s Chief of Staff, Russel Jackson, an experience political infighter, in hopes of getting a recommendation for her Harvard Law School application. Jackson asks her why she wants to go to Harvard since most lawyers hate their jobs, except maybe the bleeding hearts who earn nothing for their efforts. Is she one of those bleeding hearts? Why go to Harvard where the competition is hellish asks Russell, and it is really about competition for the best corporate/finance jobs. I will pick up the conversation here:

Stephanie: I want to do something important. 

Russell: What does Havard have to do with that.

Stephanie: Well I think to do good you have to be good, I mean, maybe the best. The bad guys have all the help, but regular people who just need help, they have to settle for whoever they can get. And usually it is no one …

Russell moves his chair from behind his desk right next to Stephanie so he can look her right in the eye.

Russell: Okay, I am going to give you a piece of advice and I want you to listen closely because you won’t hear it from your parents Stephanie McCord.

Stephanie: Okay:

Russell: If you want to be good, you got to be prepared to do bad. Okay? To be canny and watchful and mean, so when the bad guys come, you know exactly where to stick the knife, because it is a fight to the death, and that is the only language they understand.

Stephanie: I don’t believe that.

Russell: (Sighs). You will.

Sadly that is the state of affairs today.  That was President Obama’s Achilles’ Heel in that he thought reasonable people should compromise and the answer was in the middle.  We don’t live in a world where the opposition is reasonable, and the middle is compromise with failure.  The press better quickly come to that same conclusion.  What the Republicans are offering is not a just different point of view, it is one that we have seen before and it is highly dangerous.

So Russell had it nailed and get used to it, that is the world we live in.  If you want good to survive, you have got to be prepared to do bad.  Be canny and watchful and mean, so when the bad guys come (and they have already come and we welcomed them), you know exactly where to stick the knife.  It is a fight for the very heart and soul of this country and it is a fight to the death.  Republicans are evil.  Once they accepted Trump as the path to power, they had sold out America.

Oh, and this not becoming them.  This not saying if the other side tortures, so must we.  It is about recognizing the fight we are in and understanding that they no longer just have another point of view.  They have jettisoned our most basic values and sold their souls to power.  They not only don’t respect our point of view, they want to destroy it.  They are not in to tolerance, facts, free speech, free press, or compromise.  That is the fight we find ourselves in and the fictional character Russell Jackson told us how we must fight it.  There are few rules and the ones we have come to expect don’t exist anymore.  As long as we fight them with truth, facts, and the real meaning of our Constitution and its bill of rights, we won’t lose our way.

Happy Holidays.

Where to Watch the Best On TV 2016?

That was the headline in a story in the NYT Christmas morning and with TV in the holiday doldrums, what a perfect time to do that.  Here comes the rub…If don’t live in a city, you can’t stream.  I live in the country in California is an old logging community now famous for apples, pears, peaches, Christmas Trees, and grapes.  My only real access to the internet is through satellites.  It does not make a difference which firm, they all use the same satellites and the speed is slow and jumpy for a video and after 15 Gigs you get slowed down to not moving speed.  There is no streaming of anything.

And that is the world we live in when you give cable companies monopolies to run their cable and then stagnate as they collect their profits giving us poor to mediocre performance.  And the sad thing is the technology has kind of just stopped.  We have not figured out how to provide pay for play wi-fi in the country.  Of course it is not cost efficient to run fiber optics to every house, although the electric companies seem to be able to get copper to us.  But really, we haven’t been able to figure how to compress and transmit data better?

Well why should we?  They are making plenty of money not doing it.  Why spend those precious profits for stockholders on R&D?  No, the internet connectivity in the United States is shameful, like the fact that we can’t get to our own space station anymore.  In comparison of speed, we are not even in the top ten.  While we are third in number of internet users behind India and China, we are 12th in percent of population with most of Scandinavia and Europe ahead of us (even Canada).  That is the state of affairs.

So we have one of two choices, end the monopolies cities and states granted cable companies, or let the Government start doing R&D again.  Think any of that will happen under Trump?  If you do, you are probably one of the rubes who voted for him.  Meanwhile out here in the hinterlands, I await for the DVD to arrive.  Maybe the shows will get better with age, like wine.  You think? I am so glad we live in the greatest country in the world, aren’t you?

Merry Christmas

 

CHATEAU LIGHTNER

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM THE LIGHTNERS

IF I HAVE LEARNED ONE THING IN 2016, IT IS ENJOY THE MOMENT AND HOLD THOSE YOU LOVE CLOSE.  WE MAY ONLY HAVE THE PRESENT.  HAPPY HOLIDAYS  AND GOOD RIDDANCE TO 2016. PEACE ON EARTH AND GOODWILL TO MEN (AND WOMEN).  MAY BE TRITE, BUT THAT ABOUT SAYS IT ALL. WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER.

Our Press is Normalizing the Village Idiot or Another Silent Scream

I am listening to the news this morning and my picture of the painting The Silent Scream comes to mind when I think how the media are cover the Donald.  The latest was about his penchant for communicating with the country through twitter.  They pretend this is just another way of communicating instead of being appalled that it allows him a one way conversation to lie.  “Well, in the age of twitter this is just a new format.”

Really? A new format?  It is a way to bypass the press and difficult questions.  It is a way for an autocrat to talk to his mindless faithful without the press pointing out that they are mindless and he is lying to them.  Meanwhile his surrogates are out today talking about how he wants to the President of all America and unite the country.  What?  Unite the country in wild unbridled fear of Muslims?  Unite the country in fearing and hating immigrants?  Unite the country in disenfranchising poor Americans?  Unite the country in bullying, white racism, and an economy that favors the wealthy.  Oh, I feel so united.

I mean tweeting about a nuclear arms race is not how Donald is going to be different, it is the act of an ignorant narcissistic man who has no idea what he is talking about.  It would appear that the Donald wants to support Netanyahu in his land grab from the Palestinians in the name of security.  So we should surprise that he sees Russia’s land grab in Crimea in the same vein.  Hey if you are tough enough, you too can get what you want. And have we learned nothing about making people hopeless.  They start strapping bombs to their chests.  And we are normalizing this man?

One look at his cabinet should send shock wave in every direction.  As Paul Krugman pointed out:  “Both his pick as budget director and his choice to head Health and Human Services want to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and privatize Medicare. His choice as labor secretary is a fast-food tycoon who has been a vociferous opponent both of Obamacare and of minimum wage hikes. And House Republicans have already submitted plans for drastic cuts in Social Security, including a sharp rise in the retirement age.”  This is not normal.

And he is considering a private security force instead of the Secret Service.  Gestapo anyone?  Quit normalizing this bullshit.  This is seriously deranged and going off the deep end.  If it weren’t for the fact that he may get use into wars with his two thumbs on his phone key pad, maybe the economy would survive it.  But, and I am stating it as clearly as I can, if he is successful with his economic ideas, the big depression is coming.  Got your can goods stocked.  It is almost funny that the people who were the survivalist and conspiracy theorists seeing the black helicopters coming from Houston to take over their freedoms, put the guy most likely to do just that in power.

So national press, quit pretending this is normal or just something different.  It is something old we saw in 1930’s Europe.  It is the gravest threat our democracy has ever faced, and the man is unbalanced.  He will delegitimize our institutions and government with both ideas, his family interests in government (nepotism), and his conflicts of interest.  This not something new, it is something disastrous.  Start reporting on it.  You brought us this pathological liar by not pointing out his lies and giving him all the free press he wanted.  Now it is time to do your job in scary times.  And the one thing I know is that you are not up to it and with the loss of an independent and inquiring free press the rubes will control the country.  Thank you you morons.  Nice hairdo though.  Really like those white teeth.

The Village Idiot Speaks

Five Years of my life.

Sweeping aside efforts by his aides to temper his comments, or to suggest that he was merely talking about curbing the spread of nuclear technology, especially to terrorists, Mr. Trump told a talk-show host, Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC: “Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”

Merry Christmas America, a new nuclear arms race for Christmas.  I just have to vent here.  Maybe some of you lived through the last on, I was part of it.  My job was to deliver the end of the world to all of you.  I was a bombardier on a B-52 that carried 12 nuclear weapons.  I sat alert for a week about every three weeks waiting for someone to push the button.  I learned about nuclear weapons, some of it probably still classified.  I learned about who we would annihilate.  I learn about radiation poisoning, how to conduct a suicide mission to cause the most damage if you ran out of fuel, and on and on.  Do we really again want to go down that road?  Do we want saber-rattling with weapons that will destroy everything?  We are already destroying the plant with CO2 emissions, but I guess that was just too slow for the Donald.  I can’t wait to hear Kellyanne spin this.

This is when you know the electoral college has no useful purpose anymore.  They should have rejected this moron outright.  He is and always will be unfit for the presidency.  He is crude and he is ignorant and he will be the perfect idiot for the Russians, not to mention of kings of economic inequality, the conservative Republicans (which are all there are any more). It should be apparent that when the U.N. sanctioned Israel, it was a no duh moment as the right-wing Israelis are stealing more and more land in the name of religious superiority.  The Palestinians have rights too.  Meanwhile Trump and the Republicans are shocked, shocked, shocked I tell you, that we abstained from the censure vote instead of vetoing it. Good for President Obama.

So what is America to become.  I will tell you.  Under the rule of Trump being a bully like greed under Reagan will become a good thing.  Pushing down people who you think are lessor than you around will be okay.  We are already seeing that play out in many places like Kentucky and elsewhere as fat old white people play out their racism as common sense.  Acting out will be a good thing because, well you are white and you are entitled.  Well, I am a fat old white guy and I am going to act out.  I am going to act out against all of this nonsense before Trump and the Republicans destroy the planet.  He will never be my President as some think is the way our government should would.  The man is a danger to democracy and everything we stand for and he can go pound sand.  Merry Christmas you fucking rubes who voted for him.  To bad we will all go down the toilet with you.