Category Archives: media

Dear Pundits: The Five Response Trap

Oh, dear pundits on my television set this morning… let’s talk. First off, I know that one of your favorite themes, one you clutch to your bosoms with a tenacity known only in the realms of dung beetles packing their treasures, is Democrats in Disarray.  Get over it. So, there were five responses from Democrats and progressives to the SOTU last night, so what?

There’s another perspective from which to view this hoary theme.  One is to hold that there are at least five and probably more like five hundred possible responses to any major presentations of opposition policy.  Perhaps it’s more convenient, and certainly much less intellectually challenging, to seek one opposition voice and to concentrate attention upon that source, but the reality is that a variety of answers is a better reflection of political discourse than the fiction which holds that there must be a single unified “message.”

It appears as though some members of the punditry are calling for an exercise in branding, not a full discussion of civic issues.  Yes, when we sing “Plop Plop Fizz Fizz Oh What A Relief It Is” there is general recognition of a single product.  That said, while branding is essential during a campaign season, it is not necessarily useful in local races and less than useful during whatever is left of the “off season” in politics. So, we can move on to another point.

The media of late wants opposition, nice clean opposition, opposition as in a middle weight boxing match (or on the fringes a political replication of WWE shows), but this is frankly a rather lazy approach.  For example, rather than decry an abundance of replies to Republican policies, how about exploring the story from another suggested perspective: There are at least five major areas of opposition to the Republican program for America, and the GOP has yet to address the significant issues raised by at least five important voices in the opposition?

Secondly, those opposition voices were highlighting issues with varying degrees of emphasis.  Elizabeth Guzman spoke to immigration policy,  Bernie Sanders returned to his theme of wage inequality, Donna Edwards spoke to health care and racial issues, and Rep. Maxine Waters brings her own brand of fire and fury, and fact checking.  This shotgun approach has some merit.

The Democrats are a large tent party. However easy it might make it for the chatterati, the Democrats need to speak to young voters, white voters, suburban voters, African American voters, African American women voters… you get the idea.  So, why not divide the chore of responding to Republicans by promoting replies from at least five different sources.

Third, much as I hate to break into the Perpetual Campaign Theory of Republican politics which the media appears to have embraced, every major party which truly seeks to find success in national, state, and local races, needs a period of time in which to hone the national messages prior to the onset of campaign season. E Pluribus Unum — out of many possible messages some will move to the top of the program, others will become tangential, and others may fall flat.  Sorting takes some time and space.  Live with it.

I’d add a fourth point, a purely personal note.  We appear to have a President (and his Party) which, devoid of many actual policy perspectives of late, desperately needs a foil.  I noted in the Alabama senate race the proclivity of Republicans to try to make the race one between Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi.  This tactic personalizes the contest at the expense of any actual policy discussions.  It’s WWE time again, Good vs. Evil, Good Guy vs. Villain, simplistic, easy to advertise, and counter productive in terms of policy discussions.  Why on this little blue planet would Democrats play into GOP hands and create an obvious foil this early, at a point when the campaign season has yet to officially begin?

It seems better at this juncture to take the shotgun approach, using a good old fashioned cylinder choke, with a forty inch spread at a range of 25 yards, rather than risk a miss with a rifle shot.  If this requires the media punditry to do a little more research, and raise a few more issues, so be it. The media is an essential part of campaigning, but each campaign bears the responsibility for crafting its own message.  The media may just have to hold its horses and allow opposition forces to coalesce, and acknowledge it does Democrats no great good to prematurely offer up a foil for Republican punishment.

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A Wish List For 2018

There are several things I would like to see in the coming year.  The following, a not so modest list of them:

  1. I’d like to see the commercial media, print and broadcast, dismantle its long nurtured cottage industry employed in Clinton Bashing.  This has been an on-going activity for the last two and a half decades at least, and I’m finding it tiresome.  I am sure the chattering classes find it amusing to resurrect and inject their old talking points; and there’s a certain comfort in returning to old themes, much like one’s favorite blanket on the bed or pillow on the couch.  However, the plethora of Clinton columns a year past the last election, only indicates to me that Secretary Clinton is living rent free in several editorial heads.  Perhaps, it seems as though they couldn’t live with her, and now they can’t live without her.
  2. It would be pleasing to wake up some fine morning to discover a news broadcast in which the various travel and singular expenditures of the present administration are explored in some detail.  I recall an old bit of wisdom from the sheriff’s department about people who get caught criminal littering: One could be an accident, Two is an indication of trouble, and Three times and it’s deliberate.  Thus we’ve had a Health and Human Services secretary resign, which should have been a message to others — but, we now know the Secretary of the Treasury indulged in excessively expensive travel, followed by a Secretary of the Interior doing likewise. Were this not enough, we have a director of the EPA indulging in what gives every appearance of being truly excessive “security” expenditures.  What does he have to hide?
  3. A little patience is required for my third item: A thorough and accurate report from the Special Counsel.  Perhaps Trump’s opponents are hoping for too much, and his followers are hoping for an exoneration which is not to be.  Whether the President* himself was entangled in a web of deception and conspiracy is relevant but not, I think, the core of the matter.  The important point is that a hostile government, the Russians, sought to interfere, did interfere, and continues to interfere in our democratic institutions and practices.  The more important point is what we, as a nation, intend to do about it. This leads to my 4th wish.
  4. I wish for personal, professional, and tangential issues to be separated from the essential process of addressing Russian interference.  This will take more than beseeching private Internet corporations to “do their duty.”  Further, it will take more than a narrow focus on whether or not that interference had an appreciable effect on the 2016 election.  We need to know what the Russians did, how they did it, and what we can do to prevent “it” in future election cycles.  We need state and local election officials who are aware of the nature of Russian (and other) attempts at interference, who have the resources both in terms of funding and expertise to prevent meddling.  We need federal officials who will take this threat seriously and who will engage with state and local officials to be of assistance in these efforts. What we don’t need is a sham commission rehashing old conspiracy theories about “illegals” voting and fraudulent voting myths. What we do need is a task force with components from the Department of Justice, Homeland Security, and the Intelligence Community to take foreign interjections seriously, investigate them thoroughly, and to make thoughtful, rational, suggestions for protecting our most basic freedom — the right to vote.
  5. We need the improvement and enaction of the Voting Rights Act.  Nothing is so central to our Republic, nothing so necessary to the health of our Democracy.
  6. We need a rational statement of what constitutes citizenship, and it’s not the legal fiction including a corporation.  The decision in Citizens United is a major problem for our system of government.  No, my friends, corporations are not people.  They may have property rights, and rights pertaining to their organization and operations, but they are not people — as in We The People.
  7. Wouldn’t it be fine to end 2018 with a new attitude toward rules and regulations. Corporate propaganda has generalized anything commercial interests don’t like into “burdensome regulations.”  However, there are some burdens we should bear with a sense of civic pride.  No, we do not wish our rivers to be polluted and our forests unnecessarily despoiled for profit. Nor do we want our elders placed in care to be ignored, mocked, and mistreated.  Nor do we want to eat contaminated food, or drink contaminated liquids. Nor do we want employers to allow, perhaps even encourage, unsafe working conditions.  Too often the generalizations have been presented to us as ‘fact,’ without a challenge from public quarters asserting the rationale for the rules in the first place.  Those challenges deserve more publicity than they are currently receiving.
  8. Although it’s an election year, wouldn’t it be beneficial if we were to receive more information about POLICY than POLITICS?  The failure to emphasize what a candidate is offering and to focus instead on poll numbers and other electoral data means that politicians are allowed to speak in broad, and often meaningless, generalities.  In this circumstance a politician becomes little more than a human megaphone, his or her popularity based on the cheaper expedient of polling than on a serious consideration of what is on offer.   Granted there have always been demagogues among us — but we really don’t have to encourage them.

And so ends this little list.  We can only hope.

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Yes, It’s About Race Relations

No matter how much the current president and his supporters want to make #TakeAKnee about “the flag,” and “the military,” it’s not about those two sacrosanct topics — it is all about the tendency of white controlled police departments to shoot first and take questions later when an African American is shot and killed.

In 2017 there have been 721 individuals shot and killed by police officers.  Certainly, not all of these people have been black, and not all have been unarmed.  However, there’s another layer to these numbers: justification.  In several highly publicized incidents (witness Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, John Crawford III, Walter Scott) few officers have been held accountable for their actions; Walter Slager’s guilty plea in the Walter Scott case being a notable exception.  Philando Castile, was recorded in his dying moments, and yet the officer was acquitted on all counts.   It appears, and appearances are important in the cases, that all an officer must do is to testify that he or she feared for her safety.  Shoot first, and take questions later.

Police apologists cry “Blue Lives Matter,” and the more radical among them shout “All Lives Matter,” but then that’s the point of “Black Lives Matter;”  the slogan Black Lives Should Matter Just As Much As Any Other Lives is entirely too long to fit on a T-shirt.

And #TakeAKnee is about Black Lives Matter.  There’s an interesting thing about African American protests — by white lights there’s never been an appropriate way for them to protest.  When a crowd is predominantly white the media describes it as a protest as they did during the Women’s March, however when the crowd is predominantly black media contributors seem to be on edge waiting for the first rock or bottle to be thrown.  Some police departments, like the St. Louis PD, helpfully provide photos of the bottles they’ve collected and tweet the number of officers injured — no mention is made of the types of injuries incurred.

When the crowd is predominantly African American if they move then they must be blocking traffic, or impeding commerce.  If they don’t move (such as in a sit-in) then they must be an “unauthorized” gathering.  If they boycott businesses then media commentators often find it necessary to observe they “are hurting themselves.”  Only recently have cable news outlets invited non-white commentators to opine on the activities of black activists.   It’s encouraging to find at least a few broadcasts willing to engage commentators who do more than wag their heads and fingers at protests.

The entire idea of a protest is to gather attention, thus no one should be surprised when NFL players seek to capitalize on TV coverage of #TakeAKnee.  However, the current administration appears to believe that African American players and their allies should only do this on their “own time.”   Worse still is the willingness of the President to politicize and re-imagine the protests into a “counter culture” narrative.  The tweeter-in-chief decided at 3:44 am on September 24th that the #TakeAKnee protests were about “flag and country.”  And some of the commenters duly chimed in.   This technique has a long and rather sordid history.

People who protested Jim Crow laws were derided as Un-American, or as tools of the Communists, those who would desecrate the efforts of the military to defend our freedoms in World War II.  Those who protested the Vietnam War were also disparaged as “unpatriotic,” unworthy of the sacrifices made in the last great War.  The racist technique of choice in contemporary times is to conflate the “anti-racists” with the “anti-military” and the “anti-flag” elements of their imaginations, and first discount and then disparage efforts to improve life in America for all its citizens.

The flag is a very convenient icon, but that’s all it is, an icon.  Yes, it’s flown by those who fought in World War II, Vietnam, and in the Middle East; but it’s not the reason the veterans fought…not to defend The Flag, but to defend American values, their comrades in arms, and not least, the Constitution of the United States.   Perhaps this is the time to remember that President Dwight Eisenhower had another flag flying contingent march into Little Rock, Arkansas, with about a thousand members of the 101st Airborne to put down white inspired riots that Governor Faubus refused to control. Federal marshals assisted in the integration of the University of Mississippi, and the Alabama National Guard was employed by President Kennedy to integrate the University of Alabama.  Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. marched to Montgomery under the protection of federalized National Guard units. [ChiTrib]

Yes, the flag flew over Okinawa and Normandy — but it also flew over Huntsville, Oxford, Little Rock, and Montgomery.  Those attempting to appropriate the flag to promote their own racial and political views would do well to remember the same flag flew to enforce civil rights laws and rulings.  And, racial view are important.

The current occupant of the White House has been quick to condemn any and all attacks by Muslims, both real and fake, however all but silent on the activities of white nationalists.  Remember when he tweeted about the death of Richard Collins III who was stabbed to death in a hate crime in Maryland?  I don’t either.  Recall when Timothy Caughman was killed by a white supremacist in New York City? I don’t remember a tweet-storm after that tragedy.  Then, there was a firebomb tossed into a mosque in Minnesota, a member of the administration described this as a fake attack.   And then there was Charlottesville.

Who on this earth, who sentient enough to recall that World War II was fought against Nazis and white supremacists in Europe, could possibly say there were “some fine people” marching near a Virginia synagogue in a replication of a Nazi torch parade?

So, whatever the Tweeter-In-Chief might have to say, the current #TakeAKnee protests aren’t about the flag — they are about a system that minimizes the accountability for the deaths of African Americans.  They aren’t about the U.S. Military — they are about policing systems and institutions that give every appearance of disparaging the lives and rights of those for whom the flags flew in Huntsville, Oxford, Little Rock, and Montgomery.

We can only hope the Tweeter-in-Chief gets the message from the National Football League this weekend.  However, I’m not holding my breath.

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She Did It She Did It…well maybe sort of

One of these days the Fox News logo will be a shiny pretzel.  Not to be out-speculated by US broadcasts concerning the results of Donald Jr.’s June meeting with Russian emissaries, Fox News has cooked up a brew the ingredients of which require a long boil before the mass comes together…

This whole Moscow Mess shows that Hillary Clinton maybe, could have, might have, perhaps was associated with, could be considered to be cooperating, colluding, conspiring, with the opponents of the Magnitsky Act… because (now grip the rope on your logical thinking skills firmly) —

Secretary Clinton expressed the initial Obama Administration’s objections to the Magnitsky Act in 2010.  The administration argued that the State Department was already denying visas to those Russians who were implicated in Magnitsky’s death, also of interest to the administration in 2010 were Russian cooperation to keep supply lines to Afghanistan open, to negotiate with the Iranians concerning their nuclear program, and to deal with the Syrian Civil War. [NewYorker]

However, to the Residents of the Fox News Bubble Zone this translates to a flat statement of “Clinton opposed the Magnitsky Act.”  Now comes the Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc portion of our program.   “Her initial opposition coincided with a $500,000 speech her husband gave…”  Yes a few weeks later Bill Clinton gave a speech at the Renaissance Capital annual investment conference.  No connection is demonstrated — it’s all in the timing, as in post hoc ergo propter hoc line of illogical thinking.

From the perspective of the Republican apologists we have to “fast forward” to 2016 when the Clinton campaign email (hacked and stolen) said: “With the help of the research team, we killed a Bloomberg story trying to link HRC’s opposition to the Magnitsky bill a $500,000 speech that WJC gave in Moscow.”  There are a couple of things to note about the use of this statement which illustrate the problems with Fox reportage.

First, if one doesn’t put much thought into the process, the image is created that there was a connection (between Secretary Clinton’s opposition to the act and the payment of former President Clinton’s speaking fees) and that the “killing” of a story implies something nefarious about this.  Remember, the Secretary’s opposition was tied to Obama administration policy regarding dealing with the Russians in 2010.

Secondly,  the image requires a person to ignore the initial clause in the e-mail, “with the help of the research team.”  It’s not too hard to spike a story if the publisher is assured that the report is a collection of idle speculation infused with inaccurate information.  Note as well that the pilfered e-mail stated the proposed Bloomberg piece was “trying” to link the Secretary’s opposition to the Magnitsky Act to her husband’s speaking fees — not that the report succeeded in making such a connection.  If the research shows no connection, there’s no story.  Little wonder the story got the spike.

And how did Fox News get the e-mail concerning how research submitted to Bloomberg News caused the latter to put the story in the bin?  It came compliments of the unfriendly hackers.  There’s no small amount of irony in having the Trump Apologist Network utilize the same stolen e-mail the Trump’s themselves may have encouraged?  To make this connection we need to wait for the conclusions of two Congressional intelligence committees, and the Special Counsel’s investigation.

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Silly Season Comes To Town: The Semantics of Collusion

My ears feel a little battered.  I’m hearing some really creative contentions to explain away the Trumpian predilection for working with Russians.

“The story isn’t important because the American people are more concerned with jobs and employment.”

Whether the Russian assault on American democracy is important or not isn’t a popularity contest.   For example, just because Gallup polling indicates that only 1% of US respondents cite income inequality as a major issue in the United States this doesn’t mean the issue isn’t important or that it doesn’t have economic ramifications far beyond the current ‘click level’of interest.

The story isn’t important because it’s just about opposition research and everyone does that.

Please.  The rejoinder to this should be what Mom said when we tried to explain why we engaged in some ridiculous junior high prank that went south immediately: “Just because they did it doesn’t make it right for you to do it.”  Additionally,  campaigns DO NOT enlist the support of foreign nations, much less adversarial foreign nations, to assist with opposition research.  But, but, but, sputter the surrogates, what about Clinton and Ukraine!?  That’s been debunked.  One of my favorite surrogate sputters is to enunciate a list of Presidents who have “colluded” without offering any explanation or specifics whatsoever.  It’s meaningless drivel of the first water.

Yes, everyone’s campaign does opposition research, and if the campaign is run professionally the first order of business is to do opposition research on your own candidate on the theory that it’s always better to know what’s out there before the charges come flying at the campaign.  Secondly,  opposition research requires careful screening for toxic plants (stories which if repeated by the candidate will turn out to be false and the candidate looks like a dupe) and Tin Foil Hat Territory Residents (I saw candidate X’s campaign person at the airport feeding the geese so they would fly into jet engines and kill people.)  These need to be screened out immediately.

So, if candidate Y says, “I don’t see anything wrong with taking opposition research from a foreign adversary, everyone does it,” then what that person is saying is “I have NO scruples about accepting help from absolutely anyone if it will help me get elected.” Michael Gerson’s point is on target: “faith that makes losing a sin will make cheating a sacrament.”  I’d prefer to vote for a candidate who at least professes to have a few scruples.

“There was no collusion.” Or, There was a meeting but it wasnt’ collusion. Or, there was collusion but there was no conspiracy. Or, there was a meeting but nothing came of it.”

Spare me the moving goal posts. I’m waiting for the day when some surrogate states with all due profundity that while there might have been a series of meetings and assistance was offered and received, it didn’t meet the elements of 18 US Code 1030 on fraud and related activities in connection with computers.

“I don’t know why the media is spending so much time on this when we have issues like tax reform, infrastructure investments, and…. which are of greater importance.”

The last time I looked the American public was perfectly capable of multi-tasking.  Not only can we “walk and chew gum,” I have seen professional basketball players making some noteworthy plays on the court while chewing on their mouth guards.  Besides which, is there some story of more significance than that of a foreign adversary attacking the very foundations of our democratic processes?  Maybe we aren’t spending enough time talking about whether or not our state and local election officials have the technology and personnel they need to ward off such nefarious assaults in our next elections?  Do we have enough public knowledge of exactly how many states and localities were “hacked” in some way,  and how they have reacted to the assaults?  Do we have enough information about “disinformation” campaigns and how social media might have been used to target groups of voters?  The focus of this story will need to expand to incorporate not only how a particular campaign may have utilized foreign incursions, but also the nature and elements of election interference which may have taken place, and how disinformation and misinformation were ‘weaponized.’ In short, we actually need more information about this topic, and definitely not less.

We all just need to wait until the Mueller investigation report is made public.

No, we can talk about the general subject well before the investigation is completed, especially as it concerns the last two subtopics mentioned above.  The Mueller probe is focused retrospectively — what happened in 2016?  However, as noted previously there are some policy decisions to be considered, and the sooner the better. (1) How and with what technology will we conduct our elections?  (2) How and with what level of scrutiny will we analyze and evaluate the use of media, and social media, in our political processes?

What’s all the fuss about? There are important things we should do in conjunction with Russia?

Like fighting “terrorism?” What’s “un-terroristic” about one nation attacking the political institutions of another?  One of the more blatant semantic blunders from the Surrogati came in the suggestion that there are ways we can “collaborate” with the Russians.  There’s nothing quite like revisiting a term closely associated with the ill-fated British government under Neville Chamberlain in the context of this topic. No, the Nazis weren’t going to be happy with just the Sudetenland any more than the Russians will be satisfied with initial poking around in our lists of registered voters?

Meanwhile, we should be demanding MORE information not less, and more discussion of policy related matters not merely the explication of singular strands of Russian assaults on our politics and institutions.

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Independents Day: A Call For Critical Thinking

James Madison wrote, in the popular Federalist #10:

“By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”

Insert “party” for “faction” and Madison’s fear takes on a more modern face.  However, his analysis holds today for those who place the interests of the party over the interests of the country:

“A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good.”

Yes, we’ve gotten there. Not that political parties are without  redeeming features.  Parties allow us a framework for political activity; recruiting candidates, establishing a nominating process, organizing candidacies, and promoting a platform of policies and principles.   It’s when we arrive at the “disposed to vex” station that our train is off the rails.

If a portion of the 39% who believe the current President is doing a good job [Al.com] are motivated by satisfaction that the incumbent is vexing to “liberals,” then we’ve met one of the elements which caused Madison to argue against “faction.”  It’s when one group is “adversed” to the rights of others, when we create permanent aggregates of interest, when we are more interested in vexing the opposition than in areas of mutual needs — then we’ve reached Madison’s critical mass.  What is necessary is a bit of Independent’s Thinking.

An independent person may self identify as a member of a political party, but is not defined by that categorization.   A lack of independent thinking yields little but self absorbed partisanship, a feature not conducive to problem solving — or even to identifying the problems in the first place.  There are several sources which purport to define and explain critical thinking, among these the University of Michigan provides a succinct statement. Critical thinking requires analyzing, applying standards, discriminating, seeking additional information, logical reasoning,  predicting, and transforming knowledge into positions or proposals.  Another way to approach critical thinking skills is in the form of a ‘cheatsheet’ illustrating the kinds of questions an independent thinker might apply toward an issue.

If we would diminish the effects of authoritarianism and the less fortuitous elements of partisanship then we’d be well advised to promote critical thinking — which requires more than sound bite sloganeering and the exhortations of televised spin doctors.

For the sake of argument let’s adopt the premise that neither American political party will develop the perfect solution to providing health care insurance to everyone in this country.  What we can, and should do, in this instance is to ask some critical questions,  considering a current proposal: Who benefits? Who is harmed? Who will be the most directly affected?  What are the strengths and weaknesses of the proposal? What are the alternatives?  What actions of policies would create a positive change? What would provide the ‘greatest good for the greatest number?’ Where can more information be obtained?

Why is this a relevant problem? Why is there a felt need to make policy changes?  When will we know if a proposal or plan has succeeded?  When is the appropriate time to measure success?

It is equally efficacious to ask these questions of proposals regarding financial sector regulation,  voting rights issues, and climate change policies… indeed, any prospective issue.

We also need to take a more informed view of the way we categorize partisanship and non-partisanship.  One need not be a political independent, in the sense of registering as non-partisan, in order to be an independent political person.  Too often we tend to conflate the terms “independent” and “nonpartisan.”  It is entirely possible to be an independent thinker while identifying with a political party.  All that’s required is a sense that all proposals should be analyzed and evaluated for the purpose of perfecting them, not necessarily for the exercise of opposing them.

It’s easy to assign some responsibility to broadcast media for a lack of examples of critical thinking, and its application to contemporary issues.  Fifteen minute segments are hardly conducive to asking all the pertinent questions.  Having a biased perspective from the onset isn’t helpful whether it is coming from the Fox News Network or the Sinclair corporation.  Having the “adversarial” format in which CNN or MSNBC broadcast two or more ‘analysts’ launching verbal grenades at one another isn’t all that helpful either.  However, these outlets will continue their present formats until their ratings drop, and drop precipitously enough to convince sponsors that the public wants more information and less entertainment.

It’s also rather too easy to argue that the Schools Should Be Doing More.  Granted the current testing craze isn’t conducive to imparting practice in analysis, synthesis, and evaluation; but, it’s equally true that most education occurs in the home.  If parents and other significant people in the household ask each other to differentiate between facts and opinions, and further to require each other to substantiate his or her statements with facts, then Little Ears will pick up the process — everyone succeeds in this scenario.

Independence Day would be as good a time as any for us to declare ourselves Independents, as in independent thinkers, no matter our political affiliation.

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Civility

No, it’s not Okay to punch reporters.  I have some thoughts (best unexpressed) about reporters and pundits who couldn’t seem to move past the Benghazi Bamboozle and Ultimate Emails and give voice to reasonable opposition.  I have some thoughts about cable news outlets which prize confrontation above discussion, and who repeatedly request the services of Talking Point Bubble Heads (also best unexpressed.)  However, it is never appropriate to vilify The Press.  After all is said and said again, the Press is the only vocation protected by our Constitution. There’s a reason for that.

No, the press is not the enemy of the state.  To make this statement with any sincerity is to contend that the State should be (1) immune from criticism, (2) enabled to declare its own truth, and (3) able to defend its singular version of ‘reality’ against all comers.  This is not the basis for a democratic society.

No, the function of the press is not to make anyone feel comfortable.  Am I uncomfortable with some of the criticisms of the Affordable Care Act, yes, I am, but I am also willing to admit that the law needs some revision to deal with problems in the individual health insurance market.  I don’t need to be comfortable, I need to be informed.  I need information about options, such as a “public option,” or “single payer,” structures.  What I need is more light with less heat.  I would like to hear or read an explication of the problems associated market issues in the insurance business.  The function of the Press is to provide the informed discussion about those options.

No, punching out a reporter, and then cheering the assailant isn’t manly.  It’s cowardly.  It’s “Junior High.”  Or, it’s messaging for people who may be long gone from the creaking lockers of the ‘old high school now the junior high’ chronologically, but not so far removed in social and emotional immaturity.  It’s the bravado of the bar room.  It’s the bombast of the insecure.  It’s the reflection of the dark place in which to offer arguments against a political, or ideological sentiment isn’t differentiated from a personal assault.

No, physically attacking (or indulging in rancid verbal attacks) isn’t the new normal.  Such things are socially unacceptable.  They make the news broadcasts, as do highway accidents, gun fights, and public brawls — but that doesn’t make them “normal.”  Attaching the word “normal” to instances of brutality, incivility, and immature rancor is to demean the efforts of every parent on the planet advising children to behave themselves in both public and private places.  Norms are standards of social behavior, to be considered typical and expected.  We don’t expect people to indulge in emotional outbursts of undisciplined aggression.  That would violate our Norms.  As in “normal” behavior.

We could do with a bit more normality these days.

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