Category Archives: media

Loose Ends, Dots, and Access

First, could we, as Charlie Pierce suggested, turn the presidential debates back over to the League of Women Voters?  I think I might be tempted to stay for the entire program under those circumstances.  Further, it might free up some reporters to investigate topics which seem to get lost in the muddle.  Some examples–>

Saudi Arabia and the whole nuclear thing. There appear to be some story lines converging. There’s a crown Prince of dubious reputation involved with the murder of a journalist for an American newspaper.  How much involvement is unresolved.  There’s a deal for nuclear technology in which a long time backer of the current president is involved, and reporting of a deal struck with Israeli psy-ops which includes Saudi connections. The deal, the details, and the possibility of interconnections are a bit murky, but they could be part of a more integrated piece.  It would seem there is much more reporting gold to be mined from these seams.

Russians. Both FBI Director Wray and DNI Coats mentioned ongoing efforts by the Russians to continue their assaults on our elections, and on our political system in the past several days. Not that we shouldn’t already be aware of this systemic assault. Senate Majority leader McConnell may not like the appellation Moscow Mitch, but as long as story lines entangle him with the likes of Deripaska, and an aluminum plant, and lobbyists seeking preferential treatment for Russian concerns, that appellation may stick. Dots remain to be securely connected.

Add to this the strange tale of sanctions being legislated against Russia (and Saudi Arabia too) only to be left unimplemented or lightly enforced by the administration, or of sanctions being vetoed by the President (Saudi arms deal.)

Did someone get played when Trump launched his trade war with China and see them retaliate with tariffs on soy beans, only to discover later China decided to purchase soy beans from…Russia?

And yet, there’s the President out there for his chopper talk this week with reporters challenging the veracity of reports about ongoing Russian assaults on the US.  There’s Senate Majority Leader McConnell blocking election security bills in the 116th Congressional session.

This advice is far from original, but it’s perhaps useful to remind members of the 4th Estate “you ain’t learning anything when you’re talking.”  Please, sign off Twitter and other social media, use your telephones the old fashioned way, to contact sources, or to add sources and information to your reporting.  You don’t need to be on every pundit panel every hour during the A block. You really don’t need to be on pundit panels at all. Investigate, verify, report. Stop worrying about access.

Access is highly overrated.  Access didn’t break open the Tea Pot Dome Scandal, nor did it bring into light the Watergate Scandal.  Access gives you information someone wants you to have. Investigation gives us information the rest of us need to have.

Please follow the loose ends, see if the dots connect, uncover what you can, reveal what you can verify. We will be better off for your efforts.

Comments Off on Loose Ends, Dots, and Access

Filed under Health Care, media, Politics

Could a person get some news?

Nothing hammered home the shallowness of so-called in-depth reporting this week quite like the treatment of Director Mueller’s testimony before two Congressional committees. Here are a few reasons my television set is now turned off.

Breaking news is broken. First, if something was reported at 7 in the morning it is no longer breaking at lunch time. Breathless repetition will not endow the item with any more immediacy. Nor will splendid graphics, or dramatic music. It was news at 7 in the morning, it is not news at 7 in the evening.

Secondly, while I appreciate the need for the broadcasters to fill air time, I don’t need endless panels to explain to me what I just watched. For one thing, this all but invites gaslighting. For another, I really am capable of comprehension and some context is welcome, but speculation is often ridiculous.

Speculation should be left to the investment markets. Remember the video of the rat dragging a slice of pizza, the little clip that went viral?  Going a step beyond the previous paragraph,  why should a person ever get the sinking feeling that somewhere a pundit was opining on what the specter of the smallish rat with the large pizza slice portended for urban politics in a polarized political landscape? Mercy, was there a chatterer out there wondering aloud if the rodent were an analog for the gentrification of neighborhoods? After all, it was a large slice of pizza. Or, was it emblematic of urban blight yet unaddressed? Yes, it was a rat. Spare me. There are less imaginative instances.

I’m certain nearly everyone, including the boor at the end of the bar (perhaps especially the boor at the end of the bar) has an opinion on each and every topic possible during a domestic broadcast. Pack enough of these people onto a set, run the cameras, and there’s an Instant Time Stuffer. Pack a sufficient number of generalists and the time is filled with a light fluffy concoction analogous to a news version of cotton candy. There’s not even enough substance for our rodent to bother with.

If you like sports but aren’t terribly good at one, join a fantasy league. The obvious manifestion of this problem remains the horse race journalism associated with national elections.  How many of us are there who really could go for one entire 24 hour period without receiving a single report of the latest poll? The one which may, or may not, have a large sample size; and, may, or may not, have a margin of error larger than the gap between the candidates included in the polling?

Walter Cronkite was no raging beauty. Telegenic is as telegenic does. The camera may love Bonita Bombshell or Howard Stalwart, but if they are delivering drivel…it’s still drivel.  Here’s a thought: If you can’t book A-List guests for the afternoon grill, how about filling the time with…news?

There are things going on in the world not generally noticed by an increasingly myopic American broadcasting system. For example, there’s an Ebola outbreak in Africa, the Greeks have a new government,  and Guatemala is experiencing severe drought. Death due to gun violence in the US has now surpassed that from traffic accidents, and Chinese economic growth has slowed down. However, the chances Bombshell and Stalwart are devoting time to these topics are fat and slim.

So, the television remains silent. I’ve no particular interest in game shows, or contests to see which individuals can make the greatest fools of themselves.  I could watch a ball game, sports talk about sports makes sense. I could select one of the plethora of shows about ancient Egypt, or true crime…enough of that already.  Or, I could, wonder of wonders, read a book, thus avoiding all the problems listed above.

 

Comments Off on Could a person get some news?

Filed under media, Politics

Make America Good Again: Why I’m tired of DC’s Cool Kids

MAGA blue good againPress bashing is altogether too simple, and simplistic, but it is the way we get our information about politics in Nevada and America.  Now that we’re a focal point for national interest in a senatorial race it’s hard to avoid the punditry and their continual blathering.  However, we do need to avoid them.  We do need to ignore the cool kids and their cocktail party conversations in print, at least most of them.

For the next two weeks — shut down the television machine and do something else. Why? Because they really can’t tell us much we don’t already know. Because they want to talk to us about what they want to talk about and not necessarily what we need to know.

The cool kids in front of the cameras and writing as columnists are opinionists. Each day it’s their job to grind out opinion pieces — some better than others, some more informed than others, but always written to be read by other opinion writers and commentators. The other cool kids will comment on what a member of their cohort has written or said, and the cycle continues until the next shiny object floats before their countenances and their off to another topic — because it’s not cool to keep writing about the same topic day after day.

Then the opinionists profess surprise that people, real people, are more interested in health care, than in the latest incident du jour or poll of the moment.  Real people are more interested in policy than process; real people are more interested in issues than in the reflections and refractions from the myriad of shiny objects which distract the opinionists and bedazzle the punditry.  This is likely because real people understand that health insurance policies which don’t cover pre-existing medical conditions, or only provide coverage at exorbitant premium rates, isn’t helpful.  Real people understand, on a daily basis, that if they aren’t seeing their wages keep up with inflation, or they don’t have enough cash in reserve to meet a $500 emergency expense,  the economy isn’t working for them.

Turn off the Sunday squawk shows. Why? Because these are more infotainment than substance; more about process and spin than information and analysis.  Case in point: The cook kid’s obsession with “Democratic responses.”  Let’s face it, we have a misogynistic, sexist, racist, elitist administration in the Oval Office and the Democrats have to come up with ways to respond to it — but with the cool kids there’s no way to win.

Senator Elizabeth Warren responds to at least two years worth of nasty racist taunting with a DNA test and what does she get from the cool kids?  Oh, clutch pearls, she’s descending to “his level,” or she doesn’t meet tribal membership qualification standards (that was never the point in the first place.) Is she really announcing her interest in running for the presidency in 2020?  The cool kids were ever so busy parsing her announcement for “clues,” and ever so dismissive about her “timing,” her “phrasing,” her “intentions.”  Was it just me, or did this smack a bit of the Clinton Treatment?  Secretary Clinton writes a book. It was “too soon.”  It was “too late.”  It was “too personal.” It was not “personal enough.”  She should “go away.” She has a responsibility to stay and lead her party.  She can’t win with the cool kids in DC, she never could, and now it appears Senator Warren has joined her.

How many members of the Cool Kids Club have noticed the propensity of the Republicans to attack a certain group of people — Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, Maxine Waters, Fredericka Wilson, Valerie Jarrett, Susan Rice, Stacey Abrams, Nancy Pelosi… seeing a pattern here?  It’s time to tune out of the punditry’s process analysis parsing, and do some phone calling, door knocking, and talking to some of those people who are more concerned about whether they can afford a trip to the ER than with how the Cocktail Party Club will receive their well crafted and grammatically polished opinion pieces.

It’s also high time to stop listening to the false equivalency gamesmanship.   I don’t much care how many times the buffoon in the Oval Office calls Democrats a “mob.”  That’s a bull-horn talking point for his base of dead-ender deplorables.  Yes, they are deplorable people.  A person gets to be deplorable in my estimation when it’s acceptable to invite a self-anointed radical right wing racist thug to a Republican venue, and then offer no apology when he and his associates go out on a New York city street and start beating up people.  What on earth could these “Proud Boys” be proud of?  It

It is deplorable, in my estimation, when the Tiki Torch carrying, Nazi slogan chanting boys take to the streets of Charlottesville, VA, and then one of their number decides it’s a fine idea to deliberately drive a car into the crowd of anti-nazi demonstrators — killing one young woman.  It is NOT a fine idea for Florida Republican leadership to invite White Supremacists to threaten House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.  Oh, but but but what about Mitch McConnell and some others being shouted at in restaurants?  Excuse me… but when did driving into crowds, beating up people in the streets, chanting Nazi slogans within hearing distance of a synagogue, and threatening direct physical violence to the House Minority Leader become “equivalent” to getting shouted at in a restaurant?  [I don’t advocate shouting at people in restaurants — I’m rather more the type to tell the management that the mere presence of those people has put me off my feed and I’m leaving — I’ll pay my bill if I’ve already been served (no reason to make the staff pay for my personal quirks) but I’d really rather spot the Deplorables before I order so I can walk out without making any financial contribution to the establishment serving them.]

I, for one, am tired of the false equivalency game, and there’s no reason to listen to it.  I have a handy button on my TV remote control that fixes that.

So, please, for the next few days walk precincts if you can, make phone calls, talk to friends and neighbors, do whatever you can whenever you can to Get People Out To Vote.  Somehow we need to overcome the gerrymandering, egregious vote suppression tactics, and false electoral information strategies to get to the polls, vote in the polling stations, and make a difference in the trajectory of this country.  State by state, county by county, city and town by city and town, ward by ward, precinct by precinct.

There’s enough noise coming from the television sets and radios; but, what we do need to attend to are the needs of our neighbors, the interests of our friends, and the concerns of our cohorts.  Vote like our right to vote depends on it. It does.  Make America Good Again.

Comments Off on Make America Good Again: Why I’m tired of DC’s Cool Kids

Filed under media, Nevada, Nevada politics, Politics

And Now Back To Our Regular Program: Post Kavanaugh Infrastructure Week

Senatorial candidate/incumbent Dean Heller (R-NV) was pleased to tweet Justice Kavanaugh was confirmed.  Not that the confirmation was a major surprise.  The Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans didn’t want to investigate his background, the White House didn’t want to investigate his background, the Chief Justice sat on complaints arising from his background [WaPo] and the pundit class was ever so pleased to have a “dramatic” confirmation to cover.  There were other elements which should have come as no surprise either.

The newspapers and broadcast media played along with the “controversy.”  Was it “he said, she said?”  What were women thinking? What were Trump-Women thinking?  Was he going to be the swing vote on challenges to Roe v. Wade?  Not too much ink and precious few pixels were expended describing his position on workers’ rights, on environmental regulations, on human rights, on much of anything other than the abortion issue.  Yawn.  Those more complex issues require deeper reporting and far more depth in explication and they don’t sell advertising.   Once more we’re reminded that the general public is not the first audience for television and print media business operations — it’s the advertisers.

Therefore, why would anyone be surprised the media aired and printed GOP bombast about “paid protesters,” and “mobs” of angry people?  There has always been a double standard at work in this realm.  The Status Quo is male, business ownership oriented, quaffs its scotch and water or sipping whiskey beside polished bars and inside elegant doors, and buys advertising — or knows someone who does.  The cameras will follow the freest spirit clad in the most outrageous costuming for a protest occasion, while those dressed more conservatively aren’t often in the frame because they don’t “tell the story.”  Or, at least not the story the advertisers want to tell.

Women have known since the era of the suffragettes that men are “passionate,” while women are “hysterical and emotional.”  If a person isn’t sure about this take another look at Serena Williams’ protest of an official’s call which may very well have cost her a championship match.  Women have known all along theirs is not the story the Status Quo wants in the headlines above the fold, or leading the broadcast.  The numbers of women who remember a time when all the ‘shelter’ magazines advised them to give up their jobs so returning soldiers could be assured of employment and a comfortable ‘nest’ at home are dwindling, but the memory is still within a life span.

Viewers watch marching neo-nazis with tiki torches, chanting “Blood and Soil,” while sporting their tidy white polo shirts and khaki trousers.  Gee, they don’t give the general impression of an “angry mob.”  It’s only when the cameras move closer to the faces that the hate is visible.  Compare the visual to the preferred camera target in a contemporary protest.  Once the march leaders are shown the cameras seek out the most eye-catching characters.  They usually don’t have that white-washed polo shirt look.  They are often students who don’t own more than one suit, if that, and certainly don’t want to risk getting really good clothing messed up during the inevitable police action which could ensue.  So, it’s jeans and T-shirts/jackets compared on screen to polo shirts and khakis.  No matter the jeans and T’s are defending 1st Amendment rights by exercising them, as the khaki klan seeks to impose white supremacy on a diverse country.  But, what about “the men?”

Once more the media allows the big players to frame the game.  If the #MeToo movement has gathered support and seems to be adding adherents and allies, then what might the Status Quo do to counter?  This week was a classic.  Elite, rich, elderly white males stood before us crying (and whining) about men being the victims of modernity.  However, this whine has been boiling for a long time.  Consider the continuous complaints of the Rush Limbaugh’s of the airwaves with their moaning about ‘feminazis” and how a real American guy can’t swat Mary Jane’s fanny when she steps into the garage — how a real man can’t wolf whistle at all the Mary Jane’s who have to walk past a construction site — how real men can’t catch a break because of all the women in the workplace who stifle the man’s competitive spirit.  Of course, real men don’t feel the need to swat Mary Jane’s fanny in the garage; they don’t need to wolf whistle; and they control most of the management positions in corporate America.  This isn’t news.

When all else fails the right can be assured the old anti-Semitic ploys will work.  If all the canned ham look-a-likes (Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh, etc)  don’t manage to put a major dent in the image of protesters who don’t care for sexism and misogyny, there’s always the “paid protester” line… in this case George Soros who makes a convenient stand-in for the old anti-Rothchild propaganda of an earlier era.  The old double standard works here as well.  The Tea Partiers were “Real America.”  The Occupy Wall Street protesters must have been paid.  The contemporary protesters, mostly women last week, must surely have been paid — according to the elite, rich, white, males who celebrated ignoring them.

Will this, the press asked, cause a closer horse race in the mid-terms?  There is absolutely nothing the press seems to like more than a horse race, a sporting event, anything which will allow the punditry to pontificate on sports cliches like “momentum.”  Spare me. All the press has to work with are general, national or statewide, polling.  It does not have access to internal, private, number crunching performed on behalf of the campaigns themselves.  Most individuals who have been “in politics” for more than a school committee race know the truth of the O’Neill Maxim: All politics is local. 

Besides the “big” stuff the cable channels like to cover, there are better questions which they can’t answer because they just flat out don’t have the resources to do so. For example, they don’t have much of a handle on “candidate fit,” or how the specific candidate fits the local electorate.  They don’t have access to local politically active organizations which do phone banks, walks, and other services for campaigns. Nor do they have a way to gauge the effectiveness of local politically related leadership in social and other organizations.  The “media” may have a 35K view of a national issue, but there’s plenty of cloud cover before it sees what is going on in Ward 4 of Congressional District 3’s race. Not that we should ignore the media reportage, but we do need to be cognizant of how limited it is.

There’s the post hoc ergo procter hoc problem.  Even after an election the media may proclaim that some national issue had “an effect,” while underneath that “effect” may very well be the fact that Candidate X launched a full throat-ed ad buy, along with a deluge of phone bankers, combined with a legion of precinct walkers in the last week.

Thus,  for those who have survived another Infrastructure Week of the divisive, deflective, dumpster disaster which is the Trump Era,  there are mid-term elections which will be determined by who votes for whom.

Who has the best get out the vote plan? Who executes that plan best?

Who has the better candidate who best fits the district or state? Who executes the campaign best?

Who just flat out works harder to get in office or stay that way?  Who didn’t let the Outrage du Jour distract them from campaigning on issues near and dear to their constituents hearts — regardless of the media tendencies, press proclivities, and advertisers demands.  Who kept their eyes on the prize when others were distracted by double standards and double vision?

When we vote we win. That’s all there is to it.

 

Comments Off on And Now Back To Our Regular Program: Post Kavanaugh Infrastructure Week

Filed under Heller, Judicial, media, media ownership, Nevada politics, Politics

Dear Media, There’s Nothing Wrong With The Democratic Party That Democrats Can’t Fix (Thank You Very Much)

newspapers 1Dear Media (especially the morning pundit chattering variety on the television set.) There is nothing wrong with the Democratic Party that Democrats can’t fix.  However, never let it be said we’d stop you from endless pontificating on one of your favorite themes: Democrats in Disarray.  So, this morning we have yet another segment, this time on MSNBC, about the “Rift” in the Democratic Party.   Not that anything in this little rant will deter you from embracing one of your favorite themes, but PLEASE take a couple of thoughts into consideration.

Thought Number One:  The Democratic Party is not now, nor has it ever been a monolithic lock step organization and model of political efficiency.  There are urban Democrats and rural Democrats; capitalist Democrats and socialist Democrats; able bodied and disabled Democrats; straight and gay Democrats; men and women Democrats; white and African American and Hispanic and whatever Democrats. There are college educated Democrats, and Democrats without high school diplomas. There are Democrats with homes in the suburbs, and Democrats living in mobile home parks.  Getting the picture?  What all these Democrats have in common is that they care about the other Democrats…and their Republican and Independent neighbors as well.  They want everyone to have health insurance; a chance for an education; a secure retirement; equal pay for equal work, and humane laws concerning immigration and gun safety.

So, yes. There will be squabbles about Single Payer health insurance systems versus private insurance models. There will be heated discussions about how many educational services will be provided to whom over what period of time.  There will be disagreements about agricultural subsidies and banking regulations.  There will be rifts all over the place — it’s called a “healthy civic discourse.”  And, the way Democrats squabble with one another it would seem we are among the healthiest civic “discoursers” around.

This may surprise you, dear Media, but this leads to our Second Thought.

Thought Number Two:  We like it.  We challenge each other.  The more Socialist among us challenge those of us of a more Capitalist bent to justify the way we think about financial regulations.  The more Capitalist among us challenge our more Socialistic inclined brethren to think in practical terms of how social programs are to be administered and financially supported.  The more urban Democrats challenge their agricultural cohorts to think in terms of the needs of city dwellers, while the agriculturally interested Democrats remind the city dwellers that major metropolitan areas don’t have enough cropland to provide sandwich bread for 7 million people.

We may even shriek a bit at one another, hurling the ultimate insult, “You’re not really a Democrat,” about.  However, when the chips are down we don’t want anyone turned away from a voting booth for any nefarious reason; we don’t want children separated unnecessarily from their parents; and we certainly don’t want farmers going bankrupt as a result of a silly trade war.  We may rail at one another over the details of a health care plan, but we agree that people with pre-existing medical conditions shouldn’t be gouged to pay for health insurance premiums.   There are as many different combinations of interests as there are Democrats to express them, and now for our third thought.

Thought Number Three:  We are national and local.  We have this old fashioned idea that the representatives (from school boards to city councils to county commissions to state legislatures to the halls of Congress) should represent their constituents.   We are often amused to find pundits expressing something just short of amazement that candidate Haymaker, a relatively conservative rural Democrat recently won a seat in the State Legislature.  Yes? Why not? Haymaker probably represents the needs, aspirations, and politics of — wait for it — his or her constituents.  If this doesn’t fit neatly into some national pundit’s nifty theory of national political trends, so be it.  It’s not our (Democrats) fault if our candidates and elected officials don’t align precisely with Pauly Pundit’s theoretical framework du jour.  Live with it.

Thought Number Four:  The Democrats in Disarray thing is getting boring. I know, it’s a convenient hook upon which to hang a story, a handy narrative on which to pad out a few column inches into a full column, BUT please… it’s getting old, stale, and noticeably desiccated.  Why, Dear Media, don’t you want to spend yet more time interminably interviewing Trump voters to seek out tiny indications of Buyer’s Remorse?  You probably won’t find much there either, any more than you will get eight Democrats in a room to agree upon the specific elements of anything.  However, the endless media fascination with “real people,” as if African American urban factory workers are “unreal,” is perilously close to insulting — as in, let’s find some grammatically challenged suitably casually dressed individuals with guns in the back of the pickup cab to interview as if these are “real Americans” to the exclusion of all others — including the college educated, articulate, and middle income individuals living right down the road who may or may not be identified with the same political party.

So, thank you very much members of the Chatterati — but let’s leave the Democrats to it — to their very own loving and sometimes even lovable capacity to crash and bash into each other.  However, don’t expect Democrats to be incapable of recognizing when matters at hand have reached crucial moments.  We, as Democrats, may be slow to move, slower to move in unison, but when faced with assaults on core principles and values move we do.  And will.

See you in November.

1 Comment

Filed under media, Politics

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.

Comments Off on Dear Pundits: The Five Response Trap

Filed under media, Politics

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.

Comments Off on A Wish List For 2018

Filed under media, Politics, Voting

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.

Comments Off on Yes, It’s About Race Relations

Filed under media, Politics, racism

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.

Comments Off on She Did It She Did It…well maybe sort of

Filed under Foreign Policy, media, Politics

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.

Comments Off on Silly Season Comes To Town: The Semantics of Collusion

Filed under Foreign Policy, gold, media, Politics