Media Takes Some Well Deserved Hits

Press conference It’s been a miserable season for political reporting.  Some of the misery is self-inflicted.  Let’s admit that we’ve moved a long way from Murrow and Cronkite.  And, let’s also admit that what made the ‘Murrow Moment’ (March 9, 1954) significant when the broadcaster called out the invidious Senator Joe McCarthy was a matter of personal courage when most other stations were satisfied to repeat what the Senator had to offer without comment.   Many of the broadcasters today weren’t around on February 27, 1968 for Cronkite’s epic Vietnam War comments.  No anchor today has the gravitas to make the President say, as Lyndon Johnson remarked that day, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.”

Nor can we look back to some Golden Age of political reporting without noting that Robert R. McCormick reigned supreme at the  “America First” newspaper, the Chicago Tribune – arduously attacking Franklin D. Roosevelt, all things New Deal, and any question that the U.S. should enter World War II on the side of the British.  The currently resurgent “America First” slogan got its initial patriotic veneer from the newspapers of William Randolph Hearst. [Atlantic]  The unhelpful press has always been with us.

“Ethical journalism should be accurate and fair. Journalists should be honest and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.” [SPJ]

The statement above is the standard by which journalism is to be delivered.  There are two key words in that simple statement which seem to have become blurred — “accuracy,” and “honest.” The reading and watching public have been let down several times.

It took until 2004 for the New York Times to admit that the articles written by Judith Miller concerning weapons of mass destruction in Iraq 2001-2002 were inaccurate.  When they did, the blame was deflected to “bad sources,” and “everyone makes mistakes.”  There is a difference between being a journalist and being a stenographer using unexamined, “unreliable, and possibly partisan sources.” [MMA]

MSNBC host Chuck Todd received well earned flack for this bit of commentary in 2013:

“MSNBC host Chuck Todd said Wednesday that when it comes to misinformation about the new federal health care law, don’t expect members of the media to correct the record.” [TPM]

Really?  What was that first standard from the Society of Professional Journalists again?  Accurate and fair?  Yes, it definitely is a journalist’s responsibility to the accurate.  And, if your reporting isn’t accurate why should anyone watch, listen, or read what you have to say?

Todd got into similar territory during an interview with Senator Ted Cruz in April 2016:

“Cruz went onto accuse the Department of Justice of letting Planned Parenthood off the hook for supposedly selling baby body parts, which as we all know, is a bald-faced lie, and cited those doctored videos as proof, and what was Chuck Todd’s response? You guessed it. Crickets.” [C&L]

One can be a reporter, a stenographer, or a microphone – Todd did not choose to be a reporter.

The New York Times writer, Roger Cohen, got into an instructive exchange with Norman Ornstein a day ago, leading to Ornstein questions about the Times’ focus on Clinton ‘scandals;’

“Roger this is not about ignoring these issues. It is about obsessing on them to the exclusion of everything else.” [Storify]

Ornstein refers here to the questions about Trump University, the investigation into the actions of Trump University, and the possible bribes to Florida and Texas authorities concerning the investigations into Trump University.

Fox News, Chris Wallace, echoed the Chuck Todd defense yesterday:

“That’s not my job. I do not believe it is my job to be a truth squad. It’s up to the other person to catch them on that. I certainly am going to try to maintain some reasonable semblance of equal time. If one of them is filibustering, I’m going to try to break in respectfully and give the other person a chance to talk….” [MMA]

So, if one candidate, the other, or both are being untruthful, it’s up to the viewers to discern the difference?  This is the very antithesis of informing the public.

If the main point isn’t to be the accuracy of the information given to the public what is the public getting?  Not much. Not as much as we could be getting because the press is almost as interested in covering its own interests as it is in covering the news.

“The Press Conference Flap” is informative in itself. David A. Graham (Atlantic) Callum Borchers (WaPo) Oliver Darcy (Business Insider) and Jonathan Easley (The Hill) are among those who have wondered and opined about why Secretary Clinton hasn’t had a press conference.  Paul Krugman’s column may provide a hint?

“So I would urge journalists to ask whether they are reporting facts or simply engaging in innuendo, and urge the public to read with a critical eye. If reports about a candidate talk about how something “raises questions,” creates “shadows,” or anything similar, be aware that these are all too often weasel words used to create the impression of wrongdoing out of thin air.”

If all the press conference is to be is a mob format Q&A in which Secretary Clinton can’t possibly say all the right things in just the absolutely right way to dismiss the innuendo and outright falsehoods of the email and foundation manufactured scandals, then why should she bother?

Besides which, contemporary press conferences don’t seem to get much accomplished.  I’ve (almost) joked before that press conferences are sessions in which reporters ask ten minute questions and then expect a ten second response; or, press conferences are where reporters ask complicated questions to which they seem to want simple, sound byte, answers.  Or, a session in which a reporter is asked for one question, squeezes in three, and then later complains that the respondent didn’t answer the second and third?

A sample:

“Chicago — August has been the worse month in violence and homicides in several decades.  Obviously, we focus on these things when we hit these milestones; I’m sure the President thinks about it all the time.  What is his response to this?  And more specifically, what is his response to the Trump statement that, essentially, he’s going to make these shootings stop, and that he’s the law-and-order candidate, and that the President has not done the job in this area generally, is the criticism?” [WHPC 8/30/16]

We could have shortened this question easily because it’s relatively obvious the questioner isn’t focused on the President’s reaction, but on the President’s reaction to Mr. Trump’s reaction.  So, the question becomes – do reporters want a press conference because they have essential, policy related, questions about Secretary Clinton’s domestic and foreign policy statements, or do they want to get on TV asking about emails, foundations, and a personal aide’s domestic arrangements?  Or, just to get themselves on TV?

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Was This When America Was Great?

Racist posters

H/T to Zoli Osaze

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Warning: Vote Suppression Scheme includes Nevada

Crosscheck Nevada For those happily thinking that vote suppression schemes like CrossCheck are happening somewhere else, and that Republicans might be pulling shenanigans in lands far away – be WARNED as of 2013 Nevada joined the CrossCheck system.  And, not to his credit then Secretary of State Ross Miller bought into it.

First, consider the source, Kris Kobach. “So far, in his career, Kobach has been the guy that John Ashcroft tasked with weeding out foreign travelers in the wake of 9/11—and Kobach’s program was so deeply involved in racial profiling that it was shut down. He also was the author of Arizona’s notorious “Papers, Please” law.” [Esquire]

Second, consider HOW operation Cross Check works.

“Election officials in more than two dozen states have compiled lists of citizens whom they allege could be registered in more than one state – thus potentially able to cast multiple ballots – and eligible to be purged from the voter rolls.” [RS] (emphasis added)

The “could be” part of the sentence is important because it forms the basis of the vote suppression efforts.

“Crosscheck has tagged an astonishing 7.2 million suspects, yet we found no more than four perpetrators who have been charged with double voting or deliberate double registration.”  [RS]

How do 7.2 million people get to be “suspects?”  The methodology is incredibly sloppy.  If this isn’t by design then it’s at least a way to get the “most suspects possible” from a limited number of registrations.

“We found that one-fourth of the names on the list actually lacked a middle-name match. The system can also mistakenly identify fathers and sons as the same voter, ignoring designations of Jr. and Sr. A whole lot of people named “James Brown” are suspected of voting or registering twice, 357 of them in Georgia alone. But according to Crosscheck, James Willie Brown is supposed to be the same voter as James Arthur Brown. James Clifford Brown is allegedly the same voter as James Lynn Brown.” [RS]

It’s easy, if all the James Browns are lumped into one group then all become “suspect” and their voting rights denied on election day, as potential fraudulent voters.  Now imagine being a Smith, Johnson, Williams, Jones, Brown, Davis, Miller, Wilson, Moore, or Taylor in the United States – the top ten surnames in the 1990 census.  If Robert C. Brown moved to Nevada and didn’t bother to de-list his name from the Ohio rolls, Robert F. Brown could be struck from the list as a “potential” fraud. And, even if Robert C. Brown had absolutely NO intention of voting in Ohio, he’d still be viewed as a “potential” fraud.

RollingStone’s report continues:

“We had Mark Swedlund, a database expert whose clients include eBay and American Express, look at the data from Georgia and Virginia, and he was shocked by Crosscheck’s “childish methodology.” He added, “God forbid your name is Garcia, of which there are 858,000 in the U.S., and your first name is Joseph or Jose. You’re probably suspected of voting in 27 states.”

Including Nevada.  And who gets caught in this trap?

This inherent bias results in an astonishing one in six Hispanics, one in seven Asian-Americans and one in nine African-Americans in Crosscheck states landing on the list. Was the program designed to target voters of color? “I’m a data guy,” Swedlund says. “I can’t tell you what the intent was. I can only tell you what the outcome is. And the outcome is discriminatory against minorities.” [RS]

Why is this important? Because 27% of Nevada’s population is Hispanic.  9.3% of the Nevada population is African American. 8.5% is Asian. [Census]  What of the Social Security numbers and birthdays that were supposed to rectify this weakness in the Cross Check database?  The Social Security numbers weren’t on the lists Rolling Stone found.

According to the report, those entrapped by the Cross Check scheme are notified by a small print postcard which requires a response to the Secretary of State’s office.  It’s no secret who is less likely to return the post card – the young, the unemployed, those who move from job to job, minorities, women, and those in lower income brackets.  Precisely the people the Republicans don’t want voting.

The ACLU of Nevada has some voting tips for citizens of the state:

Check your voter registration status at least 30 days before the election. Locate your polling place and note the hours of operation.

Vote before Election Day, through early voting or absentee voting if possible. If you plan to vote at the polls, go early in the day to avoid the last-minute rush.

Bring identification even if it’s not required.

Read all instructions carefully. Take your time. Ask for help if you need it.”

We might want to add some additional tips – If you have a very common last name – If you have a surname which is common among ethnic minority populations – If you are a student – If you have moved recently – If you live in a neighborhood or precinct with a significant percentage of ethnic minority group population – Mark your calendar, perhaps on October 4th, and make certain of your voter registration well before the November 8th election.

Your vote counts – make sure it’s counted!

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Clinton Speaks to Issues, Press follows Shiny Objects

Clinton with Kid Since corporate media is fascinated with every little tweet from the Trump Menagerie and every bit of its minutiae which can be hyper-analyzed, it’s left to other platforms to highlight Clinton speeches and their content.  Why am I posting this? Because on the day Clinton outlined major policy proposals on mental health services the national media was all tangled up in an NFL player’s protest and Trump’s publicity stunt trip to Mexico.

So, here’s what we’ve missed in just one subject matter  area – minority outreach.

Minority outreach speeches: July 8, 2016 Clinton Speech to the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Philadelphia PA.  A bit of it:

“As we know, there is clear evidence that African-Americans are much more likely to be killed in police incidents than any other group of Americans. And we know there is too little trust in too many places between police and the communities they are sworn to protect.” Clinton said that good law enforcement officers far outnumber those who are bad and a violent response to violence is not the answer. The protest in Dallas yesterday was peaceful and police were there to monitor the crowds and ensure the protesters’ safety when they were fired upon by a sniper. Clinton spoke about her proposal to invest $1 billion in police training across the county to ensure the safety of law enforcement officers as well as the general public.”

July 14, 2016, League of United Latin American Citizens, Washington DC.

“The choice we make will say a lot about who we are and whether we understand and celebrate the diversity of our country, which makes us all the stronger.”

July 18, 2016, address to the NAACP.

“There is, as you know so well, another hard truth at the heart of this complex matter: Many African-Americans fear the police.” Clinton vowed to work toward bridging the gap between the African American community and local police forces.”

June 4, 2016: Santa Barbara, CA community event focusing on women and families.

“The round table discussion consisted of local officials and representatives. Clinton spoke about a number of her platform points aimed at improving the lives of women and helping families. She spoke about increasing the minimum wage, ensuring that women receive equal pay for equal work, ensuring families have access to affordable childcare, and guaranteeing workers paid family leave.”

June 10, 2016: Planned Parenthood event, Washington DC.

“We know that restricting access doesn’t make women less likely to end a pregnancy. It just makes abortion less safe.  And that then threatens women’s lives.”

June 27, 2016: Rainbow PUSH Coalition event, Chicago, IL.

“Clinton’s primary focus was gun violence and introducing legislation to require background checks for the purchase of a firearm. She spoke about the importance of reducing gun violence saying, “I think saving our children and other people from gun violence is a civil rights issue right now in America.”

May 1, 2016:  Clinton is keynote speaker at the Detroit NAACP dinner.

“During her speech, she spoke about a number of platform topics including criminal justice reform, prison reform, gun control, and the refinancing of student loan debt. Clinton said that she wanted to continue to the progress of the last eight years.”

May 9, 2016: Stone Ridge, VA on women and work/life balance issues.

“She said that raising a family and having a career is harder today than it was when Chelsea was a kid. “Costs are greater, everything from commuting time to feeling like if you take that vacation day, you are going to be viewed as slacking off,” she said. Clinton went on to say that she knew that her proposals would change the current system, but it is important to realize that times have changed. She said, “We need to really start looking at these programs from the lens of what life is like today and not what it was like 50 years ago.”

May 10, 2016:  Lexington and Louisville, KY events on the economy and the family.  Follow this link to the bullet point outline of Clinton’s proposals.

May 22, 2016: Keynote address to the Circle of Mothers Restoration weekend, Fort Lauderdale, FL.

“Something is wrong when so many young people just starting their lives are dying. Something is very wrong, my friends, and this election gives us a chance to keep trying to make it right.”

Mr. Trump seems to have “discovered” minorities very recently?

And then, of course, there was the August 29, 2016 speech on mental health care issues – covered by Politico, the BBC, and PBS.  Those who missed what this was all about please follow this link to the briefing points and policy proposals from the Clinton campaign.

For those not content with beltway media blathering and who want a bit more good old fashioned CONTENT and context in their political discussions, there’s the Briefing Section/Fact Sheets portion of the Clinton Campaign.   As I’ve said before, I’ve given up on the corporate media doing much more than giving Trump free publicity and chasing after twitter streams.  Fortunately in this day and age we can do some of the heavy lifting ourselves without waiting for them to catch up.

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Filed under civil liberties, Clinton, Hillary Clinton, NAACP, Nevada politics, Women's Issues

Trump The Business Man?

Business bankruptcy

One of the more simplistic ways to consider Donald Trump’s appeal to some Republican voters is to say that he is a business man and therefore will be able to “take care” of members of the business community.  Not. So. Fast.

There is a difference between being in business and being successful at business.  A person could argue that Jeffrey Skilling and Ken Lay were good (successful) businessmen, but what they did with the Enron Corporation was definitively criminal.  [BI]  Lehman Brothers was a profitable investment firm, but with $639 billion in assets and $619 billion in debts it ultimately failed, becoming one of the biggest bankruptcies in the U.S. [Invest]  We could add Washington Mutual, World Com, Conseco, and others to this list [Fortune] but the point’s been made. 

There is a difference between managing a business and growing a business.  Let’s assume for the moment that a person can manage a business (allocate resources, find revenue, and manage debt) without necessarily growing that business.  If a person is in the business of buying and selling businesses, then the focus tunes into how profitably the business can be sold – not necessarily a focus on how to grow the business into profitability.  And, at this point Mr. Trump’s business experience in Atlantic City is instructive:

“On the presidential campaign trail, Mr. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, often boasts of his success in Atlantic City, of how he outwitted the Wall Street firms that financed his casinos and rode the value of his name to riches. A central argument of his candidacy is that he would bring the same business prowess to the Oval Office, doing for America what he did for his companies.” [NYT]

There’s a persistent argument that the demise of Mr. Trump’s casino operations in Atlantic City was a function of a general downturn in casino profitability during his ownership period, however that was not the entire explanation – Trump’s operations were in trouble before the slow down began.

“…a close examination of regulatory reviews, court records and security filings by The New York Times leaves little doubt that Mr. Trump’s casino business was a protracted failure. Though he now says his casinos were overtaken by the same tidal wave that eventually slammed this seaside city’s gambling industry, in reality he was failing in Atlantic City long before Atlantic City itself was failing.” [NYT]

The formula was flawed from the beginning. First, Trump took on debt that was far too expensive.  Second, he delayed payments on the indebtedness.  Third, go into bankruptcy and convince bondholders to take less money (known unkindly as a haircut) rather than come out of the ordeal with nothing at all.  Finally, he took the companies public and placed the onerous debt burden on the shareholders.  Ultimately he lost control of the companies.   If this sounds more like Ken Lay, Andrew Fastow, and Bernard Ebbers than Warren Buffett, Dennis Gartman, and Howard Marks you’d be correct.

And in his wake:

“At the nearly deserted eastern end of the boardwalk, the Trump Taj Mahal, now under new ownership, is all that remains of the casino empire Donald J. Trump assembled here more than a quarter-century ago. Years of neglect show: The carpets are frayed and dust-coated chandeliers dangle above the few customers there to play the penny slot machines.”  [NYT]

There are good and bad ways of doing business.  Perhaps a good way to describe the difference is that the following should not be said of a person on his way out:

“He put a number of local contractors and suppliers out of business when he didn’t pay them,” said Steven P. Perskie, who was New Jersey’s top casino regulator in the early 1990s. “So when he left Atlantic City, it wasn’t, ‘Sorry to see you go.’ It was, ‘How fast can you get the hell out of here?’” [NYT]

The negative feelings were not without substance.   Edward Friel’s cabinetry business went under after Trump left the company unpaid for services rendered.  He wasn’t alone.

“At least 60 lawsuits, along with hundreds of liens, judgments, and other government filings reviewed by the USA TODAY NETWORK, document people who have accused Trump and his businesses of failing to pay them for their work. Among them: a dishwasher in Florida. A glass company in New Jersey. A carpet company. A plumber. Painters. Forty-eight waiters. Dozens of bartenders and other hourly workers at his resorts and clubs, coast to coast. Real estate brokers who sold his properties. And, ironically, several law firms that once represented him in these suits and others.” [USAT]

There was more:

“In addition to the lawsuits, the review found more than 200 mechanic’s liens — filed by contractors and employees against Trump, his companies or his properties claiming they were owed money for their work — since the 1980s. The liens range from a $75,000 claim by a Plainview, N.Y., air conditioning and heating company to a $1 million claim from the president of a New York City real estate banking firm. On just one project, Trump’s Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, records released by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission in 1990 show that at least 253 subcontractors weren’t paid in full or on time, including workers who installed walls, chandeliers and plumbing.” [USAT]

Carpeting firms, cabinet makers, plumbers, painters… all discovered what Trump’s bondholders knew.   Mr. Trump would incur debts, refuse to pay up citing convenient  circumstances, and then (to the bondholders) threaten bankruptcy or to the small business owners threaten protracted litigation, and “get out” of paying his debts.  Little wonder Atlantic City was happy to see the back of him. Whatever core values Trump’s businesses might have aspired to they weren’t enough to keep him in business.

Core Values are important.  This is as good a summation as there might be:

“Company values are not a statement of mission or commercial vision. They are priceless words, becoming the soul and force field of your business, preserving and protecting it from external and internal agents capable of compromising its survival and reputation.

When willfully and forcibly implemented into a company culture, values have extraordinary democratic benefits including increased employee alignment, motivation, loyalty, efficiency, cohesiveness and consistency of interpretation. Zero or weak implementation of values result in shifting integrity benchmarks, exposing organizations to higher political chess-playing and integrity management challenges, raising bureaucratic, operational, human resource, ombudsperson, legal and arbitration costs.” [Endeavor]

What does it say about Trump companies’ core values when there is endless litigation, mechanics liens, payroll disputes, bankruptcies, and bondholders and shareholders left holding the baggage?

Without a solid set of core business values the enterprise is reduced to gamesmanship – how much indebtedness can I shift to others? – how much less can I get a bondholder to accept? – how much can I get taken off a bill for services and supplies rendered?  — how little can I pay employees and still retain a workforce?   Thus we find Mr. Trump, not at the top of the business world with the Buffetts, Marks, and Gartmans but along side those who played “the game” and were ultimately found wanting; the Skillings, the Fastows, the Fulds, and the Ebbers.

Caveat Emptor indeed.

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Tarkanian and the Company He Keeps

Tarkanian Hardy Victory Committee

Dip into the Federal Elections Commission searchable database and there are all manner of interesting relationships revealed; such as the formation of the Hardy-Tarkanian Victory Committee on July 18, 2016. (pdf) Box “5g” is checked indicating that this is a “committee collecting contributions, paying fundraising expenses and disbursing net proceeds for two or more political committees/organizations, at least one of which is an authorized committee of a federal candidate.”  And, there’s a bonus: the treasurer is a familiar personage in Nevada politics – Chrissie Hastie.  We met Hastie in a previous life as part of the Nevada Jobs Coalition:

“That’s a PAC whose resident agent is Chrissie Hastie, and which shares its address with three other, similar PACs. According to the Las Vegas Sun, the coalition is run out of the offices of November Inc., the political consulting firm run by Sandoval adviser Mike Slanker.” [Sebelius] (9/22/14)

Or, we could go back a bit further to the complaints concerning how former Congressman Jon Porter was accepting questionable donations in 2002.

Democrats cried foul when Porter’s campaign treasurer, Chrissie Hastie, wrote back to the FEC on June 5 stating that she believes the campaign is compliant because it is in the process of sorting out why the donor sent in more than the permitted amount.

Hastie stated that each of the suspect contributions was either listed as a redesignation/reattribution, or was designated as “seeking redesignation/ reattribution.” In the latter case, the amended donation description is due when the candidate files the next quarterly report.

The new quarterly report, filed Monday, does show two refunds for a total of $500 and outlines how the questioned contributions are reattributed or redesignated. [Las Vegas Sun]

However, the most interesting question may not be how Tarkanian gets tied to a PAC treasurer from the Porter Era, but why he’s the least bit interested in joint fundraising with Cresent Hardy – he of the Bundy Flap Fame.

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Important Dates: 2016 Election

Nevada Voter Registration 2016

_____ Register to vote

_____ Check your own registration

_____ Help someone else register to vote

_____ Help them check their registration

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