Tag Archives: media

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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Thank You: A List for 2017

thank you cardAs youngsters we were admonished to acknowledge gifts during the holiday season, and not to delay thanking Auntie for bestowing such “creative and unique” items.  That said, this isn’t an obligatory thank you — it’s a Thanks! with a capital letter to those who’ve been an inspiration this year.

 

Thanks to the ladies of the Women’s March!  Prior to that event I’d contacted my Senators and Representatives, but never with any regularity, and certainly never with multiple phone calls in any given month.  The idea of sending post cards hadn’t occurred to me.  I listened to the speakers advise more contact, more persistent contact, more urgent contact — and I bought some postcards.  I also bought a small pocket notebook.  I recorded my calls and post cards in the notebook — at first just to keep track of the topics, and then it became a habit.  The little notebook is half filled now, and I even had to add a piece of ribbon tied on as a bookmark to keep track of my place.  Perhaps I’m gaining a reputation as a pain with a couple of members of the 115th Congress. I don’t care.  They won’t be able to say they’ve not heard from anyone about protecting DACA, or the ACA, or the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, or the EPA, or women’s reproductive rights, or the rights of workers to organize.   My new year’s prediction is that the little notebook will be filled by this time next year — at least I sincerely hope so.

Thanks to the people who attended town hall meetings!  Those who are dependent on the individual health insurance market to secure health plans need our assistance.  Those on employer  group plans need to know that the provisions of the ACA will require  they have real insurance, as opposed to junk policies with outrageous co-pays, high deductibles and limited benefits.  Those who buy policies need to know mental health treatment is on par with physical health needs, and immunizations are essential services.  And, since as they say “it takes two to tango,” everyone is in the pool — men and women, meaning maternity care is also essential.  To those people who put real faces on real problems — Thank You.  To those people who supported the people testifying to those very real issues — Thank You.

Thanks to the organizers of Indivisible!  Should I run out of ideas on a given day concerning what to say and to  whom to say it, there’s Indivisible online to assist me.  I appreciate the tweets and notices from Nevada Indivisible groups, Indivisible Lake Tahoe, Indivisible Reno, and Indivisible Las Vegas.  You are doing good work, and it’s appreciated.

Thanks to the professionals working on the Special Counsel’s investigation!  I understand those investigators aren’t the total solution to the problem of foreign interference in our elections.  However, they are a key facet of the issue and they’ve endured enough flack from partisan hacks for a lifetime already.  They can’t tell us how to protect our election systems in the future, nor can they tell us what actions our state and local officials can take to prevent future assaults — but they can, and I’m sure will, give us an accurate picture of anything prosecutable.  Their efforts are appreciated.

Thanks to the independent members of the press and media!  There are reporters and broadcasters who are not allowing lies and mischaracterizations from the current administration to go unchallenged.   Not all editors are spiking stories about corruption, maladministration, and mismanagement.  Not all reporters are playing the role of stenographer for government issued blather.  Now, more than ever before in my lifetime, we need FACTS.  Good old fashioned FACTS, and good old fashioned news — the kind wherein we learn not only who is supporting a particular policy, but what the implications of the policy proposals are in real life.

Thus, the little notebook continues to sit beside the phone, the post cards are at the ready, and there’s no shortage of topics upon which to comment.  For this, I say THANKS.

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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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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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Patterns in Politics from Congress to the Promised Press Conferences

That didn’t take long.  A mere 12 hours ago the Republicans in the House of Representatives wanted to put the OCE under the jurisdiction of the House Ethics Committee; disallow the OCE from accepting anonymous tips from whistleblowers; stop investigating anything if the House Ethics Committee wanted the investigation stopped; not investigate anything that might have happened before January 3, 2011; not discuss its findings or even hire a spokesperson; and, not investigate any criminal cases or turn allegations of corruption over to law enforcement agencies. [BuzzFeed]   Then came the questions, perhaps the best of which was: When has anyone accused Congress of being TOO ethical?  Now the House Republicans have scrapped the plan. [The Hill]

However, watch for a pattern here.  This “jurisdictional” issue has been raised before, in the case of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  [HFSC 2013] [MPA 2016] Here’s a prediction for 2017 – the House Republicans will try to “reform” financial regulations by placing the CFPB (the outfit that caught Wells Fargo manipulating its staff and customers) under Congressional control.  What about a Republican controlled Congress having jurisdiction over mortgage lending practices and pay-day lenders could possibly go wrong?  Oh, well, there was that mess back in 2007-2008…

One thing about which there doesn’t seem to be much controversy: The Russians hacked the Democrats. (Except if you ask Trumpster Flack Kellyanne Conway, The Trumpster, or Vladimir Putin.) The geeks were on to this back in July 2016 when Motherboard posted this article.  The New York Times has a compilation of reports on Russian hacking.  In the face of all this actual evidence we have the Trumpster’s contention that “he knows things,” [CompWorld] and Conway’s advice that we should be listening to Julian Assange…[cnbc].  The Trumpster will have more to say, promise the flack, later this week.  We should add those comments to:

1. The April 2011 Trumpster comments that his investigators “couldn’t believe what they were finding in Hawaii” (about the President’s birth certificate.)  Trumpster told Meredith Vieira he had investigators there; however, there’s still no evidence he actually sent investigators to Hawaii. [HuffPo 2016]

2. On April 27, 2011 the Trumpster vowed to release his federal income tax returns.  We’ve not seen hide nor hair of these to date.

3. August 9, 2016:  the Trumpster says that his wife Melania will have a press conference to settle details about her immigration to this country. [Hill]  No press conference yet.

4.  September 9, 2016: The Trumpster vowed to release more detailed medical records. [BloombergNews]  Nothing released to date.

5. December 12, 2016: The Trumpster postpones his press conference on his business conflicts of interest for “a month.” He had told reporters on November 30th there would be a press conference on December 15th.  [MMA/Bloomberg]

I’d not advise anyone to hang by their hair or hold their breath waiting for the Trumpster to divulge any information on any of these topics much less on the hacking.

And, again, there’s a pattern.  One of the things that an overwhelming amount of scientific investigation and analysis tells us is that global climate change is very real. Faced with this, the energy industry fought back with attempts – not to attack the science itself – to sow doubt, and to promote those “doubts” in popular media. [guardian] This play goes back to the Tobacco campaigns of an era past.   Now, it’s “hacking.”

17 United States security and law enforcement agencies report that the Russians hacked the Democratic Party, and election efforts.  That’s 17 out of 17. There’s no doubt here.  Except – backers of the Trumpster using popular media to sow doubt.  We’ve seen this pattern before, and before, and before. The media keeps falling for it.

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Lewis Carroll 1876 and 2016 American Media

Hunting Snark Quote

The fake news issue is very serious, and should be addressed in a serious way.   No, the Pope did NOT endorse the Republican candidate for the Presidency. No, the Clinton Foundation doesn’t rake off 80% of the donations… No, No, and No.  Information is power, and power needs to be exercised with judgment.

Normally we think that organizations with a lot of power have an obligation to use that power responsibly. But the leaders of the largest technology companies have resisted thinking of themselves in those terms. They like to think of their sites as neutral platforms that help users share information with each other — without the company making value judgments of its own.

But this isn’t how power works. When an authority figure turns a blind eye to a problem that’s happening under his watch, the problem doesn’t go away. It festers, often becoming an even bigger problem over time. [Vox]

Perhaps the most chilling argument is that we can’t restrain fake news because it will have a devastating impact on conservative communications.  Nor are more traditional media outlets immune from fake or distorted “news.” Hypothetically:

Mr. X Tweets, “New proof emerges of deliberate attempt to have all guns registered in the U.S.”  The message is retweeted .  No one questions the source of the information, no one checks to see if the links are valid. No one checks – anything.  The retweets continue until some news organization picks up the “story” because “people are interested in it.”  Now, the headline becomes: “Is there a movement to register all guns in America?”  Followed by some generalized arguments from proponents and opponents of the idea. Followed by more “interest” in the “story,” which no one has checked in the first place.

This isn’t journalism.  It’s the old Telephone Game we played as children, seeing how garbled the message became after passing through several repetitions.   It’s dangerous because:

1. It plays into the hands of those who would diminish the credibility of reporting.  Several right wing radio personalities have used this platform: You’ll only get the Truth from Me.  A statement which isn’t true and never has been.

2. It ultimately destroys the legitimacy of reporting.  How is the average consumer supposed to know that the “Denver Guardian” isn’t a real newspaper?  How is the average news consumer supposed to know that what appears to be an online news organization is simply a fictional page of fantasy and filibuster for a right wing neo-Nazi organization?

There are enough problems with media today (chasing shiny objects while ignoring major issues) without adding pure fiction to the mix.  Someone, somewhere needs to be the Adult In The Room.

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Resist: The Ugly Face of Trump’s America

Modified Niemoller

Please pardon the replication of Reverend Niemoller’s famous short poem, but at this point there is a need to face down the ugly and demeaning actions of the Trump supporters and their Dear Leader.  

Resist: I’ve already called for support for progressive and liberal organizations that provide the research, and I’ll do it repeatedly.  We need an informational infrastructure to help fuel the resistance to Trumpism.  If your budget can stand it, pick at least one, or possibly two organizations of your choice and make a donation towards their efforts.  We cannot depend on the corporate media to make issues known, and to provide the data necessary to inform the public.  I’ve called it #2-4-2018, a way to call attention to the importance of the mid-term elections.  We can’t blame these organization for not publicizing and promoting our issues if we haven’t given them the funds to do so.

Resist: Support media outlets that promote tolerance, liberty, and equality.  There are a multitude out there, some examples are the Talking Points Memo, Crooks and Liars, Politicususa, and Think Progress, as aggregators these are outstanding, and you probably know of more.  There are research based publications like Pro Publica, which is also deserving of our attention and support.  There’s also the CBPP, and the EPI, also deserving of support. And, no list would be complete without the Center for American Progress.  Make your own list of your favorites and share it with family and friends if you have not already done so.

Resist: Call your Congressional Representatives and public officials.  Let them know quickly and surely that American do NOT support criminalizing public protests, such as the legislation proposed in Iowa and Washington state. [Root]  It’s never too soon to hold the media accountable – no, Steve Bannon is not “alt-right,” that’s just a euphemism for White Supremacist.  No amount of cleansing will ever make his bigoted views “normal.” He’s not the “new normal,” he’s just the old abnormal.

Resist: There’s no need to call for boycotts, simply vote with your eyes and wallet.  Unimpressed with the news coverage by major corporate media outlets?  Why watch? Lord knows, they are sensitive to their ratings. Why give them any.  Watching and being appalled at their ‘coverage?’ There are addresses for sending civil and polite expressions of our displeasure:

CBS Evening News.  524 West 57th St.
New York, NY 10019

ABC News 147 Columbus Ave.  New York, NY 10023

NBC News  30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, N.Y. 10112

CNN, One CNN Center, Atlanta, GA, 30303

MSNBC, One MSNBC Plaza Secaucus, NJ 07094

Resist: Get involved at your local level. Find your local organizations and local political committees, and to the extent that you can get involved in their activities.  Get up, get out, and get involved.

Thank you.

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