Category Archives: So Called Liberal Media

I Think Elizabeth Warren Just Got My Primary Vote

We are spending endless amounts of money creating tools to try to increase trust in journalism and trust in politics and reduce misinformation and divisiveness and partisanship and ALL OF IT IS A FUCKING WASTE OF TIME AND MONEY THAT COULD BE DEVOTED TO THE ACTUAL FUCKING FUCK MOTHERFUCKING NEWS, like just stop this with the Institute for Sniffing Shep Smith’s Goddamn Jockstrap, you are so embarrassing. All of you.

For chrissakes. You want to know how old white people in the Midwest suddenly became resentful of the city and “discovered” that everyone not in “Real America” hated them and thought they were rubes? FOX NEWS TOLD THEM. Fox, and its talk radio predecessor/contemporaries, and the GOP that profited off it. People in cities are focused on not getting shit on by pigeons and going to their jobs and stuff. It’s the Fox denizens who are obsessed with hating them, not the other way around. You don’t just wake up one day and suddenly know that people you’ve never met and will never meet who likely don’t think about you at all are actually secretly loathing you and trying to dismantle your Pure Good Old Fashioned society.

A nonstop 24-hour propaganda network blared into every airport and car repair shop and podiatrist’s office and dialysis center told them that everyone young and cool hated them and their guns and their values and whatever else we’re supposed to hate right now, I can’t even keep track. Fox highlighted things that would outrage old white people, outright made a bunch of shit up, stoked fears and paranoia, and then told their viewers not to trust anything they didn’t hear from Rush or see on Fox. It set the stage for all of this and raked in the goddamn money.

And all the while, while crazy unhinged libtard feminazis were out here saying maybe don’t go to parties with these people, America’s elite journalists said well, there are some good people at the local affiliates. They said it’s just entertainment. They said we have to invite them to the potluck or else they’ll call us biased. They said maybe if we play nicely with them, these people who say that everyone but them is prejudiced and slanted and commie and WE REPORT YOU DECIDE, maybe if we hunker down and are very very quiet and just keep holding our Future of Journalism Panels at the University of Please Don’t Hurt Me, maybe it’ll all just go away.

Well LOOKIE THE FUCK HERE, YOU GODDAMN CHUMPS. While you were debating the best time slot to book in the Fox-nurtured fascisti to call you babykilling peace-freaks, they took all your money and they burned down your house. So keep having your civility debates while Fox tells everyone that Michelle Obama forbade Macy’s from saying Merry Christmas. Keep it up, geniuses. It’s working out GREAT.  Just ONE MORE BLUE RIBBON PANEL on Facebook and Google stealing all the ads. Throw a couple of Pinocchios in there for good measure.

Fox is the problem. Fox is the issue. Fox and the media disparity that creates a picture across America of an America that most Americans don’t recognize so that old white fossils can feel better about hating their kids who moved to the city, that’s the problem that if you don’t solve it none of the rest of this matters.

Nobody in suburban Ohio’s even gonna HEAR Elizabeth Warren’s policy papers if the conversation is driven by Fox and its imitators and mini-mes. Why don’t voters CARE about the ISSUES? Well, because Fox and the national narrative it drives explicitly tell them not to care and to instead get upset that some town somewhere had its Nativity scene stolen by atheist radicals.

So the candidate of put a goddamn lid on this pit of vipers and let them eat each other, the candidate of calling them what they are, just got my primary vote. I know I said I wasn’t gonna commit but I just did. Warren 2020: Fuck Fox. Let’s fucking GO.

A.

Memories Of The Muskie Administration

The MSM punditocracy hasn’t learned anything from the 2016 election. They’re still fixated on early polling and “discovering” bright shiny objects instead of reporting the campaign. I *had* hoped they’d learned that insider political journalism was bankrupt as declared by Ben Smith last summer. But they haven’t learned a damn thing and continue to focus on the horse race aspects of the “why not me” campaign. Remember the Avenatti boomlet? I’d prefer to forget it.

After declaring Joe Biden’s candidacy DOA, many in the punditocracy now think that he’s the inevitable nominee. They’re wrong in both instances. Frontrunner status has a way of bringing a candidate crashing to earth, especially in such a large field. Remember President Dean?

I have fond memories of the 2009-2017 Hillary Clinton administration. She was the frontrunner that time around and ended up losing the nomination. Secretary of State was a pretty damn good consolation prize. Thanks, Obama.

The ultimate Democratic frontrunner who failed was Senator Edmund Sixtus Muskie of Maine. 1972 was my formative year as a political junkie. It was the first time I was old enough to pay attention. I supported George McGovern but liked Muskie and didn’t understand why he was torn down by a media that had built him up as the inevitable nominee for two years. I was too young to get it then.

Ed Muskie was Hubert Humphrey’s running mate in 1968. The contrast between him and the man I refuse to claim as my countryman, Spiro Agnew, was stark. Muskie was calm, thoughtful, and qualified. The self-loathing Greek, Ted (Don’t Call Me Spiro) Agnew, was the exact opposite: bombastic, shallow, and unqualified. He was also a crook who took bribes while serving as Veep.

One of the best ads of the 1968 election cycle mocked Agnew:

Back to Ed Muskie. He emerged from the ’68 campaign as a national figure. His calm, reasoned reply to a frenetic midterm broadcast by Tricky Dick in 1970 made him a star and the ’72 frontrunner. The tall Senator was called Lincolnesque by many observers. What candidate wouldn’t want to be compared to Honest Abe?

Muskie led in every Democratic preference poll from that moment on. He was frequently ahead of Nixon in head-to-head polls through the early months of 1972. One of his campaign themes was Trust Muskie, drawing an obvious contrast to a president whose nickname was Tricky Dick.

This button is a good example of Muskie’s message:

Muskie was inevitable, until he wasn’t. His frontrunner status made him a target for Nixon’s dirty tricksters and at 6’4″ he was a big target. Attacks on his wife, Jane, caused Big Ed to snap and cry in public, which in the uber-macho atmosphere of 1972 helped doom his candidacy. Nixon and his lackeys had the opponent they wanted in the general election.

Among the many ironies of Muskie’s doomed campaign is that he actually won the New Hampshire primary, but the punditocracy, unaware of Nixonian dirty tricks, declared McGovern the “winner.” Muskie’s campaign might have come a cropper anyway: he was over reliant on big name endorsements and blurred his strongly liberal political views into blandness on the advice of his advisers.

Muskie was also dogged in 1972 by a bizarre and untrue story concocted by Hunter S. Thompson about his use of a hallucinogenic drug, Ibogaine. Thompson later claimed it was a joke and that nobody believed the story anyway. That just wasn’t so. I think of Ed Muskie every time I hear Hunter Thompson lionized as a voice for fearless independent journalism when, in fact, he was in the bag for Team McGovern. Projection thy name is Hunter S. Thompson.

What lessons can be drawn from my memories of the Muskie administration?

It’s not over until it’s over.

Don’t trust the MSM punditocracy and early polls. They’re both eminently changeable. Just ask former media darling Beto O’Rourke.

Insider political journalism *should* be dead, but it’s not.

The last word goes to Alice Cooper with a hit song from 1972:

Saturday Odds & Sods: You Haven’t Done Nothin’

Der Vogelmensch by Max Ernst

It’s been a good news, silly news week in New Orleans. I’m a good news first person: with the help of Governor Edwards, Mayor LaToya Cantrell has secured millions in tourism money to help fix our aging infrastructure. Here’s what I mean by aging infrastructure:

In silly local news, the Krewe of Nyx is planning a summer parade. Just what we needed: a sweaty-n-steamy faux Carnival parade. This is why I call them the krewe of mediocre themes and bad ideas. The only good thing is that they won’t be sweat-rolling on the traditional parade route near Adrastos World HQ. It’s a terrible idea: the allure of Carnival is enhanced by its seasonality. This is like eating oysters in a month without an R. Shorter Adrastos: Nix on Nyx.

Motown May continues with this week’s theme song. Stevie Wonder wrote You Haven’t Done Nothin’ in 1974 in response to the news of the day: Watergate. That’s right, it’s about Nixon. I’ve used it before but never as an Odds & Sods theme song. Since we’re in a slow-motion constitutional crisis, it works. Just think of Trump instead of Tricky Dick.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure: Stevie’s original and a 2018 cover by Roger Daltrey.

Now that we’ve trashed talked Tricky-n-Trumpy, let’s jump to the break.

Continue reading

What Do Shitty Media Men Add?

I’ve written before about how much it costs to pay for these supposed geniuses who are completely insane pervert assholes, but apropos of this: 

Halperin has lost millions of dollars in income. He was fired from Showtime’s The Circus; Penguin abandoned a planned book on the 2016 presidential campaign, co-authored by his longtime writing partner John Heilemann; and HBO nixed a television project based on that canceled book.

“I am deeply sorry and hope to have a chance to apologize directly to those I treated badly. It is the right and necessary thing to do,” Halperin said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “I cannot imagine how difficult this experience has been for them. I hope this will be a further step in my continued efforts to fully comprehend and make amends for the pain that I have caused.”

In recent months, Halperin has been carefully raising his public profile, resuming his social-media activity after a lengthy hiatus, and launching a political blog titled “Mark Halperin’s Wide World of News”—a throwback to his days of writing “The Note” when he was ABC’s political director two decades ago—in which he offers his opinions on subjects ranging from Attorney General William Barr’s congressional testimony to Joe Biden’s poll numbers.

I’d like to ask: Exactly what is so necessary about these dillholes in the first place?

Like I get that for these guys and their pals, it seems necessary for them to continue to work (though if I had their money I’d fuck off to Barbados and you’d never hear from me again) and be relevant. But to the world at large? What is their value? Like what stunning insights does Mark Halperin offer to the universe at his political blog? 

Trump’s job approval on the economy is well above his overall approval numbers.

My take: This is why it is essential that the eventual Democratic presidential nominee have a clear theory of the case about how to be a good steward of a good economy. If the party picks someone to go against Trump who is seen as incapable of handling the economy, Trump could win re-election with a historically low job approval rating.

What … staggering intellect. Democrats need to pick someone who can convince people he or she can handle the economy! Whatever would I have done had I not learned this from a blog called, I kid you not, Mark Halperin’s Wide World of News?

What’s next on the table from Mark Halperin’s Wild Kingdom?

Michael Bennet trumpets entrance into Democratic field with essay that would fill the beds of a pair of Ford pickups.

My take: The Coloradan has fans among the donor class, the Obamas, the Clintons, and his Senate colleagues, but he is going to need a lot of time on the ground in Iowa and New Hampshire to get better known by those voters who don’t read Medium posts.

LISTEN UP DIPSHITS. Mark Halperin is here to tell you that you don’t win presidential elections without spending time in Iowa!

We’re just getting to the real meat of Mark Halperin’s Fantasy Island:

My take: The biggest question in the Democratic race right now is not who has the capacity to break into the top tier with Biden and Sanders. For most of the candidates, their first objective has to be to break into the second tier — and that isn’t easy in such a large field.

Many. Democrats. Are. Running. For. President. It isn’t easy. It’s hard, in fact.

Thank God Mark Halperin is back. We couldn’t live without such incredible thought leadership. I’m sure if a few more women get sexually assaulted we will someday regard it as A SMALL PRICE TO PAY for this irreplaceable knowledge.

There is nothing Mark Halperin, or Matt Lauer, or Charlie Rose, or any of their Shitty Media counterparts, do that could not be done by ten other people. There is nothing they bring to the table that is even unique, much less important.

No one is suffering without them, and we are not obligated to give them a redemption arc. That talented women are being asked to sacrifice their dignity to protect THIS MEDIOCRITY is somehow the most offensive part of the whole thing for me. At least while Picasso was being a pervert he was painting Guernica.

Halperin’s just out here demanding to be welcomed back to his position as Chief Obvious Take with stunners like this:

Trump defies House Dem investigations on witnesses, tax returns.

My take: There is no way to know how quickly the courts will adjudicate these disputes.

My God, what we have been missing.

A.

The New Orleans Advocate-Times-Picayune?

Seven years of slow motion seppuku culminated in the sale of the Times-Picayune/NOLA.com to the owners of the upstart Advocate. Seppuku is a ritual form of suicide that involves self-disembowelment and bleeding out. That’s exactly what happened at the Times-Pic as a series of stupid business decisions led to its sale to the competition. Did I say stupid? I meant wicked stupid. That’s why I call it the Zombie Picayune.

Once again, a newspaper staff is suffering at the hands of the suits. The TP/NOLA.com staff were laid-off. Some will be hired by the Advocate company, others will not be so lucky. Twitter is full of tweets from TP people who are looking for work. Mass layoffs are an inauspicious way for a new era in local journalism to begin. My condolences and best wishes to the folks who were fired yesterday.

The “new era” at the Times-Picayune started in 2012 with a wave of mass firings. Management bragged about its “new paradigm” and promised “robust content.” I knew they were in for a bumpy ride when it became apparent that the paper’s Newhouse/Advance masters were winging it. It was an experiment that ended up destroying a profitable newspaper that was at the height of its journalistic powers when the slow motion seppuku began. The bond between the Times-Pic and its readers had strengthened because of its superb coverage of Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood. That bond was shattered seven years ago at the hands of the paper’s outside owners. Repeat after me: wicked stupid.

I have friends who have been fired by both media companies. My sympathies are with the TP staffers who are suffering because of the stupidity of long-gone managers; make that mismanagers. I have nothing but contempt for the villains of the piece: the suits at Newhouse/Advance. What the hell were they thinking? Nothing much as it turns out. They were the ones who zombified the Picayune. They’re not the ones who are suffering the consequences of their “robust new paradigm.” It’s the American way: the people at the top fuck up and their employees pay the price for their ineptitude.

I saw this coming years ago but, even though I agree with Gore Vidal who said, “the most beautiful words in the English language are I told you so,” I don’t have the heart to write or say them as New Orleans once again becomes a one-newspaper monopoly town. That’s our new paradigm. Let’s hope it’s a robust one.

Journalism Is So Exhausting Right Now

Sigh: 

Fundamentally, transparency elements are designed to tell your audience what you want them to know about you — your processes, your people, your motivation, your ethics and your values.

Sometimes with those elements, we’re answering questions we’ve seen our users wonder about publicly (in a comment, in an email, etc.): How do I know you were fair in this story? Why did you use this survey data rather than this other one?

Sometimes, though, we’re adding information that users might not even know they need but will actually appreciate. We might want to tell them, for example, that a group of editors debated which word or photo to use for 15 minutes. Or that we left out a source because we were worried about repercussions if they went public with their story. (Your users aren’t assuming that level of thoughtfulness or concern.)

Look, there’s nothing wrong with this exactly. It’s … nice. Harmless. I suppose it’s helpful, if you think most attacks on journalists are genuinely motivated by good-faith misunderstanding of what journalism is and how it gets done. Then these measured, sober addresses of common complaints make all kinds of sense.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this approach. Explain who you are, why you’re doing what you’re doing, how many minutes you debated using a particular photo (Christ). It doesn’t hurt anything. It sounds really nice.

It just doesn’t have anything to do with any of the problems you have.

Look. Journalism doesn’t have a credibility crisis, at least not in the way this solution presumes. Journalism doesn’t have a crisis of good-faith actors who just Misunderstand what journalism is All About. Journalism doesn’t have a transparency crisis. Here are the current crises in journalism:

The financial one, where three decades of hedge fund ownership thinking in quarters instead of centuries squeezed all profitability out of local print news while humping the digital paradigm into the ground and refusing to spend on any of the things that kept the actual news afloat. Things like delivery drivers and advertising the fucking paper and oh, yeah, the journalists.

The political one, where a major party’s wealthy allies saw an opening to create a network and then a conglomerate of media screaming to Baby Boomers that Democrats, black people, women and gays were the devil and needed to be prevented from scrounging all the good welfare, and any news that told them different was biased because WE REPORT YOU DECIDE UNLIKE THOSE OTHER BASTARDS.

Journalists, of course, called anybody who said this was shady as shit hysterical and invited a literal Fox into their henhouse. They spent two decades interviewing and hiring people who hated them to tell their audiences that journalism was Inherently Liberal and Bad. They didn’t just tolerate these people. They put them on their op-ed pages.

At the same time, old people who didn’t know how to use the internet got their brains sucked out by Facebook because Mark Zuckerberg wanted to sell shit to the parents of the college kids he signed up for his girl-fuckability index. In between sharing videos of their grandkids and the cakes they bake, an entire generation is now reposting viral resentment porn about someone who overheard someone else who spoke in Spanish at the grocery store while buying expensive soda.

This all culminated in the 2016 candidacy of Donald Trump, who got up and screamed at journalists at his rallies and encourages the commission of violence toward anyone he doesn’t agree with and taught his people the words FAKE NEWS and how yelling that completely owns anyone no matter how great their arguments are.

It’s a fucking tsunami of bad faith, racism, rage and stupidity, literally none of it motivated by the kind of innocent confusion that things like “transparency tools” and “fact checking” and “truth-o-meters” and “cartoon character scales of Pinocchio-pants-on-fire that insult the intelligence of a five-year-old” can address.

We are not where we are because journalists just haven’t been transparent enough. Jesus Christ, nobody will flagellate themselves in front of the public like journalists will, and all of it so useless and embarrassing. HERE IS A 45 HOUR SEMINAR ON WHAT WE DO AND HOW WE DO IT. Everyone attending is already convinced of the importance of your very important important-ness. Everyone you think needs to hear it is over at the bar watching Glenn Beck interviewing Alex Jones about jet fuel and steel beams while Maria Bartiromo’s boobs give out stock tips.

Those people? That audience that so desperately needs your transparency tools and explanations? They know how journalism works just fine. They know journalism is going to tell them about racism and corruption, about the savage legacies of slavery and segregation, about their comfortable lives being financed on the backs of the poor, about the politicians who pretend to appeal to their morals being child-molesting freakjobs, about their beloved churches being rapist protection rackets, about the favorite movie stars being perverts, about their priests being criminals, about their banks being thieves, and everything else that they think makes them upright crumbling beneath them.

And they don’t want to hear it. They’d rather be mad and they have license, granted by one of the two major political parties and the president of the United States, to be loud about how mad they are. They have an excuse to ignore what they don’t like to think about.

But all of this is going to be fixed if journalists just explain themselves the right way.

I swear to God it is like watching Tiananmen Square all over again only instead of a guy out there against the tanks it’s fucking Bambi. Blindfolded. Bleating “debate me.”

I was vague-tweeting about this nonsense yesterday and Jessica here nails the hell out of it:

Yeah. Journalism is indeed at risk, and does indeed need defending, but not with a bowl of beige oatmeal disguised as an earnest explanation of What We’re All About. This isn’t how you react in a crisis. This isn’t how you react in a war. Journalists are being shot and killed in their newsrooms and I don’t think a proportional response to the current moment is to add and infographic about How We Report This Story.

A.

Tweet Of The Day: Pulitzer Prize Edition

The Advocate has won its first Pulitzer Prize. It’s not the first time a New Orleans newspaper has won a Pulitzer: the Times-Picayune won for its Hurricane Katrina/Federal Flood coverage. That was, of course, before that paper was hollowed out by its masters and transformed into the Zombie-Picayune.

Many former Picayune people are now with the Advocate. One of whom is my friend Gordon Russell who is the managing editor for investigations, and one of the winners of the Pulitzer Prize for local reporting. They won for a series about Louisiana’s non-unanimous jury system. It was reporting that made a difference as the voters abolished that Jim Crow relic last fall.

The tweet in question shows the paper’s New Orleans newsroom exploding with joy upon learning the news:

Congratulations to everyone at the Advocate for proving that local newspapers still matter. Well done, y’all.

Repeat after me: Not Everything Sucks.

Charles Blow On Political Folk Heroes

Donald Trump and Edwin Edwards in 1993. Photo via the Advocate.  

The Op-Ed page of the Failing New York Times gets a lot of abuse. While some of it is deserved, everyone should remember that Paul Krugman, Michelle Goldberg, Jamelle Bouie, and Charles Blow dispense wit and wisdom in their NYT columns. My focus today is on the man with the swell name, Charles Blow. The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind…

Mr. Blow is from the Gret Stet of Louisiana. He was born and raised in Gibsland in Bienville Parish and graduated from Grambling State University. He occasionally writes about his mother who still resides in Louisiana. He done it again in one of his most original and insightful columns thus far: Trumpism Extols Its Folk Hero.

Mr. Blow posits that, among the suckers who have fallen hardest for the con, Donald Trump has morphed from mere mortal to a legendary figure, a folk hero. For those of us who are immune to his snake oily charm, he’s an anti-hero.

Mr. Blow uses his mother’s affection for, and support of, 4 term Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards as an example of how a political folk hero can mesmerize their fans:

My mother is a devout Democrat, but also one of the most socially conservative people I know. This is typical of our home state of Louisiana among black citizens — they can be as conservative as any Republican, but are also completely convinced, by dint of history and experience, that the Republican Party not only abides racists, it courts them, and therefore they would die rather than vote red.

My mother is so austere that she never drank or partied in any way, except for the one time she told me that she went to a nightclub and tried a drink. She didn’t much like the dingy space or the bitter beverage, so she swore them both off.

She abhorred the showy, deeming it vulgar, so every single article of clothing in her closet was white, black, brown or navy blue. Red? Yellow? Green? God forbid.

And she was unshakable in her sense of moral rectitude, viewing sins like lying, gambling and philandering as absolute corruptions of character.

And yet, through my time growing up there and going to college there, she took a devilish pride in enthusiastically supporting and voting for the four-term Democratic governor, Edwin Edwards, a cocksure, gambling womanizer who would end up in federal prison in 2002 for bribery and extortion.

On the surface, it doesn’t make sense that my mother, who thought herself a moralist, would find a champion in a flaunting immoralist, but she did as did many other Louisiana voters. And I believe this was possible because Edwards achieved something that few politicians achieve: He transcended the political, and on some level even the rules of the workaday world, and entered the astral league of folk heroes.

The rules don’t apply to the folk hero. People don’t measure them by the same tape. Behavior that people would never condone in their personal lives, they relish in the folk hero.

Sorry for that epic quote but it’s too well-constructed to cut. Charles’ writing does not blow. And unlike the president* he’s not a blowhard.

Mr. Blow goes on to apply the rules of folk heroism to the Insult Comedian. I agree with his analysis as it explains the irrational, cult-like devotion to Trump among his shrinking base. I disagree, however, with his conclusion:

Anti-Trump forces must stop operating as if they are doing battle with a liar; they are doing battle with what his supporters have fashioned into a legend. How does one fight a fiction, a fantasy? That’s the question. Its answer is the path to America’s salvation.

What we have to do is to ignore hardcore Trumpers who are no more than 25-30% of likely voters. Trying to convert them is a waste of time: they’re fantasists who believe what they want to believe, which is that the Kaiser of Chaos is making America great again. They’re low information voters, trying to convert one’s crazy uncle who watches Fox News is futile. Shorter Adrastos: Fuck them.

A reminder that the GOP lost the midterms by 9 points nationally. Democrats need to keep our base as well as disaffected suburban voters mobilized and ready for action in 2020. If we do that, Trump will lose. Repeat after me: Trump’s only path to victory is to destroy his opponent. Believe me.

Pondering Charles Blow’s name has given me an earworm. The last word goes to McKinley Morganfield:

Who You Could Be

Jeffrey Toobin is an idiot, okay, and is rightly taking all kinds of .gif heat for this bullshit, but there’s something else at work here that overshadows the majority of the coverage of the Trump administration and the equally infuriating rehabbing of the Bush administration:

The sickness here is in Toobin’s ability to empathize and identify with Nielsen over the immigrant parents she ripped from their children. Nielsen is, after all, a pretty blond white lady, who appears at hearings and podiums dressed in a suit and nice shoes, who speaks in an even tone, so Toobin can see himself in her.

With very few wardrobe changes Jeffrey Toobin could be a nice capable bureaucrat who goes along to get along. Who spouts the party line for his boss and defends the indefensible and tries to make everyone believe that everything is fine. With very little effort — it doesn’t take a Trump to turn you, most people would do it for two quarters and a strawberry milkshake — he could be exactly where Nielsen is.

That should scare the shit out of him. The similarities between them should make him want to BRILLO HIS OWN SKIN OFF. And instead he’s casting her as some kind of innocent who’s been done wrong by an evil man and will now be unfairly punished. She deserves to be remembered for minimal competence at an office job!

If she’ll be remembered instead for her worst actions, what will Toobin be remembered for? If minimal competence at an office job and the ability to mouth complete sentences aren’t enough to buy you a spot in The Good Place, what on earth is? It’s a world gone mad.

A.

Not Everything Sucks

Some people are making newspapers for people in prison: 

It was the publication of that essay that led to me walking through the office doors of The Marshall Project two months later—having finally won parole—to talk with their staff about my experiences. That conversation led to me joining their team and to the creation of News Inside—a collection of TMP’s award-winning journalism that relates directly to incarcerated lives. In the past month, we began distributing the pilot edition of this print publication to prisons and jails; to date it is circulating in 30 facilities in 19 states.

I wanted to share our rich articles with my information-poor former community, particularly those who believe study is a chance for redemption, who sacrifice sleep and risk a misbehavior report to pore over textbooks under shaded lamps after lights-out, who struggle to find resources to expand their minds.

A.

Cover-Up In Plain Sight

We’ve entered a new phase in the war of the Trump scandals. Previously, it was like a series of air strikes. This week, it’s akin to hand-to-hand, house-by-house combat: think the Red Army in Berlin at the end of World War II. House committees have issued subpoenas for the Mueller Report, Trump’s taxes, and financial records. The House has not only crossed “the red line” they’ve hurdled it like Evel Knievel in his heyday. That may sound overly dramatic but I don’t think I jumped the shark. Team Trump, however, may have done so.

You know the worm has turned when the previously tight-lipped members of Team Mueller talk to the media. Both the WaPo and Failing New York Times have published reports of their consternation over the 4 page epistle from Trump’s handpicked Attorney General. They’re outraged that 22 months of hard work has been reduced to spin by Bill Barr. Here’s the lede of the NYT piece:

Some of Robert S. Mueller III’s investigators have told associates that Attorney General William P. Barr failed to adequately portray the findings of their inquiry and that they were more troubling for President Trump than Mr. Barr indicated, according to government officials and others familiar with their simmering frustrations.

The WaPo’s sources were less tentative but expressed the same frustration. It’s good to see that both papers have moved away from their initial acceptance of Barr’s “conclusions” but neither is willing to use the term cover-up. That’s what this is. It’s no less pernicious because it’s happening in plain sight. It’s worse.

Covering-up is what Bill Barr does. Beneath the owlish exterior and thick glasses, lurks a lawyer with extreme views on executive power. He’ll never be straightforward enough to quote Tricky Dick’s aphorism but he surely agrees with it:

This is not Bill Barr’s first cover-up rodeo. He was behind the mass Iran-Contra pardons issued in the waning days of Poppy Bush’s administration. It was so blatant that even former Nixon aide and conservative NYT columnist William Safire objected, calling Barr the “Cover-up General.” Safire, of course, moved on to the Clinton scandals and Barr returned to the private sector before emerging like a seedy Icarus to attempt to rescue the tawdry Trump regime.

Team Trump has vowed to fight against any and all encroachments on their executive powers. It will delay their day of reckoning but they’re more likely than not to lose court battles. Just wait until they claim that Trump’s tax forms and those of his nefarious web of LLCs are covered by executive privilege. That will get laughed out of any courtroom in the land.

The question that everyone should ask about the Mueller Report is a simple yet profound one. If it “totally exonerates” the Insult Comedian, why is he opposed to its release? To put it in terms that the president* would understand: no exoneration, no exoneration, no exoneration.

People Cared About Their Newspapers and Newspapers Pissed That Away

This is making the rounds of journo Twitter and everybody’s all HEE HEE HEE but honestly, it illustrates the saddest thing about the newspaper debacle currently grinding its way to a miserable end:

People cared about their newspapers. They always did. Newspapers had generational brand loyalty that most companies could only DREAM about. Time was you had a whole IDENTITY built around being a reader of X paper instead of Y. Yeah, everybody bitched but everybody bitches about their baseball team, too, and here we are every opening day. The Milwaukee Brewers have ruined my dad’s life for more than six decades and he still went to spring training to watch them fuck around pointlessly in the Arizona sun because that’s how he loves them. Enough to complain.

People cared about their newspapers and the newspapers’ owners pissed that away. They fired the good reporters, flailed at every internet trend, moved the copy desk to Texas, ran reams of wire copy, cut the paper’s size and shape and delivery schedule, outsourced the distribution to their competitors, and finally just gave up.

For the 20 or so years it took them to accomplish all that they counted on older reporters to yell at younger ones for “taking” jobs, counted on lazy industry hacks to blame the Internet, counted on nobody to watch the money, and counted on never having to market themselves because their customers would never move or die. And all the while people cared about the newspaper.

They complained when the paper wasn’t on the porch. They carped when a section got dropped or a listing got moved. They were enraged when, having paid for seven days of a paper, they got three and no refund. It mattered to them. It mattered to them and they got corporatespeak mishymashy nonsense about embracing the digital future. No wonder they tuned out in record numbers. No wonder they fled.

A.

Never Give A Sucker An Even Break

Yesterday’s headlines were appalling. To read them one might think that the full Mueller Report had been published instead of a letter by a partisan Attorney General determined to carry water for his president*. I don’t know about you but I feel like W.C, Fields in the poster above. The Barr letter felt like a brick to the head. Ouch.

For the moment, the MSM seems to have fallen for the Barr gambit. The Insult Comedian’s laughable claim  of “total exoneration” is being accepted at face value by a press corps that knows that he’s a liar. One would have hoped that they’d learned something after years of exposure to Trumpian mendacity but he’s an experienced flim-flam man.

Team Trump is engaged in its own version of March madness. They’re in a full-court press to suppress the publication of the full Mueller Report. If it “totally exonerates” Trump, what are they afraid of? The truth, that’s what they’re afraid of. Just because criminal conspiracy may not have been proven, that does not mean that ethical and political offenses were not committed. They clearly were. At the very least, Team Trump turned a blind eye to Russian interference in the 2016 election. They could have reported the approaches to the FBI but did not.

As to Barr’s decision to make a determination on the obstruction of justice issue, the MSM’s reaction has been simultaneously supine and confused. Just because a cover-up occurred in broad daylight does not make it less offensive. One would hope that the MSM’s herd instinct would not kick in at this crucial point but the best that can be hoped for is that an all out stampede can be averted.

Too many people placed too many eggs in the Mueller probe basket. I was guilty of it myself at times. Criminal conspiracy is damned difficult to prove. Last Sunday was easily the best day for Donald Trump in months. Now is not the time to give up, it’s time for the House to engage in its own full court press to obtain the full report. Stop the madness.

Team Trump’s spin is as predictable as it is dastardly. The bad news is that it’s working so far. The good news is that they’ve already overplayed their hand with threats of retaliation. It’s what they do. Nuance and subtlety are not characteristics of Trumpism.

The entire Trump regime is a shell game and Bill Barr is the latest in a long line of con artists. They’ve been down for a while but they’re pushing hard right now because they believe in the adage attributed to PT Barnum: never give a sucker an even break. They’ve played millions of voters for fools and now they’re working on the MSM, which should know better. But as long as people like Chuck Todd occupy positions of influence, the shell game will continue.

It’s time for the suckers to fight back and never give the Trumpers an even break. They confuse fairness with weakness. Don’t give them an opening. Be relentless.

Just Have the Journalists Do Everything

Let us sell it, at least we know what we’re doing:

In another attempt to retain local union jobs in the face of expected layoffs, members of the PD News Guild have asked the Plain Dealer Publishing Company to collaborate with them on a subscription drive.

In a letter sent Tuesday, to which the company has not yet officially responded, the Guild asked that for every 500 new subscriptions purchased, one local journalist’s job be preserved for an additional year.

With expected support from local unions, including the member unions that comprise the North Shore Federation of Labor, the News Guild asked that a discounted rate be offered to “unions, retirees and supporters.”

I know how hot it gets you people when I talk about newspaper marketing and distribution so here we go. This is actually a good idea, as sad as it is to make people’s democracy-dies-in-darkness jobs conditional on something as fickle as circ. I’d go one better: Have the journalists actually make the subscription calls.

No, really.

A lot of newspaper chains in the late 1990s and early 2000s consolidated and centralized their circulation departments. It sounds good if you’re the kind of lizard-brained consultant critter who uses words like “synergize” and “marketing space” and stuff: One call center for five small papers in a general region, with a phone tree instead of a kindly permed receptionist.

It sounds good, until you’re explaining which of the papers you want to a minimum-wager working off a script who lives four towns away and doesn’t know the 7-Eleven you tried to buy your paper at and can’t pronounce the name of your street nor explain why the paper covers your area but doesn’t sell in it.

Like this is a joke but it’s not, really:

The automation and corporatization of basic newspaper operations has as much to do with falling circ as the mobile internet does. Maybe more. I know the older I get the less patience I have for bloated heaving websites that circumvent my adblocker and I’d much rather flip through a paper with my coffee.

But they can’t get it on my porch by 6 a.m. and even if they do, it’s full of syndicated racists and bothsiders whining about civility next to four pages of wire copy about celebrities and a “what’s trending on Twitter today” box, along with reminders to go to the shitass website for the interesting stories and striking photos.

Papers aren’t ever-present anymore, so it’s possible to ignore them. While the tough dirty children were out there yelling (and the downtown boxes were filled, and the racks were in every bodega, and the neighbors were doing the delivery) it wasn’t as easy to overlook them, to flip to TMZ or spend your commute playing Candy Crush. Now, even if you’re looking for the paper you often can’t find it.

Journalists might be the last people on earth who care about that so if they have to be the ones to fix it, well, shit, nobody else is gonna do it. Even the PD’s union admits this is a long shot:

Given how the company has responded to Guild bargaining requests in recent weeks, it’s unlikely that the letter will be met with support or good faith. (The company’s goal is to employ less of them, ultimately.)

I’ve been saying it for a while now: Ain’t nobody coming to save journalism except you and me and everyone we know who cares about it. I’m about done listening to people complain about the way the world is when some of us are out here trying to build something new.

And yeah, we gotta make the sales calls to do it. We gotta pass the sentence and swing the sword. We gotta work day jobs to do the writing we want to see in the world and we have to keep doing it as long as we can. You can bitch about the tree in your way or you can pick up an axe.

Or a phone.

A.

GateHouse sucks newspaper dry, AP blames ‘decline in ads, readers’ for suckage

The facts about a small paper folding are all right here:

In the mid-1990s, when former Daily Guide publisher Tim Berrier was replaced, the newspaper had a news editor, sports editor, photographer and two reporters on staff. Along with traditional community news, the Daily Guide covered the Army’s decision to move its chemical warfare training facility to Fort Leonard Wood in the 1990s, and a flood that swept a mother and son to their deaths in 2013.

As recently as 2010, the Daily Guide had four full-time news people, along with a page designer and three ad salespeople.

But people left and weren’t replaced. Last spring, the Daily Guide was cut from five to three days a week. 

But the headline reads “decline in readers, ads leads hundreds of newspapers to fold.” Not “neverending series of cuts fails to convince customers the product is worth purchasing anymore, while company executives managed to pay themselves bonus after bonus.” This is the takeaway:

All newspaper owners face a brutal reality that calls into question whether it’s an economically sustainable model anymore unless, like the Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post, the boss is the world’s richest man.

Let’s ignore the truly regrettable construction of that sentence (What’s not an economically sustainable model? Newspaper owners? That I’d agree with.) and examine the implication that Jeff Bezos personally pays the salaries of every Washington Post reporter out of the goodness of his heart: 

Under Bezos, The Post has revamped its website and mobile apps. It also created software called “Arc,” which gives better analytics and marketing features for the publication.

That’s helped it take a more data-driven approach. It now employs common web strategies like “A/B testing” to track how different headlines and story framings affect readership for each story. It also created a program that takes articles from other publications and asks readers which ones they’d rather read.

It’s also hired a bunch of new editors and reporters lately. It now publishes 1,200 articles a day. Its content varies from breaking news and long features to fun photo slideshows …

So he … invested in making the paper better, and people got interested? Why wouldn’t that work anywhere else, GateHouse?

GateHouse said the Daily Guide, like many smaller newspapers across the country, was hurt by a dwindling advertising market among national retailers. The paper supplemented its income through outside printing jobs, but those dried up, too, said Szachara, the GateHouse newspaper operations president.

Given an unforgiving marketplace, there’s no guarantee additional investment in the paper would have paid off, he said.

National retailers. In a town of 5,000 in the Ozarks. Give me a break. This is where outside, corporate, hedge-fund ownership the news in the ass: Wal-mart can’t supply the pages it was supplying across the entire company, so to make a certain number this quarter this entire community’s news gets cut.

But hey, maybe GateHouse was too broke to invest in this paper the way Bezos did OH WAIT: 

Only a few short weeks after announcing a centralization of layout and copy editing that will cost jobs at its more than 300 newspapers across the nation, GateHouse Media revealed Friday it has awarded more than $1.4 million in bonuses to its top four executives.

ONE POINT FOUR MILLION DOLLARS could run this small paper for five years. Stop interrogating the business model and start interrogating the spending habits of your goddamn management team.

Go on, tell me more about how investment wouldn’t pay off, even though there are examples of it doing just that. It can’t be that you’d rather make money on the downturn than REVERSE THE GODDAMN DOWNTURN, right?

They will keep doing this as long as we keep buying the argument that it’s “declining revenue” (does that mean it’s enough to pay your bills or no?) or “changes in the media consumer landscape” or “damn kids on their phones these days” keeps getting included in the nut graf like some kind of weather system. This is a problem that has a solution, and that you don’t wanna solve it, don’t change that one bit.

A.

Tactical Framing

This, this exactly:

It’s also a natural consequence of the pundit-to-journalist-to-pundit pipeline, in which people who can only think tactically are paid to tell other people what to think about a policy. I understand why political strategists are obsessed with where something will play and how well and why. I will never understand why journalists think they need to convey those debates to their readers.

This whole mindset has infected journalism as a whole. I remember having a conversation with an editor about whether we should, as a newspaper, call for a local scumbag’s resignation. The editor’s worry was that if we did so, and the scumbag didn’t resign, we’d look weak and people would be less likely to listen to us in the future.

I think my argument to him was something along the lines of HE’S A SON OF A BITCH WHO’S GONNA BURN IN HELL, THAT IS ALL THAT MATTERS. You do right, say it loud, and damn the torpedos.

We see this in the obsession over which attacks on Trump land, and how awful it is that none of them do and that his supporters keep supporting him. As if the kids in cages care. As if guilt or innocence in criminal actions rest upon convincing a focus group of overwhelmed suburban moms who watch the Today Show. As if you should be worried, when reporting true facts about the actions of the powerful toward the powerless, how that reporting makes YOU look.

Back to the pundit-journalist finger cuffs: You do become a sociopath in both jobs, and I get that and honor it as a necessary defense mechanism to dealing constantly with the worst parts of society. You see the world under its skin, in both occupations, and you can’t go back to merrily skipping through the cereal aisle the next morning.

But that emotional kinship doesn’t mean the aims of the job are the same. Serving your candidate and serving your readers are not the same thing, and while explaining the complexities of the political process has merit, predicating coverage on the likelihood of a policy initiative getting a favorable vote serves your audience … not at all.

A.

Tucker Carlson was hired for the misogyny, not in spite of or in ignorance of it

So Tucker Carlson is a piece of shit: 

Carlson called into the radio show for about an hour a week from 2006 to 2011 (he joined Fox News as contributor in 2009). In the recordings obtained by Media Matters, Carlson defends cult leader and child abuser Warren Jeffs, calls Britney Spears and Paris Hilton “the biggest white whores in America,” questions whether sex workers can really be raped, and describes women in general as “extremely primitive.”

Fox knew this. Shit, Tucker used to work for CNN and I wouldn’t doubt CNN knew this. These things were broadcast on the radio so every single listener to “Bubba the Love Sponge” knew this, too, but Tucker kept getting jobs because people liked his schtick. They don’t have any excuse for being unaware of who he is and what he’s like.

They don’t get to say OH MY WE HAD NO IDEA HE WAS INTO CHILD RAPE. WE THOUGHT HE WAS JUST ONE OF THE REGULAR RACIST MISOGYNIST PIECES OF SHIT WE HIRE.

He and his ilk are terrible, harmful and useless, and he was hired not in spite of those things or in ignorance of them but because of them. Tucker’s viewers respond to this in him. This isn’t something they overlook. They don’t put up with the pederasty fantasies to get to the racism. They recognize it’s all of a piece.

It’s all part of the “I fucked your mom” persona Tucker cultivates and profits from. It’s not an obstacle to his appeal. It’s his whole entire sales pitch, and Fox bought it, and CNN before them, and Bubba the Love Sponge picked up the phone because he knew this was what was on the other end of the line.

A.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Rocky Road

Charing Cross Bridge by Andre Derain

Carnival was alternately exhausting and exhilarating. I love it but I’m always glad when it’s over, especially when the weather is cold and wet. This year was physically difficult for me as I was in pain for the last week of the season. I ended up on the disabled list and stayed home on Mardi Gras day but I don’t regret not resting on Lundi Gras as you can see from this tweet:

Proteus is one of the “old line” krewes and their den is around the corner from Adrastos World Headquarters. They were indeed as drunk as plutocratic skunks. Watching them set up to roll is one of the pleasures of life inside the parade box. Where else can you watch three fake kings-Proteus, Comus, and Rex-toast one another on the street?

This week’s first theme song was written by Nick Lowe and Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke for Nick’s 1990 Party Of One album, which reunited him with his musical partner in crime, Dave Edmunds.

It’s disambiguation time: a different tune with the same title. Our other theme song was written by Steve Tilston but I first heard it done by Fairport Convention. We have two versions for your listening pleasure: Fairport live followed by the songwriter.

Now that we’ve traveled down several rocky roads, it’s time to jump to the break.

Continue reading

‘Congress’ Isn’t The Problem. Republicans Are.

This isn’t “Congress,” dude: 

About 75 percent of Americans favor higher taxes for the ultrawealthy. The idea of a federal law that would guarantee paid maternity leave attracts 67 percent support. Eighty-three percent favor strong net neutrality rules for broadband, and more than 60 percent want stronger privacy laws. Seventy-one percent think we should be able to buy drugs imported from Canada, and 92 percent want Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices. The list goes on.

[snip]

In our era, it is primarily Congress that prevents popular laws from being passed or getting serious consideration. (Holding an occasional hearing does not count as “doing something.”) Entire categories of public policy options are effectively off-limits because of the combined influence of industry groups and donor interests. There is no principled defense of this state of affairs — and indeed, no one attempts to offer such a justification. Instead, legislative stagnation is cynically defended by those who benefit from it with an unconvincing invocation of the rigors of our system of checks and balances.

Everyone’s mad at David Brooks but this is the dumbest thing in the Times today.

“Congress” isn’t refusing to enact sensible gun regulations. “Congress” isn’t gutting the only weakass healthcare protections we’ve ever managed to pass. “Congress” isn’t denying pregnant women health care or parental leave. “Congress” isn’t murdering net neutrality in its cradle. “Congress” is doing none of these things.

Mitch McConnell and his merry band of blithering buttlicks are.

Pretending nobody in Washington wants to get anything done sounds really savvy and appealingly cynical because it allows you to let everybody off the hook including yourself. The facts remain that the very SECOND Democrats had control of Congress they passed universal background checks, created a committee to study climate change, and oh yeah REOPENED THE GOVERNMENT THAT HAD BEEN SHUT DOWN.

I mean sweet mercy, you don’t have to go past the first Google result to figure that out.

We can’t solve any problems right now because we keep telling ourselves lies about what those problems are. Those problems are Republican problems, full stop, and the more we keep on with this copypasta equivalence the stupider it sounds. “Both sides” is a joke by now, here on the internets, but it keeps getting spat out like it still means something.

I get it. It lets you sound like you know something everyone else, all those dumbasses with party allegiances and beliefs in stuff and principles worth fighting for, is too blinkered to know, and that special knowledge gets your op-eds published and your name on the cable shows. It lets you off the hook for figuring out what a candidate stands for and then backing that candidate, fully and unashamedly, because their views align with yours. You can just declare that the whole system is, like, bullshit, man, and go home.

Instead of having to stand up and say “Congress” isn’t doing anything to stifle the views of the majority. The views of the majority are the views of the Democratic Party and but for corruption, gerrymandering, and a 24-hour propaganda network blaring all day long that liberals are socialist traitors’ whores, those majority views would be law by now.

Schmuck.

A.

This ISN’T HELPING, Guys

Ugh, division and disagreement are so ugly, why can’t we all just get along on important issues like babies in cages and destroying the world? 

Contempt makes political compromise and progress impossible. It also makes us unhappy as people. According to the American Psychological Association, the feeling of rejection, so often experienced after being treated with contempt, increases anxiety, depression and sadness. It also damages the contemptuous person by stimulating two stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline. In ways both public and personal, contempt causes us deep harm.

While we are addicted to contempt, we at the same time hate it, just as addicts hate the drugs that are ruining their lives. In an important study of political attitudes, the nonprofit More in Common found in 2018 that 93 percent of Americans say they are tired of how divided we have become as a country. Large majorities say privately that they believe in the importance of compromise, reject the absolutism of the extreme wings of both parties and are not motivated by partisan loyalty.

Our country did not “become” divided. A 24-hour propaganda network for the Republican party told half of us the other half hated them and they were being persecuted and put-upon by, in order, the Clintons, the Obamas, Democrats generally, liberals, women, gay people, people in cities, people who drank Starbucks I think, imaginary communists, and everybody younger than 30.

When liberals tried to say, erm, not really, we don’t actually think about you all that much, we’d just like to have health care, there was an 11-year screaming fit known as the Tea Party that was covered like it was the spontaneous emergence of a new species of humanity hitherto unknown.

Plus a bunch of racism, and Fox News cashed the checks.

This wasn’t a weather system that swept in. Errbody didn’t just wake up one day and say GOLLY GEE WHILLIKERS I FEEL LIKE HATING ON YOU TODAY. Facebook and Twitter have not helped, but if you think this strain of misery didn’t exist before we all started wringing our hands about it, you haven’t been home for Christmas with a bunch of relatives who want to shit on your humanities degree.

That a few liberals, sick and tired of being dumped on constantly, have now started saying HEY QUIT TALKING SHIT is not evidence of a divided country. It’s evidence that you can only kill so many of us (and Reagan and Bush killed quite a few) before we start, you know, objecting.

I mean, all weekend we’ve been hearing about how deranged and hateful CPAC is NOW, as if the 1990s rhetoric around the AIDS crisis was compassionate, or 9/11 wasn’t followed by a wave of hate crimes, or the Civil Rights movement wasn’t greeted with fire hoses and guns. As if Kent State was a peaceable meeting of equal opposites just trying to understand each other. As if Father Coughlin never took up the mic.

We did not “become” divided. Many many more of us just became heard, and this newfound insistence on civility in communication is the response to that, and it doesn’t serve anyone but the wealthy and powerful who “divided” us in the first place.

This is exhausting:

Finally, we should see the contempt around us as what it truly is: an opportunity, not a threat. If you are on social media, on a college campus or in any place other than a cave by yourself, you will be treated with contempt very soon. This is a chance to change at least one heart — yours. Respond with warmheartedness and good humor. You are guaranteed to be happier. If that also affects the contemptuous person (or bystanders), it will be to the good.

It is true that in an argument between me and another middle-class white lady I should keep my temper and smile for the sake of peace in our well-appointed neighborhood where everyone contributes to the block party bake sale. In an argument between two middle-class white college students at debating podiums, certainly, by all means let’s be nice.

But in an argument between a middle-class white lady and the man who thinks she deserves to make a third less than an equivalent male colleague?

In an argument between trans people who want to live their lives and those who want to define them out of existence?

In an argument between a black mother whose son was just shot by police and the city government that covered it up?

In an argument between a Muslim traveler and the authorities who stop him at the airport with no pretext and no explanation?

In an argument between kids who want to live free of war and persecution and people who want them gassed at the border?

I would posit there is not enough contempt for the powerful on the part of the powerless in these conversations. In these situations, where lives are weighed against social comfort, lives should always win. There are worse things than division. There are worse things than conflict. There are worse things than saying mean things on Twitter.

Babies in cages, for example. Death from preventable disease. Schools with holes in the roof. Bullets, bombs and all the other horrible things our need for comfort make possible.

If calling someone who is trying to prevent me and mine from living our lives in peace a monster is divisive, then let division reign along with freedom, forever and ever amen.

A.