Category Archives: So Called Liberal Media

On Enemies, and Their People

As the kids say, read the thread:

Okay, we’ve covered before the idea that this media hate is something new, either for Trump or the Republican party, but one thing we haven’t talked about is the money behind the media hate, the money that made it happen.

I’m not talking about the financing of Fox News. I’m talking about the money that left Fox News the only game in town.

Here’s the last 20 years, roughly. Large corporations bought up local papers in places like those Arnade travels, and then systematically killed those papers. This serial murder was helped along by TV news and the mobile Internet, but make no mistake, this was a slaughter sponsored by and enthusiastically supported by corporate interests in the name of profit and it would have happened even if Craig never made a List.

Local newspapers were the major source of news for Trump’s demographics, 25 years ago. Older, white, traditionally small-c conservatives and their slightly wealthier suburban children, who grew up picking up a paper from the porch. They likely would have done so forever if, you know, the local paper hadn’t fired half the staffers worth reading, filled its pages with AP and entertainment bullshit, cut the size of the paper, doubled the price, and then stopped delivering it altogether.

NONE of this was anything the journalists so stridently defending their existences on Twitter had anything to do with, but it is at the heart of both why Trump won and why his anti-media message is central to his appeal. It’s why “the media” looks to his voters like an unrecognizable conglomerate of what Arnade calls “front-row kids” talking about things they don’t care about.

I grew up in Trump country, in a small town in Wisconsin ruined by the collapse of manufacturing jobs and the weakening of organized labor and YES, by racism and isolation and resentment. I am 100 percent leaving everybody I know on the hook. But they — working and middle-middle-class people — knew “media.” They knew a reporter. A working reporter who went to their schools and lived next door and walked the dog on their block. They knew a sportswriter, a photographer, the kid who delivered the thing.

Kill the local paper, and you kill that familiarity, not just of the reporter for his community but of the community for its reporter, for ITS media. You make “media” an abstraction, at enough remove to hate.

And oh, boy, came the hate. Into the vacuum left by the death of local papers came conservative talk radio, head-first and stupid fast. And talk radio is the place where Trump’s voters learned there was another “media,” one that “hated” and “looked down on” them, one that didn’t share their “values.” Into the space once occupied by the voices of their neighbors came the voices of Rush Limbaugh, and Mark Belling, and Charlie Sykes, saying over and over that there is a force out there loathing and despising you and you’d better hate them right back.

Limbaugh and his ten-a-penny fascisti imitators were rich assholes bankrolled by other rich assholes, natch, but that didn’t matter when they were the only ones there. It was a 24-7 onslaught over the airwaves, and instead of countering that then, when it could have  been stopped, the leaders of media corporations bought those radio talkers and elevated them to respectability. Producers booked them on national shows. Editors ran (and still run) those hateful screechers on their opinion pages. And anyone who fought back was overreacting.

I can’t tell you how many times I heard I was overreacting, to a “joke” about a truck bomb killing my friends.

We’ve heard a lot since the election and especially since Trump started his latest crusade about subscribing to the Times and the Post to “support the media” and there are hashtags and pizza funds and such, all of which I think is nice. I like supporting big papers, though I’d like their own leadership to support them and stop publishing shite like this. However, trying to counter Trump’s anti-media message by buying into the Times and the Post and only watching CNN is a little like trying to rebuild your street by kicking in 10 bucks toward repaving the Brooklyn Bridge.

We’ve heard a lot since the election about rebuilding all kinds of infrastructure in small Midwestern towns and in neighborhoods where indifference and “did not vote” was the choice of 2016. Party infrastructure, the 50 State Strategy, fighting for every vote, all of that is important. We MUST, those of us who call ourselves progressive and care about a free press and a free society, include media infrastructure in that rebuilding.

I am not arguing for more condescending, fly-in Times stories about white racists and their clothes. I am arguing for more stories about their city councils, their local schools, their water boards, their police departments. I am arguing for stories about their crime and courts and I am arguing not to the local reporters trying to do this work already, but to the corporate bosses so reluctant to fund it for the amount of time it takes to make a damn dent.

“We tried local news sites,” they’ll protest. Yeah, for six seconds. Local newspapers built loyalty over LIFETIMES in communities, and people get mad when they can’t just yell “hyperlocal” three times and make Beetlejuice instantly appear.

This crap is also not helpful:

For rich companies’ rich employees like Chuck Todd to rage on Twitter about the devaluing of the press, well, Chuckles and all his friends could pool their pocket change and buy six small city or suburban papers, staff them, and get them on people’s goddamn porches every day. THAT would be valuing the press.

But are local papers still that important, with the Internet phone sand the Facebooking and the FakeNewz? Um, yeah. Seventy-five percent of Americans don’t use Twitter. Ten percent of the country doesn’t have high-speed Internet. Even in a huge city, how often do you get handed a flyer about a thing happening? Absent texting every single person on the planet (and ignoring that there are vast stretches of America where cell service blows goats) it is still HELLA efficient to print the news on a dead tree and physically give it to someone.

“Nobody on the subway with me today is reading the paper! They’re all on their phones!” Yeah, and everybody in my parents’ kitchen is reading the paper, so maybe neither of our experiences is universal. Yet media companies have utterly given up on print customers. They’ve decided “older, and not as many of them as there once were” means “not enough to give a shit about” and they’ve cut those people loose. So to make a local paper work you might have to give lots of papers away. You might need to market the shit out of your paper. You might need to invest in some newsboy-capped urchins to hand the thing out. It’s still gonna be a hell of a lot cheaper than literally anything else media companies are currently doing.

TRONC.

Absent a paper, a radio show might also be a good thing. The best thing, though, is to find the people already doing the work in these communities and support the shit out of THEM. Build up in the places you aren’t, instead of hunkering down where you are and hoping the President, whose entire appeal is imagined elitism, stops yelling at you. Stop hiding out and then wondering why nobody anywhere else knows you or loves you or values what you do.

Of course they don’t. You abandoned them years ago, on purpose, for money. I’m one of you and I hate you a lot of the time for it, too.

A.

Today in Things That Were Always Bullshit: WCHA Dinner

Keep pretending Trump doesn’t hate you and maybe it will magically be true! 

The White House Correspondents’ Association dinner is not a mood ring. It doesn’t care if President Trump — or any president — likes, dislikes, celebrates, scorns or ignores White House reporters. The annual gala does not indicate, illustrate or represent the relationship between the White House and the reporters who cover it. It is an institution that celebrates one bedrock American value, the First Amendment, and two journalistic goals: to highlight excellent reporting and to award scholarships to the next generation of American journalists.

That has always been true. But the Trump presidency has inspired some in the press corps to boycott this year because — if I have this right — reporters are too good for Trump.

Or  because he directly threatened and encouraged his supporters to threaten and in some cases attack them for having the gall to show up and record his rallies.

Samesies.

My outlet, CBS News, will participate this year and proudly so. If they back out now, organizations that attended last year ought to explain what is different about this year. Is it Trump? Or is it them? Skipping needlessly hands an evidentiary cudgel to Trump and his acolytes that reporters cannot and will not cover his presidency objectively.

Lord knows that they’re waiting for evidence before making any claims, lest they be accused of exaggerating or outright lying. Heaven forfend.

They don’t need evidence. They already hate you. This would just provide an opportunity for them to hate you more. And the idea that there’s some unwritten rule that you have to laugh while they do so in front of others is just ridiculous.

Besides, Trump is hardly the first president to see the press as his enemy. Other presidents have at times demonstrated contempt for journalists, limited our access, circumvented us and questioned our motives. I’ve covered three of them.

And every single time you should have told them roundly to fuck right off.

Look, I’m sorry you’ve been debased in the past and made peace with your debasement, but that doesn’t mean you have to keep letting that debasement go on. You can start to stick up for yourself right now today at any damn time, so why not pick right now today? Why not pick Trump?

You’re afraid they’ll accuse you of bias? Do you think these people pay attention to FACTS? Have you met the election we just had? Have you seen these fucking frog-boys and their elderly enablers? All they want is to scream LOCK HER UP at some chick. They do not want to thoughtfully consider that my oh my, the press has now demonstrated willingness to treat Trump fairly and therefore we shall cease calling for your fiery death.

Schmuck.

A.

But They’ll Let Me Cut Taxes, Mom!

Republicans were always gonna be okay with it: 

In effect, congressional Republicans have sought to compartmentalize Mr. Trump’s presidency, adopting a cafeteria-style approach. They reach for the more appealing offerings, such as the Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, and avert their gaze from less appetizing or, to some, downright indefensible elements (America is not so different from Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia), which would have surely drawn relentless rebukes if uttered by President Barack Obama.

Some lawmakers take comfort knowing that the president’s behavior last year didn’t hurt their campaigns, and they have used the electoral result as a justification unto itself, suggesting — as Mr. Trump has constantly — that his campaign success validates his approach.

“He’s a unique personality, to be sure,” acknowledged Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the Republican whip. “But he’s gotten this far the way he is, and I think that probably leads him to think, well, it’s working for him so far, so why change?”

And Republican lawmakers do not mind?

“As long as we’re able to get things done,” Mr. Cornyn said.

They were always gonna be fine with basically being in hock to the Russian mob.

They were always gonna be fine with unsecured e-mail, unhinged Twitter, incoherent interviews, babbling speeches, and lie after lie after lie after lie.

They were always gonna be fine with a cabinet run by Goldman Sachs and the oil industry.

They were gonna be fine with whatever they had to be fine with, because Donald Trump will let them cut taxes.

They were gonna be fine with whatever they had to be fine with, because Donald Trump will let them repeal Obamacare.

They were gonna be fine with whatever they had to be fine with, because Donald Trump will let them push their 20-week abortion bans and personhood laws, their birth control restrictions and defunding of mammograms for poor women.

Oh, sure, one or two of them might say something mean to a reporter or on Twitter, but none of them were actually going to hold a hearing, or vote against a cabinet nominee, or encourage others in their party to break ranks.

Why would they? He lets them get things done.

This was all obvious to anyone with half a brain who was doing anything like actually looking at what was happening during the Republican primaries, but we still had six months of stories about how surely, any minute now, the grown-ups in the GOP were going to take control back from this tangerine-tinted madman and restore order in the land.

Surely his cabinet would save us! Surely he would surround himself with smart people who would run things while he just, like, golfed or something. Surely he would jettison all the white supremacist rhetoric and govern as a moderate! The office will change and mature him! The party will keep him in line!

Those of us functionally awake during the Obama era, during the Sarah Palin’s Facebook Rules Our World era, during the Don’t You Want to Fuck George W. Bush era, during the Senator Saxby Chambliss era, during the Purple Heart Band-Aid era, said no way no how is any of this going to happen, because we are not idiots, and we know what the Republicans of the last 20 years are about.

They’re about cutting taxes, repealing Obamacare, gutting business regulations, slapping their foreign policy on the table, and punishing women for having sex. And they are willing to put up with anything they have to put up with in order to get that stuff done.

So spending time with them now asking REALLY? REALLY THIS IS OKAY WITH YOU? isn’t going to shame them into acting right, into filing articles of impeachment or invoking the 25th amendment or even written a sternly worded letter or two. I keep seeing these bewildered stories, like, “Isn’t there anything that would convince you your party’s president has gone off the rails?”

No. There’s nothing that would convince them of that. There’s nothing they are willing to do about it and there never was.

There’s something we can do, however.

We can remember that they’re like this. We can, for once in our ahistorical, nonsensical political lives, internalize and forever recall that the GOP has no loyalty to anything but the concept of itself, and the next time we’re offered a choice between one of them and another candidate, we can vote for their opponents.

A.

‘only the players are flipped’

Ugh, peak “both sides:” 

Republicans are getting an unexpected jolt from both the left and their own anxious base at these town halls — and it’s a moment that looks like a mirror image of the national mood almost a decade ago. The common thread between then and now: One party in control of Washington undertaking a massive change to Americans’ health care. When Democrats were in Republicans’ situation in 2010, they lost control of Congress and haven’t regained it since.

Let’s back up. In 2009, Democrats had large majorities in Congress and controlled the White House. They quickly drew on their political capital to pursue one of the biggest changes to the American health-care system in decades.

That summer, before Obamacare became law, Democrats across the nation went home to their districts and were caught off guard by passionately angry constituents — mostly conservative — at town halls, fearful of how Obamacare might take away their rights.

Here are some major differences for everyone in this room who is an idiot.

  1. The Republican concerns about the ACA were completely baseless and in some cases outright falsehoods: death panels murdering people in their beds and so on.
  2. Those concerns came from Republican politicians and Republican-controlled media pushing scare stories nonstop.
  3. The current protests and pushback on GOP legislators are coming from no one in office since most Democratic senators can’t find their asses with both hands and a posse right now.
  4. That pushback is occurring not on one issue but on many: climate change denial, cabinet appointees either unqualified or evil or both, ethical violations that would give Richard Nixon multiple orgasms, and an immigration “policy” as incoherent as it is racist. Oh, yeah, and proposing to repeal the only health insurance option many people have.
  5. With the exception of the latter, these are not hypotheticals. The constituents who are so rudely confronting their GOP reps are reacting to actual things that are happening right now or have already happened: Legal immigrants getting harassed and detained at the border, ICE going door to door asking for people’s papers, journalists being threatened and charged with felonies, and oh yeah, that really bitchin’ torture ban (weaksauce though it was) getting thrown out the window. Plus actual votes on repealing Obamacare.

So please do not come at me with this:

In 2017, the initial script appears to be the same, only the players are flipped.

Only the players. Sure.

Only the players, their intentions, the consequences of their actions, the relative power of the people their actions will affect, and OH YEAH IF THEIR ACTIONS HAPPEN TO BE IN ANY WAY REAL OR JUST SOME MADE UP TALK RADIO BULLSHIT DESIGNED TO GET PEOPLE TO VOTE REPUBLICAN. For fuck’s sake, it’s no wonder everybody just gives up on politics when the journalism is this goddamn dumb.

Are Thursday’s town halls early warning signs of a historically major loss to come for Republicans in the 2018 midterms? (Not likely in the Senate, given the map is so favorable for Republicans.) Is this a movement that will give rise to new liberal leaders in a party that many believe desperately needs them? Or will moments like Thursday’s events pull the Democratic Party further to the left in a way that hurts its electoral chances? Will these people even vote in 2018, given they expressed their frustration after the election?

THREE MILLION MORE OF US EXPRESSED OUR OPINION ON ELECTION DAY BUT YOU CONFEDERATE-ENABLING GOATFUCKERS HELD A THERAPY SESSION FOR THE WINNERS INSTEAD OF TALKING TO US.

I’M SORRY I’M YELLING SO MUCH.

Really.

But this whole “politics is a big giant game of pieces moving and none of it really affects people” genre needs to die a fiery death. Instead of comparing how people are mad today versus how people were mad eight years ago, maybe figure out what they’re mad about and if that anger is based on reality or crap, and adjust your editorial agenda thusly.

A.

‘your husband will do anything for you—slay the dragons, kill the beast’

Ladies, stop agreeing with your husbands only when you … agree with them: 

Alpha women aren’t exactly new, but they were once a rarer breed. Today they abound. There are several reasons why, but it’s in large part due to women having been groomed to be leaders rather than to be wives. Simply put, women have become too much like men. They’re too competitive. Too masculine. Too alpha.

Strangely, this is never a problem faced by a human male.

Every relationship requires a masculine and a feminine energy to thrive.

I have some questions.

How is such energy measured and quantified? Is there a test strip, like a blood sugar monitor, where you can prick your finger and see how much masculine humour you contain that day? Is it something you can smell in the air? Does this apply only to heterosexual relationships, or do same-sex couples need to test regularly as well? Have you ever asked a gay couple which one is the woman? I feel like you have.

The roles may have changed, but the rules haven’t. All a good man wants is for his wife to be happy, and he will go to great lengths to make it happen. He’ll even support his wife’s ideas, plans or opinions if he doesn’t agree with them.

Lady, I do not know who you are married to but get out now. Someone in your relationship is an asshole. I don’t know which one of you it is (probably both) but I know if this is how you look at things, neither of you should be there.

What men want most of all is respect, companionship and sex.

Women hate these things.

If you supply these basics, your husband will do anything for you—slay the dragons, kill the beast, work three jobs, etc.

The 1150s  called. They said be sure to salt the beast-meat or it gets gnarly in the cellar and also your brave knight just died of something called “the pox” which apparently he picked up from a serving girl in the next village.

(Also? Plenty of people working three jobs for another person’s joy are fucking miserable and resent the living shit out of it and aren’t shy about saying so.)

Your husband’s actions are more often than not reactions. He’s reacting to something you said or did, or to something you didn’t say or didn’t do. He’s reacting to your moods, your gestures, your inflections and your tone. That’s how men are. Your husband wants you to be happy, and when he sees it isn’t working he thinks he’s failed. That’s when he acts out.

That’s when he gets sent to time-out to think about what he’s done and if he tells you that you started it, you take away his pacifier. Jesus Christ, ladies, don’t we have enough to do without adding another toddler to the mix?

I’d think to myself, How can I possibly make sure my husband isn’t negatively affected by my every mood swing? I’m a Pisces, for God’s sake!

Astrology is not a real thing. Nor is any of this Mars-Venus crap. When you were born is not an all-access pass to behave however the fuck you want.

Girls, embrace the laziness that comes from submitting to your husband’s every whim!

I’m an alpha all day long, and it gets tiresome. I concede that I thrive on it; but at the end of the day, I’m spent. Self-reliance is exhausting. Making all the decisions is exhausting. Driving the car, literally or figuratively, is exhausting.

If driving the car is that tiresome, reconsider either the particulars of your commute, or the make and model of your vehicle. Or, you know, suck it the fuck up. Being an adult IS exhausting. Everybody wants to just lie down and eat pie for lunch. Yet somehow most of us persist.

First I’d handle something the “right” way—i.e. by not arguing with him, or by not directing his traffic, or by being more service-oriented—and marvel at the response. Then life would get busy, and I’d resort to my old ways. Sure enough, I’d get a different response. So I’d make a mental note of how I messed up and make sure to get it right the next time. Eventually, it became second nature.

“Eventually, treating my relationship like an experiment in which I provided differing responses to various stimuli became second nature, and I no longer saw my husband as a person in the same house but as a lever I could push to get a pellet. Then life REALLY started kicking ass!”

This garbage is the same as any other relationship advice garbage, which is that, delivered to everyone in the house, it makes a lot of sense: Don’t pick fights just to pick fights, don’t agree to shit just to agree to it, try not to be assholes to each other or have to be in charge all the time, etc. But somehow this advice never DOES get delivered to men and women.

It gets delivered to someone who’s unhappy in a relationship because she doesn’t feel valued and respected, and the advice always boils down to: Don’t ask for that. If it’s making you unhappy to want to be treated like a human, learn to want something else.

To which all I can say is that it is absolutely ASTONISHING that fewer young people are getting married, or marrying later, with people like this out there making it look like this much fun.

A.

The Fog Of History: Explaining Trump

Ron Rosenbaum wrote one of the best books about the Hitler phenomenon and its persistence through the years: Explaining Hitler. In that brilliant work, Rosenbaum talked to some of the explainers-from the crazy to the reputable-to try to understand how Nazism could have taken hold in a country known for its literature, music, art, and cinema. Rosenbaum also endeavored to understand *why* Hitler’s demonic spell continued after his catastrophic failure and revelation as the war criminal’s war criminal. If you’re interested in the subject, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. What’s not to love about a book that has a chapter titled The Hitler Family Film Noir?

Rosenbaum was approached by some publications to explore comparisons between Hitler and the man some call Hair Fuhrer and I call the Insult Comedian: Donald J. Trump. He was initially reluctant to do so for reasons he explains in a brand spanking new piece in the Los Angeles Review Of Books:

Until the morning after the election I had declined them. While Trump’s crusade had at times been malign, as had his vociferous supporters, he and they did not seem bent on genocide. He did not seem bent on anything but hideous, hurtful simplemindedness — a childishly vindictive buffoon trailing racist followers whose existence he had mainstreamed. When I say followers I’m thinking about the perpetrators of violence against women outlined by New York Magazine who punched women in the face and shouted racist slurs at them. Those supporters. These are the people Trump has dragged into the mainstream, and as my friend Michael Hirschorn pointed out, their hatefulness will no longer find the Obama Justice Department standing in their way.

Bad enough, but genocide is almost by definition beyond comparison with “normal” politics and everyday thuggish behavior, and to compare Trump’s feckless racism and compulsive lying was inevitably to trivialize Hitler’s crime and the victims of genocide.

As a believer in Godwin’s Law until the 2016 election, I understand where Rosenbaum is coming from. It’s why I still prefer using the term Fascist to describe the Trump-Bannon “movement” and their loathsome followers.

Now that they’re in power, Rosenbaum detects a methodological similarity between the Trumpers and German Nazis. It’s rooted in both the big lie technique and the war on the press. In Hitler’s case, his fiercest foes back home in Bavaria were the reporters of the Munich Post who were referred to as “the poison kitchen” by the Nazis.

I really should let the master explainer explain himself:

But after the election, things changed. Now Trump and his minions are in the driver’s seat, attempting to pose as respectable participants in American politics, when their views come out of a playbook written in German. Now is the time for a much closer inspection of the tactics and strategy that brought off this spectacular distortion of American values.

What I want to suggest is an actual comparison with Hitler that deserves thought. It’s what you might call the secret technique, a kind of rhetorical control that both Hitler and Trump used on their opponents, especially the media. And they’re not joking. If you’d received the threatening words and pictures I did during the campaign (one Tweet simply read “I gas Jews”), as did so many Jewish reporters and people of color, the sick bloodthirsty lust to terrify is unmistakably sincere. The playbook is Mein Kampf.

Trump, of course, is not only incapable of writing a book on his own, he’s a notorious non-reader. Instead, he’s the teevee-watcher-in-chief. But Hitler was *not* an intellectual. He was a demagogue with an acute sense of his audience and what we would call his base. Trump may not be a true believer in the white nationalist ideology that Bannon and Miller have cobbled together BUT he *is* its best salesman.

Back to Hitler and the poison kitchen. The Munich Post did its best to expose the petty criminality and nationalistic bigotry that drove Hitler and the Nazis but in the end, we know what happened. They lost the kampf: Hitler came to power and plunged the world into an orgy of chaos, hatred, and violence. Steve Bannon is on the record as wanting chaos and destruction in order to bring on his own B3 new order and I’m not talking about the band of that name. He’s a right-wing Leninist. I’m a John Leninist myself.

Rosenbaum is even more worried about the normalization of Trump now that he’s the Current Occupant:

Cut to the current election. We had heard allegations that Trump kept Hitler’s speeches by his bedside, but somehow we normalized that. We didn’t take him seriously because of all the outrageous, clownish acts and gaffes we thought would cause him to drop out of the race. Except these gaffes were designed to distract. This was his secret strategy, the essence of his success — you can’t take a stand against Trump because you don’t know where Trump is standing. You can’t find him guilty of evil, you can’t find him at all. And the tactics worked. Trump was not taken seriously, which allowed him to slip by the normal standards for an American candidate. The mountebank won. Again.

Suddenly, after the inconceivable (and, we are now beginning to realize, suspicious) Trump victory, the nation was forced to contend with what it would mean, whether the “alt-right” was a true threat or a joke to be tolerated. Did it matter that Trump had opened up a sewer pipe of racial hatred? Once again, normalization was the buzzword.

And I remembered the Munich Post, defending Weimar Germany. I reflected on how fragile democratic institutions could be in the face of organized hatred. Hitler had been tricky about his plans until he got the position and the power to enact them. Trump had been tricky, neither accepting nor rejecting the endorsement of KKK leader David Duke. David Duke! The KKK! In this century! He claimed he didn’t know who he was. He couldn’t be disqualified because of someone he didn’t know. That’s where we all went wrong, thinking he was stupid and outrageous, not canny and savvy and able to play the media like Paganini. The election demonstrated the weakness of a weak democracy, where basic liberties could be abolished by demagoguery and voter suppression.

Rosenbaum is concerned that normalization is taking place in too many sectors of the public and press. The MSM wavers between exposing Trumpian excesses and normalization. I am cautiously optimistic that vast swaths of the American people do not accept Trump’s legitimacy and will never normalize his “movement.” Look at me: I am fundamentally a center-left Democrat who belongs to the “get shit done” wing of the party. That’s been suspended along with my adherence to Godwin’s Law. I am committed to resisting Trumpism and everything about it. This is not the time to make a deal with the devil. Trump regards offers of compromise as signs of weakness. I will continue to show him the same level of respect that Republicans gave to Barack Obama: zero, zilch, bupkis, nada.

People need to be patient. Given the current make-up of  Congress, Trump can only be removed if Republicans turn on him. That will only happen when they think the cost of supporting him outweighs the cost of pissing off rank and file Trumpers. That’s why public displays of disapproval are so vital. And the much ballyhooed 25th Amendment solution requires the support of his cabinet. It’s one reason why, with the exception of Generals Mattis and Kelly, the cabinet is loaded with wealthy political non-entities, sycophants, and right-wing ideologues. They *might* rebel if Trump continues his manic ways but it will take time. You know things are bad if I think Mike Pence is less horrific than Donald Trump. Why? He’s less likely to plunge us into a war caused by the last thing he saw on teevee. Trump puts the boob into boob tube as well as the idiot into idiot box.

Pressure and patience must be the watchwords of the resistance. We didn’t get into this mess overnight and we won’t get out of it quickly either. Satire is one of our best weapons. It hits Trump where he lives: he wants to be loved and admired. It’s our job to see that he’s neither. We don’t want him to think he’s Chaplin’s Great Dictator, Adenoid Hynkel. If Trump tries to dance with a global balloon, we need to pop it.

Vive les Maquis.

Your President* Speaks: Into The Muir Woods Edition

The advent of the Trump administration means it’s time to revive a recurring feature that predates my time at First Draft. It was predominantly used by Holden when he was the press gaggle maven here and President Malaprop was in office. Like Charlie Pierce, I have added an asterisk to the word President* since I vow to never refer to the Insult Comedian as such. Holy Ford Fucking Frick, Batman. That was the name of the baseball commish who put an asterisk in the record book after Roger Maris’ 61 homers in ’61. His middle name was not fucking but what’s a bit of dramatic license between friends? Frick the motherfrakker anyway.

Speaking of amateur theatrics, the whiner-in-chief gave an interview to ABC anchor David Muir. It had nothing to do with either Muir Woods or Stephen Sondheim but a pun is a pun is a pun. Hmm, Demure Woods sounds like a porn star name…

Let’s start with Trump’s “illegals cost me the popular vote” lie. I’ve heard of sore losers before but a sore winner is a new one on me.

MUIR: What you have presented so far has been debunked. It’s been called ….. false.

TRUMP: No, it hasn’t. Take a look at the Pew reports.

MUIR: I called the author of the Pew report last night. And he told me that they found no evidence of voter fraud.

TRUMP: Really? Then why did he write the report?

MUIR: He said no evidence of voter fraud.

TRUMP: Excuse me, then why did he write the report?  According to Pew report, then he’s — then he’s groveling again. You know, I always talk about the reporters that grovel when they wanna write something that you wanna hear but not necessarily millions of people wanna hear or have to hear.

You know what the old song says, true love travels on a grovel road.

Next up, Trump’s dubious claims that his CIA speech (wherein he said the word I 120 times) was a tremendous success:

 MUIR: Mr. President, I just have one more question on this. And it’s — it’s bigger picture. You took some heat after your visit to the CIA in front of that hallowed wall, 117 stars — of those lost at the CIA. You talked about other things. But you also talked about crowd size at the inauguration, about the size of your rallies, about covers on Time magazine. And I just wanna ask you when does all of that matter just a little less? When do you let it roll off your back now that you’re the president?

TRUMP: OK, so I’m glad you asked. So, I went to the CIA, my first step. I have great respect for the people in intelligence and CIA. I’m — I don’t have a lot of respect for, in particular one of the leaders. But that’s okay. But I have a lot of respect for the people in the CIA.

That speech was a home run. That speech, if you look at Fox, OK, I’ll mention you — we see what Fox said. They said it was one of the great speeches. They showed the people applauding and screaming and — and they were all CIA. There was — somebody was asking Sean — “Well, were they Trump people that were put–” we don’t have Trump people. They were CIA people.

That location was given to me. Mike Pence went up before me, paid great homage to the wall. I then went up, paid great homage to the wall. I then spoke to the crowd. I got a standing ovation. In fact, they said it was the biggest standing ovation since Peyton Manning had won the Super Bowl and they said it was equal. I got a standing ovation. It lasted for a long period of time. What you do is take — take out your tape — you probably ran it live. I know when I do good speeches. I know when I do bad speeches. That speech was a total home run. They loved it.

Peyton Manning spoke at Langley? We all know the Darnold brought a claque of sycophants along to cheer him on just in case the “CIA Nazis” were unresponsive. The ovation was tremendous. Believe me.

After going on some more about the inaugural crowd, Trump compared himself favorably to past Oval Ones:

I can be the most presidential person ever, other than the great Abe Lincoln.

I have my doubts. With the obvious exception of W, most past Presidents could speak the language above a 3rd grade level. It’s nice that Donald thinks at least one previous President ranks above him though.

There was more crazy in the interview but I think three entries will do. I don’t want to, uh, torture you with Trumpisms, after all. Elsewhere on the internets, I referred to this interview in a Graftonesque manner: B is for bonkers, berserk, and bat shit crazy. That about sums it up.

That concludes this edition of Your President Speaks.

 

 

Newspapers Will Pay For Anything Besides Journalism

ANY. THING. 

Even as the Chicago Sun-Times clings to life as a metro daily news organ, the publication says it has launched a new digital marketing agency called Digital 312, with the shop’s name incorporating the primary Chicago telephone area code.

Launched with a staff of around 11 people, the plan is to harness the experience the newspaper itself has gained in transitioning to a digital first news organization and apply that to clients of the agency that are looking for marketing expertise in the digital arena.

When I look at the money that’s gotten pissed away by newspaper companies in the past two decades, I don’t see the influence of the Internet or Kids Today Not Reading Anymore or That Rat Bastard Craig and His Rat Bastard List or Steve Jobs’s special phones stealing our attention spans. I see stupidity and a willingness to spend too much, too late, on things that don’t matter.

There are approximately 11,000 agencies that will help clients buy advertising, digital and otherwise, in the Sun-Times. But if nobody’s reading the Sun-Times, and nobody’s picking up the Sun-Times, and nobody can fucking find the Sun-Times if they scour the city for it because they only distribute four copies to every other 7-Eleven lately, and even if you do find it there are two good stories and 20 pages of week-old city hall gossip billed as a MAJOR SCOOP MUST CREDIT, well, I don’t care how swank your new ad agency sounds. Nobody’s going to put their products in your (digital or physical) pages.

If your name means nothing because you’ve spent 20 years destroying it with one ill-advised but loudly announced initiative after another, from a bloated, heaving website littered with auto-generated ads to a “national news network” that now redirects to a bunch of repeating clickbait advertorials, lurching onto yet another thing instead of supporting the one good thing you have left (your city room) will not help you.

Has newspaper revenue declined precipitously with the rise of mobile/digital devices? Natch. But there was still plenty of money to spend, on everything from endless rebrandings and redesigns and new divisions to replicate what other companies already did. On just about everything except journalism.

A.

Don’t Change a Thing? Um. Change EVERYTHING

Jack Shafer hypothesizes that Trump, Spicer et al are not something new, which is … interesting: 

I don’t recall anybody calling for a boycott of Barack Obama or his myrmidons for his media scheming and for tipping the “balance of power between the White House and press … unmistakably toward the government,” as the Politico past-masters put it. The press mostly carried on, threading the thicket of treacheries as best it could. Governments always have and will always impede the press from doing their job, and they will use any means necessary. “All governments lie,” as journalist I.F. Stone once wrote, “but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out.” From my vantage, the Obama administration got Choom Gang stoned on their media pirouetting and the Trump administration seems to have come close to matching them in just a couple of days.

Okay, look. I get that reporters were just as guilty of tire-swinging with Obama as they were during the Bush administration, but Obama incited crowds to attack precisely nobody in the Washington press corps so maybe not so much with the Both Sides Do It when one of the sides is Trump.

As to Shafer’s point about tactics, however, we are agreed IN PART:

Boycotts and bans may fill a journalists’ heart with vengeance, or at least keep it from being bruised. But their maker designed reporters to be resilient, to take disparagement, derision, scorn, and sneering from lying government officials in stride. And for good reason. To quote from Jon Ronson once again, “It’s good for journalists to feel demeaned. It means we’re onto a story.” Rather than treat the Spicer, Trump, Conway ingenuities as an excuse to pout and leave the field, the experienced members of the press will be propelled by the weekend to pick up their mobiles and notebooks and go maximum Fahrenthold on the administration.

You can do what Fahrenthold did and refuse to sit there in the White House while they feed you lies. We hear lots and lots of talk about how there’s no money for journalism, so why pay someone to hang out in the dumbest, ugliest clubhouse there is? It’s not like the old days when that was the only way you got to speak to the president or his advisors. We have these telephone thingies now. I hear our current president is fond of broadcasting his thoughts on the internet.

Margaret Sullivan gets closer: 

Journalists shouldn’t rise to the bait and decide to treat Trump as an enemy. Recalling at all times that their mission is truth-telling and holding public officials accountable, they should dig in, paying far more attention to actions than to sensational tweets or briefing-room lies — while still being willing to call out falsehoods clearly when they happen.

Jay Rosen, too: 

When I say #sendtheinterns I mean it literally: take a bold decision to put your most junior people in the briefing room. Recognize that the real story is elsewhere, and most likely hidden. That’s why the experienced reporters need to be taken out of the White House, and put on other assignments.

All of these still spend a lot more time than I think is really healthy talking about what is good for the press, and not what serves readers/viewers. The whinging in response to Sullivan & Rosen’s commentary was epic, natch: But our access! Our traditions! Our routines and we HAVE TO book the president’s people, we HAVE TO call them for comment! Blah blah blah please don’t make me change my contact list.

And I get that certain formats have certain constraints. If you have a panel every Sunday then you need people for that panel. So … why have a panel, then? If a panel isn’t working for you, throw the panel out. Why do journalists perpetuate formats that require people like Kellyanne Conway (or some equivalently vacant and nominally Democratic creature like James Carville) to weigh in? Gosh, I wonder if the president’s advisors are going to defend his policies! I wonder if someone from “the other side,” on the rare days when genuine opposition is actually heard, will oppose them! I wonder if any news is being made here or anyone is being told anything they don’t already know!

Seriously, who is this supposed to be serving? Who is the audience here? Is it other journalists on Twitter? Is it congressmen and their staffers who watch this stuff religiously? Because nobody else is learning a single thing here.

A lot of professional press critics are coming around to the idea that they need to flip the script in terms of how they cover the White House. They should be coming around to the idea that they need to take a look at how they cover politics, and not just flip the script. They need to make a different movie.

A.

Mock Jazz Funeral For Lady Liberty

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We do things differently in New Orleans. We know how to put a joyful spin on the direst situation. That’s what happened last Friday as the Insult Comedian took the oath of office and gave his B3 alt-right “American carnage” speech. A crowd gathered at Armstrong Park in Treme and threw a political jazz funeral full of music, mirth, mockery, and, of course, costumes.

I did not costume as I decided to attend the day before. I went instead for a Krewe du Vieux gentile rabbinical look:

Three amigos

Photograph by Julie Graybill.

That’s me with two of my favorite people in New Orleans: Andy and Bob. Self-described lefty carpenter Andy built the coffin for Lady Liberty. It was an overcast day in the Crescent City, which explains my pallor. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. It’s hard being a gentile rabbi in the city.

There were some amazing costumes as you can see below. One might call this Pussygrabber and the Walking Vaginas. Sounds like a swell band name to me.

Pussygrabber and the Walking Vaginas.

Photograph by Dakinikat.

Please give them a tiny hand of applause for their creativity.

My official blog photographer had to work and I didn’t take any decent pictures because I was preoccupied with a feline health scare. Oscar refused to eat and hid from us that morning. I think it may have been the general vibe of Inauguration Day: he’s a very empathetic cat who takes a dim view of the man whose hair resembles a nutria pelt. In any event, he was back to normal by that evening. Let’s just call it an anti-Trump hunger strike.

The march was great fun and lifted our spirits considerably. As we walked down Canal Street, some tourists gathered to watch. I loudly encouraged them to join in and some did. There was also a couple in a hotel room who waved and took pictures of the march. The only reason it’s noteworthy is that they were wrapped in towels or sheets. Probably honeymooners.

One highlight of the day was running into an old acquaintance, Campbell Robertson. He’s the Gray Lady’s man in New Orleans. I had the pleasure of introducing him to event spokesperson Annie Spell as “Campbell Robertson of the failing New York Times.” I introduced him as such to several friends including my two-woman Krewe of Spank posse of Jennifer and Lyndsey. They deserve special mention because they were my cocktail techs and brought me a Pimm’s Cup when we reached the riverfront Moonwalk. Thanks, y’all.

The one discordant note of the day occurred on the riverfront. The Moonwalk is named for the current mayor’s father, former Mayor Moon Landrieu. It’s a swell place to sit on a bench and watch life on the Big Muddy. It’s also a popular spot for some of the more aggressive homeless men to congregate; one of whom was NOT amused by the marchers. I believe he called us Moonwalk moonbats or some such shit.

That’s right, a really scuzzy homeless guy with a confederate flag patch on his tattered jeans upbraided us for not giving Trump a chance. I did not engage with him but some of our number did. He informed us that he wasn’t homeless, he was a bum and damn proud of it. Why that’s better is beyond me. It’s a pity that he didn’t have a sign proclaiming: Riverfront Bums For Trump. He delivered something that could be called either a stinky soliloquy or a rancid rant, here’s the gist of it:

What the fuck is wrong with you fucking people? The man has been President for 30 minutes. Give him a chance. Why don’t you damn moonbats go somewhere else and stop ruining my view.

He then pulled out his pet rat and began juggling it. I am not making this up, y’all. That was when marchers stopped engaging with him. Who wants to engage with a rat juggling Trumper, after all. I bet you don’t have those in your town. I almost suggested that he show up at Trump Tower and declare his fealty to the Insult Comedian. I bit my tongue because this is one of the so-called forgotten people who I would prefer to forget.

I had to peel off from the protest at the mid-way point to go home and check on the aforementioned ailing feline. My brain wanted to march the next day but my legs weren’t crazy about the idea. Besides, we had a Krewe du Vieux commitment. The New Orleans Women’s March was a rousing success with an estimated crowd of 10K. It was one of the biggest non-Carnival marches in the city’s long history. I’m very proud of my people. Of course, we’re a blue island in a sea of red so it didn’t surprise me.

If you’re interested in a journalistic account of the Mock Jazz Funeral, Dave Lohr covered it for the Huffington Post as did Doug MacCash of the Zombie-Picayune and Chevel Johnson of the AP.

Here are a few more pictures courtesy of my dear friend Julie Graybill who wore widow’s weeds that day as did the woman in the first picture:

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Finally, here’s one for our resident GOT fanatic, Athenae:

NOLA winter has come.

Contemplating the rat-juggling waterfront bum for Trump has given me a benign earworm, so I’ll give the good old Grateful Dead the last word:

The Media Myth of Powerlessness

Josh Marshall asks everyone to please grow up: 

It is vastly preferable to have a President who believes in or at least respects American and democratic values. But let’s get real: we don’t or won’t as of Friday. Trump is a would-be authoritarian and a bully. He’s surrounded by mediocrities who owe all to him and feel validated by enabling his endless transgressions. Of course, he’s doing these things. We know Trump’s MO. He will bully people until they’re cowed and humiliated and obedient. He’ll threaten to kick the reporters out of the White House and then either cut a ‘deal’ or make some big to-do about ‘allowing’ the reporters to stay. These are all threats and mind games meant not so much to cow the press as make them think Trump is continually taking things away from them and that they need to make him stop.

They don’t need to. That access isn’t necessary to do their jobs. And bargaining over baubles of access which are of little consequence is not compatible with doing their job. Access can provide insight and understanding. But it’s almost never where the good stuff comes from. Journalists unearth factual information and report it. If Trump wants to turn America into strong man state, journalists should cover that story rather than begging Trump not to be who he is.

Emphasis mine, because that’s been the undercurrent of all the coverage since the convention, and before that it was the undercurrent of all the coverage OF ALL THE OTHER REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES.

Like if only Ted Cruz was not a widely loathed and ineffective legislator, and seemed less like a bug in a skin suit, he’d be a great standard-bearer for the party!

If only Ben Carson was not so damn not-smart, and could learn what the debt ceiling was and stop lying about his own autobiography, he’d be the perfect candidate!

If only Marco Rubio was not 12 years old and perpetually acting like he crammed for the test in the limo on the way over here, he’d be our savior!

And if Trump, Donald Trump who was nominated and elected for being exactly what he was, was not what he was, but was instead something else, then we could all go back to doing chitter-chat in the hallways about who did a gaffe and whatever else we are supposed to care about on the morning shows about politics.

I swear political bias annoys me not a fraction as much as the bias toward the Way Things Are Done. I grew up listening to Sally Quinn and David Broder bitching all around Dupont Circle that the Clintons were trailer trash who didn’t care about using the fish forks properly, and dove headlong into eight years of George W. Bush literally sanctioning a torture regime because he used the right words unlike hippies, after which followed almost a decade of Obama Cannot Appear Uppity, so you’ll pardon me if I don’t join the White House Correspondents Association on the barricades over where their bathrooms are going to be.

Far be it from me to defend Donald Trump, but if the man has a use it is in exposing exactly how little of what we say is important actually is. It is not an assault on the First Amendment if Trump is mean to a reporter or refuses to give properly timed press conferences or switches seats around so Breitbart and Cat Fancy can be right up in front where Helen Thomas used to sit. It’s rude and dumb, but it’s not a Constitutional crisis.

It is not an assault on the First Amendment to say reporters don’t get desks in the White House anymore. It is, at most, an assault on the location of office furniture.

You know what IS an assault on the First Amendment? This fucking Muslim registry Trump and his idiot sons of whores keep talking about, on which reporters are free to report even if they have to do it from the Starbucks down the street. 

So instead of wishing Trump wasn’t so much like Trump, and was instead like a nice president who gave them cookies while he undermined and mocked them, instead of wishing Republicans were not Republicans but were instead something else, why not sack the hell up and act like the guardians of freedom and democracy you’re demanding we call you. Stop pretending to be powerless. It’s playing small, and it doesn’t suit the ideals in which you want to cloak yourselves.

A.

Get Out of the Office

Conventional wisdom:

 

Yeah. And. So. What? I swear, between Trump’s press conference shitshow last week and the high dudgeon over Trump’s spokesman saying maybe we won’t even GIVE you nice desks in the White House anymore, American journalism is having the biggest freakouts over the stupidest things.

Three-decade assault on the press, co-opting entire news networks to debate for days exactly how much they suck? YAWN. Move my mug of very special pens? AUX ARMES, AUX BARRICADES!

Of COURSE Trump beating on the press will make Trump’s voters happy. They voted for him because they wanted him to do stuff like that. They wanted him to make big, dumb, loud fart noises in the direction of everything that bugs them. But I don’t understand why the press should worry if Trump’s voters hate them.

They’re not running for office. They don’t get elected. Their jobs are not determined by anyone but them. It’s not a fucking beauty contest. If they know they are in the right — and they are, most of them, except those Breitbart tools — then Trump can hoot and holler and move their desks into the Potomac and the only thing that matters at the end of the day is if as much information as possible got to as many people as possible.

That’s it. That’s the job. And if you tell me you need a comfy chair to do it in, or a daily petting from a press secretary, I will direct you to half a hundred hungry people who will gladly shove your ass to the curb so that they can do the job from wherever they have to do it to get it done. Trump’s voters aren’t happy with you? His press secretary’s being mean? Well, why don’t you raise a big bitchfest on Twitter about it! That will surely not make you look dumb in any way.

Schmucks.

A.

The Word Of The Day Is Salacious

Unless you live under a rock in an isolated part of Siberia, you’ve heard about the raw intelligence file posted by BuzzFeed. Many reputable news organizations, including Mother Jones, refused to publish it because it’s unverifiable. Slate’s Will Oremus describes how it finally came out after months of teasing:

The dossier was not new. Buzz Feed and multiple other news organizations had obtained it well before Tuesday and had been investigating its various claims. Mother Jones wrote about it prior to the election, on Oct. 31, and published a handful of quotes from it. Key figures in Congress had also seen it and even publicly alluded to it, and the Guardian reported on Tuesday that Sen. John McCain had passed it to FBI Director James Comey last month. But no one had published its entire, stunning contents before Tuesday—partly because, as my colleague Joshua Keating put it, “nothing in the memos has been confirmed, and even their provenance is murky.”

<SNIP>

Smith didn’t address why BuzzFeed waited until now to publish the document, and he declined to comment further for this article. But the move came almost immediately after CNN reported Tuesday that top U.S. intelligence officials had shown Trump and President Obama a two-page synopsis of the dossier. The synopsis was presented as an unofficial appendage to the classified security briefings they gave Obama and Trump about Russian interference in the presidential election, CNN reported. Sources also told CNN that the “Gang of Eight” Congressional leaders had been provided a synopsis of the dossier as well.

In short, the timing was driven by media momentum. It turns out that our old friend FBI Director James Comey has been sitting on the information. He apparently only publicizes unverifiable information about Hillary Clinton.

Twitter was agog last night over the ickiest part of the dossier: Trump’s use of golden showers as a soggy revenge mechanism.  While amusing that was NOT the most important passage of the dossier:

In terms of specifics, Source A confided that the Kremlin had been feeding TRUMP and his team valuable intelligence on his opponents, including Democratic presidential candidate Hillary CLINTON, for several years [see more below]. This was confirmed by Source a close associate of TRUMP who had organized and managed his recent trips to Moscow, and who reported, also in Tune 2016, that this Russian intelligence had been “very helpful”. The Kremlln’s cultivation operation on TRUMP also had comprised offering him various lucrative real estate development business  deals in Russia, especially in relation to the ongoing 2018 World Cup soccer tournament, However, so far, for reasons unknown, TRUMP had not taken up any of these.

However, there were other aspects to TRUMP’s engagement with the Russian authorities. One which had borne fruit for them was to exploit personal obsessions and sexual perversion in order to obtain suitable ‘kompromat’ [compromising material] on him. According to Source D, where s/he had been present, (perverted) conduct in Moscow included hiring the presidential suite of the Ritz Carlton Hotel, where he knew President and OBAMA {whom he hated] had stayed on one other official trips to Russia, and defiling the bed where they had slept by employing a number of prostitutes to perform a ‘golden showers’ (urination) show in front of him. The hotel was known to be under FSE control with microphones and concealed cameras in all the main rooms to record anything they wanted to.

I don’t do terlet humor: it’s low-hanging fruit for low-brows. The jokes missed the ominous point of the memo: that the KGB’s successor agency, the FSE, has allegedly been blackmailing Trump because he was stupid and arrogant enough to have hookers pee on a bed the Obamas slept in. Both claims are plausible if disgusting. Trump *is* stupid and arrogant and blackmail has long been used by Russian intelligence as a means of gaining leverage over people. Anyone who has read John LeCarre or watched The Americans knows that. Of course, Trump doesn’t read books and is incapable of sitting still long enough to marvel over Philip’s wigs on the FX show.

I never thought I’d be writing about a President-elect, and peeing Russian hookers. This is the level to which Trump has dragged our national dialogue. I am, however, worried that the publication of the dossier will backfire and make people feel sorry for Trump. He deserves only scorn, not sympathy.

Last night I tweeted this out:

The NYT called the dossier salacious hence the post title. As of this writing, Trump’s first full-blown post-election press conference is still on. I’m skipping it. I’d rather read about it than watch it on the electric teevee machine. Why? After reading the raw intelligence file, I feel like I need delousing. I don’t want to go through that more than once.

Overcoming

Can we please get together some kind of summit for journalists that is just WHAT ARE WORDS and HOW DO WE FUNCTION THEM?

Things that could have been said instead of “overcoming,” in no particular order:

Breaking (most accurate would be “in an attempt to break”).

Circumventing (still garbage, but factual).

Defying.

Challenging (milquetoasty enough for mainstream pubs which hate definitive language).

SINCE APPARENTLY NOBODY’S HEARD OF.

Violating.

Attempting to violate.

Ignoring.

Flouting.

A.

Joey No Socks Meets Don Donaldo, Il Comico Insulto

There’s a new Trump story for the MSM to ignore and/or explain away. The Insult Comedian spent New Years Eve with a guy named Joey No Socks Cinque:

Cinque can be seen in a video obtained by the Palm Beach Daily News, cheering loudly as a tuxedo-clad Trump runs through a number of campaign promises before the hundreds of guests attending the New Year’s Eve bash the President-elect threw at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida on Saturday.

“The taxes are coming down, regulations are coming off, we’re going to get rid of Obamacare,” Trump can be heard saying as an exuberant Cinque stands next to him, pumping his fists into the air.

Cinque’s Sunday appearance with Trump might raise some eyebrows.

Beyond a 1989 felony conviction for possessing nearly $100,000 worth of stolen artwork, Cinque “used to be friends with John Gotti,” according to a New York Magazine profile from 1995.

Cinque was also “shot three times and left for dead” in a 1980 incident that authorities described as “a hit,” according to the profile.

This is the company kept by the man who lost the popular vote. Of course, nobody should be shocked that Trump hangs out with wise guys or their associates. I wrote about that very subject last June in a post called Don Donaldo, Il Comico Insulto. I decided it was high time to revive the Italianate form of the nickname since Trump is poised to become America’s very own Berlusconi.

At least Cinque has a cool nickname: Joey No Socks is a new one on me. It evokes Joe Pantoliano’s childhood nickname, Joey Pants. He, of course, played Ralphie in The Sopranos. Cinque has also been called-get ready for it-the Preppy Don. Maybe that’s why Trump hangs out with him…

The real reason Trump likes Joey No Socks is that he runs a group that gives fake awards to rich egomaniacs. It’s something called the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences. I wonder what science is involved? Chemistry or scammery? Probably the latter. Here’s a picture of Don Donaldo and his sockless felon pal from 2013:

joe-no-socks-trump

Imagine if the Clintons were seen bringing in the New Year with a guy described in his Wikipedia entry as a “small-time mobster, a scam artist, and an art fence.” It would be the lead story on Fox News and the respectable MSM would be all over it like a cheap suit worn by James Comey. I’m hearing crickets so far. The MSM is too busy giving Trump credit for the Congressional ethics walk back to be bothered. A new motto for the respectables: if Trump tweets it, it must be true.  #SARCASM

One oddity of this story is that Joey No Socks shares a name with the leader of the Amistad Revolt, Joseph Cinqué. The only difference in spelling is l’accent grave. There’s another difference, one of them led a slave revolt whereas the other is slavishly revolting.

When I first heard about the Trump-Cinque connection, I misheard the latter’s nickname as Joey No Shoes. That’s why I’m giving Frank Zappa the last word:

That concludes this edition of Life Imitates The Sopranos.

‘the access game becomes a net negative’

SHIT YES this on what editors & producers & reporters can do to cover Trump: 

Assume almost no access to Trump and the people around him who have power, or imagine that the access game becomes a net negative. Now what? You still have to find out what’s going on, but the “access” portal is closed. This seems to me a better starting point, even as you fight for real access, defend the daily briefing, and demand timely responses to Freedom of Information requests.

Outside-in means you start on the rim and work towards the center, rather than the reverse. Domestically, it involves mining sources in the agencies and civil service rather than the people perceived as “players.” (As is commonly done in investigative journalism.) With foreign policy it means more is likely to come from other governments than from the U.S.

During the Trump campaign who had better access: The reporters in the media pen, or those who got tickets and moved with the rest of the crowd? Were the news organizations on the blacklist really at a disadvantage?

I say this every time a mighty whinge goes up from the press corps over who moved whose chair where or who had to print some adulatory crap in order to preserve a spot on some bullshit list somewhere: STOP ACTING LIKE THESE THING AREN’T CHOICES. If you’re there to brag about where you rank, you can behave like that.

If you’re there to serve your readers you might be better off putting down the crack pipe and going out and covering things from the perspective of people who are AFFECTED by Trump’s policies. Mayhap with a fraction of the compassion you show for his economically insecure racist prick base.

Pretend you can’t get in, even if you can. And even if you can, maybe DON’T, because that’s not where the stories are anyway.

A.

They’re Shooting the Wounded & You Say ‘Taking Aim’

This was completely predictable, plenty of people predicted it, and now you want sympathy: 

Some supporters of President-elect Donald J. Trump have also taken up the call. As reporters were walking out of a Trump rally this month in Orlando, Fla., a man heckled them with shouts of “Fake news!”

Until now, that term had been widely understood to refer to fabricated news accounts that are meant to spread virally online. But conservative cable and radio personalities, top Republicans and even Mr. Trump himself, incredulous about suggestions that fake stories may have helped swing the election, have appropriated the term and turned it against any news they see as hostile to their agenda.

In defining “fake news” so broadly and seeking to dilute its meaning, they are capitalizing on the declining credibility of all purveyors of information, one product of the country’s increasing political polarization. And conservatives, seeing an opening to undermine the mainstream media, a longtime foe, are more than happy to dig the hole deeper.

WELL NO FUCKING SHIT. I’m sorry, mom, I really am, but I believe in the right words for the job and the right words right now are NO FUCKING SHIT, YOU DUMB MOTHERFUCKERS.

For 20 fucking years, or however long Rush and his mini-me’s have been bloviating on the air and accruing listeners, people (mostly liberals but also some people who just don’t like getting screamed at before breakfast) have been saying this is bad, this is creating a culture of distrust for the truth and a willingness to disregard the facts. For 20, 30 years, even some journalists have been saying stop letting people on your air get away with slagging your own employees, it’s gross and also dangerous for them.

Those people, who were concerned about stopping this when it could be stopped, who watched talk radio poison the wells of every small town in America and warned that this would go nowhere good? Those people were ignored, shunted to the side, told they were hysterical and that they couldn’t take a joke.

Meanwhile the conservative talkers, the ones saying national newspapers and magazines were unreliable at best and instruments of the devil at worst, those people got their own columns and profiles and lovingly crafted thinkpieces about their “issues” and “concerns.”

And NOW you assholes see a problem. NOW you want us all to subscribe and post little testimonials to your brilliance, like my $2 a month goes anywhere but your owner’s pocket, like subscription revenue has EVER paid for journalism.

NOW you want us to deplore the cheapening of the public discourse, the speed at which information spreads. Now. After two, three decades of screaming from every screen in existence. After we’re all so beaten down by this that a literal white supremacist doesn’t surprise us. NOW it’s a national emergency.

It couldn’t be because this is all happening on the internet, and is beginning to cut into your bottom line, could it? That couldn’t be why you’re finally willing to take this milquetoastiest of stands.

The right’s labeling of “fake news” evokes one of the most successful efforts by conservatives to reorient how Americans think about news media objectivity: the move by Fox News to brand its conservative-slanted coverage as “fair and balanced.”

WHICH IS WHAT PEOPLE HAVE BEEN TRYING TO TELL YOU GODDAMN IT YOU FUCKING HAMSTERHEADS. Fox News went on the air in 1996. You want to talk about this NOW?

Many conservatives are pushing back at the outrage over fake news because they believe that liberals, unwilling to accept Mr. Trump’s victory, are attributing his triumph to nefarious external factors.

“The left refuses to admit that the fundamental problem isn’t the Russians or Jim Comey or ‘fake news’ or the Electoral College,” said Laura Ingraham, the author and radio host. “‘Fake news’ is just another fake excuse for their failed agenda.”

Others see a larger effort to slander the basic journalistic function of fact-checking.

Others. See.

I can’t imagine where conservatives got the idea that the news was manipulable.

A.

Donald Trump Caged Your Reporters

I am not a fan of Mike Allen. Ever since he and his partner in hackery called for a “do-over” for George W. Bush for Katrina, he’s occupied a special place on my shit list. I say that up front so that we know where we’re starting when we talk about Allen. We’re starting with somebody who thinks hundreds of dead people are just some, like, signifier or rhetorical device or something.

That’s where we started, Mike Allen and me.

Here’s where we’re at right now:

He put you in a pen, Mike.

He put you in a pen and he put up a sign, at every single rally and every single event. PLEASE DISTURB. He told people to yell at you, to call you a liar, to call you scum. He told people to do worse. He did it with a smile and a chuckle and he did it on purpose.

He mocked a reporter with a disability. He did a demeaning little impression. Here it is, in case you missed it:

(Do you have any kind of disability, Mike?

Do you know anyone who does? Do you love anyone who does?

I hope those people don’t see that photo of you bellying up to Trump’s bar.)

His followers called female reporters bitches and sluts and said they should be raped to death. People who attended his rallies and cheered sent Nazi propaganda cartoons to Jewish (and non-Jewish) reporters, sent articles about death camps, sent pictures of Hitler, and laughed when anyone fought back.

Oh, not at YOU, I know. Not you personally. Nobody did that to you. Trump would never do that to you. His followers might, but then again they might not. It’s hard for them to get into the green rooms.

He just did it to people who work for you. People who work with you. People whose job it was to cover politics and whose livelihoods depended on doing their jobs well and whose lives depended on doing them safely. People who probably make a lot less money than you. People who have fewer powerful friends. People who have more to lose.

People who work harder before breakfast on their laziest days than you will ever work again in your life. People whose work pays your bills and gets you in the door to the kinds of swank parties where the president-elect shows up.

Those are the people Donald Trump PUT IN A FUCKING CAGE.

You owe them your loyalty and your respect. You owe them, at the very least, the loyalty and respect required to decline a party invitation or refrain from publicizing your attendance. I’m not saying you have to tell him to suck your balls, though that would be nice. Like I said, you and I started from pretty far down. I’m not expecting you to be a hero.

I’d like to think you could be a mammal.

A man, if we caught you on a good day.

Maybe this was just a bad one.

Maybe we could give you a do-over.

A.

 

Tweet Of The Day: Devil-Eyed MSM Edition

I’m an aficionado of devil-eyed cat pictures. Della Street’s glow in the dark demon eyes have given us all a great deal of pleasure over the years. Last night, Keith Olbermann retweeted a picture from ex-Politico honcho Mike Allen who was partying with the Insult Comedian at Mar-a-Largo:

It’s the courtier press at its worst. They appear to have made a deal with the devil in exchange for fleeting access. Thumbs down:  it’s a bad deal for them. The Insult Comedian will denounce them soon enough if they even mildly criticize him. It’s the way of the electoral college winner.

Speaking of the electoral college. Today is end of delusion day. There’s no chance that there will be enough faithless electors to throw the election to the House where Trump would win anyway. I haven’t said much about the so-called “Hamilton elector movement” because I don’t believe in waking sleepwalkers. (If I’m wrong about this, I will drink vodka, eat cauliflower, listen to thrash metal, watch The Sound of Music, and do other things I dislike in penance. End of my own personal parade of horrors.)

I, too, believe that Trump will be an illegitimate President, elected by suspect means, aided by the dictator of a hostile foreign power. I can also count. People should be organizing to resist Trump and his marauding gang of Billionaires, generals, and white nationalists instead of hoping for deliverance from Republican electors.

We should take the same position the GOP took after the elections of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. You all remember what Mitch McConnell said in 2009, but after Clinton was elected, then Senate GOP leader Bob Dole told the country that he planned to represent those who did NOT vote for Clinton. The delegitimization campaign paid off in the 1994 contract on America election. It worked again in the Tea Party election of 2010. It’s how Democrats at all levels should approach the incoming administration: massive resistance with an eye on 2018. Some former congressional staffers have already posted a manifesto online. Read it, learn from it.

Vive les Maquis.

‘Fix the Mess’

This is an example of what I talk about when I talk about the bias toward passivity and the status quo: 

President-elect Donald Trump is stocking the upper echelons of his administration with more than the usual share of business titans like himself, betting the success of his presidency on the idea that a clash of cultures is needed to fix the mess in Washington and bring order to international affairs.

First of all, there is no “mess” in Washington. Nobody knocked a paint pot over. No one upended a giant tub of Legos all over everything and then stepped on the dog. Mess implies an accident. There’s no “mess.”

There is unparalleled obstruction and cowardice on the part of one major party, which is REFUSING TO HOLD HEARINGS ON A NOMINEE FOR THE SUPREME COURT RIGHT NOW TODAY.

There is in Washington a number of very powerful actors on behalf of very powerful forces determined to gut public education, destroy what’s left of public sector unions, and scourge the image of a First Family so middle of the road their turkey pardon dad jokes make news.

There is in Washington a group of people who have trashed the system for nearly 20 years at least, insisting on 60 votes in the Senate to pass the most routine legislation, coddling and encouraging extremist views in opposition to horrible things like giving people health insurance and ending unpopular wars.

Washington isn’t a “mess.” It’s a crime scene.

Terms like this, like “partisan gridlock,” like “political infighting,” allow writers and readers to avoid responsibility for determining who took action and what consequences followed. They let everybody off the hook — mostly Republicans who are and have for eight years been the aggressors, but Democrats as well, for being victims.

Throwaway phrases, shorthand like “the mess in Washington” allow people to shrug, shake their heads, not even BOTHER MAN because it’s all so, like, worthless. They keep people angry because they keep people powerless, and they keep people powerless because they keep people hopeless.

And paired with “order in international affairs,” like when, pray tell, have we ever had “order” in international affairs? What would that even look like? This idea that in some hazy, half-forgotten past Reagan and Gorbachev got together and played chess and then the Berlin Wall fell down and everything was fine is, shall we say, reductive. At best.

We can’t do anything about anything until we can talk about it honestly and I don’t think this kind of thing helps at all.

A.