Category Archives: So Called Liberal Media

I Come To Bury Barry, Not Praise Him 2

Barry was a non-event in New Orleans. We did not have a “big blow” like the storm in Key Largo, which is my favorite hurricane season movie. Hence the featured image.

Barry was such a nothing burger for us that we didn’t even watch Key Largo. When it came time to view a classic film, we went with Sunset Boulevard. Unlike our past cats, PD had never seen it. It was time to correct that oversight.

Speaking of Paul Drake, here’s some bonus catblogging:

What Barry was in New Orleans was boring. There were some major rain bands to our west and east but they bypassed us. We were lucky but anyone who follows the Euro forecasting Model had an inkling of what Barry would be like in the Crescent City. We had much more rain last Wednesday.

The only entertaining thing about Barry was the national media coverage. Any time a storm *may* hit New Orleans, they’re like a dog with a bone and fixate on us. It was the story of a lifetime for many in the MSM and they’re eager to repeat it. We are not.

My friends Kevin Allman and Lamar White Jr. both wrote pieces scolding the MSM. Thanks, y’all. My phone and social media feeds blew up on Friday and Saturday with people thinking we’d die if we didn’t evacuate. I informed them that we were bored instead of scared.

After Friday’s post, my contribution to the online dialogue was this tweet:

As to the second point, WDSU has a weatherperson who is famous for freaking out whenever there’s a storm in the Gulf. She’s obsessed with people having an ax handy just in case they’re stuck in the attic and have to chop their way out. Pondering her past antics led to another Shecky tweet:

It’s back to what passes for normal in New Orleans. I guess it’s time to catch up on the national news, which I skimmed over the weekend. To distract attention from the Jeffrey Epstein scandal, Trump was a racist asshole again. The MSM falls for it every time.

The last word goes to Roxy Music:

Yeah, I know, Neil Young wrote the song:

 

Bayou Brief: The New Orleans Newspaper War

My latest piece for the Bayou Brief is a news analysis of the New Orleans newspaper war: Suddenly, This Summer. The title is a take on the Tennessee Williams/Gore Vidal movie set in Uptown New Orleans. It’s particularly apt as cannibalism was involved. FYI, Suddenly, Last Summer was number six on my Louisiana movie list.

The original title of the piece was The Other Side Of Summer: The End Of An Era but Dr. A suggested we steal from Tennessee and Gore and who am I to object?

The unused title was lifted from Elvis Costello. Even though it will be this week’s Odds & Sods theme song, I still want to give Declan Patrick MacManus the last word:

Did you dig that plug within the plug? I may be getting too meta for my own good but nobody will confuse me with Meta World Peace aka Ron Artest.

The Dictator & The Dotard Do The DMZ

Original image by Greg Biermann.

I know I shouldn’t have been, but I was stunned by the MSM’s sycophantic coverage of Trump’s “historic trip” to the Korean DMZ. For the acronymically impaired, that’s demilitarized zone. While it’s true that Trump is the first American president to set foot on North Korean soil, it wasn’t much of a trip. The real history is that Trump walked anywhere. I guess the North Korean secret police didn’t let them bring a golf cart along so the president* was obliged to waddle across the border.

The MSM showed additional mass gullibility in accepting the notion that this happened on a moment’s notice after a tweet by the Insult Comedian. I concur with New York Magazine’s Chas Danner:

Trump later said that he was also willing to cross the border into North Korea. Pyongyang eventually responded that it was an “interesting” idea, but was waiting for an official proposal before agreeing. Within less than a day, the meeting was on. But while few people are as impulsive as Trump is, there are several holes in his spontaneity claim (apart from the fact that he rarely tells the truth, or the full truth, ever.)

First, the two leaders exchanged letters earlier this month. And the New York Times reported on Sunday that an unannounced visit to the DMZ was already part of the Trump team’s itinerary and that the president “had actually been musing out loud about [meeting with Kim] for days in advance.” He’s also been dreaming of a DMZ meet-up since last year.

Furthermore, there are doubts that the meeting could have possibly been organized by both countries on such a short timetable, as one expert commented to the Washington Post:

“Andrei Lankov, a professor at Kookmin University in Seoul, said it was inconceivable that the leaders of two powerful nations had arranged a meeting at such short notice, calling it a “show” designed to send a political message, without raising expectations about them making actual progress.”

Bravo’s Andy Cohen would be more skeptical of a Richards-Vanderpump reconciliation on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills than the MSM was of this publicity stunt. The reality teevee allusion was deliberate: Trump has deployed reality teevee tropes throughout his presidency. Not an original observation but an accurate one. Hell, Real Housewives Nene Leakes and Theresa Giudice were contestants on Trump’s crappy reality game show.

I’m old enough to recall the impact of Tricky Dick’s visit to China in an election year. That trip, however, accomplished something as opposed to the emptiness of this visit, which was shorter than Trump’s memory. Once again, the Dotard gave something of value to the Dictator without getting anything in return. Why not ask for the release of  foreign nationals held by the world’s last Stalinist regime? Why not ask the North Korean secret police not to assault his own press secretary?

In addition to the whopper about the “spontaneity” of the trip, Trump claimed that this “visit” was something his predecessor was desperate to do:

“President Obama wanted to meet, and Chairman Kim would not meet him,” the President said. “The Obama administration was begging for a meeting. They were begging for meetings constantly, and Chairman Kim would not meet with him.”

“Trump is lying,” tweeted Ben Rhodes, who served as Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications during the Obama administration. “I was there for all eight years. Obama never sought a meeting with Kim Jong Un. Foreign policy isn’t reality television it’s reality.”

We’re all used to Trump’s incessant and egregious lying but it isn’t as funny as it used to be now that he’s “palling around” with dictators. He also plans to run against Democrats in 2020 by denouncing them as “socialists.” The nerve: his little North Korean buddy is an old school communist. I remember when conservative American presidents denounced dictators, especially communist dictators. That’s another reason president* Trump gets an asterisk: he’s an illegitimate president* who thinks human rights are for suckers.

A closing note about the featured image. The Magic Mirror Maze was created by Greg Biermann from the hall of mirrors/fun house/crazy house scene in the Orson Welles classic The Lady From Shanghai. It has particular resonance for me as that scene was filmed at Playland at the Beach in San Francisco; a place that I frequented as a child with my parents. Playland closed in 1972; as we New Orleanians would say, “Ain’t dere no more.”

I used the image in a June post, The Fog Of History: Semantic Antics and brought it back because it’s perfect for this moment in history. These are crazy times and our political life is replete with fog, mirrors, and lies. As the Seventies British band Slade put it, Mama Weer All Crazy Now. They get the last word:

Not Everything Sucks

Student journalists are out here kicking fucking ass for no money at all, just because they see injustice and want it corrected, raise a glass of something age-appropriate:

Ms. Barber-Just, a journalism teacher at Amherst-Pelham Regional High School for more than 20 years, laughed and told her class that it was really hard to do an investigation of that scale while in high school. You don’t have a big Spotlight team, she said.

By the next week, a student in her class had begun his own one-month investigation into the school district’s use of prison labor to reupholster all the seats in Amherst-Pelham Regional’s auditorium.

The student, Spencer Cliche, who turned 18 on Friday, published a 3,000-word exposé in the school newspaper this month that shocked the community. Within 24 hours, Ms. Barber-Just saw that nearly a thousand people had clicked on the article. The superintendent issued a statement to school staff members promising never to contract with the prison again.

At a time of unprecedented whining and bitching in journalism we need to remember there are people out here just straight up doing the job because the job is in front of them and they can.

Competition for this kid’s work should be as fierce as if he could throw a football, just saying. Sign him, papers.

A.

The Fog Of Scandal: Perpetual Crisis Care

The 24-7 news cycle has been frantic for quite some time but in the Trump era it’s like a hyperactive child in need of medication. The child in question is, of course, the Insult Comedian.

After losing to Jack Kennedy, Richard Nixon wrote a pretty good, albeit self-serving, book called Six Crises. The Current Occupant has more like Sixty Crises some of which are so repetitive that the people and the media are becoming numb to them. It’s the presidency, in E’s memorable phrase, as Novocaine For The Soul.

This political numbness must be resisted at all costs: it’s okay not to be SURPRISED by presidential* antics but we should be SHOCKED by all the crazy the Trump regime throws our way. We conclude this opening sermonette with a musical interlude: a Fall Out Boy song whose protagonist sounds eerily like Trumpberius.

This is a black, black ski mask song
So put all of your anger on
In the truly gruesome do we trust
I will always land on you like a sucker punch
Singing I am your worst, I am your worst nightmare
I am your worst, I am your worst nightmare

Indeed you are, Donald, indeed you are.

Two of the major crises du jour are the internment camps on the border, especially the one at Clint, Texas, and the slagging match with Iran that could result in another stupid war in the Middle East. Trump relies on his gut when it comes to foreign policy, and *my* gut tells me that he’s bluffing in his face-off with Iran. BUT the chance for miscalculation is great when his senior advisers, Bolton and Pompeo, are salivating over the prospect of regime change in Iran. We’ve seen that movie before. It didn’t play well in Iraq and the Islamic Republic of Iran is a more formidable foe than the decadent dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. Stay tuned.

As to the migrant concentration camps, only a hardcore, heartless racist could fail to be moved by accounts of children living in their own filth without soap or toothbrushes. Since my eyesight and hearing are crappy, I have an acute sense of smell and the stench coming from children who have no soap with which to bathe is a notion that haunts me.  It’s slow motion torture, which is a stain on our national honor. It’s a rotten lead up to Independence Day.

There’s been a lively discussion in the corners of social media that I frequent about what issue we should focus on. We need to multi-task because the Trump regime will always trump up something to distract us. Diversion is the only thing they do well. Remember the Maddow Doctrine:

There’s one Trump crisis that the MSM is particularly numb to: We have a president* who is a serial sexual assaulter who sees women as prey, not people. The Gray Lady primly did not publish a story about E. Jean Carroll’s credible rape allegations for days after they broke. The depressing consensus among the Cult of the Savvy and GOP bigwigs seems to be that the voters knew about Trump’s rapey ways and elected him anyway. The NYT has admitted error and Trump has, predictably, said she was not hot enough for him to lust after. In a word: gross. Donald Trump is a pussy, he should grab himself.

If you haven’t read Dahlia Lithwick’s brilliant piece about the Carroll allegations, make sure you do. Dahlia points out that Carroll did it on her own terms in a way that none of Trump’s manifold manhandled accusers have done:

I understand why so many people think the media’s failure here is the result of boredom. One reality of the Trump era is how profoundly boring it is—we watch the same dramas unfold, again and again; we debunk the same lies, again and again; and we issue the same warnings, again and again. But I don’t think that what happened here is the result of boredom so much as an almost perfect journalistic incapacity for telling any story it hasn’t told a thousand times before. Maybe we’re not bored. Maybe we’re just boring.

Because E. Jean Carroll flipped the script. Having watched, and watched, and watched the #MeToo stories play out over the past several years, she decided she wasn’t going to do it as it had been done. She was going to tell her own story on her own terms, publishing it in her own book. Because, as she wrote in the excerpt published in New York magazine last Friday:

“Why haven’t I “come forward” before now?

Receiving death threats, being driven from my home, being dismissed, being dragged through the mud, and joining the 15 women who’ve come forward with credible stories about how the man grabbed, badgered, belittled, mauled, molested, and assaulted them, only to see the man turn it around, deny, threaten, and attack them, never sounded like much fun. Also, I am a coward.”

She’s the opposite of a coward. E. Jean Carroll is my new hero. It takes guts to deal with a traumatic episode with wit and humor; two qualities her rapist notably lacks. All he knows how to do is attack, belittle, degrade, and divert attention from his crimes.

The last word goes to Eels:

Repeat after me: Donald Trump is a criminal.

You Set the Agenda

Something I think our August Media Betters, those who protect us against Democracy Dying in Darkness every day, have utterly forgotten:

I’ll go one better.

Run it on every news show. Every night. Every single night until this ends.

Every day on the 24-hour networks. All day long.

That’s all it is. Stories from the camps. Stories about the camps. People talking about what to do about the camps and I don’t mean inviting one Democratic senator who’s going to talk about civility and one racist fascist fuckface who’s going to yell about Obamaphones and illegal aliens. I mean activists, attorneys, people trying to get to their families.

Wall to wall coverage. The kind you get when a pretty white girl is on trial for killing her baby.

The kind you get when a president wants to lie about a war.

The kind you get when, as I said over the weekend, one baby falls down one well.

Every single newscast in America could do this TOMORROW. They could do this TONIGHT. They could throw everybody in a room together and say this is what we’re about. This is what we’re doing. This is all we’re doing and it’s all we’re doing until it ends.

And 20 years from now we would remember those journalists as heroes. We would laud them in our history books. We would mention their names in the same breath as our liberal elders mention Murrow, as they mention Cronkite. Not that it’s the most important thing ever, in comparison to closing the FUCKING BABY CONCENTRATION CAMPS, but if vain and lazy reporters need a reason, here’s one: It’s what God put you on this earth to do.

But the advertisers, the bosses, the politicians, the accusations of bias, the OTHER STORIES, dear Liza, the other stories that need telling too. The panel you’ve already set up for Sunday that will change so little about the world, the favors you owe people and the fear of being fired. The mortgage you have to pay, the kids’ college fund, the money the money the money the money. The learned helplessness we’ve all watched journalism practice over the past 35 years.

The routine: get both sides, shrug your shoulders, and go home.

The pretense to powerlessness is humiliating to watch on a good day, but today? Today is unlike any other day. It’s rarely so very clear what needs to be done. You should be thanking heaven for the camera in your hands.

It can’t be done? There’s too much calcified inaction, there’s too much resistance? It’s impossible? You cowardly fucks. You all went to college for one hundred and fifty-seven years. You all studied this shit and you all, I guarantee, puffed your asses up about how fucking hard you were gonna tell truth to power.

Here’s truth: We are running concentration camps and people are dying.

Here’s power. It’s in your goddamn hands. Seize the mics and barricade the doors.

I’m going to take you all on a trip down memory lane. It’s called America Held Hostage, and you may have heard about it on a little program run by an obscure journalist named TED GODDAMN MOTHERFUCKING KOPPEL:

I was chief diplomatic correspondent. I’d be on the evening news and then I’d be on the late night news at 11:30. And these programs were infamously called “America Held Hostage: Day 5,” Day 7, Day 20, etc. And then one day I remember being on the phone with Roone saying, “You know, there’s nothing going on today. I mean, we really shouldn’t even be doing a special tonight.” And Roone said, “Tell me what a mullah is. Tell me what an ayatollah is. Explain the difference between Shia and Sunni.”

GQ: So he told you to be creative.

TK: He told us to be creative—Tell us stuff about the shah, tell us stuff about the religions, tell us stuff about the political make-up in Iran. All perfectly legitimate things to discuss, but not the kind of thing that you would normally put on a network at 11:30 at night. But such was the level of interest in the fate of the hostages that people were really tuning in.

Now, you can make all kinds of criticisms about the way this program treated a Democratic president and the way it fueled Reagan’s election (Koppel makes some of those himself in the interview) but what happened was a news program decided to make something THE issue of the day and they just fucking did it come hell or high water because they wanted to.

Years later, they did it again:

ABC issued a statement defending the program, which aired one day before the anniversary of President Bush’s May 1 declaration that major combat was over in Iraq.

The ABC statement noted that on the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks it aired the names and pictures of the victims.

“ABC News will continue to report on all facets of the war in Iraq and the war on terrorism in a manner consistent with the standards which ABC News has set for decades,” it said.

The show, titled “The Fallen,” aired at 11:35 p.m. ET Friday, and ran until 12:09 a.m.

ABC News showed the tribute live on its Jumbotron screen in New York’s Times Square.

Imagine that, with the camps. Imagine it every day until it’s over.

Now go DO IT, dammit Jesus.

A.

Who’s Selling Hate to These People?

This story is full of more assholes than a bag of assholes but the biggest assholes in it aren’t named: 

Across the state, this network includes conservative radio hosts, think tanks and digital media that focus on anti-refugee news in Minnesota, as well as small community groups like C-Cubed, which repeatedly invite anti-Muslim speakers to town, leading to clashes and protests. Formed in 2017 to support more nativist candidates on the City Council, C-Cubed is a small group of only about a dozen members, but its existence has already changed the city’s political landscape.

C-Cubed supported four candidates for City Council last year, and two won seats, although Mr. Palmer himself lost. Members say they are raising questions about the state’s refugee program in order to determine its total cost. But in interviews, many repeatedly outlined more fundamental fears, including the belief that an influx of people who were nonwhite and non-Christian posed a cultural threat.

Several of the group’s members and their allies said their stand against immigration was a small part of a broader national conflict, in which the rising tide of a multicultural, multiracial Democratic Party must be opposed.

Who runs the sites and funds the radio stations and tells people to specifically compare abortion to the Holocaust? These people all say the same things and nobody asks where they heard it?

We are running story after story after story about Trump voters holding them up to be shamed, and yes, they should be shamed. These people make my fucking skin crawl. Imagine spending your life curled up around that kind of hatred. Like these are your days, reading angry websites and hosting meetings to be mad at refugees, this is what you’re doing with your time? These people should be shamed for buying this crap.

But the GOP should be shamed more, for selling it. In the most charitable interpretation of the sort of Republican Party Joe Biden wishes still existed, the GOP has benefitted immensely from racism in every form for the past 50 years. Even when they weren’t screaming it from the pulpit, racism was getting them elected. And at any time they could have said you know, this isn’t what we need to do right now. They didn’t, and they drove out the ones that tried.

So while we all cluck over the individuals in this story — they’re awful, and they’ll be judged for it in this world or the next — we need to keep in mind the structure that nourished and supported them, that confirmed their suspicions and validated their fears, and profited from them. They’re not victims, but they’re not the ultimate victors either.

A.

Future Conversations with Trump Voters

In light of this nonsense, I look forward to this NYT/Washington Post/Atlantic series about people who WOULD vote for Democrats, except for all the socialism:

Inside Carol’s Cozy Corner diner in East Westville, Pennsylvania, the air was thick with bacon grease and coffee that doesn’t cost $5. There are no lattes here, no free-range chicken sausage wraps with vegannaise. You’ll get your buckwheat flapjacks and like them, hippie.

Sitting at the counter, his oil-stained hands gnarled from years of real, hard work in the mines, Joe America scoffed when asked if he’d consider voting for Elizabeth Warren.

“She’s a socialist,” he said, and his buddies next to him nodded assent. “My grandfather didn’t fight in Korea so we could have socialism in America.”  

Joe America hasn’t benefitted at all from Trump’s policies, but says he’d consider voting for the president again.

“At least he’s against infanticide,” he said, cutting into his ham steak. “Democrats want to kill babies in the hospital right after they’re born. Say what you like about Trump, at least he doesn’t want babies killed. Unlike those socialists.”

What WOULD persuade such a person to vote for a Democrat for president? For senator, representative, town council? Joe considered for a moment, then looked around the diner.

“See people like this? Hard-working people?” He gestured to his fellow patrons, all of them doubtless miners, plumbers, roofers and railroad workers since everyone knows no soft-handed office workers ever visit a diner for breakfast. “Democrats don’t understand people like this. They don’t offer them anything.”

Joe stared into the distance as a truck carrying coal from the coal-filled coal mine rumbled by. One thing is certain from this encounter in red rural country: If the Democratic Party wants to appeal to voters such as this one, they have to abandon policies perceived by low-information voters to be socialist. Or infanticidal.

I mean I just can’t wait for these takes. No one will ask people what they think socialism IS, or how they believe Chuck Schumer is sneaking into hospital rooms to personally club healthy infants, or what specific policies they could point to that would convince them he’s not.

It’ll just be a morass of “people believe what Fox News and talk radio tell them, but we’ll never use the word Fox or the word News, because we don’t want to call people sheep and we don’t have room to get into the influence of a 24-hour propaganda machine for the GOP, it’s the thing we all know but don’t talk about ever.”

Socialism and infanticide are the Fox- and talk-tested flashpoint words and everyone will go along with the charade knowing it’s a charade and then pretending that going along with the charade means fulfilling their missing to keep democracy from dying in darkness, like this sort of shit saves the world. I’m so glad we’re killing journalism and building something new.

A.

Public Freedoms in Private Spaces

I hate to subject you all to a thing the president said, but:

There’s actually something interesting here beyond his usual idiocy. Most of the conservagrifters screaming about “free speech” understand full well how the ACTUAL First Amendment works, it’s how they stay just to the right side of prison. However, they also know that co-opting a nominally liberal argument and using it to “own” the libs is where their money is, so off they go, shrieking about how they’re being oppressed by not being allowed to sell T-shirts on one particular site on God’s internet.

The interesting part of this is the way our understanding of public and private space develops at a time when three or four private companies control almost all the means we use to communicate to large audiences. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, all lean on the freedom of speech to excuse themselves from responsibility for controlling content because controlling content is expensive and sucks ass as a job.

But when you get right down to it, they don’t actually have any obligations they didn’t create for themselves, and they know it, and it’s time we started acknowledging it as well.

For all that we think of these as public spaces, they aren’t. We USE them as public spaces and we understand them as public spaces: digital soapboxes, ideologically blank platforms upon which we are free to create.

A shopping mall is not a public park. WordPress here is not me printing a revolutionary pamphlet in my basement and distributing it to my fellows on the Boston Common.

No matter how attached I am to all you nutballs on Twitter, I do not actually have any sovereign right to it (until President AOC nationalizes it, of course) and if the company decided tomorrow to ban me, sucks to be me. I own nothing that I post to Facebook, not even my, you know, face, which is why I’m there less and less (plus all the racism). YouTube owns the images of my dead ferrets.

You go into these things with that understanding or you don’t go into them at all.

The “banned” conservatives raising money off their banning know that very well. They know that nothing boosts a white Republican’s profile like being victimized by something, and they’re all eyeing that sweet, sweet Fox News gig. I almost respect it, the purity of pitch-dark soul that it requires to pull off. What I don’t respect is the ongoing and frankly dangerous con social media companies run by mouthing about the beauty of the marketplace of ideas when it’s convenient for them to get out of work.

Either be the common or don’t, but be honest about what you’re doing so we can make our own decisions.

A.

Special Cash

No industry journalist has any business blaming any part of what’s happened to newspapers on the Internet: 

Its coffers still full from last year’s sale of the Los Angeles Times, Chicago-based Tribune Publishing announced Thursday it will pay a special cash dividend of $56 million to shareholders.

It will be the first dividend paid to shareholders since Tribune Publishing spun off in August 2014 as a stand-alone company and significantly shrinks a cash pile that made it both a potential buyer of other media properties and an acquisition target.

The company, which owns the Chicago Tribune and other major newspapers, had $98.2 million in unrestricted cash at the end of the first quarter, according to financial reports. Between the upcoming dividend payment and other recent expenses, the projected cash balance would be about $25 million.

But here we are:

The urge to merge comes as the newspaper industry faces secular revenue declines and a challenging transformation from print to digital platforms.

The newspaper industry faces revenue declines but still has shitloads of money it chooses to pay out to shareholders because publicly trading a company that owns this Democracy Dies in Darkness Fourth Estate Public Trust Journalism Is More Important Than Ever is FUCKING INSANE.

I mean good Christ, the paper you could run for $56 million. The paper you could run for $5 million. For years the “print platform” depended on generating enough revenue that sexual-harasser slush funds and 20 percent profit margins could be masked by hand-over-fist revenue and nobody knew how to make do except the constantly reshuffling newsrooms where the people who did the work we were all told was so critical to America were chewed up and spit out. Even before the mobile Internet, shit, before wifi, we were told there was no money. All the while, buckets, and none of it got saved because we had to keep the shareholders happy.

And perhaps the industry, or at least the journalists who like to lecture the mildest of critics on the Internet about how sacred their work is, might want to work less on transforming from print to digital platforms and more on transforming from a “business model” that NEVER WORKED to one that does.

A.

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.