Category Archives: So Called Liberal Media

Do the Job Right

Adrastos pointed this out to me last week and I love every word of it: 

What has happened to media revenues in general has happened worst, fastest, and hardest to local publications, newspapers most of all.

This is part of the reason Deb Fallows and I have been reporting on local-journalism innovations (and successes) we’ve seen, such as the Report for America initiative I mentioned in June, and the business model behind the last family-owned daily in MississippiThe Commercial Dispatch in Columbus (and, long before that, the former alt-weekly that has become a leading statewide news source in Vermont, Seven Days, of Burlington).

There’s a few key points here. First, don’t ever give up ownership or control to some outside conglomerate chain bullshit:

Also, like The Commercial Dispatch in Mississippi, the paper’s family ownership means that it can spend its modest resources as it chooses. It is not under external-ownership pressure to meet regular profitability targets, which has sent so many small papers into cycles of cutback and decline.

Yup. It’s not so much that being part of a chain will give you more or less money, it’s that it will give you more or less control over what constitutes enough resources to do your job. Shutting down successful profitable operations because they miss quarterly revenue targets, for example, or some other such arbitrary trash.

Quit cutting:

“I think it’s important for newspapers not to keep cutting,”Edward told me at The QT’s office. “If you keep cutting, there’s less and less reason for people to buy the paper. If you want to keep a healthy circulation, you have to make the investment in reporters and providing the news that people can’t find anywhere else.” If there is a “secret” of the paper’s success, he said, it is “that you’re providing information that people can’t find any other place.”

And cover the stuff you need to cover, not the stuff you see other people covering:

“I believe that daily newspapers struggle because they’re so often repeating what’s already been presented, either in social media or on the television news,” Edward said. “But when you have a local newspaper that is presenting news people aren’t going to find anywhere else, I think there will always be a need for that. I think that will allow local newspapers to survive very well.”

You wouldn’t think these would be genius-level insights but you know what I don’t read in here? Any customer-blaming, paradigm-shifting, content-funneling nonsense that implies that what’s working for this small paper isn’t what they should keep doing.

A.

Fine, Let’s Talk About Despair

Ross, like Brooks, always opens his enormous yawp when it’s my turn to blog and I PROTEST, ADRASTOS, HE CAN BE YOURS FROM NOW ON: 

Now a new report from the Senate’s Joint Economic Committee charts the scale of this increase — a doubling from 22.7 deaths of despair per 100,000 American in 2000 to 45.8 per 100,000 in 2017, easily eclipsing all prior 20th-century highs.

By way of comparison to climate change, this summer’s National Climate Assessment estimated that rising temperatures could cause between 4,000 and 10,000 additional heat-related deaths annually by the end of the 21st century. But had deaths of despair remained at 2000-era levels, approximately 70,000 fewer Americans would have died this year alone.

Okay, so clearly “despair” here is designated as “bummed-out feelings” and not “my house is underwater and the insurance won’t pay for it because it was categorized as ‘flood damage’ and I didn’t have a flood rider, and also a hurricane wiped out my hospital and I can’t get my chemo by just like walking into the 7-Eleven and the company I work for doesn’t exist anymore because the goddamn peninsula it sat on washed away last year so yes, I fucking despair.”

Ross’s column is the equivalent of that asshole who, when you mention you are undergoing treatment for depression, tells you he was once a little down because his second cousin died but then he got over it without the help of “pills.”

Let’s dig further into his toolery:

Despite the absence of a CNN marathon on the issue, it’s possible to discern several working theories of the crisis, and to imagine roughly how a “deaths of despair” debate might go:

The Technocrat (voice of Pete Buttigieg): “This is primarily a drug abuse and mental-health crisis, and the only way to solve it is with more and better drug treatment programs, more and better psychiatric care. We’ll save these lives one patient, one addict, one treatment center at a time.”

HAHAHA WHAT A LOSER NO ONE NEEDS MORE MENTAL HEALTH CARE.

The Socialist (voice of Bernie Sanders): “This is obviously an economic crisis! People are despairing because their jobs have been outsourced, their wages are stagnant, the rich have hijacked the economy. Tax the plutocrats, raise the minimum wage, give everybody health insurance, and you’ll see this trend reverse.”

I would never say money solves everything. I know lots of fucking miserable rich people who have no life coping skills. But you know, two thirds of the fights people have with their kids and each other are about money and not having those fights is some kind of solution to despair.

The Cultural Healer (voice of Marianne Williamson): “You can’t just medicate this away or solve the problem with wonkery alone. There’s a spiritual void in America, a loss of meaning and metaphysical horizon. The problem is cultural, spiritual, holistic; the solution has to be all three as well.”

She’s an anti-science crackpot who in no way will be president but she ain’t WRONG, in that people are constantly told the only meaning they can possibly find is in jobs that don’t pay them enough, family that hates them, or a punishing God who tells them they’re sinners.

We don’t validate joy and from the top of this country to the goddamn bottom we’re told all our problems are unsolvable and this column is no exception.

I have written this for the voices of Democratic candidates, but there is an equivalent for Republicans: Instead of the Technocrat, imagine the Enforcer, talking about drug interdiction and border security; instead of the Socialist, the Populist, talking about China and wage subsidies and industrial policy; instead of the Cultural Healer, the Preacher talking about the need for a religious revival while the Online Nietzschean bellows from backstage about restoring masculinity.

Well, honey, at least you know.

This conclusion fits with an earlier argument from The Washington Free Beacon’s Charles Fain Lehman that we should subdivide the “despair” problem into distinct categories: A drug crisis driven by the spread of heroin and fentanyl which requires a drug policy solution; a surge in suicides and depression and heavy drinking among middle-aged working-class whites to which economic policy might offer answers; and an increase in depression and suicide generally, and among young people especially, that has more mysterious causes (social media? secularization?) and might only yield to a psychological and spiritual response.

As advice to policymakers this disaggregation makes a lot of sense, not least because the next president is more likely to improve drug policy than to ban iPhones or usher in religious renewal.

Ban iPhones. You fucking idiot. Young people aren’t upset because they have iPhones, they’re upset because *gestures broadly at everything including the nonstop drumbeat from the pages of our august publications that they’re stupid and doomed to fail.*

Following the link Douthat puts in instead of doing research, we find that OH GOSH BIG SURPRISE the study he’s so obsessed with here is primarily concerned with the “despair deaths” of … white people:

For decades, mortality rates had been falling across the developed world. But in the paper, Case and Deaton identified something odd: Mortality among middle-aged, non-Hispanic whites actually began to rise in the late 1990s, upending the popular assumption rates would decline indefinitely.

Once again, the Times is only concerned with the problems of the suburban mommy and the white coal miner. The rest of us can get fucked.

But at the same time the simultaneity of the different self-destroying trends is a brute fact of American life. And that simultaneity does not feel like just a coincidence, just correlation without entanglement — especially when you include other indicators, collapsing birthrates and declining marriage rates and decaying social trust, that all suggest a society suffering a meaning deficit, a loss of purpose and optimism and direction, a gently dehumanizing drift.

The solution is always for white people to have more babies. Amazing.

A.

Why Does Brooks Always Flap His Mouth When It’s My Day to Blog?

WHY:

The most important campaign news of the summer was Elizabeth Warren’s surge. Early in the year, her campaign was foundering. She was in fifth place, with a mere 6 percent support.

We gave this guy a ton of money to read the Quinnipac poll for us. Great use of what we’re being told is journalism’s scarce resources.

“An all-voucher system would be a shock to the educational system, but the shakeout might be just what the system needs,” they continued. This is exactly the argument that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos uses to support school choice.

No, the argument Betsy uses is that we should put money into religious schools to further the Christian agenda in the U.S. and better racist whites on the backs of desperate poor people, most of them people of color.

And giving everybody a voucher is literally what public school does, only that voucher is your residency, and that’s what Dr. Professor President Warren was saying, you numpty. 

That is, if you read her entire book, and not this excerpt in the Wall Street Journal, but then we can’t expect David’s assistant to do any research when she’s busy being his wife.

Professor Warren also supported proposals to help families afford day care, but she opposed the approach that candidate Warren now advocates. Back then, she called taxpayer-funded day care a liberal “sacred cow”: “Any subsidy that benefits working parents without providing a similar benefit to single-income families pushes the stay-at-home mother and her family further down the economic ladder.”

Literally the next sentence in the book: 

“Does that mean that publicly supported day care is a bad idea? Not necessarily.”

I mean, honestly, just read one paragraph beyond what supports your (and Betsy’s) ideological point, you garden weasel.

 She opposed more government regulations on housing, because such regulations reduce the incentive to build more housing.

Pretty sure they weren’t the ones that allowed a landlord to kick you out if you were gay, but go off, Dave.

In 2016 Warren and Tyagi wrote a new introduction to their book. It’s hard to believe this introduction was written by the same people. The 2003 book is intellectually unpredictable and alive.

The 2003 book, as cherrypicked by Brooks, agrees with him, and is thus GOOD! That policy proposals can change over time or be influenced by actual reality or the results of practice is not of a concern to our August American Columnists.

This is the problem with politics in a dogmatic age. Everything conforms to rigid ideology. Independent, evidence-based thinking? That goes out the window.

Apparently.

Schmuck.

A.

My Wife and Kids

Of all the horrible things I’ve seen about the Bret Stephens debacle, a real-time implosion of ego and stupidity combined with an almost pathological need to step on one’s own dick in public, by far the worst to me is this:

“I would welcome the opportunity for you to come to my home, meet my wife and kids, talk to us for a few minutes, and then call me a ‘bedbug’ to my face,” he continued. “That would take some genuine courage and intellectual integrity on your part. I promise to be courteous no matter what you have to say.”

I mean, Bret is terrible for throwing this tantrum in the first place, let’s not forget that. The abuse of power, the staggering overreaction to a mild metaphoric insect joke, the Streisand effect, the subtweeting in the pages of the Times, it’s all sad. Particularly coming on the heels of the Jacob Weisman nonsense, which was exactly the same goddamn thing.

Lest we think this is unusual, a blogpal of mine once got an angry phone call, then an e-mail, from a columnist at the paper that hosted her blog. Her crime? She had dared disagree with him about architecture, and he felt the need to slap his great big Pulitzer on her desk and yell various iterations of DON’T YOU KNOW WHO I AM. This particular species of man is on every goddamn masthead. He thinks because he was smart once he can never be wrong ever, and his fear of losing an argument, any argument, is pathetic and sad and he gets paid six figures for it.

But for some reason what itches me about Stephens’ ongoing self-owning is the “my wife and kids” routine. Like, leave them out of this, pal. I doubt they crawled into your rattrap psyche and begged you to task them with defending you. Did you really need to throw them in front of Dr. Karpf like some kind of fucked up human shield? TELL IT TO MY WIFE AND KIDS WHY DON’T YOU? What a load.

(I don’t know about you, but the very last thing I would do is invite someone I believed had malicious intent toward me to come meet with my offspring in person. But then, my spouse and child are real people, and not extensions of the public persona I perform each week on Meet the Press.)

It’s a very White Christian Male of a Certain Class move, to invoke the sanctity of one’s homelife in order to prove you’re not a choad. Men since the days of Homer have been hauling out their virtuous helpmeets and pure-of-heart scions to escape criticism, as if the presence of sproglets precludes assdickery.

As if some of history’s greatest motherfuckers weren’t parents who cared about their children.

You would think Stephens, a professional opinion-haver, would be able to have his own opinions without pulling his family into this. Like either come at the guy on your own, or just ignore it like a grownup (or a chick on the internet) but don’t throw them in front of the bedbug-ridden bus that was heading your way. They didn’t ask to be your enemies’ exterminators.

A.

Bedbugging Out

The bedbug is perhaps the perfect metaphor for the Trump era. The word has certainly been tossed around a lot lately. Failing New York Times columnist Brett Stephens took umbrage over a tweet by a college professor describing him as a bedbug. Stephens famously wrote the George Washington University and ratted out the bedbug guy. They swatted him away like, well, a bedbug.

The Stephens story is bizarre: he’s an anti-Trump right-winger so he’s surely been called worse. His whole “this is language they use in totalitarian regimes” defense rings hollow. Does the NYT require their writers to be easily offended? Stephens is not the only one to have his feelings hurt on the tweeter tube. It’s just twitter, y’all. Nothing that happens there matters.

The bedbug infestation spread to the G-7 where President* Pennywise was hard selling his Miami resort as a site for the next global confab:

The bedbug rumors are bad for the business Trump is trying to drum up:

The bedbug controversy did not discourage Trump from promoting his property for the next G7 even in an apparent violation of rules against profiteering from the presidency.

But the president claimed he won’t profit off the event. “In my opinion I’m not going to make any money,” Trump said. “I don’t want to make money. I don’t care about making money.”

That may be the funniest thing I’ve heard in ages. The Kaiser of Chaos doesn’t care about making money? Was he under anesthetic after his Doral surgery? Come on, admit it, you knew that pun was coming.

The whole notion of any president profiting off an international summit is obscene. It’s crazy corrupt even for this crazy crooked administration. Holy emoluments clause, Batman.

Trump decided to flip the bedbug thing on its buggy head by turning on Brett Stephens this morning:

I’ve been trying my damnedest not to post the Insult Comedian’s tweets BUT it was necessary to capture the sixth-grader-ness of it all. As always, Trump sounds like a schoolyard bully who’s ready to bolt at the sign of any resistance. Not nice. Believe me.

The White House is going to need fumigation after the Trumpian bedbug infestation ends. They should burn all the mattresses in a dumpster fire worthy of this administration.

I used Trump tossing paper towels in Puerto Rico as the featured image as a reminder that Tropical Storm Dorian is heading in that direction. And that Team Trump stripped money from the  FEMA  budget to pay for their detention/concentration camps. I suspect Puerto Ricans wish Trump had traded their island for Greenland. They could be Danish right now and Denmark would give a toss about their fate unlike the Tosser-In-Chief.

That concludes this edition of Your President* Speaks. Nite, nite, don’t let the bedbugs bite.

Private Equity is Doing to Digital What They Did to Newspapers

This is a familiar tune: 

This man is not the adult in the room at the former Gawker Media, just as Kendall Roy was not the adult in the room at Vaulter and Alden Global Capital executives are not the adult in the room at any of the 100 newspapers they are destroying. Sending a copied-and-pasted company handbook, issuing vague edicts about becoming sites for “enthusiasts,” and making inexplicable changes for the sake of making changes are the professional equivalent of a small boy dressing up in his father’s suit: He is role-playing, deluding himself but no one else.

The editors and writers and video producers and artists and sales reps and product managers and so on—the people who made this a successful company while also making it the best place I can imagine working—are its actual leaders, and the reason that, despite it all, these websites will continue writing things the rest of us want to read. But none of those people are the richest person here, which means they will keep succeeding despite—not because of—the man who is. He doesn’t know what they know; he doesn’t have to know. No one like him does.

It’s almost like the problem isn’t the format or the “business model” but the idiots running the things. It’s almost like you can send your news out on the internet or publish it on someone else’s platform or print it out on pulped-up dead trees but either way if you take all the money you make and give it to anything but the news you’re screwed in the end.

If you spend a bazillion dollars on real estate. If you rob the place blind. If you care more about double-digit profit margins than getting the paper on the porch or making the site good. If you refuse to pay for journalism, if you spend all your time screwing with journalists, you’re not going to be successful and there’s only so long you can get away with blaming your customers for not liking the thing you made suck on purpose.

I’m not happy that we’re finally paying attention to this shit 20 years too late to save the institutions that could have saved us. There’s a direct line between the ongoing decimation of local news and the rise of what all our thought leaders are calling “post-truth America” and everybody acted like it was just the weather, like it just happened to us. Like it wasn’t done on purpose to immense profit for the worst people in America and like the only people screaming about it 15 years ago were steadily ignored until the pattern repeated itself online.

And lest anyone think I’m letting my own generation of newspaper journos off the hook for missing the real story about their own demise, far, far too many of us took management’s subtle encouragement to hate the internet and Kids Today and journos younger than we were for destroying the industry that management was gleefully skullfucking in the boardroom while we fought amongst ourselves.

Far too many of us spent our days grumbling about younger reporters just out of college “taking” jobs from veterans, as if that 23-year-old Mizzou grad is the one who refused to give Howie a decent raise or offered Cheryl a buyout after her health insurance got too pricey.

Meanwhile, they blew all their money on sex offenders and rebranding. 

It shouldn’t have taken another generation of journalists having their careers destroyed for us to finally notice it wasn’t the Kids or the Internet or the “digital paradigm” or the union distribution drivers who were the problem with news. It was always the people running the thing being total idiots because failure is just as profitable for them as success and has zero consequences.

They could fuck up a baked potato and we gave them the keys to half of Idaho after they told us that famine in Ireland was just some kind of fluke.

A.

 

The Completely Predictable Podcast ‘Revolution’

What a load, but then this is how it always works: 

It’s that sort of flawed logic that drives the podcast community up a wall. To whatever degree this medium ever enjoyed a meritocracy, increased monetization strips it away by default and by design. O’Brien was offered seven figures on the assumption that he’d produce a strong podcast—a correct assumption, but in sharp contrast with even the heaviest hitters of the medium, who must always work twice as hard to prove what they’ve done for us lately.

I remember when Politico launched, and everyone acted like these two plucky boys from nowhere were going to pool their milk money and start them up a gol-darn blog! They were going to make a news “site” on the “internets” and it would report on politics, which was something no one had ever heard of in the year of our Lord Jesus Tits 2007.

That there were thousands of political blogs online by then didn’t stop everyone from being like POLITICO INVENTED A BLOG and I’m not surprised to see the same dynamic at work with podcasting, which underpaid/volunteer workers have been doing for free for years only to see money and promotion lavished upon someone who doesn’t need either. Conan seems fine and people really seem to like podcasts and whatever, honestly, but acting like a successful rich person is some kind of self-made man with a microphone in his basement talkin’ hard is not helpful to the media conversation right now.

This isn’t how stuff gets done. This is why everyone’s mad all the time. Because the idea was you work hard and build something and you get rewarded for it, and instead you work had and build something and then somebody who already has a squillion dollars comes along and does the same thing and everyone is like GET A LOAD OF EINSTEIN OVER HERE WITH THE PODCAST, no one ever thought of one of those before.

A.

 

He is Bad At His Job

This corn dog has more relevant insights about American politics than Mark Halperin and it has never masturbated in front of anyone.

God damn it, do you know how many people are begging online for money to pay for their cancer treatment, all of whom have more to say in America right now than this fucking filth pig?

Let’s review exactly what Mark Halperin did:

The new accusations from the four women include that Halperin masturbated in front of an ABC News employee in his office and that he violently threw another woman against a restaurant window before attempting to kiss her, and that after she rebuffed him he called her and told her she would never work in politics or media. The alleged incidents occurred while Halperin was in a position of significant authority at ABC News, while the women were young and had little power.

And this is the stunning insight that justified this kind of TRULY HORRENDOUS crap being summarily dismissed:

News coverage generally does not make it clear if time is on the side of the  Force of the Hong Kong rebels or on the side of the Beijing Empire’s Death Star.  If the choice is to bet on freedom or propaganda, an American president might choose the latter, but history always wagers on the former in the end.

What a fucking idiot. That’s from MARK HALPERIN’S WIDE WORLD OF NEWS, for which ABC should sue the living shit out of him for copyright infringement and also FUCK this guy. Not only is he a pervert and an abuser, he’s also goddamn bad at his job. His “take” is that it could go one way for Hong Kong, or it could go another way! Nobody knows! Pay me!

Like how do we justify assigning any kind of value to this?

Nothing is propping up Biden’s frontrunning horserace number as much as his electability lead. If the latter disappears, the former is deeply endangered.

If Biden can’t get elected, he can’t get elected! Wow, were we suffering without that. Wherever would we find a racist-curious middle-of-the-road’s-dick-sucking sentient tote bag without THIS man? How could we possibly have had a whole ass election and an entire politics without his incisive commentary?

This goddamn remora. He’s not even attached to a shark. He’s attached to other remoras, with this. Like Bob “Don’t Call Out the Swiftboaters” Shrum, and a bunch of other people who’ve been wrong about everything and could be replaced with your average left Twitter account for half the money and twice the electoral votes.

We have a man who shouldn’t get to do anything in journalism anymore writing a book about people who shouldn’t have anything to say in politics and people will book him on their shows and for their “ideas festivals” and it’s no wonder people are mad and disaffected all the time, that this is what gets you a parade.

A.

Life Imitates The Godfather: Chris Cuomo Edition

I realize that I’m a day late on the Chris Cuomo kerfuffle but I had jury duty yesterday. They keep the juror lounge so cold that one could store a Semifreddo therein without it melting. It’s a frozen Italian delicacy, which the CNN host would be well-advised to to emulate. The dude needs to chill.

Let’s recap our story:

A video emerged on Monday night in which CNN anchor Chris Cuomo can be seen engaged in a tense confrontation with an unknown man and threatening to throw him down some stairs after the man called him “Fredo”.

In the video, reportedly taken in a bar on Long Island on Sunday, Cuomo is irate over a perceived insult from the man, an apparent reference to a character from the Godfather film. Cuomo suggests in the video it was meant as derogatory term for his Italian heritage, similar to the “N-word” for African Americans.

“Punk-ass bitches from the right call me Fredo,” Cuomo says. “My name is Chris Cuomo. I’m an anchor on CNN. Fredo is from The Godfather. He was a weak brother and they use it as an Italian aspersion.”

Cuomo is the son of former New York governor Mario Cuomo and brother of the state’s current governor Andrew Cuomo.

“I’ll fucking ruin your shit,” Cuomo says as the argument continues. “I’ll fucking throw you down these stairs.”

I’m obviously not a fan of Trumper assholes accosting people they dislike in public but Chris needs to make like a Semifreddo and chill. I plan to use that analogy until my plate is clean…

Calling someone a Fredo is an insult, not an ethnic slur. If this MAGA Maggot walked into a Knights of Columbus meeting and shouted “FREDO” the reaction would NOT be akin to walking into a Zulu meeting and shouting the N-word. I suspect that most of the KOC guys would be confused as opposed to outraged. They’d rather be called a Michael or Vito, after all. Repeat after me: Fredo is an insult, not an ethnic slur.

I’ll give Cuomo credit for sounding more like Sonny Corleone than Fredo:

I am glad, however, that he didn’t beat the MAGA Maggot down and bop him in the bean with a garbage can lid. Sonny would have thrown that worthless fucker down the fucking stairs so Cuomo showed *some* restraint.

In claiming that Fredo is an ethnic slur, not an insult, Cuomo amplified the story. He’s the one who made it about The Godfather, not some loudmouth Trumper asshole. It can’t be easy being Son of Mario and Brother of Andrew: Cuomo’s overreaction seems to reflect a measure of insecurity. A simple “fuck you, asshole” would have sufficed.

The Cuomos have long been hyper-sensitive about the fictional Corleone clan. Papa Mario refused to see the movie for many years because he believed it perpetuated lazy stereotypes about Italo-Americans. Others thought the movies glorified the Mafia. That shows the power of Puzo and Coppolla’s vision: it provoked people and made them think.

In other Life Imitates The Godfather news, we turn to the Roger Stone case:

Stone on Friday told a federal court that he opposed the request by prosecutors to play a clip from Godfather II at his trial, slated to start in November.

The clip was a pivotal scene in the movie in which a witness to Michael Corleone’s criminal conduct recants his testimony at a high-profile congressional hearing. The witness, Frank Pentangeli, backtracks on his testimony after he sees his brother and Corleone show up to watch the hearing.

Prosecutors say they want to play the clip to put in to context messages Stone allegedly sent radio host Randy Credico, who was subpoenaed to appear before Congress. Stone repeatedly referenced Pentangeli in the messages to Credico, according to prosecutors. Stone is charged with making false statements to Congress and witness tampering. He has pleaded not guilty.

Stone has claimed that he referenced Pentangeli because Credico does a good impression of him.

I’ve been known to do Michael Gazzo as Frank Pentangeli myself. It’s painful: not my impression but the voice is so raspy that it hurts to do it. Here’s the scene in question:

Frankie and Freddie were great pals, they’d both surely agree that the real Fredo on our current national scene is this guy:

The analogy breaks down because Don Vito Corleone was brilliant and Don Donaldo, IL Comico Insulto is a dumbass prone to descibing himself as a “very stable genius.” Like father, like son.

It’s easy to imagine Trump Junior saying this:

Repeat after me: Fredo is an insult, not an ethnic slur.

Journalism for the Consumer Class

It’s news YOU CAN USE!

It’s not that journalists don’t know how to provide actionable information; we do this all the time, just only for certain people. In the era of paid-referral links, many of our most respected news sources have put journalists to work on a kind of information-concierge service for the consumer class, offering detailed recommendations for the best standing desks and smart-home appliances, but little health advice for those who work all day on their feet or juggle bills to make rent. We hear a chorus of hot tips for “smarter living,” and near silence on how to survive in America. The economist James Hamilton put it well in a panel at ONA last year, “There is no Wirecutter for the poor.”

City Bureau is doing massively important work in Chicago and I love everything about how they do it. For the longest time the bigger papers covered certain neighborhoods and didn’t cover others and everybody pretended it was the fault of people in those neighborhoods for not buying the paper, ie we’ll cover it when we have readers there. Well, the internet did do one thing to journalism which was to upend the idea that you only want to read about shit going on literally next door and then only if it winds up on your porch.

Advertisers and city leader-types always resented the shit out of stories that made “their” town look bad, like no, our schools are perfect and our housing stock is of the highest caliber and so what if people are dying from preventable environmental causes or shooting each other, you’re making us look bad! And so the coverage shifts, bit by bit, to the people the EIC’s wife knows from her book club, and the things they care about.

Consumer journalism has its place but as people have less and less money to consume, it’s incumbent upon journalism to, you know, at least know how to do something else. I can’t tell you how many local TV newscasts have this “news YOU can use” or “fighting for YOU” segment where they deal with a customer service department for someone.

It’s fine, I guess, I’m glad Mrs. Peters got her cable bill sorted out but can we please also cover a system that persistently outsources every single aspect of service such that unless you have a large Twitter following or a TV station at your back you can’t get anyone to listen to you? We spend half our lives screaming at machines, like Alexa, dismantle late capitalism please.

Journalism should be useful, but what is useful to someone who has no money for rent in a segment about Amazon Prime Day? Or Black Friday? What is useful about one person getting their insurance company to listen to them if there are thousands who can’t be heard?

I really don’t love the implication that the only kind of news you can “use” is something that affects what you can buy. Voting information is news you can use. Crime reports are news you can use. Political and policy debates involve news you can “use” to live your life in a goddamn democracy, let’s really get crazy here. Once you accept the premise that ALL news is useful you really start to see what can be done.

Kids in cages is news you can use, to let them out.

A.

What Do You Say, Dean Baquet?

The tweet below is the first thing I saw this morning. It was shared by Picvocate columnist Stephanie Grace and she found the whole thing as baffling as I did:

Here’s the deal: Edwin Edwards was a corrupt pol whose greed brought him down. But his “inflammatory comments” were nothing like those of the Insult Comedian. The one above is self-deprecating: does anyone recall Donald Trump ever mocking himself? That’s because the joke is *always* at the expense of someone he’s out to attack and smear. And he usually kicks down, not up.

One of the harshest things Edwin Edwards ever said about an opponent was in 1983: “Dave Treen is so slow that it takes him an hour and a half to watch Sixty Minutes.”

That’s a far cry from calling people crooked, traitors, and the other stuff that comes out of Trump’s big fat bazoo and pops up on his twitter feed. That’s why I call him the Insult Comedian.

Edwin Edwards was the first Gret Stet Governor to treat black folks as full citizens. They were his electoral base, not red-hatted racists. In fact, Trump is more like the man Edwards defeated in 1991: David Duke.

Perhaps Dean Baquet has been away from Louisiana so long that he “misremembered” the nature of Fast Eddie’s outrageousness. I suggest that he read John Maginnis’ brilliant account of the Edwards-Duke race from hell: Cross To Bear. Hell, Baquet should talk to fellow Gret Stet native and Timesman Charles Blow. He gets it.

Donald Trump is a boorish crooked racist. Edwin Edwards is a charming crook but not a racist.

Dean Baquet should be ashamed of this lame excuse for his paper’s disgusting headline about Trump’s perfunctory white supremacy speech. Baquet can and should do better.

Final Thoughts About Muellerpalooza

I decided to write a followup to yesterday’s instant analysis post in order to flesh out my thoughts about Muellerpalooza. When I say instant analysis, I mean it. I wrote the post in under 35 minutes with as little reference as possible to what others are saying and thinking. Shorter Adrastos: I try to avoid punditry pollution at all costs. Hence what amounts to a sequel. I’m uncertain if there’s method in my madness or madness in my method. I’ll let you be the judge of that.

On a human level, I feel badly for Bob Mueller this morning. The expectations for both the investigation and the man himself were impossibly high. People hoped he would somehow save us from Trump. That was not his job: he’s a professional prosecutor not a resistance messiah. It was preposterous, indeed delusional, to expect a nearly 75 year old man to be something or someone that he is not. He did what he said he would do.

Upon diving into the pundit pool, I was struck by the age-ism of much of the commentary. Yes, Mueller looked old, tired, and querelous but his performance was hindered by the restrictions placed on him by the DOJ and the format of the hearings. He was repeatedly roasted by Republicans for his inability to answer certain questions when their attorney general is the one who tied his hands. Bill Barr is good at cover-ups in a way that Tricky Dick was not.

Other than Chairman Nadler, Judiciary Committee Democrats were there to be on teevee, not to get at the truth. I had hoped that professional staff would ask most of the questions. They asked none.

The Intelligence Committee hearing was better because members knew the facts and Mueller was both more alert and responsive to their inquiries. Committee Democrats did much less grandstanding and asked fewer questions that they knew would not be answered. They kept it snappy, which was why the second act was better.

Much of the criticism of Mueller involved the dread word optics. Many pundits were upset that Mueller was button-downed and reserved as opposed to flashy. It’s who he is. Many of the same pundits decry politicians for their lack of authenticity. Bob Mueller is a work horse, not a show horse. Anyone who expected impassioned speeches or a Perry Mason moment was kidding themselves.

Too much of the discourse over the Mueller Report has dwelled in cloud cuckoo land. There are villains aplenty but federal prosecutors are not comic book super heroes. Team Mueller’s job was to produce a report within the onerous constraints placed on them by the Justice Department. They did their job to the best of their ability and produced a report that many of their critics have not and will never read. Bob Mueller was never going to go rogue. It’s not who he is.

The discussion of impeachment has been equally fantastic in the original meaning of the word. I am firmly on the record as favoring impeachment but I understand the political calculations of House Democratic leaders, which have little to do with gumption or guts. In 2010, Speaker Pelosi decided that the ACA was worth losing the majority over. In 2019, she does not think that impeachment is worth losing the majority over. I disagree but her calculation is based on cold-blooded logic, not a lack of intestinal fortitude. Repeat after me: real life is NOT like a comic book movie.

Finally, Democrats should never have expected Robert Mueller to save us. That was not his job. He came out of semi-retirement at the age of 73 to serve his country again. We have to save ourselves.

The last word goes to the Beach Boys:

Repeat after me: real life is NOT like a comic book movie.

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.