Category Archives: So Called Liberal Media

Life Imitates The Godfather: Paulie, Won’t See Him No More

Clemenza and Paulie Gatto in The Godfather

There’s something about the Manafort-Trump relationship that makes me think of gangster movies. Imagine that. During Manafort’s trial, the Insult Comedian rhapsodized about Al Capone as a stand-up guy, so naturally I wrote a post called Life Imitates The Untouchables: Scarface Paul Manafort?

I’ve tried to avoid Godfather references in order to stand out from the mobster movie analogy crowd. And I realize the Clemenza-Paulie Gatto analogy is imperfect because Paulie G was whacked for betraying his Don whereas Paulie M first betrayed, then stood by Don Donaldo Il Comico Insulto. I should apologize for that long sentence but it would break my momentum. I don’t mess around with either Jim or Big Mo. The Seventies references are really flying today.

Now that I’ve Godfathered the hell out of you, let’s turn our attention to the Manafort at hand. After weeks of quiet, the Manafort case has exploded. Team Mueller pulled out of its plea deal with Manafort because of his incessant lying. Imagine that. Then, it got messier when the Failing New York Times broke the story that Manafort’s lawyer has been briefing Trump’s lawyers about their discussions with Team Mueller. There *was* a co-operation agreement between Teams Manafort and Trump but such deals usually end with a plea bargain. This is sleazier than hell but may not be illegal. It may, however, be actionable by the relevant bar association. Stay tuned.

Making matters even stranger is that mob buster turned wartime consigliere Rudy Giuliani was the source for the bombshell NYT story. We’ve gone from Gatto to Gotti in a heartbeat, a lovebeat. It’s unclear if Rudy did this out of an inability to NOT brag about the contacts or because he’s a stupid twat who thinks this helps his client’s case. It does not. It makes Trump look guilty. But Team Trump agrees with Tricky Dick:

This gambit is classic Manafort. He’s an expert at playing both ends against the middle. It’s why he’s in the jam he’s in today. But at least Trumpy loves him again.

I agree with those who think Manafort is playing for a pardon. He’s also playing the long game. Even for Trump, it’s politically impossible to pardon Manafort before the 2020 election. In his more lucid moments, the artist formerly known as Mayor Combover has admitted that a Manafort pardon would be disastrous politically. Of course, his idiot client is quite capable of impulsively issuing one just to blow shit up. That’s why I call him the Kaiser of Chaos.

There are many Manafortian theories out there. Former US Attorney, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, and MSNBC legal eagle, Harry Litman, has written a must read op-ed analyzing them. Unlike Litman, I believe that Manafort has a legitimate fear of being whacked by Russian spooks or wise guys in jail. It’s why he’s in solitary. It’s a plot line straight out of  The Americans.

The other Manafort news involves a story in the Guardian describing three meetings between him and albino devil Julian Assange. Many have discounted the story because of its sourcing. It *is* possible that the Guardian got played but the suspicion of the story strikes me as rank provincialism. The Guardian is one of the world’s great newspapers so its stories should be accorded the same respect as those in the NYT or WaPo. Besides, its sourcing is quite similar to many Woodstein Watergate stories. I also think the Steele Dossier implicitly supports the story. Stay tuned.

I’m used to making Watergate or Iran-Contra references about the DC scandal of the day. I am, however, unused to comparing our politics to gangster movies. What can I tell ya? I call them as I see them.

The last word goes to Corleone Caporegime Peter Clemenza:

Sorry for the last word fib, but I would be remiss in my duties as a mob movie maven if I didn’t post Clemenza’s lines after Paulie G met his maker:

Fox Gonna Fox

They were never a news organization: 

In one instance, according to emails revealed in a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the Sierra Club and reviewed by The Daily Beast, Pruitt’s team even approved part of the show’s script.

Fox & Friends has long been a friendly venue for Trump and his allies, but the emails demonstrate how the show has pushed standard cable-news practices to the extreme in order to make interviews a comfortable, non-confrontational experience for favored government officials.

And as long as we’re here, stop referring to Fox News as “state TV.” If they were “state TV” they’d have rolled over when Obama patted their bellies. They’re the GOP, through and through, always have been, and the only people this wasn’t obvious to on day one were their fellow journalists.

AKA the people who get paid to suss out bullshit and name it for what it is.

Those people demanded Fox receive entry into the hallowed press fraternity and derided as “liberally biased” anyone who said hey, this is a network full of crap at all times. They’re still covering for Fox, as is everyone who pretends Shep Smith is some kind of hero for occasionally talking sense while still cashing Murdoch’s slimy checks.

We were always heading toward the most dishonest of the warbloggers getting White House press credentials in a BRAWNDO administration once Fox stuck its nose in the henhouse.

A.

Just Do Journalism Well, Journalists

It’s almost like it’s better when you run your paper like you want to run a paper: 

“Our overall revenue is more than triple what it was three years ago,” says Les Zaitz, the paper’s editor and publisher. “Circulation is probably double. We’re profitable, and there are not a lot of papers in the United States that can say they’re profitable.”

Things this paper is not doing:

Running an events company

Running a baseball team

Running a TV station

Running a hedge fund

Running a money-laundering operation

Running a religion

Running a political party

Jesus Christ, it isn’t that complicated. This paper is finding out what is happening and telling as many people as possible in the most efficient manner it has found, without regard for whatever trends are being farted out at the Silicon Valley Innovation Festival.

Instead of flailing from the hyperlocal to the paywall to the longform to the DIGITAL FIRST PARADIGM PIVOT SHIFT, this paper is … being a good paper. 

Which people will pay for, and advertisers will advertise in.

Schroder loads her white Dodge Ram pickup full of papers and rolls onto the streets of Vale. The tiny eastern Oregon town, population 1,900, is where the Enterprise is headquartered. Her stops include the county courthouse, a nursing home, a flower shop. The pickup crammed with papers is an upgrade from when she started doing this more than 20 years ago.

“That’s when I had a grocery cart and I delivered papers with my grocery cart full of papers,” Schroder says. “People called me ‘Bag Lady,’ ” she says with a laugh.

Now, using a grocery cart would be tough. On her Wednesday rounds, Schroder logs about 100 miles, traveling throughout Malheur County, Oregon’s second largest.

Her expanded delivery zone is one of the effects of a newspaper that has boomed in the past three years.

You mean if you PUT A THING WHERE PEOPLE CAN FIND IT, and deliver it when you say you’re going to deliver it, people will perceive that AS GOOD?

Someone stop the presses.

A.

Another Newspaper’s Genius Business Model

Let’s make the product suck, and then when readers notice, use their noticing to continue to suck harder: 

Meanwhile the paper’s corporate owner, Gannett, is pushing toward print oblivion. Gannett “is throwing the digital switch,” as a story by Ken Doctor for Nieman Lab reported, pushing print readers to switch to the online version of Gannett’s papers. In time for the November 6 election and “across its 109 local markets,” readers were directed “to head to its digital sites for results, “to embrace real-time media for real-time news.”

“When long-time readers of the Des Moines RegisterMilwaukee Journal Sentinel, or Fort Myers News-Press open up their papers” on Wednesday, the day after the election, “they’ll see hardly anything in the way of results,” story predicted. “Even on Thursday, when nearly all vote totals should be in, don’t expect to see newsprint used when cheaper pixels can do the job; the complete election results will be online, Amalie Nash, executive editor for local news at Gannett’s USA Today Network, told me.”

I’ve been saying this for years, but UNLESS YOUR DISTRIBUTION GUYS ARE UPDATING YOUR WEBSITE THERE IS NO REASON WHY YOU HAVE TO GUT PRINT TO DO GOOD DIGITAL. Jesus Christ, I will never understand why in the past 20 years we’ve taken “here is this thing some people like, let’s blow it up in favor of doing this other thing some people like” as some kind of strategy.

(Don’t throw finite resources in my face. When there’s a consultant to pay or a sexually harassative exec to throw out the back door, the millions suddenly appear. There’s enough money in journalism to pay Megyn Kelly to get fired, there’s enough to put papers on porches in Wauwatosa.)

Even that, though, would be a cut above what most newspapers have done, which is to do BOTH print and digital badly. It’s not that they’re abandoning print to do digital well. It’s that they’re abandoning print to half-ass digital, put it all behind a paywall, pivot to video, and fire all the fucking photographers. They’re abandoning print to slap mattress store ads on the front page of their website which, when it does actually load, won’t let you log in as a subscriber without viewing ten more ads first about how you need to subscribe.

They haven’t done ANY of it well. I could forgive newspapers not knowing how to do the internet if they knew how to do newspapers. But it’s been 20 years and the same seven syndicated columnists are making the same seven figures each to say the same worn-out shit about politics or Kids Today or whatever Mitch Albom is bitching about now.

The only things that have been cut from the print edition are news stories, which is WHAT PEOPLE PAID YOU FOR IN THE FIRST FUCKING PLACE.

“With more copy editing and page layout handled by chains’ centralized hubs, and with more newspapers relying on shared or outsourced printing facilities, the days of getting evening stories into the print paper are already gone in many markets,” Doctor writes. 

“‘We have a 7 p.m. close in most of our markets,’ Nash told me. If you’ve ever wondered why today’s print newspaper headlines often reflect news that feels days old, that’s why.”

That would explain why the Sunday Journal Sentinel lacks most of Saturday’s college football scores: “any night game is simply listed as late game with no score, eviscerating the drama of the top 25 results,” as I’ve written. “Even home teams get short shrift: Late Bucks or Brewers games are no longer covered to the end of the game in the next day’s paper.”

They keep turning out lights and using people’s hatred of the dark as an excuse to snuff out candles.

A.

Appearing To

For God’s sake describing things that occur are YOUR WHOLE ENTIRE JOB, LESTER:

Emphasis mine. I get that they are using this evasive weasel language to avoid being wrong, but a) that is not actually the worst thing ever on earth and b) WHAT OTHER POSSIBLE EXPLANATION IS THERE FOR THAT? What other “gesture” looks like that? This isn’t ambiguous, especially since the parents aren’t especially denying it and the kids are all “oh yeah, well what about the one black guy that did it, huh?” and the school administration is apparently saying forget the Nazis and think about how many cops Black Lives Matter has put into industrial ovens.

At a certain point you call something what it is. We see this all the time with videos that wind up on the news: “the video appeared to show …” YOU’RE LITERALLY WATCHING THE VIDEO. And if you haven’t verified it/can’t verify it, don’t put it on the air. The photo is of young white or white-passing kids doing the Hitler salute like it’s a joke, and that’s all this is. You want to make it evadable, okay, but understand that the people you’re helping to evade are Nazis.

This isn’t hard, but damned if we don’t make it sound like it is with the evasions and the bet-hedging and all the other things we think will make people Not Mad because that’s also something we think is a good goal. How on earth are we supposed to deal with things when we’re told that what we’re seeing isn’t quite there?

A.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Too Close For Comfort

Think Flag by William N. Copley

I’m keeping this week’s outing snappy because the time change has messed me up. My sleep patterns have been disrupted, as a result I’ve been groggier than hell. Additionally, Della and Paul do not respect day light savings time and demand to be fed at odd hours. Oddly enough, such oddity will inevitably impact Odds & Sods.

A quick note on the featured image. I cheated on Jasper Johns with a 1961 flag painting by William N. Copley aka CPLY. I think the think flag fits this moment eerily well. The country needs more thinking and fewer hot takes right now. Why are people bleating over Tucker Carlson when there are babies in cages?

This week’s theme song was written in 1956 for the musical Mr. Wonderful by Larry Bock, George David Weiss, and Larry Holofcener. I selected Too Close For Comfort because of all the votes that are still being counted, especially in Florida, Arizona, and California.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure: Frank Sinatra with the Billy May Orchestra, and a fabulous Ella Fitzgerald-Joe Williams duet with the Count Basie Orchestra. You know that I love me some Bill Basie.

Now we’ve gotten way too close for comfort, it’s time to jump to the break but first a reminder that Too Close For Comfort was also the title of a long-running Ted Knight sitcom that I watched only once.

Continue reading

It’s Not Okay if He Doesn’t Mean It

Everybody was forwarding the Serwer piece around and it’s excellent, but this is the part I didn’t see anyone talking about yesterday: 

Many of Trump’s defenders argue that his rhetoric is mere shtick—that his attacks, however cruel, aren’t taken 100 percent seriously by his supporters. But to make this argument is to concede that following Trump’s statements to their logical conclusion could lead to violence against his targets, and it is only because most do not take it that way that the political violence committed on Trump’s behalf is as limited as it currently is.

Emphasis mine.

THAT MAKES IT WORSE.

Jesus tits, if he doesn’t really believe this stuff, if he’s using it to sell himself, that doesn’t make it better. If anything, it makes it more contemptible. Sincerely holding racist, anti-Semitic beliefs is abhorrent. But pretending to have those beliefs in order to sell something, that’s an even lower circle of hell. That’s looking at Satan’s spreadsheet, calmly doing the math, and deciding that consigning a few more souls this month will boost quarterly returns by a tenth of a point so really, what difference does it make?

And the position Donald Trump and his GOP enablers are in, their sincerely held beliefs don’t matter. I don’t give a shit if Donald Trump is an anti-Semite or not. I don’t give a shit if he’s really really racist with the four black people he probably personally knows. What I care about is what he says and does. That’s all this is, the presidency. It’s not about his heart. It’s about his actions.

So if he’s barking at passers-by to come see the carnival, don’t really matter if he’s got tickets to the Big Top show himself.

Same thing with this Axios nonsense (rot in hell, news outlet run by guys who opined that Bush could get a do-over for Katrina): Oh, he can’t do that! Does he know he can’t do that? Is he kidding? Is he just throwing red meat to the base (like Democrats do when they, erm, want to teach kids to read)?

IT DOESN’T FUCKING MATTER IF HE KNOWS IT’S BULLSHIT AND SAYS IT ANYWAY. The words he makes with his mouth hole have goddamn consequences and we’re still describing this like it’s the weather or the fireworks or something. Ooooh, look at that! That was a big one!

For years pundits who get paid to know better have been asking if virulently racist conservatives with millions of followers are just joking, and guess what? Even if they were joking, the results would be the same. It’s past time this stopped being an abstract debate. It never should have been one in the first place.

A.

Gonna Stop Putting These People on Your Shows Now? HAHAHAHAHA, Nope.

Haha, so funny: 

This is the kind of thing she says all the time:

 “Is your tape recorder running? Turn it on! I got something to say…My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building.”

And after she said that, look what happened:

“Is she serious, or just having fun?”

Guys, I hate to break it to you, but she was serious. So was Rush, and Bernie Goldberg, and so were all the people who called CNN crews “animals” and so were the early-aughts warbloggers speculating that a kidnapped journalist was carrying her abductor’s baby.

As the entire world rightly freaks the hell out about what happened to Jamal Kashoggi, I’d like to remind them that that magazine cover up there was from 2005. Rush has been spewing his shit for forty years. The GOP despises any press that isn’t theirs, has for decades, and those of us who said this will lead nowhere good and is a threat to all of us back in the 19GODDAMN90s were called hysterical and told it was all a gigantic joke.

How do you look at someone who calls for the murder of your colleagues and ask if she’s “just having fun?” Like at what point do you stop rewarding people who hate you? I was asking this in the mid-2000s and I haven’t gotten an answer yet. I used to think it would take actual violence but apparently not, because a bunch of people got shot in a local newsroom and we’re still acting like this is some kind of academic debate.

We’re still acting like this shit happens in some kind of imaginary space where people aren’t real and this didn’t happen: 

Jacobs, who was “body slammed” last May by Gianforte, linked the way Trump talks about the media to violence against journalists.

“My concern is not about my situation as much as it is about Jamal Khashoggi and everything going on in the world,” Jacobs told CNN Friday night. “That the signal this sends about how the United States and how the president of the United States views journalists, when 44 journalists have been killed this year.”

At what point does it become less scary to be accused of bias than to be actually murdered? I’ve been out of daily news longer than I was in it and I’ll never stop seeing my colleagues’ faces whenever something like this happens to a reporter. Is there something that happens to you when you make enough money and your brain breaks and you say “well, sure, my friends are in actual danger for their lives, let’s have a panel about this where we talk about both sides of this important issue!” Have some goddamn pride already. If not in yourselves, then in the people you work with.

Coulter will be invited on news shows until the day she dies and on that day the obits will all use bloodless language like “conservative firebrand” and “unafraid to court controversy” and nobody will be rude enough to mention the culture of violent disregard for the lives of reporters, that she helped create.

Nobody but liberal bloggers, who are the only people most national journalists hate more than themselves.

A.

We’ve been showing up. Every damn day.

This kind of thing spread across the Twitters during the hours when it looked certain, instead of just likely, that the GOP was going to put a rapist on the Supreme Court:

And, I’m sorry, but no, they would not have shut down the country.

They would have shut down one hallway of one Senate office building, and occupied one suburban office park, and the national media led by Fox News and talk radio would MAKE IT SOUND LIKE they had shut down the country.

That’s what happened in 2000 and the way I know it would go else-ways for Dems is that I was at the Iraq War protests. Ignoring the media disparity to slag on the only viable opposition party as being insufficiently brave is not great, here.

I’m sick and fucking tired of this meme among Democrats that Democrats aren’t doing anything to stop this. Cory Booker tried to get himself and his colleagues frickin’ expelled, to stop this. Kamala Harris walked out of the hearing, to stop this. Maizie Hirono literally called bullshit, to stop this. Diane Feinstein, who is 400 years old, pinned Lisa Murkowski to the wall and yelled in her face, to stop this. None of it MATTERS without power.

Until November, giving speeches is all they CAN do. They do not command the U.S. military and they hold neither legislative house (yet). If every single Democrat walked out of Congress right now and sat down on the courthouse steps and vowed to stay there til the end of time, Republicans would … still have the votes to do everything they’re doing, plus all the TV cameras for them to call Democrats babies.

Dem legislators and activists held a whole ass protest on the steps of the courthouse Friday, anyway, not that anyone covered it with a fraction of the urgency they lend to a Republican county commissioner bitching about his taxes.

As for rank-and-file Dems, the outside-the-Capitol leadership? Well shit, every goddamn weekend and just about every weekday there’s a rally, a protest, a march. Against separating families, against mass incarceration, for racial justice, against voter suppression. There was a whole-ass Women’s March, fucking twice. Right now in Chicago there’s a hotel workers’ strike going on. There is no shortage of fights.

Women, especially black women, have been out here fighting the fights and running the races, registering people to vote, while Dem-bros lament the lack of, I dunno, physical barricades. And if there were physical barricades, you bet your ass women would be on them first.

Women are on them now, walking literal gauntlets to get reproductive healthcare, so let’s not forget whose bodies we’re advocating we throw on the wheels. A bloody revolution sounds like a fuckload of awesome fun if you’re not the one who’s gonna bleed.

There are a lot of people who aren’t fighting at all, much less fighting on our side. They’re the ones who need to be mobilized, not the people already at the front, raising their voices as loud as they can, despite the Fox News-following national press cutting their mics.

A.

The Kavanaugh Mess: Like A Virgin

In the immortal words of Graham Parker, “I thought I was right, I was wrong” about a McConnell knifing leading to a Kavanaugh withdrawal to spend more time with his calendars. It remains unclear if they have the votes to confirm: Susan Collins seems to be snowed by this jerk but Lisa Murkowski appears to be genuinely undecided. In addition to concerns about Kavanaugh’s views on Native issues, there’s a huge #MeToo brouhaha back home in Alaska.

The post title is, of course, based on comments made by the skeezy nominee to Martha McCallum of Fox New who actually asked some tough questions:

We’re talking about an allegation of sexual assault. I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone. I did not have sexual intercourse or anything close to sexual intercourse in high school or for many years thereafter. And the girls from the schools I went to and I were friends —

It was McCallum who dropped the V word:

MS. MacCALLUM: So you’re saying that through all these years that are in question, you were a virgin?

JUDGE KAVANAUGH: That’s correct.

MS. MacCALLUM: Never had sexual intercourse with anyone in high school?

JUDGE KAVANAUGH: Correct.

MS. MacCALLUM: And through what years in college since we’re probing into your personal life here?

JUDGE KAVANAUGH: Many years after. I’ll leave it at that.

There’s a logical fallacy in the Like A Virgin defense. It does not preclude sexual assault. It’s not uncommon for sexual predators to be “virgins” when it comes to consensual sex.

The other problem with the Like A Virgin defense is that Kavanaugh pledged Deek (DKE) and I suspect that virgins are barred by that rowdy fraternity. In a NYT story about the charges that Kavanaugh flashed and humiliated Debbie Ramirez, a schoolmate described the Supremes wannabe as follows:

One woman remembers Judge Kavanaugh’s wearing a leather football helmet while drinking and approaching her on campus the night he was tapped for DKE. She described his grabbing his crotch, hopping on one leg and chanting: “I’m a geek, I’m a geek, I’m a power tool. When I sing this song, I look like a fool.”

That’s a far cry from Boola Boola or The Whiffenpoof Song.

A fellow Yalie disputed the Like A Virgin defense on the tweeter tube:

Brett Kavanaugh lie? Never, he said in a voice dripping with sarcasm. Mendacity and sexual assault are two things he has in common with the sexist horndog who nominated him.

Speaking of the Insult Comedian, he went after Debbie Ramirez after being laughed at by the UN General Assembly:

“And [Ramirez] said, ‘well it might not be him’ and there were gaps and she said she was totally inebriated and she was all messed up. And she doesn’t know it was him, but it might’ve been him. ‘Oh gee, let’s not make him a Supreme Court judge because of that.’ This is a con game being played by the Democrats.”

The First Flim-Flam Man certainly knows about con games. His presidency* is an ongoing one, after all.

Ms. Ramirez is Puerto Rican. The fact that Trump attacked her is not exactly a surprise. Perhaps he totally confused her with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz. “Them people” all look alike to bigots like Donald Trump. Totally.

Another appalling Kavanaugh story popped up in the Failing NYT, the “Renate alumni” story. It involves high school yearbook comments by Kavanaugh and his krewe of drunken, rapey jocks. Here’s what an old pal and fellow original NOLA blogger had to say about this chilling episode:

A few more things about the Kavanaugh interview. First, it’s a sign of how worried GOPers are. Supreme Court nominees do NOT give teevee interviews. Second, Kavanaugh’s defense came off as robotic. It involved spewing out sound bites likely cooked up by former Roger Ailes enabler, Hannity pal, and current Trump lackey Bill Shine. Here’s one of them:

That’s right, Kavanaugh went from Like A Virgin to Like A Robot in one fell swoop, or in his case, one drunken stupor.

There’s one more aspect of tomorrow’s hearing that’s so squirrelly that they should give Judiciary Committee GOPers an acorn. They’ve hired outside counsel so Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch, John Neely Kennedy, and their ilk have fewer opportunities to make Cavemanic comments.

The outside counsel, Rachel Mitchell, is an experienced sex crimes prosecutor in Maricopa County, Arizona. But here’s how Chinless Mitch described her:

A female assistant? What is she: a waitress? Does the Turtle plan to tip her? She’s an experienced lawyer for fuck’s sake. Can’t you lot even show some respect for a woman on your side?

Precious little is known about Ms. Mitchell. Josh Marshall unearthed an interview she did with a far right “fundamental Baptist” publication. Also, why a lawyer who prosecutes sex crimes against children? The hearing is not a trial, it’s a job interview. The only children involved are GOP solons.

I have a hunch that they were unable to find a woman lawyer in DC who was willing to do Senate Republicans’ dirty work. It’s time to recycle one of my favorite recent lines:

The last word goes to Madonna with a song that Brett Kavanaugh surely drank to during his Yale salad days:

INSTANT UPDATE: While I was writing this post, Michael Avenatti revealed the identity of his client and demanded an FBI investigation:

Journalism Needs to Stop Showing Us Its Sausage

Well, yesterday was a clusterfuck of stunning proportions on the internets, the journalistic equivalent of two bears rolling down a hill, dead drunk, pawing at each other completely oblivious to the picnickers and punters they scattered in their furry, drooly, snarly wake:

And it was sort of like watching the process unfold in a newsroom during the reporting of a story, where one guy says one thing and another guy says another and then those two guys hammer out what the hell exactly is going on. It’s a natural process. It’s a normal process. It’s very, very common.

ONLY YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO JUST PUT IT ALL OUT THERE TIL YOU KNOW WHAT IT IS. Jesus Christ, Twitter is not your internal chat app, it’s a fucking BROADCAST mechanism, the equivalent of a party line where everybody can hear you scream. In the bad old days of LiveJournal, when Facebook was just starting to get racists fired and cheaters broken up with, I used to yell on a regular basis that EVERYBODY CAN SEE THE INTERNET, but I was yelling it at people insisting those kids who played the Hobbits were fucking each other.

It was not a lesson I thought we had to teach, like, professional political reporters who grew up with this here information super-cyber-news cycle.

And spare me the Poynter Institute of More in Disappointment Than in Rage jerking off, please:

Mostly you all need less of an urge to sound official with your BREAKING SCOOOOOOOP! SCOOPY BREAK BREAKY SCOOP!

God, no one gives a fuck. This is the thing. You do this long enough, you only talk to your colleagues and your bosses and your wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/fuckbunny long enough, you start forgetting that your readers don’t care about your snide shit. They don’t care about your SCOOP and your BREAKING and your MUST CREDIT AXIOS WITH THE MORNING’S WIN and all that other shit that you think makes you sound cool.

I indulged in certain amounts of this myself back in the day, because I am a competitive hellbitch who needs to grind the heel of my Jimmy Choos in the face of my enemy, but I have never put myself out there as a role model. These are the same people who want to shame readers for not “paying for news” or “valuing a free press” when they’re ready to tear each other’s throats out to be 40 seconds faster on a tweet.

EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU assholes is chronicling the burning of the fucking world and you are arguing about who is right about the temperature and you’re all only off by like 50 degrees. I swear I’ve never been so annoyed at journalism and I work in the same town as TRONC.

A.

Wingnut Sites That Are Wrong About Everything Are Wrong Again, Surprise Duh

If you come forward to accuse a powerful man, a content farm might aggregate your RateMyProfessor.com reviews, which are themselves a collection of anonymous bullshit from who-knows-where, and use them to savage you in a story that turns out to be ABOUT THE WRONG CHRISTINE FORD: 

Brett Kavanaugh’s formerly anonymous accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, has come forward. She’s a professor in the Social Work Department at California State University – Fullerton. Many interested in learning more about who Ford is have come across her students’ reviews on RateMyProfessors.com. 

They’re … not good.

Overall, she scores 2.3 out of 5 (a failing grade if the roles were reversed). The reviews span from 2010 – 2014, which rules out students tampering with her reviews as part of the current Kavanaugh controversy. 

[snip]

Editor’s Note: We apologize for the error, but we’ve since learned there are two Christine Fords working in clinical psychology in California and we wrote this report about the wrong Christine Ford. We regret not going to greater lengths to ensure this was indeed the same Christine Ford. Please do not share this article with anyone (and if you have, delete it/withdraw it); we are only leaving the page up so you can see this important update.

So this gets posted, picked up by a bunch of wingnut sites, and goes everywhere before the idiots realize that they’ve got the wrong person. And over something so dumb as RateMyProfessor reviews, which are about as reliable as Yelp reviews of a concert where somebody died on stage.

This isn’t even a smear job from someone in authority (though plenty of people treated as legit journalists cough*DRUDGE*cough picked this up), just a bad, dumb, clickwhoring stab from somebody who thought hey, I’ll get a piece of this roiling clusterfuck for my very own!

This is why women don’t come forward to accuse the powerful: There’s an army of bootlicks out there, ready to tear the accusers down. Not for power or money but because it’s fun to cackle and make a mess. They’re chaos-causing shitlords who don’t give a damn about the damage they create, and once unleashed will deny all responsibility for the trash fire they lit.

And this is why I keep beating the drum that national media who let these types of people into their parties and treat them like respected colleagues (“Matt Drudge Rules Our World“) have contributed to the very atmosphere they now deplore, where things like this happen and are corrected after the fact, like the strikethrough makes it better, like it’s just an honest mistake.

Via Doc.

A.

Can We Talk about How Shitty that Serena Cartoon Is?

We’ve been talking about how racist it is, but can we also talk about how it sucks? How it’s obvious and badly drawn and doesn’t make any point that anyone hasn’t ever made before about anything?

Australian cartoonist Mark Knight has defended his widely condemned cartoon of US tennis star Serena Williams, claiming that it was a true reflection of the events of the US Open women’s final.

The cartoon appeared in Monday’s edition of Australian tabloid The Herald Sun, and drew outrage on social media for depicting the 23-time Grand Slam winner with enlarged lips, a larger figure, a broken racket and a pacifier on the ground.

The guy who drew it says he “isn’t racist,” of course, because nobody “is racist” even if they are “doing racist things” and “saying racist stuff.” I’m less interested in how whether or not he’s racist than I am in how he’s so bad at his job.

I mean it. Our shittiest comedians and editorial cartoonists and columnists are so shitty because they grew up watching South Park and Bill Maher and reading The Onion and they think that anybody who says mean things is funny. So if they say loud rude fratty things about bitches and “aren’t politically correct” then that makes them comic geniuses or bleeding-edge social commentators. Usually this sort of thing gets beaten out of you in college but apparently these guys didn’t have editors who challenged their juvenilia.

“Area Homosexual Saves Four From Fire” is not a gay joke. The 9/11 issue wasn’t making fun of the terrorists. Bill catches shit not because he’s anti-Muslim and showily anti-religion but because he took on the powerful at a time when we didn’t do that so much. “Suicide bombers are braver than soldiers lobbing missiles from a distance” was a new thing to consider, at the time.

If you want to make people laugh or shock them, you have to be funny or original. You have to be smart, and willing to step to hard truths sure, but “black caricature” isn’t a hard truth. You think you’re the first person to make this crack, Mr. Australian Cartoonist? You’re not even the first person in a two-mile radius of my house to make this crack.

Someone needs to teach an entire generation or three the difference between an unpopular important opinion that people need to hear about because it’s truly critical, and something that will be “unpopular” because it’s just nasty and dumb.

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‘to get to a certain number’

Is it progress that media ownership is finally just admitting that they’re decimating newsrooms because fuck you? 

Today, four newsroom employees — Shannon Countryman, Chris Kaergard, Thomas Bruch and Aaron Ferguson — will be terminated; a fifth, Wes Huett, will be terminated Sept. 21. To be clear, GateHouse and the Journal Star remain profitable enterprises; these cuts were made to “get to a certain number,” as we were told this week.

The Peoria Newspaper Guild tried to find reasonable alternatives and compromises, including the transitioning of employees to other, necessary work now going undone. We were told no; five employees had to be terminated.

Emphasis mine. Note that that “certain number” is not, say, the number of reporters or stories or pages or investigations or hell, even clicks. No, that “certain number” is a profit margin that makes Gatehouse Media, a wildly wealthy organization, look even wealthier. That’s the number that matters to them.

I mean, at least they’re not lying about needing to adjust to the digital paradigm and inspire the future of the extremely online, or whatever it was they were prattling about last week. I guess that’s something.

Probably after 30 years of never facing any consequences at all for gutting newsrooms, Gatehouse figured they didn’t need to keep paying the intern they hired to fart out buzzwords like “nimble” and “changing tastes of readers” anymore. I mean, this is the very first comment:

Here is the obligatory comment that we now read more news than we ever have but we refuse to pay for it. And this is the result.

This, the bullshit story of the cause and effect, has so utterly defined the narrative of the decline of newspapers that even commenters on a local politics site can parrot it out without missing a beat. Never mind it’s completely false, that the Internet didn’t ruin anything wasn’t already on its way to ruining itself, that all the subscription dollars in the world don’t matter if they all go into the same toxic cauldron of executive incompetence.

Gatehouse isn’t even pretending to blame readers anymore. Readers will blame each other without any help at all. Older reporters will blame younger ones, and they’ll all fight amongst themselves instead of teaming up to take their papers back out of the hands of owners.

To get to a certain number. There’s a mission you can put on your masthead. There’s something to believe in. Good Christ.

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Deep State Throat

I wish I could take credit for Deep State Throat as an epithet for the author of the New York Times op-ed but I saw it first on the twitter feed of Never Trump Republican Rick Wilson. He’s a funny man so I wanted to give him credit before stealing the sobriquet. And if Mr. Wilson picked it up elsewhere, thanks to that person.

I’m under no illusion that the identity of Deep State Throat is the most important thing I could write about. (The performance of Senate Democrats during the Kavanaugh hearings has been most inspiring; special kudos to Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, and Pat Leahy.) But I’m a Watergate junkie and one of my odder hobbies for many years was speculating as to who Deep Throat was. It’s only natural that I’m drawn to speculating about the identity of Deep State Throat.

One thing I’m trying not to do is to dismiss out of hand specific institutional actors. It was a mistake John Dean made when he investigated the identity of Deep Throat. He ruled out the FBI, which was how he lit on Alexander Haig, Nixon’s second chief-of-staff. Under Dean’s sway, Haig was *my* leading candidate but second on my list was former G-Man W Mark Felt.

I  do not consider Mark Felt a hero. He was an important whistleblower, but he was the ultimate disgruntled employee. He had good reason to believe that he would succeed Hoover, which gave him an axe to grind. His main gripe with Tricky and his henchman was that they violated the norms and procedures of Hoover’s FBI. He had no problem with black bag jobs or illegal surveillance of dissidents. But he did look spiffy with a fedora and a rod:

I love those 1940’s ties. I have several of them and enjoyed wearing them in another lifetime. The Insult Comedian would hate them as they’re on the short side. He prefers long ties that point at his tiny pecker. It’s probably why he had a friend by the name of Pecker until he, too, turned on Donald. Penis envy explains a great deal about Trump.

Back to Deep State Throat. There were ritual denials from many senior Trump administration officials including my two prime suspects. The denials don’t rule any of them out. First, they work in an administration whose motto seems to be “lie early and lie often.” Second, Mark Felt repeatedly denied being Deep Throat until he was elderly. Say no more.

I’ve written off some early contenders such as Mike Pence and Nikki Haley who both have presidential ambitions. Deep State Throat will be as radioactive to vestigial Trumpers as Nelson Rockefeller was to the Republican Right back in the day. Besides, Haley isn’t in Washington enough and Pence’s political viability depends on not wielding the knife himself. Michael Heseltine, who wielded the knife against Margaret Thatcher, had to settle for being John Major’s Deputy Prime Minister. Pence is already playing second fiddle, he wants to conduct.

I have two prime suspects if Deep State Throat is truly a “senior Trump administration official” as described by The Times. Let’s start with Pence’s fellow Hoosier. Dan Coats has been willing to publicly disagree with the president* and holds the sort of sincere Reganite views expressed in the op-ed. He issued what is best described as a non-denial denial.

 “Speculation that The New York Times op-ed was written by me or my Principal Deputy is patently false. We did not. From the beginning of our tenure, we have insisted that the entire IC remain focused on our mission to provide the President and policymaker with the best intelligence possible.”

Note that Coats did not denounce the op-ed or declare its contents to be “patently false.” I’m also struck by the mention of his principal deputy; nobody other than former HRC aide Philippe Reines has mentioned Sue Gordon. Did Gordon and Coats collaborate on the op-ed?

The fact that Coats’ right-hand is a woman feeds into a theory advanced by Deep Blog, a self-described intuitive and smart motherfucker, that Deep State Throat is a woman. Charlie Pierce and his wife, Margaret Doris, have floated the notion that Kellyanne Conway is the mole.

She points out that there is something unmistakably feminine in the tone, that it is written in the kind of English practiced in the realms of advertising and public relations, and that the ensuing guessing game has knocked both Bob Woodward’s book and Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination hearings off the top of the news, regardless of what it may be doing the the president*’s evaporating sanity. If, as I speculated on Wednesday, this is a vehicle on which you can ride away from the garbage fire that is this administration*, but you still want to hold onto your conservative Republican street cred, this is exactly the kind of thing you’d concoct.

She thinks it’s Kellyanne Conway.

The op-ed also has a somewhat snide tone at the end when Deep State Throat blames the American people for the Kaiser of Chaos:

The bigger concern is not what Mr. Trump has done to the presidency but rather what we as a nation have allowed him to do to us. We have sunk low with him and allowed our discourse to be stripped of civility.

That sounds more like the snippy Conway than the genial Coats. In his days on the Hill, Coats was known to be nice to the “little people” from cleaners to staff. Of course, other Trump officials have bragged about how they obscure their identity when leaking: 

“To cover my tracks, I usually pay attention to other staffers’ idioms and use that in my background quotes. That throws the scent off me.”

The Trump White House is a viper’s nest of backstabbing bastards. It’s reminiscent of the Courts of the Caesars: Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero. That’s why I call Donald Trumpberius.

One theory I do not buy is this one: “The op-ed was a plant only designed to distract attention from the Kavanaugh hearings and Woodward book,” In a word: piffle. That is far too slick for the Trumpers who excel only in incompetence. Trump himself has engaged in an epic public temper tantrum and internal witch hunt since the op-ed was published. He wants Deep State Throat’s head on a platter or arm attached to a lie detector by Senator Aqua Buddha.

It will be fascinating to watch this lurid melodrama play out. I suspect Deep State Throat’s secret identity will be revealed sooner as opposed to later but it won’t be Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne, or Peter Parker. I fully expect Deep State Throat to go public, since unlike Mark Felt, he/she/it craves attention. They’re relishing the attention but must be aggravated by those, like me, who have called them a coward when Deep State Throat thinks of themselves as a hero. Reveal your identity and resign if you really want to save the Republic from the president* you serve.

The last word goes to Asia with a song with a song about betrayal:

Appetite for No Destruction

Will this finally be the thing that ends him?

The dramatic and previously untold scene is recounted in “Fear,” a forthcoming book by Bob Woodward that paints a harrowing portrait of the Trump presidency, based on in-depth interviews with administration officials and other principals.

Nope.

November. That’s all we have. Voting in November. So spare me another news cycle of Trump being horrible in slightly more detailed ways than we knew he was horrible. Spare me handing around these insider anecdotes like they mean the GOP will suddenly rediscover oversight. I actually find Trump’s horribleness boring by this point, compared to the atrocities carried out in the streets using him as an excuse.

I’ve been saying this since Trump first announced he was running: The problem isn’t that he’s a giant rude asshole. We’re all fixated on his goddamn manners and not at all on his goddamn morals, which are in order money, self-aggrandizement, and racism. I don’t care he yells at people or that Official Washington thinks he’s a shithead because he ruins their parties. I care that people are in danger because he’s a shithead.

If the stories Woodward’s telling are just more horror aimed at people — GOP senators, and such — who’ve already proven they can’t be horrified, you’ll pardon me for taking the money I could have spent downloading the thing and giving it to the League of Women Voters instead.

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The Failure of the Ideas Festival

I’ve thought for a long time that our Thought Leader Idea Model Marketplace Week Festival Symposium was bullshit and broken, and not just when some whackjob promoting an all-meat diet and talking about lobsters became what passed for an intellectual. However, its bullshit-itude and broken-ness certainly reached an apotheosis with the 24-Hour Bannon Fiasco that is now how the New Yorker Festival will be known. 

(There were 600 different ways to NOT FUCK THIS CHICKEN, but there you were, New Yorker, lubing up and heading for the henhouse.)

Workshopping a society by having a bunch of rich assholes talk to each other for hours is a bad way to do things. For starters, until very recently these kinds of setups left out of the conversation the people affected by politics and policies, allowing us all to airily “debate” whether members of marginalized populations are really people, in air-conditioned conference rooms with catered lunch.

You are “engaging” “ideas” instead of “feeding” “people” and I’m sorry but we have a limited amount of time on this planet. I’m a writer, I would never say that telling stories doesn’t matter, but at a certain point that’s all we’re doing. Once you’ve “engaged” with the idea, where are the action items?

Or are those not as attractive as conversations sponsored by major corporations under the guise of “improving society” at which a bunch of lifelong learners nod sagely while being told things they can safely bring up at their next book club? Jesus Christ, this is no way to have civics.

The entire industrial complex of this thing gives me hives, and that’s during normal times, not when we’re at war with goddamn Nazis banning Muslims and deporting law-abiding immigrants and ripping passports from the hands of American citizens at the border. At times like this, do we really want to even throw the party, much less invite Steve Bannon TO IT?

Remnick’s statement, full of sober disappointment at the way “social media” got all het up over silly little things, is just so par-for-the-course. We need active, engaged media leadership asking every single day what people NEED, not what fits in the mold that should have been broken years ago.

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Beto, Ted Cruz, and Weasel Voice

No sooner do I read this academic blog about “weasel voice” in journalism: 

The Economist took a look at how it’s not passive voice or active voice that creates the biggest problem for writers and readers. It’s “weasel voice” writing that does the most damage. The article makes several key points about clarity and information that you can use, even if you aren’t covering political insurgencies or violent insurrections. Consider what weasel voice does and what we can do to fix the problems:

Weasel voice hides the identity of the person committing an action:Passive voice provides readers with a limited amount of information because we lack crucial information about the “who” in the sentence.

Than along comes a prime example of it: 

That and a separate arrest for jumping a fence at a University of Texas-El Paso facility have long been a matter of record in O’Rourke’s public life, both on the El Paso City Council and in Congress. But the unexplained details of the crash and DWI in Anthony, a suburb about 20 miles north of El Paso that borders New Mexico, could now emerge as a potential attack point in his quest to unseat Texas Republican Ted Cruz.

Emphasis mine because WHAT THE HONEY BAKED CHRIST.

“Could now emerge.” From whence, pray tell, could this “attack point” (ugh) “emerge?” The mists of Avalon? The reeking trash of whatever Cruz-tinted Super-PAC farted this into the Houston Chronicle’s tipline? And what the hell is a “potential attack point” anyway? Because Beto wasn’t already getting tarred as a soft-on-crime peacefreak who wants to let serial killers out of jail to rape white Texas debutantes?

I mean, I know the answers to these questions because I read and interpret stuff like this for a living and once upon a long time ago before the earth’s crust cooled I wrote it, too, and the answer is either I’m not really confident in what I’m saying or I don’t want to upset anybody or I’m doing somebody’s job for them, and all of these are bad reasons to write a news story.

You use this kind of language to disavow responsibility for what you’re doing, and it’s cowardly, and it’s one of many reasons people left journalism in droves: the demand to use bloodless language to describe bloody things.

Lest you think I’m just picking on one line in this story, here we go again a few paragraphs later:

Neither arrest has factored significantly into O’Rourke’s political career, though both were used against him in his successful 2012 campaign against former El Paso Congressman Silvestre Reyes in a predominantly Hispanic district.

[snip]

The law enforcement reports show two elements of the incident that have been overlooked: that there was a crash involved, and that O’Rourke allegedly attempted to flee.

Overlooked by whom? A good editor (and a good writer) would address that obvious point.

Doc and I were having a conversation a few weeks back about the endless blogger ethics panel we’re having, and I couldn’t have invented a better example of how American journalism today has defined “acting ethically” as “not upsetting anyone” which leads to “writing so opaque that absolutely no one is served.” If I’m a reader, not a political operative or a journalist, how does this O’Rourke story serve me? What does it tell me that I don’t already know?

Is the writer saying with these grafs that voters SHOULD have rejected O’Rourke previously, based on this police report and his other arrest?  If you have a point, just make it. Hell, do what a really creative reporter would do and find a local university poli-sci professor who likes seeing his name in print and get HIM to make your point for you. This mealy-mouthed nonsense serves no one.

It doesn’t even shield the paper from criticism, which would be a chickenassed enough reason to do anything. I know all Super Savvy Reporters think the job is done if everyone’s mad at them but sometimes everyone’s mad at you because you’ve done something bad and stupid, like write a story about imaginary scenarios without any attribution whatsoever.

Schmucks. Weasel-voiced schmucks. 

A.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Too Late To Turn Back Now

Parade by Jacob Lawrence

It was Katrinaversary week along the Gulf Coast. I wrote about that on the day itself. Nuff said. In related news, former Nagin henchman Greg Meffert aka Muppet crawled out from whatever stone he’s been hiding under since testifying against C Ray. He has a new book out, which I will be reviewing for the Bayou Brief next week. It’s bound to be unintentional comedy gold.

This week’s theme song, Too Late To Turn Back Now, was written by Eddie Cornelius. It was a monster hit in 1972 hitting #2 on the Billboard charts. It’s featured in the new Spike Lee joint; more about that later.

We have 2 versions for your listening pleasure. The original hit song by the Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose and a reggae-fied cover by the Chi-Lites.

It’s too late to turn back now, which is why we’re jumping to the break. Make that falling…

Continue reading

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Will Reinvent for the Digital Unknown Future Market Conditions Via Online!

What a load of horseshit: 

“It’s the year 2018, and with the way people review and expect to review information and news, we think we’re doing the right thing,” said Keith Wilkowski, vice president of legal and government affairs for Block Communications Inc., the company based in Toledo, Ohio, that owns the Post-Gazette, on June 27.

“We will be publishing a (digital) newspaper seven days a week,” Wilkowski added. “And, frankly, we reach more people via online than through the print publication.”

It’s the year 2018, and we’ve spent three decades devaluing the print product to make a short-term profit. We reach more people ‘via online’ because we did that on purpose. You don’t need union drivers to deliver ‘the online’ and we can pay journalists peanuts anyway, we always have. 

There, fixed that corporatespeak buzzword-salad for you. WE REACH MORE PEOPLE VIA ONLINE, says the professional word person who works with words, while chiding his customers for not getting with the newfangled internet in the year 2018. Via online. For fucking fuck’s sake.

You reach more RICH people “via online,” is what this human conference call is trying to say. You reach more people who can afford to get their news “via online,” and the people who would have spent 50 cents on your paper or picked it up off your porch, well, fuck ’em, basically.

The reason this line keeps working, though is that reporters, who should be asking hard questions of ambulatory audits like Wilkowski, keep letting him and other corporate raiders lay the blame at the internet’s door:

The print side of newspapers has continued struggling to stay afloat as free and more convenient digital options are readily available for consumers.

This is presented as a fact and intended to imply causation, when in truth “the print side of newspapers has continued struggling to stay afloat as hedge fund owners load papers up with debt and then justify their existence with layoffs and nobody saved anything from the early 2000s when profit margins were 17 percent or more.” I get that’s longer, but this is a story that is “via online” and therefore there is no word count limit, get it right.

The actual story the Post-Gazette is running to celebrate its chickenfucking is even worse than that Hill piece up above. I mean:

By eliminating two days of print the week of Aug. 26 and undertaking a full-throttle commitment to the digital delivery of news, the Post-Gazette is reflecting Pittsburgh’s own transformation from traditional manufacturing into a high-tech center — even as the PG acknowledges that its future, like that of other legacy news organizations, must become untethered from the delivery mechanisms of the past if it is to survive in the digital future.

Can you un-tether yourself from run-on sentences? Jesus, did no one teach this newspaperman how to write for a newspaper? And “its future must become untethered if it’s to survive the future?” I’ve watched time-travel episodes of basic cable sci-fi that made more fucking sense.

I would pay $100 in cash to the journalist who got this guy to explain what he thinks the “digital future” even IS.

“Why are we doing this?” Mr. Block asked. ‘’Print is going away. If you project even five years into the future you cannot imagine there’s a print business that will be vibrant nationally or internationally. We have to acknowledge what is happening. It’s time to put our great digital players fully into the game.’’

The death of the New York Times has been predicted every single year since I was in college and I was in college 22 years ago. Five years from now everybody in the Post offices call up this guy and wish him a happy anniversary of the dumbest prediction ever.

And why were your “great digital players” sitting on your goddamn bench til now? Were the distro guys too busy delivering the paper to update the website? I’m confused as to how this was supposed to work. None of these idiots can ever explain why it’s impossible to have a great newspaper and a great digital news operation within the same company. None of them.

Print is not “going away.” It’s being driven off in favor of cheaper options. You do you, Mr. Owner-Man, but don’t pretend it’s anything else. Throughout the piece it’s blindingly clear this guy and his lickspittles have no fucking clue at all:

He added that the PG’s digital roadmap is not set in concrete but “will be adjusted according to competitive and market conditions.’’

Never set any kind of roadmap in concrete, first of all. Second, if you have no idea how to do this, why are you doing it? Why not make a plan, instead of endlessly flapping about in response to “market conditions?” Why not decide what you’re going to do and do it? Like, before you yell at the top of your lungs that you have no clue.

“We’re going to give this business the best college try,’’ said Mr. Block. “What we are doing is re-inventing the PG for the future.’’

You just admitted you don’t know what the future is. How can you reinvent the PG for a future you can’t define?

But hey, you’re going to give it a whack! Take 200-plus years of brand loyalty and market identity, go to Vegas, and put it all on black. Great idea. That’s never, in history, for anybody, gone wrong.

Then again, this is via online. It could reinvent for the future!

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