Category Archives: So Called Liberal Media

‘Ghost Newspapers’

Let’s talk about this before we have a single additional hearing about Facebook, Twitter and “fake news:” 

… Digital First Media, controlled by Alden, announced it was laying off a third of the newsroom — leaving fewer than 70 reporters to cover a population of 3m people. According to the Alliance for Audited Media, the circulation of the Denver Post has more than halved from 413,676 in 2013 to about 170,000 today. DFM employees across the country — from San Francisco to New York — protested against their owners. “We wanted to let [the public] know. People were still blaming [the paper’s demise] on Craigslist, and the internet,” says Chuck Plunkett, former editorial director at the Denver Post who resigned last year after criticising the hedge fund in the newspaper. “But . . . Alden is what was killing us”.

[snip]

From its headquarters in Manhattan’s Lipstick building, where Bernard Madoff used to conduct his business, Alden has seized on deteriorating newspapers across the country, ranging from the small Alaskan town of Kodiak to large metro areas such as Denver. The company owns almost every newspaper in Los Angeles and San Francisco, except the LA Times and San Francisco Chronicle.

This is on purpose. This is deliberate, and what fills the void in these communities is right-wing talk radio and cable news, most often Fox but let’s be honest it’s not like CNN and MSNBC are less stupid right now. Local news broadcasts are horrible in their own ways, and watching 10 minutes of TV news in even the bluest state will give everybody a really good idea of how Trump happened and is still happening.

I have been screaming for 20 years that they have DONE THIS ON PURPOSE IN ORDER TO UNDERMINE DEMOCRACY AND ENRICH THEMSELVES, and here we are.

And this is the thing that makes me craziest:

The battle over Gannett represents a test case for corporate America as it pits two opposing principles against one another: a company’s fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of its shareholders, against a newspaper’s public duty to operate in the interest of a broader constituency, which includes a community’s access to local media.

THOSE TWO THINGS AREN’T IN OPPOSITION. Newspapers, when printing the paper on dead trees and delivering it to people in a timely fashion, were extremely profitable. Gutting those newspapers and loading the companies up with debt and then buying shit like sports teams and TV stations was … not in the interest of shareholders OR the broader constituency.

This isn’t a fight and media don’t have to be charities in order to thrive. They just have to be smart, which is not a thing you can do when you have no budget for journalism, marketing or distribution and are run by fucking idiots who are all HERF DERF FACEBOOK VIDEO PIVOT and cut million dollar checks to incompetent filth pigs and their consultant friends.

And then prop up politicians who will cut your taxes even if they’re putting babies in cages at the border.

A.

Poynter Pearl-Clutching Train’s Never Late

How, HOW, is Sainted Jill Abramson dealing with the horrible trauma that is being accused of plagiarism after plagiarizing a bunch of people? 

“Over the weekend, I was mostly taking care of and playing with my grandchildren,’’ Abramson told Poynter on Monday afternoon. “And focusing on all that is right with my world.’’

Aww. It’s so nice that we checked in with her and not with, you know, all the people she ripped off or the ones she misgendered or called stupid uneducated kids with mohawks or whatever her problem was with Vice and BuzzFeed.

After all, Twitter was MEAN TO HER:

“Twitter is a savage environment, and at a certain point I just stopped going on Twitter,” Abramson said, “and had trusted friends and advisers to look at it and tell (me) if there is anything that I needed to know.”

“Twitter” is not a savage environment. The world is a savage environment when you screw up. Just ask any journalist not currently swanning around on apology tour of every major media outlet while promoting her book. Just ask the night cops reporter at any mid-size paper in the country. Nobody is nice to you when you fuck up.

So what happens now? Where does Abramson go from here?

She said she will continue teaching twice a week at Harvard. She expects to continue writing regularly for The Guardian and New York Magazine. She said she has no desire to ever run a newsroom again.

This story could not be more soft if Poynter actually smeared Vaseline on the lens. I don’t ask a lot of the outfit that mainly exists to run things like “do journalists swear too much” and “how fair is it to point out when people are lying liars who lie?” but I would expect the August Guardians of Standards and Practices to take a little more seriously when someone who should know better violates them flagrantly.

As far as the latest chapter in her career — a chapter that had her getting off Twitter, answering uncomfortable questions and retreating to the safety of her grandkids — Abramson refuses to let it consume her.

How brave.

How brave of her to continue to persevere by … literally not changing a damn thing and continuing to cash her checks. That must take a lot out of her. Again, the perspective that is presented here is Abramson-as-victim of the mean meanies on the Internet, and I hate to break it to the professional media observers but the Internet, like most of the world, is really really mean, sometimes to people who deserve it, sometimes to people who don’t.

I suppose since Abramson is a Very Important Person, she cannot ever really make an irredeemable mistake (after all, Brian Williams and Mike Barnicle remain employed) but it would be nice to see supposed standards applied in a … standard … way, and at least spare us the “I made mistakes, how dare you be mean and point them out” martyr act.

A.

Surely THIS Will Save Journalism

Horseshit: 

It’s easy to see why Apple favors the scheme. It gets a windfall of new revenue at a time when the decline in iPhone sales has made selling additional services a high priority. It gets to bring more high-quality publishers onto its platform, burnishing its reputation as a premium brand. And it gets to talk loudly about how much it loves journalism, as Apple vice president Eddy Cue did when announcing Apple’s acquisition of the subscription news app Texture last year. “We are committed to quality journalism from trusted sources and allowing magazines to keep producing beautifully designed and engaging stories for users,” he said at the time.

Publishers, meanwhile, may need to hire new employees to manage the partnership, build the necessary product integrations, and address customer service issues. At a time when the industry is already laying off hundreds of journalists, asking them to build out their partnership and product teams in exchange for a potential revenue increase in the single digits appears laughable on its face.

Man, we are willing to do just about anything except take ad revenue and subscription money and spend it on journalism. We’ll spend it on pundits and cable-yellers, we’ll spend it on consultants and digital paradigm shifts and machine learning plans, we’ll spend it on rebrand after rebrand after rebrand, we’ll spend it developing spin-off companies within our news media company, we’ll spend it on hush money for victims of serial sexual harassers, we’ll spend it on developing software to write box scores for high school baseball games, we’ll spend it on real estate. We’ll spend it on glitter glue. We’ll spend it on regular glue.

Anything, ANYTHING, other than news.

It’s my forlorn hope that after the video pivot and the podcast boom and the hyperlocal experiments and the longform mega-wank and the Facebook bots and the Snapchat productions and the endless, endless, endless shitshow that is paywalls, publishers will just finally be so tired they’ll agree to do journalism. But the enthusiasm for this type of thing is just too stupid and predictable. Can a webinar be far behind?

A.

True Unity

Politics isn’t about feelings, you ambulatory turtlenecks: 

Obviously, no Democrat would talk like Trump anyway, because that kind of bigoted talk would get a person drummed out of the country’s multiracial party even as it got him celebrated and elevated in the country’s white ethno-nationalist party.

I am saying, though, that Democrats should stop pretending they can unite the country. They can’t. No one can. What they can do, what they must do, is assemble a coalition of working- and middle-class voters of all races around a set of economic principles that will say clearly to those voters that things are going to be very different when they’re in the White House.

Emphasis mine. Consensus, as Mr. A is fond of saying in stupid meetings we’re in, is not unanimity. You don’t get to have everyone agree with you, and everyone agreeing is not a sign of anything anyway. You get the balance of people to commit to something and the people who want to get on board afterward can, but the people who won’t? Fuck ’em, Bucky, we got work to do.

We forget this all the time because so much of our politics is about talking but as a politician you are supposed to DO STUFF. I know cable news has warped everyone’s brain to the point that we think if two people are yelling at each other that automatically makes both of them wrong, but it doesn’t. And I know our ignorance of history leads us to think that there was some indeterminate point in the past where “we” all rallied around the flag but “we” didn’t. As many people agreed with McCarthy as fought against him. Post-9/11 there were waves of hate crimes and paranoia and let’s not forget all the torturing. During our last glorious period of unity in World War II we locked up a bunch of Japanese-Americans who probably weren’t feeling like we wanted their unity at that point.

We confuse the way we need to remember things with the way they happened, and that’s where our need for unity comes from. It’s childish horseshit and we should be above it by now. People are dying.

Democrats took back the House and a bunch of state legislatures last fall because they said to the voters, here is what we are going to DO FOR YOU. Lots of people liked that. Because some people didn’t doesn’t mean Democrats somehow failed to “unite the country.” It means some people don’t want to get on board with where most of us are going and that’s fine, for them, they get to live their lives, but we don’t have to spend all our time freaking out about what they think or stressing because there are 12 people out there we ain’t converted yet.

Bemoaning the end of comity is good Sunday show ratings but I know of nobody sitting in the pain clinic twitching for an opioid fix who gives a damn if Ilhan Omar was rude. I know of nobody on the phone yelling at their insurance company about a test their doctor says they need to stay alive who worries about Amy Klobuchar being an asshole in the office that one time, or even Joe Biden challenging Trump to a monster truck rally or whatever believes-his-own-press shit Joey has going on today.

People will get united real fast if we stop talking about unity and start giving them clean water, good jobs and free health care. The ones that won’t, eh. The bleached suburban bookclub assholes currently making common cause with Nazi hicks in the hills, fine, you get invited to the party but don’t expect me to change the menu, the venue and the seating just to convince you to show up. Show up or don’t. The rest of us, we got kiddie concentration camps to close.

A.

NOW we’re talking about the money

There’s a reason for this: 

While the companies’ reasonings behind mass layoffs aren’t identical, there is a common thread: The cuts have less to do with the talent of the workers, and more to do with financial imperatives and the whims of investors. THR reports that Nancy Dubuc, CEO at Vice, seeks to decrease spending and increase profitability. HuffPost spokesperson told CNN that the site is “investing its talents and resources to areas that have high audience engagement, differentiation and are poised for growth at a time when our mission means more than ever.” And according to BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti, who reportedly suggested that employees bring dogs to work on Monday as a means of raising morale, BuzzFeed is “restructuring” to “focus in on the content that is working, and achieve the right cost structure to support our multirevenue model.” (There is also speculation that BuzzFeed is preparing for a sale or merger.)

Back in the early 2000s newspaper company owners could still get away with blaming kids on their phones for not paying for news. Shit, they’re still doing that to explain what happened to newspapers, but now that the layoffs are hitting digital shops some people are actually starting to notice that hey, the money WAS there, and it just wasn’t being spent on journalism.

There’s a reason I yell so much about the nonprofit model for legacy and new media: Because enough money can be enough. If you’re paying your bills and can sock a little away at a time in case of emergency, you’re okay. If you’re pulling down maybe a small profit, huzzah! You get to celebrate, possibly by hiring people or doing a kickass project. You don’t have to freak the fuck out and fire fourteen people because the profit margin went from five percent to four.

Newspapers, yes the dead trees on which information is printed and distributed to the masses, are STILL profitable enterprises. Online news outlets can still be profitable. They’re just not profitable ENOUGH for Wall Street analysts, and it’s infuriating to see people fired to make a spreadsheet look better. That’s an insane reason for stories to not get done. It’s absurd. It’s laughable, but dismantling that entire system is harder than screaming at Facebook and Google so here we go:

“This isn’t happening because of market inefficiencies or consumer preferences or social value,” HuffPost senior reporter Zach Carter tweeted. “It’s happening because two very large companies have taken the advertising revenue that journalism outlets rely on and replaced it with nothing.”

YOU WERE NEVER ENTITLED TO ADVERTISING MONEY. Nobody owed you their dollars and Facebook and Google didn’t set out to kill journalism, they set out to suck up all the cash. They don’t care about you at all. It wasn’t maliciousness, it was indifference, the same indifference with which, say, hedge funds run papers. This was all foreseeable three damn years ago and the way I know that is that people saw it. They were, of course, laughed off in favor of making promotional videos for machine learning plans. 

And instead of building something good in the meantime, your bosses decided to pivot and pivot and pivot. They’re ones to be mad at, not techbros in San Fran and Seattle. They’re the ones who owed you their loyalty and hard work and they threw it away on plans to blanket the Internet in videos and endless podcasts. Because Facebook and Google told them to and laughed all the way to the bank.

I can’t sympathize with people who didn’t listen when we said they were gonna get taken. I feel bad for the journalists who tried to do good work and I hope that now, finally, finally, that we’re talking about money and where it goes we can start understanding who has journalism’s best interests at heart, and build some systems that serve them instead of pivoting some more.

Via Maximillian Potter.

A.

It’s Not the Tools, It’s the Talent

I can’t anymore with this:

Much has been made of the way Twitter serves as a megaphone for popular anger that’s made more intense by the speed of the news cycle and the distinctive malice and ineptitude of the Trump White House. But too little attention has been paid to what may be the most potent facet of the social media platform: its ability to feed the vanity of its users. There’s always an element of egoism to intellectual and political debate. But Twitter puts every tweeter on a massive stage, with the nastiest put-downs, insults, and provocations often receiving the most applause. That’s a huge psychological incentive to escalate the denunciation of political enemies. The more one expresses outrage at the evils of others, the more one gets to enjoy the adulation of the virtual mob.

We are not having a problem with Twitter and we are not having a problem with “fake news” and we are not having a (political) problem with Facebook. We are having a problem with Republican money and that is ALL we are having a problem with.

But but but bot-farms and share networks and lies and deceptive headlines! Yes, and isn’t it fucking amazing how none of that resulted in landslide Democratic elections? Isn’t it all super-weird that networks of bots don’t harass Republican men on Twitter but liberal women? Isn’t it a goddamn chickenfried magic coincidence that this supposedly nonpartisan crisis of fact-free nonsense has ONLY EVER BENEFITTED REPUBLICANS?

“Fake news” didn’t descend upon us from out of the sky. It was something a GOP presidential candidate screamed at his supporters and they screamed it at the press. “Twitter” isn’t destroying liberal democracy. GOP and GOP-aligned activists swept across every platform from Twitter to old-fashioned direct mail to whip up anger against black people, brown immigrants, women, gay and trans people, and environmentalists in an effort to keep and expand their power.

They took Russian money and looked the other way while Russian operatives acted like chaos-causing shitlords because they knew it would only hurt Democrats and help them, and they didn’t care what damage they did to “our democracy” because they don’t care about that and never have.

That they CLOAKED IT in this language of “both sides” and made it seem like a weather system that just somehow moved in, like old/er America woke up one day and started spontaneously sharing stories of Obama putting a basketball hoop in the Oval Office or whatever it is they’re mad about today, isn’t on the medium.

It’s on the editors and producers who, seeing what was happening but fearing their eviction from the realm of Sensible Centrists, ran editorials about “right- and left-wing extremism” and our country “becoming” divided.

It’s on our goddamn Congress out there having hearings about “shadowbanning” on Facebook and racist/sexist/anti-Semitic Facebook ads, without emphasizing who paid for those ads, and who got elected because of them.

And if the entire internet just up and quit tomorrow (a decision I’m not sure I’d mourn, given all our fucking givens) and disappeared except for the cat subreddit and one knitters’ message board, the same GOP ratfuckers moaning about the future of the white race would be revving up their radio shows and fake-bestselling publishing imprints again.

The way I know this is that the same kind of “fake news” said Barack Obama was born in Kenya, and John Kerry shot himself, and Jill Carroll was carrying her terrorist abductor’s baby, and Saddam had WMDs, and who did all THAT benefit? Who got elected on the back of all that?

WELL FUCK SHIT JESUS, IT WAS THE GOP!

I mean, this is Rush Limbaugh’s party, it has been since forever, and we’re all out here going oh goodness me wherever did this thirst for sensationalistic horseshit come from? 

I mean look at this crap:

These are the things they’re putting in the mail. It’s the same stuff that’s on the internet, the same xenophobic fearmongering bullshit. At a certain point you stop oohing and ahhing over the newfangled ways they spread their slime and start asking from whence the slime emanates, right? RIGHT?!

At a certain point we have to stop calling this a fake news crisis, a Twitter crisis, and call it a Republican crisis. They’re the only ones who win here and they’ve got no incentive to try to stop it, and it’s poisoning the well the rest of us drink from. We need to name them as the ones who have been pouring venom into the discourse, and stop listening to anything they have to say.

A.

P.S. If you’re going to throw the Covington kids in my face, as the first linked article does, you’d better be ready to answer for Richard Jewell, who was tried and convicted by the social media mob known as the NEWSPAPER. And let’s not forget the ENTIRE SPANISH AMERICAN WAR.

P.P.S. William Randolph Hearst called, he said he left his telegraph machine at your mom’s and while you’re there he wants his change. Schmucks.

Blogger Ethics Train’s Never Late

Our august journalism elders are wanking away about unqualified diversity hires who ARE NEITHER: 

Now on top of those errors, the graf above says VICE wanted ppl with “the look.” “But” it hired “very young” reporters w/ “scant experience.” I’m the 1st example of this. Elements of the graf paint me as an “edgy” but inept diversity hire, rather than a competent journalist.

To attempt to explain what’s happened to journalism:

Jill Abramson follows four companies: The New York Times, The Washington PostBuzzFeed, and VICE Media over a decade of disruption and radical adjustment. The new digital reality nearly kills two venerable newspapers with an aging readership while creating two media behemoths with a ballooning and fickle audience of millennials. We get to know the defenders of the legacy presses as well as the outsized characters who are creating the new speed-driven media competitors. The players include Jeff Bezos and Marty Baron (The Washington Post), Arthur Sulzberger and Dean Baquet (The New York Times), Jonah Peretti (BuzzFeed), and Shane Smith (VICE) as well as their reporters and anxious readers.

Merchants of Truth raises crucial questions that concern the well-being of our society. We are facing a crisis in trust that threatens the free press. Abramson’s book points us to the future.

Meanwhile this shit is happening: 

I’ll keep saying it until I’m dead but you are not talking about what’s happened to journalism unless you’re talking about money.

Hedge fund money. Billionaire money. Corporate money and the slavering greed that called 17 percent profit margins “struggling” and pissed away every ounce of customer loyalty that media brands spent centuries building.

Media company bosses fired experienced reporters and hired younger ones, counting on the old hands to yell at their replacements and not their bosses and for 20 years that’s been the response, along with screaming at “millennials” to stop being so hip and edgy and getting their news “for free.” You are not talking about what happened to journalism unless you’re talking about that.

For that matter, you are not talking about what’s happened to journalism unless you’re talking about the consolidation of production and delivery that doomed people who wanted information to getting it irregularly, incorrectly or not at all.

You are not talking about what happened to journalism unless you’re talking about systematically attacking customers by redirecting them to bloated, heaving websites that drop 35 ad trackers on you while screaming at you to subscribe even after you log in three times.

You are not talking about what happened to journalism unless you’re talking about running a sports team and a TV station and an events production company and a luxury high-rise with the money you’re supposed to be spending on DOING THE FUCKING NEWS.

If you’re talking about the content, and taking potshots at the hip hairstyles of people who ACTUALLY WANT TO BE REPORTERS IN THIS GODFORSAKEN MEDIA HELLSCAPE (people you should be mentoring and nurturing and encouraging, not smacking around for violating your antique gender norms), you are already so far behind the 8-ball that locating Charlottesville in North Carolina is the least of your problems.

And let’s not even get started on supposedly surveying everything the light touches in American journalism without centering Fox and its media and cultural imitators, who are responsible for the parts of the slaughter hedgies haven’t gotten to yet.

In the year of our Lord and Savior Nellie Bly 2018, we cannot possibly still be saying the problem is young people with partially shaved heads. In the year of endless hearings into misinformation on Facebook shared over and over by elderly MAGAtroids, our pundit class cannot still be obsessed with the blogger ethics panic that seized the entirety of the early oughts, right?

RIGHT?

A.

Any. Minute. Now.

Trump will literally be herding people who mildly criticize him into cattle cars OH WAIT and Republicans and pundits will be going NOW WOULD BE A GOOD TIME FOR SOMEONE TO STAND UP TO HIM:

You know when else would have been a good time, Jenny? When he fucking declared his candidacy by calling Mexicans rapists and murderers. When he was screaming LOCK HER UP from the podium and mocking disabled reporters and passing off “grab them by the pussy” as “locker room talk” and all any of your glorious principled conservatives did was rub their foreheads and duck the mic.

And if Mitt Romney does this tonight or tomorrow morning he doesn’t get a cookie and neither does any other Republican senator because they could have stopped this any old goddamn time.

Fucking Christ. They are not going to stand up to him. They were not going to do it when he stood next to Putin in Helsinki and said look, I don’t believe our own intelligence services I believe his lying butt face. They are not going to stand up to Trump because they don’t want to. Because it doesn’t benefit them. Because they don’t see what you see.

What you see is the course of history or whatever Mr. Smith/Washington fantasy and you think this is some kind of goal, being brave. What they see are dollars and voters and they recognize that they’ll keep getting both if they just keep their mouths shut and letting Trump’s manners obscure their machinations.

His policy aims are theirs. His goals are theirs. His voters are theirs. For 40 years this has been true and you expect somebody like Mitt Romney, who is like if a webinar was a person, to be a hero? What FOR? What does he want that Donald Trump does not provide?

You can’t answer that, you have no business asking the questions you’re asking.

A.

Naughty Words

One:

 

Two:

You know what we’ve gone and done? Jesus Christ. You know what?

We’ve gone and built Trump’s wall.

In fact, we’ve built like ten of them. Today.

We’ve built a wall that is 400 feet high and constructed almost entirely of bullshit. We’ve built a wall between the word “racist” and any meaningful fucking understanding of what that is, such that we can acknowledge, as Anderson Cooper has, that Donald Trump does racist shit all the time but may not Be A Racist.

Yes, he does horrible racist things constantly, but to call him a racist is somehow a higher bar, or something. What the actual unholy blue fuck. “Racist” is not a naughty word we say when we want to be a big meanie to someone, and it’s not even the most important thing to do with regard to Trump and race in America.

It’s not important to determine whether Trump, personally, dislikes people who are not white. It’s important to determine if his actions support a system that consistently punishes and dehumanizes them. He’s a white American politician, so he’s always gonna do that to a certain extent, and we don’t need to know what’s in his shriveled lump of a heart. We can look at his record.

I don’t care, even, if Trump is A Racist. I care that he does racist things and supports racist people and policies. That’s enough. We put up this wall where if Trump is not A Racist then the racist shit he does is somehow less racist and that’s not how any of this works.

We’ve built a wall between the way we talk to each other about real things — I’ve heard more 80-year-olds use the word “motherfucker” in the past two years than ever in my life — and the way we react when an adult does it on tape because we think we can get ahead by feigning outrage. What a load of shit. Motherfucking shit, even.

Grown-ass men on the news acting aggrieved that another grown-up used a grown-up word in a bar. People talking about “f-bombs” like they’re telling their toddlers about going poopy on the potty. Good God. Watching that freakout unfold in exactly the way the freakouts over every other imaginary wingnut “scandal” have unfolded was as instructive as it was depressing.

We’ve learned nothing in the past 24 months. We just keep stacking bullshit on top of bullshit, and we don’t even notice how high the wall’s gotten.

A.

Cohen Family Values

This post title may be ironic but it contains a kernel of truth. Trump’s former fixer spent a good deal of time in his remarks at his sentencing hearing discussing the importance of family and his regrets at having let them down. Bigly.

Cohen’s family values are also the best explanation for his limited co-operation with the Southern District of New York. I spent too much time Wednesday watching MSNBC and listening to pundits and legal experts alike discuss this “mystery.” There’s a simple explanation: both Cohen and his brother married into families with extensive ties to the Ukrainian and Russian mobs. It’s unclear if they’re gangsters or associates, but they’re connected. Flipping on them would not only blow up Cohen’s family, it would be hazardous to his health. There’s no mystery there at all.

Additionally, Cohen’s uncle runs a social club in Brooklyn that’s frequented by wise guys from the former Soviet Union. The Fixer sold his stake in the club after Trump’s fluke election victory. At the very least, Cohen’s uncle is a mob associate. To put it in terms that Sopranos fans will get: he’s the Artie Bucco of the story. Artie was, of course, Tony’s childhood friend whose eatery Vesuvio was a hangout for the fictional Jersey mob. Artie was a hapless schmo and sporadic wise guy wannabe, which is how Cohen is perceived by many in the MSM.

The mistake the MSM has made in covering  the Trump scandals is that they’ve treated it as strictly a political story. It’s really the story of how a career criminal was elected president* by defrauding the voters. It’s a crime story. The victim is the American people.

I think all the wise men and women on cable news should read Josh Marshall. He’s been on top of the Cohen/mob story since the Spring of 2017. In case you’ve missed his coverage, here are links to some of Josh’s Cohen stories:

From February 26, 2017: It’s All So Confusing.

From March 1, 2017: Piecing Together The Michael Cohen Story.

From April 17, 2018: The Closer I Get.

From April 18, 2018: Cohen-ology Pays Off After All.

It’s all there, y’all. It explains why Michael Cohen cannot offer the sort of co-operation demanded by the SDNY. They expect co-operators to discuss *every* crime a witness is familiar with, not just their own malefactions. Cohen would rather spend 3 years in jail than deal with the shitstorm that would ensue if he flipped on his friends and family from Brooklyn and Brighton Beach. Who the hell can blame him?

Having explained why I believe Cohen will never sign a full co-operation deal with the SDNY, working with Team Mueller is an entirely different kettle of fish. Cohen seems willing to spill everything he knows about Donald Trump. Those bridges are burned and the only way Trumpberius can hurt Cohen now is with his mouth and tweets. Cohen doesn’t give a shit about that any more. He’s done covering up for the Insult Comedian’s “dirty deeds.”

The last word (image?) goes to my First Draft colleague Michael F:

The GOP, in Wisconsin and Elsewhere, is Anti-Democracy

This is by design: 

The bill includes plans to lower voter turnout by adding a third statewide election in the spring of 2020, even though it will cost taxpayers millions of additional dollars and local election officials have come out strongly against it. They want to make it harder to vote early, which will cost taxpayers millions more in legal costs. They want to take control of state economic development away from the governor’s office. They want to replace the elected attorney general with private attorneys hired by the legislative branch at additional expense to taxpayers.

Is this democracy at work?

I mean, technically, yeah, in that they only have the power they have because we gave it to them. Look, for the last two years we’ve had lots of conversations about norms versus laws, about what we really consider important in government versus what is actually required. Half the shit the Trump crime family does is not illegal (like ghost the sexist shitshow that is the White House Christmas decoration reveal party, Melania, that thing sounds like hell on earth) but we act like our imaginary expectations are supposed to carry weight.

We shouldn’t run a country based on everybody being sensible and having manners. That’s not how anything should function. If you tell me that I am required to do X and Y, and in your own head you expect me to do Z, you can’t throw me in jail for not doing Z if only X and Y are mandatory.

Republicans in Wisconsin CAN do this. Should they? Shit no. But we’re well past trusting motherfuckers not to fuck mothers. If we want them to keep their dicks to themselves we have to strap on political chastity belts.

This editorial starts strong and then gets real, real stupid:

Remember in 2015 when these same three politicians – Vos, Fitzgerald and Walker – tried to gut the state’s open records law before the Fourth of July holiday?  They sneaked it into a budget bill, hoping no one would notice on the holiday weekend.

Wait, you mean to tell us, newspaper that FUCKIN ENDORSED THOSE POLITICIANS, that they turned out to be scumsucking suckers of scum? You mean they did this before? Why, it’s almost like this is WHAT THEY DO. I do declare, Miss Scarlett. See also gambling, shocked, and this establishment.

The modern GOP is designed to pursue power and subvert voting. Especially in Wisconsin. I pay attention to this shit as my side hustle and I’ve noticed that it’s not some kind of weird accident that these people are authoritarian tailpipe tumors who keep pulling underhanded crap. How can people who make a living being knowledgeable knowers of knowledge not pick this up?

We haven’t mentioned political party because this isn’t about party platforms – that’s what elections should be about.

This is about keeping the citizens in charge of their government.

It doesn’t matter which party is coming in and going out of office — we would say the exact same thing. In fact, we would shout it — just as we are now.

ARGHGGHHHH I mean name for me please the equivalent Democratic subversion of power that has occurred, that would warrant this sort of imaginary both-siderism. “We haven’t mentioned political party” so definitely please don’t call us the enemy of the people or get mad at us! Pretty please!

I give up.

A.

Poppy Bush

The MSM tends to the hagiographic when a former president dies. They were even relatively charitable when Tricky Dick went straight to hell without passing go. In the case of Poppy Bush, the people who covered him liked him as person, which makes it easier to gloss over his political flaws and vices. This was my initial reaction upon hearing that he’d died:

In its rush to paint Bush as a “kinder gentler” president, the MSM has focused on his thank you notes instead of his record.  As president, Poppy Bush was determined to disprove this Newsweek cover:

That was when Newsweek was owned by the Grahams and what it said mattered. Bush was a genuine war hero who should have been secure in his masculinity, but instead was overly fond of military solutions to political and diplomatic problems. His former boss, Ronald Reagan, spent Word War II in uniform in Hollywood, but he was more secure than his Veep so there was tougher rhetoric but fewer military deployments when he was what Gore Vidal called “the Old Television President.”

My head started spinning when I heard CBS’ Bob Schieffer claim that the “Wimp Factor” flap was caused by Poppy’s niceness and good manners. Wrong. It was caused by his obsequiousness as Reagan’s Veep. Bush was a moderate Republican who abandoned most of his previously held positions in a full embrace of Reaganism. It was Bush who dubbed Reagan’s tax cut plan “Voodoo Economics.” Bush arguably moved to Reagan’s right because the hardcore wingnuts never trusted him, so he was obliged to appease them. Appeasement is never appealing.

While we’re on the subject of Newsweek covers, Gary Trudeau did the mud bath cover that is this post’s featured image. He also did a hilarious strip wherein Poppy Bush “put his political manhood in a blind trust” for the duration of the Reagan-Bush administration:

Repeat after me: the Wimp Factor was about George HW Bush, subservient Veep. It was particularly noteworthy as he followed in office the first modern Vice President, Fritz Mondale. Mondale saw his mentor, Hubert Humphrey, humiliated by LBJ and insisted on becoming the first Veep to have any power and influence. Poppy Bush was a throwback Vice President as was his own Veep, J Danforth Quayle.  Ironically, W followed the Carter-Clinton model and gave Dick Cheney too much power. So it goes.

I gotta give Poppy Bush credit for being able to laugh at himself. He befriended Dana Carvey who was best known for his Bush impression on SNL. Carvey portrayed Bush as an amiable somewhat dim aristocrat. Carvey famously said his Bush combined Mister Rogers and John Wayne. It’s a good day in the neighborhood, Pilgrim.

Poppy even invited Carvey to do his impression at the White House:

There’s been a lot of babble on the MSM about Poppy’s decency. It’s been exaggerated BUT I’ve enjoyed it when it serves as a rebuke to the Insult Comedian. Trump has not been barred from the DC memorial service so, he’ll be there. I hope he’s not allowed to speak: eulogies are supposed to be about the dead guy, not the speaker. I don’t think Trump is capable of that. Besides, he might confuse Poppy with Jeb and say 41 is too low energy,

I still have mixed feelings about Poppy Bush’s presidency. He signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law and presided over the demise of the Soviet Union with skill and tact. His weaknesses on the domestic front emboldened the Pat Buchanans and Newt Gingrichs of the world, which gives Poppy some responsibility for the GOP becoming the Party of Me. I never voted for him and would give him a gentleman’s C as president. The worst thing about his Presidency is that it made the Bush-Cheney administration possible. I give them a lout’s F.

I wish hagiography weren’t the American way, but it’s as old as the Republic itself. See Weems, Parson. George HW Bush was neither all bad nor all good. I didn’t like his policies but, unlike the Current Occupant, he was not a raging gaping asshole whose hand I would have refused to shake. That’s about the nicest thing I can say about a Republican in 2018 except this: Poppy Bush was the best of a bad lot.

Blame The Right People for Media Failures

The “business model” wasn’t the problem here, has never been the problem, stop this bullshit copypasta from every story about every media company failure: 

Mic raised more than $60 million to build a millennial-focused news company but couldn’t find a business model to support its costs, which include a one-floor office in Manhattan’s World Trade Center (an earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the size of Mic’s office).

If these people were running a baked potato stand, and spent all their money on glitter glue instead, nobody would be interrogating the viability of the baked potato sales model. They’d be like WHY DID YOU BLOW ALL YOUR CASH ON GLITTER GLUE YOU FUCKING MORONS? Just SELL GOOD POTATOES!

Sell enough potatoes to pay for the potatoes and the equipment and people to bake them. God, quit overcomplicating shit and then whining about how complicated it all is.

I mean what a load of horseshit:

“What you hear less about the truth is that it is expensive. Our business models are unsettled and the macro forces at play are all going through their own states of unrest.”

The truth isn’t expensive. Real estate and prezzies are expensive, and you decided you’d rather spend money on that than on doing good work and retaining your people and building your company. I HATE when people talk about preventable catastrophes like they’re natural disasters. Your house burned down, yeah, but you set the fucking fire.

You relied on Facebook — Facebook, in the year of our Lord Jesus Delano Roosevelt, 2018 — for revenue from videos — VIDEOS — and when that went tits-up you had no backup plan. Any ten people on the street could have told you that relying on third-party companies to give you the traffic you’d otherwise have to build like grown-ups was a long wait for a train don’t come and a shitty risk besides, but no, you pivoted like hell until you drilled a hole and fell in it.

A.

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?

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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.

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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.

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