Tag Archives: Election

White Noise – The New Normal

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You turn on the nightly news hoping for some valid information.   Possibly something you really need to know delivered by seasoned, investigative journalists on whether the Russians might actually be partially responsible for the election of Donald J. Trump, and if so, what Putin and his henchmen expect to gain from the deal? Or maybe something that will clarify why Jill Stein has demanded a recount in Wisconsin and other battleground states while, at the same time, Hillary Clinton’s lead in the popular vote has just surpassed the two-million mark and some perfectly credible and intelligent poll-watchers are talking about the need for the Electoral College to overturn Trump’s election, because, at the very least, there are just too many unanswered questions?

That’s what you hope for. What you get is a superficial rundown on who Mr. Trump has not picked for several cabinet offices.  A process John Cleese has compared to a pirate captain picking his band of cutthroats.  But, like a gunfighter with sand in his eyes, broadcast news, where most Americans go for their information,  stumbles forward, as though this election of a billionaire headline-seeker from Manhattan who refuses to release his tax records or put his businesses in a blind trust and praises the governing style of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin as being business as usual,  followed by an in-depth analysis of how well the stores did with their day-after-Thanksgiving Day sales and what might happen on the newest big sales day in America, the Saturday that follows the day-after to be followed by “Cyber Monday”….blah, blah, blah, blah.

Your value as a customer appears to be far more important than your status as a citizen. At least that’s the way it feels, doesn’t it? Hasn’t the importance of markets superseded national interest, and isn’t the media just going along to get along?   They would be better off just giving the first five minutes of their show to John Cleese and letting him talk.

Maybe it’s just me. There’s this thing that happens, you see. It’s not uncommon, I’m not sure that it has a name, so I’ll call it a “thing.” It takes place when people who have been doing something for a very long time look back over their years of endeavor and begin to complain about how much better the profession was twenty or thirty years ago. For me, this led to discussions with other broadcast journalists about whether the perception is real or imagined, the argument being that our observation is hindered when viewed through the mist of time. Perhaps everything looks better in retrospect? Or maybe not?

Cronkite is dead and all the pretenders to the throne are coming up short. Not because they can’t do the job, but because the business parameters of the job have changed. At least it feels that way. This is what happens when profits trump journalism (pun intended) and the best intentions of kids coming out of journalism schools are dashed upon the rocks by broadcast news operations thoroughly co-opted by promotion and sales departments as ratings become all-important, driving real journalists away from a once-beloved profession where they are increasingly seen as a danger to profitability.  I’ve had more than one conversation centered on the question of whether anyone would watch a real newscast if someone had the gall to put it on the air.

To date, no one has.   Even PBS is now running ads and is therefore under a degree of pressure from the companies that support their broadcast, whether they’ll admit it or not.

Fear of the truth, even a little fear,  benefits authoritarians, tyrants and bullies, who seek to trivialize anything that questions their motives. Don’t take it personally America, you thought it was the truth but it’s only business.   According to the AP, “PolitiFact checked 77 Trump statements and found that 76 percent of them were Mostly FalseFalse or Pants on Fire.   In other words, for every four statements Donald Trump makes, only one of them is true, according to the site.”

No, Virginia, climate change is not a lie invented by the Chinese, there were not “thousands of people” celebrating the attacks of 9-11 in New Jersey, most whites are not killed by blacks,  and on and on and on.   The Washington Post reported in November of 2015,  “Trump has lied so many times about so many things during the past week that it’s difficult to keep track of all of them. But it doesn’t matter whether one focuses on Trump’s attitudes about crime or American Muslims or trade policy. He lies about all of these issues. And he will continue to lie as long as it works for him.”

And he has.   His latest big lie, unsupported by any factual information is his contention that “millions” voted illegally in the presidential election.  Not true, and he is being called out by the media on this latest big lie.  The problem, is that it took them so many months to get here.  In the beginning, they thought he was a political joke and they let him get away with rhetorical murder.  Now that it’s too late, they’re finally telling it like it is.  Donald Trump is a liar.

One of the smartest people on political talk tv, Fareed Zakaria, dared tell it like it is when he called Trump a “bullshit artist.” Pretty sure he did it only once.   I can only imagine the execs at CNN spitting out their Sunday morning coffee as they watched Zakaria  giving his audience the unvarnished truth.    Good God, we can’t have that.   Not on cable tv.

What have we come to when the truth is seen as liberal raving from the left and lies on the right,  driven by a massive FOX/Limbaugh media machine, are viewed as common sense?  Is that an environment where progressive thinking has even half a chance? The truth, is that it’s a brand of insanity, or at the very least, mass hysteria.

The fact that only the Electoral College stands between Donald J. Trump and the presidency has already been lost on most major broadcast outlets who are moving forward with their time-tested credo of give the people not what the need but what they want, and your ratings will rise!   The country will suffer in the process but remember, it’s only business.

Journalism should be a quest for the truth, not white noise designed to placate advertisers.  It’s a key to our democratic way of life. That being the case, we should all be eager to turn on the network news each night for a daily perspective on what’s really happening. A daily dose of the truth. Instead, we see otherwise excellent journalists being forced to do a dance of false equivalency, presenting both sides of an issue as though they carry equal weight, even though one side is obviously false and should be called out and crushed for being rhetorical blather.  If you have no need for objectivity whatsoever, you can always turn to FOX or right-wing talk radio.  The lefties can get pretty carried away too, but to say they are comparable to the right would be a false equivalency to the max.

Whatever you do, don’t read a newspaper or watch France24  or Euronews tv,  because you’ll be amazed at what’s really happening out there.  Journalism should be a clear light,  the enemy of tyrants, bullies and liars. In this new age of false equivalency, downright fake news on the Internet possibly assisted by the Russians and Orwellian “newspeak,” we are surely threatened by its demise.

Or perhaps I can’t remember things all that clearly anymore. Perhaps Cronkite going to Vietnam to see what was happening for himself and then coming back and telling us it was time to release ourselves and the Vietnamese people from the ongoing indentured hell of that war – perhaps this is all illusory?  Maybe Ed Murrow, never held the witch-hunting demagoguery of Joe McCarthy and his right hand man Roy Cohen (Trump’s mentor) up to the light of day which helped end their assault on decency?   Maybe Dan Rather and Sam Donaldson didn’t refuse to be intimidated by any number of public officials?  Or maybe I’m right.  Maybe there has been a sea-change in the way news is gathered and presented and maybe that’s why it all feels like nothing more than just so much white noise.   Nothing more than an irritant to be avoided.

However, there may be an even bigger question.    For network news outlets to provide the truth would mean telling millions of Americans not only about the political crisis we currently face and the potential danger it represents to the Republic and the world,  it would also mean admitting that nearly half the electorate voted to make it happen.

Strangely enough, the Europeans seem to be more worried about our current situation than many Americans are.   Just as they were more worried when they advised George W. Bush against launching his military misadventure in Iraq, leading to the formation of ISIS,  and a host of other problems.   Probably because they are better informed.

Candidate Trump – A Crisis Of The Media’s Making

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Watching “France24” via YouTube as I wait for the Sunday morning shows to come on.   What I’m hearing is far removed from most of what the American pundits and newscasters are handing out, a diet of defeatist porridge, featuring denial, excuses and pleas to “give Mr. Trump a chance,”  some acting more like Trump “surrogates,” than real news people.

By contrast, the Europeans appear to be calling it for what it is.  I say “appear” because  obviously I can’t monitor all the news from Europe.   They are, thankfully, brazen in their honesty, proclaiming the election to have been one of the “ugliest” campaigns in American history.   While MSNBC features the headline, “Trump Wants To Stradle His Company And Presidency,” France24’s headline reads, “Equality vs. Trump.”

The issue of whether the Director of the FBI intentionally threw the election for Trump, remains an open question.   I’m tired of hearing that Comey is a nice guy who just made a mistake.   He’s the Director of the FBI.  Appoint a special prosecutor and save your nice guy stuff for a jury.  In addition, President-elect Trump, may have to appear in federal court on December 16th,  to face charges that his “Trump University” defrauded a group of students in California.  There’s also the fact that Trump openly lied about not of having any contact with Vladmir Putin and the Russians, while the Russians are believed to have conducted acts of espionage against the Democratic Party.   And now we’re supposed to sit back and act like everything is just fine?   Wouldn’t that be…..ah…..a little nuts?

Of course it was a dishonest election.  All presidential elections are to a degree, but this one stretched the envelope and tore it to shreds as Mr. Trump, possibly for reasons none of us can understand, simply could not control himself, making up  arguing points from whole cloth, moving along with a verbal slug-fest that featured sexism as a sometime centerpiece and racism as another, both promoted through the use of innuendo and implication shot-through with the threat of filing lawsuits against anyone who dared disagree or challenge his positions.

Mr. Trump, whose technique is to threaten lawsuits to shut down debate, to bully the press and limit criticism, is an obvious threat to free speech.   Like all authoritarian propagandists, Trump is threatened by freedom.   He has already talked about  a possible need to make it easier to sue for liable.   To tear down First Amendment protections.   It would be so much easier to control the press without that nasty First Amendment around.  Easier to shut down public discussion and debate among those who oppose his obvious and open authoratarianism.   Better watch out what you say in the social media or maybe even tell your friends.   One of the Trumpists might report you to a local party apparatchik.

It was fascinating to see Trump minion Kellyanne Conway in the coverage from France, blaming President Obama and Hillary Clinton for the protests now taking place in cities across the United States, continuing a pattern of deflection, projecting the blame on others.  It was like watching the Simpson civil trial all over again, with O.J. on the stand, blaming everybody but himself for what had happened.   Poor O.J.   Poor Donald.

Ms. Conway and the Trump regime should consider that the protests may be serving as a kind of pressure valve, eliminating at least some of the outrage over the election.

It was Trump and Trump alone who turned up the heat with his  hateful authoritarianism featuring angry anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-free press, mysogynistic and violence promoting outbursts.   He and not the Democrats, owes the American people an apology.

Equally guilty for this current situation are all those who did not vote, or who foolishly thought that “voting their conscience” was the truly moral thing to do.  It is they who have given us the approaching presidency of Donald J. Trump, a man with no blind trust, inadequate public tax records and an ongoing campaign relationship with the Russians.   A man who wonders out-loud why it would be wrong to launch nuclear weapons against the nation’s enemies.   A man who was born not with a sliver spoon but a 12-piece setting in his mouth.   A man so blind to reality that he has publicly proclaimed that he didn’t have much to start out with, only a small gift of a million dollars.   Just an average guy?  No, he is not.  He is beyond belief.

And Kellyanne wants Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton to tell tens of thousands of Americans to stop exercising their constitutional right to peaceably assemble and rise up in protest?   Wait  until the millions who voted for Trump realize his campaign was nothing but an empty bag, that nearly all his promises were hollow.   Wait until a year from now, when the millions of jobs Trump promised have failed to materialize, his wall has not been built and Obamacare, or a significant portion of it, continues to stand.    Wait until his followers realize that Mike Bloomberg was right.   America, or a significant portion of it, has been conned, and the media was an accomplice in the game.

Candidate Trump, was a creation of the American media.  He was featured  as prominently as he was, for one reason and one reason only,  because he drove their ratings.  He made them money.   And now, rather than properly challenging the outrageous nature of the monster they helped to create, they bleat like sheep to give him a  chance.   Like corporate cowards, many of them continue to soft-pedal the danger Mr. Trump represents to  the nation and the world.

Oh, but the Europeans get it all right.   As they understood the foolishness of invading Iraq, they also see the true danger Trump represents and it’s scaring the hell out of them.   At the same time, most of the American media, acting like apologists for the country’s strongman to come, ask us to give Donald Trump a chance.

Makes sense, I suppose.   To do otherwise would be to admit that this is a crisis of their very own making.

Hang on, CNN just changed its hard-hitting headline proclaiming, “Trump May Not Tweet As Much In The White House….”

That would be nice.

Meantime, out in the streets, the protests continue.   Some are drawing a parallel between the Boomers and Vietnam in the 60’s and early 70’s  and the Milllenials and Donald Trump.   Maybe it was the Millenials turn in the bucket.   Hope they can handle it.   Like the man said,  ” Nothing’s riding on this except the first amendment to the Constitution, freedom of the press, and maybe the future of the country.”*

*“All The President’s Men”

Michael Moore, Glenn Beck And America’s Class Divide

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It had never occurred to me, but now it’s clear.    It came from two disparate sources, Michael Moore and Genn Beck,  at exactly the right time.    A time in which I and millions of others (I suspect) are at the end of our patience with listening to an endless stream of electioneering lies and blather to the point that it is becoming nearly meaningless.

First it was Michael Moore, talking about millions of Americans, many in the rust belt, who feel betrayed by the system, and who will be voting for Donald Trump because they believe he will blow up the process that has shown them nothing but neglect.   These people are desperate and they don’t care what the New York Times reports about Trump’s taxes.   Desperation will do that to you.

These folks are not among the grass-fed beef eating and educated “elites” who will be voting for Clinton.   These people are our neighbors who need to go fishing and hunting to put protein on their tables because they can no longer afford the price of groceries.   They are living from paycheck to paycheck or with no paycheck at all and they feel overlooked and neglected, cut off from an elitist process that favors the wealthy.   So they will vote for Trump, because he promises to blow up the process.  Because with America’s new class system the process is leaving them behind, opening the door for an extremist  (possibly someone with unacceptable ties to Russia who refuses to release his tax records) to get elected as our next American President.   Even that will be better than what they now do not have.   Or so they think.

That was Michael Moore’s thesis, except for the part about a disenfrancihsed electorate opening the door for tyranny to sieze the White House.   That part came from Glenn Beck, who, almost totally (as hell froze over), agreed with Michael Moore.   All of it struck me this morning, as I had just finished reading an excellent piece in The Guardian entitled “Hidden Faultline”   How Trump v. Clinton is laying bare America’s class divide.”    

David Smith’s story, profiling some of my fellow Marylanders,  paints the picture  for those of us who still don’t get it regarding the divide between educated organic food eaters who are logically (they think) voting for Clinton, and all those others who think that almost anything, including Donald Trump, will be better than a continuation of the broken government we already have.

This dear friends, as Glenn Beck has pointed out, is how tyrants come to power.    Which could very well happen, unless we all pull together to demand a more representative government, one that can be trusted to look out for the best interests of all Americans, and not just a priviledged class.    On this point, I fear, Mrs. Clinton is dropping the ball.  Reforming the broken, bought off and generally bribed to death federal government she has been a part of for so long  is the  elephant in the room.   We need to recognize that it’s there before it steps on us all.    Sending Bernie Sanders out to plead with politicially exhausted Americans to vote for Hillary because Trump is unacceptable may not be enough.   One gets the feeling that Bernie’s real conviction is that Hillary is still too much of an insider.    Too much of a Wall Street moderate Republican in Democrat’s clothing to deserve a full-throated Sander’s endorsement.   Just more of the same old, same old politics as usual, and Bernie’s supporters know it.   It’s why they aren’t tripping over one another to throw their support to Mrs. Clinton.

We should not be heading into an election with (by some estimates) 40% of the electorate prepared to rise up in anger if their guy loses because they have lost all faith in the American political process.  If their side loses, they will be sure it was because the fix was in with the result assuring that they will remain locked in a lower class.  Doomed to pay their fair share of taxes while the uber-wealthy,  like Mrs. Clinton’s Wall Street buddies, dodge their tax responsibilities with tax code hustles, corrupt banking practices and offshore accounts.

This cannot be sustained at a time when Vladimir Putin is positioning himself to take advantage of our division by hacking out our electronic guts.

Our politics have let us down.   We appear to be on the brink of something very, very bad.   On the other side of the equation is the thought that if Glenn Beck and Michael Moore can be in agreement on anything then perhaps, just perhaps, we might get through this madness in one piece.   If only someone can show enough leadership to heal our class divide.    Clearly, Donald Trump, with his border wall, racial fearmongoring and derogatory comments about women and the disabled, is not that person.

 

The Clown Car Rolls On

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Can’t read a story about Jeb Bush without the ghost of Paul Henning popping into my head with those familiar lyrics from “The Beverly Hillbillies” –

“Come and listen to a story about a man named Jed
A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed,
And then one day he was shootin at some food,
And up through the ground came a bubblin crude.
Oil that is, black gold, Texas tea. “The ballad of Jed Clampet

 

Okay, so it’s “Jed” and not “Jeb” up there in the clown car’s front seat. It’s almost the same.    Especially when you fold in the “Texas tea” thing.  It’s scary close.

One seat back there’s “THE Donald,” alienating the entire nation of Mexico and every Latino in the United States.   Really?    None of my Latino friends are rapists or criminals.   As a whole, in fact,  I find Latinos to be hard working, religious, decent people.   A really good bunch of folks.

Sitting in the back is the big bully boy from New Jersey,  demanding an apology from the press, lest he tackles them all during recess and steals their lunch money.

Jammed in the back seat next to Christie and desperately saying whatever he can to gain even  a little attention in the current cable news cycle is Ted Cruz.   He reminded me of someone, but I couldn’t think of who it was.   Then it came to me.   He looks like the Joker from the Batman comics, sans the makeup, which is apropos following his outrageous charge that gays are staging a “Jihad” against people of faith.   “Holy base-baiting buzzwords Batman!   A jihad?”

These people shouldn’t be taken seriously.   They’re political caricatures.  Ludicrous distortions of reality.   At this point the Republicans best hope is for their clown car to  blow a tire sparing them additional embarrassment and continued bad madness.

Oh Lord! Jeb Bush Is Excited!

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FLASH! “Jeb Bush ‘excited about the possibility’ of a presidential run!” Really? Could this be more predictable?

So it’ll be Hillary, going all liberal following two years of smiles and silence to pick up her base and Jeb going as far to the right as he can without sounding too much like a nutjob to pick up his base as they both head off into the primaries. Then, as the general approaches, they’ll tell us what they really think, but only if it’s deemed acceptable by various board room bullies who care more for their bottom lines than they do for America,  the oil barons of Texas and assorted other billionaires who have no more connection to Main Street Americans than George W. Bush has to worrying how to pay the rent and put food on the table.

Hillary, of course, could surprise everybody and turn her back on the bankers who have been paying her $200,000 a pop for speaking engagements, not to mention contributions to the Clinton Foundation, and the potential threat to Bill’s legacy should the big money stop rolling in.

What do you suppose the Wall Streeters were buying with those mammoth speaking fees?   Advice on how to invest their billions?  Why do you suppose Bill cozied up to the Bush clan once he left the White House?

Meantime, middle America is being devastated as the gap between the rich and the rest hits dimensions not seen prior to the Gilded Age as the nation’s youth struggle to pay back huge college loans for an education that should be free and our elderly can’t afford dental care.

The following passage on the Gilded Age (1870’s – 1900) bears consideration:  “Political corruption was rampant, as business leaders spent significant amounts of money ensuring that government did not regulate the activities of big business – and they more often than not got what they wanted. Such corruption was so commonplace that in 1868 the New York state legislature legalized such bribery.[51] Historian Howard Zinn argues that the U.S. government was acting exactly as Karl Marx described capitalist states: “pretending neutrality to maintain order, but serving the interests of the rich.”[52]” – Wikipedia

Sound familiar?   Pretend it isn’t so.  Pretend Hillary will do a 180 on the robber barons of the 21st Century and fight to fix it.   Or that anti-unionist,  Rand Paul,  who opposes abortion rights and gay marriage while favoring increased military spending and taking even more from the poor to give to the rich, is a viable alternative.    He’s all over the board, with a sound argument for restoring constitutional rights but voting against reforming the NSA.   His strategy, apparently, is to generate backing from confused moderates and some liberals who can’t see themselves backing Hillary because of her Wall Street (and other) baggage.   Generating confusion could be intentional.   Or perhaps, since this is all about winning, like a blind man in a tunnel he’s making things up as he feels his way along.  A convenient strategy for someone who doesn’t want to be nailed down to specific issues, which appears to be what Rand Paul is up to as he ducked one question by walking out on the interview and another by shushing a reporter, although it’s difficult to say.

We should be so much better than this.    There is some consolation in knowing any Democrat will be better than any Republican, as the GOP continues doing all it can to take us back to the Middle Ages with barons and earls sitting on hilltops overlooking millions of peasants below, begging for scraps to survive.   Some consolation, not much.   It’s admittedly marginal, but the margin is there.

There’s a whole family hanging out at my local market these days, mom, dad and two kids, all begging for scraps.   “Lost my job,” says the sign the head of the family holds.   And this is an upscale neighborhood.    Before the Neocon takeover pushing our political system so far to the right that it’s bumping up against fascism, NAFTA, the WTO, the Reagan tax cuts for the rich and and the off-shoring of millions of good jobs, there were no homeless on the streets in my part of Los Angeles.  Detroit, and other American cities were not in bankruptcy.  This is scary.  It’s also unnecessary.   And it all started with “Reagonomics” in the 80’s to be carried forth by Republicans and Democrats alike.

Representative democracy in America is barely existent.  It went to the highest bidder with the blessing of a shameful Supreme Court,  who declared money is speech and speech is money and corporations have the same legal standing as people, while the media, like a watchdog chained out in the barn,  prattles on, mostly acting like it’s business as usual.    It’s not.   The country has been hijacked.

We keep repeating the same mistakes.  And Jeb Bush, is “excited, ” while Ted Cruz goes on Obamacare and the ghost of Ayn Rand picks up her Social Security check.  Now there’s some real news.