If Mainstream Media Deems This Week a “Good” One for Trump, All Remaining Credibility Is Lost

“With the 2020 election gearing up in earnest and over 70 percent of Americans believing the country is headed in a wrong and dangerous direction, we must demand more ‘truthiness’ from the media. They work for us, the public, not Donald Trump. And guess what? The President doesn’t think much of the journalistic profession anyway. When Fox News commentators claim that Trump is beating the mainstream media at their own game, they’re not wrong.

No matter what certain members of the mainstream media tell us, things are not going well for POTUS 45. It’s in the interest of all to root for the success of the country’s leader of course, but in his particular case, what’s good for Donald Trump and his band of cronies almost always flies in the face of the national interest, the betterment of regular Americans and their families. A ‘good’ week for him is a necessarily bad one for us regular folks. And when the President bumbles and stumbles as he does so often on the national and international stage, the threats to Americans become that much greater.

All of Trump’s ‘winning’ is costing us the environment, international credibility and the lives of immigrants and their children. If the sentient beings that comprise the mainstream media workforce care about the future of our country, they’ll quit handicapping the narrative in favor of the goon who’s happy to bring it all down upon our heads, if it makes him a buck.”

Read the full post at Contemptor.

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On the Road Again (May 25, 2014)

On election day 2012, I ran a yellow light in the rain at a six corner Chicago intersection where three busy streets converge. I got the business end of a giant SUV for the recklessness, not to mention the complete inability to enjoy Karl Rove’s Fox News meltdown. I had bounced off the pavement and broken my tailbone and sacrum. The tailbone was in a particularly bad way.

I spent the next three solid months on Tramadol, a strong painkiller, just to get through the necessities of life. During business hours I whimpered through and tried to stand as often as possible. I did a lot of wall leaning in meetings. It made me look authoritative. The drugs were blissfully effective – too much so for the office.

For nine months I sat on this soft black doughnut cushion that doubled as an excellent commuter train pillow. When I accidentally left her in Salt Lake City, I decided it was time to try sitting naturally again. However, it was only the beginning of this calendar year that I could resume Pilates or sit on a CTA train without leaning to the side. And I wasn’t the only injured party.

Poor L’il Red. Not only had she suffered a popped tire, bent wheel, busted brake hinge and misaligned handle bars, but she’d also been the victim of my neglect. I daresay scorn. As I have told several friends, my attitude toward Red after the smash up was similar to that of Daniel LaRusso after Johnny and the other Cobra Kai douchebags ran him off the road with their motorcycles. In the immediate aftermath of scraping myself off the pavement, I was ready to toss my girl into the dumpster. For 18 months, she sat behind the couch collecting dust.

But as you may have heard, Chicago is emerging from a painful and cruel winter even measured against its own diabolical standards. And my keister is feeling better. I also have eczema tamed well enough (thank you raw, organic beet juice!) to contemplate holding the handlebars again. So it was time to take Baby out of the corner, put the blame for the incident where it really belongs (on me) and get her the required medical attention.

Two weeks and $110 later, I walked a little over a mile in anticipation of a reunion with a clean, rehabbed Red. I had not ridden a bike for awhile. Last Fall I took a spin class with my little sister during a weekend in Wisconsin and I mostly did the whole thing standing. And I admit to being a little afraid to get back on the road again. I had already resolved that henceforth I’d confine cycling as much as possible to the safer lakefront area, rather than the city streets. I’ve had one incident too many, the last only being the most extreme in a fairly regular series. But to get L’il Red back home from the shop, the roads were the only option.

I started by strolling her to the corner of the nearest intersection and waiting for the pedestrian walk signal. I like to think I am capable of learning. As I took those first tentative few pedal strokes, a rhythm was sought. Cycling leverages different muscle groups than running, my habitual form of cardio. I know I have to ease in slowly. I stuck to side streets and began to relax. It was a beautiful day, the sort of spring perfection we’ve been denied until recently. I think we can finally put our winter coats away?

I also eased back into something else I’d forgotten I’d missed – traveling by life happening at medium speed. In the span of a short 10-block ride I saw: a woman briskly pushing a cat in a baby carriage, a middle aged man absolutely blasting the Scorpions “Winds of Change” out of the windows of his worn Toyota Corolla, beautifully dressed people streaming from a community church. Sunday in the city. I missed viewing the world from the bike seat.

The second act of my relationship with L’il Red reflects a revised 2014 approach to life in general. A little more cautious, a little more in the moment, but also a little less frenzied. What’s the hurry?

The Show is Over (July 26, 2011)

I have been a politico, a policy wonk, a fervent follower of Washington gamesmanship for as long as I can remember. I believe my love for the inner workings of our nation’s Capitol began with a first grade classroom straw poll in which I participated in 1984. My parents, young moderate Republicans, were huge fans of Reagan, whereas I already began to sense my liberal stirrings and wanted to like Walter Mondale more, but just couldn’t. In truth, I would have been happiest to vote for Geraldine Ferraro, but that wasn’t an option and in the end bit my lip and cast my childhood lot with the Gipper. Though my vote counted for nothing, I have yet to forgive my lack of foresight.

I have always been a fan of the Sunday morning talk shows, the arm chair quarterbacking about bills, social initiatives and policy speeches. As long as America’s basic common sense and global leadership was intact, I took it mostly in good fun. Of course there are real world implications for any nation’s decisions, but I felt safe in my admiration of the endless game of chess that keeps networks like CNN and Fox News in business.

I have been blogging for about two years and until recent months, a good percentage of my posts have been politically motivated. In my freelance journalism life, I kept up a column for a magazine based in Denver for the better part of a year.

But suddenly, beginning in December 2010 when Obama capitulated to the extreme right wing on the extension of the fiscally irresponsible Bush tax cuts, or if I’m being honest, slightly before that, the wind was sucked right out of my political sails. As the middle class and lower classes sank under the crushing weight of high unemployment, a credit crunch and the disappearance of home equity that are the hallmarks of this Great Recession; as lawmakers from both sides fell out of touch with the real world needs of real people as they became entrenched in partisan squabbles that had little or nothing to do what it takes to get the nation back on track; to quote President Obama, when “compromise became a four-letter word” as the rest of the world looks on in horror while we careen toward the inevitable toppling of our dynasty, there’s nothing to appreciate. It is, in a bipartisan word, revolting.

As it is, a lack of engagement with current affairs has been a casualty of the increasing digitization of our culture. The truly engaged and informed are a diminishing minority, and anyone else who flips on the TV to witness the latest round of partisan posturing from the President or the Speaker of the House is bound to reach for their Kindle or Nintendo DS in short order. Politics is serious business, but let’s face it, also entertainment. And of the many sins of which our lawmakers are in the business of committing, a failure to captivate may be one of the lesser, but it’s clearly a factor inCongress’ 77 percent negative approval rating.

To state the totally obvious: we have major problems in this country, problems that even a vote to raise the debt ceiling, or a last minute Hail Mary that manages to cut spending AND raise revenue, may not solve. The United States is the laughing stock of the First World (and even Third World nations like India are having a chuckle at our paralysis). But no one living here outside of the upper two percent of wealth holders, has a thing to smile about.

 

The Real America (August 26,2010)

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It seems that the modern political trend is to never unchain ourselves from the madness of American election cycles. The moment the ballot box is emptied and the winner declared, campaigning starts anew. This leaves little time for say, governing and serving the people, which is the ostensible job of legislators. More and more it seems that our politicians look at messaging, photo ops and pandering toward the “middle” as their full-time jobs.

Thus every couple of years, we are treated to divisive, nonsense “issues” that are designed to unite each respective party’s base and distract the electorate from the truth – that since the last time we cast our votes, in effect, nothing has changed. In 2004, we were treated to Republican rhetorical humdrum about attempting to rewrite the Constitution to formally outlaw gay marriage. This was a lot easier than having to account for the systemic intelligence failures and increasing body count of the Iraq war of choice. Though the effort to insert discrimination into the Constitution would never have worked, Republic strategists got what they wanted. Their base, newly mobilized and energized by the terrifying thought that the mechanics of romantic partnership might be above their pay grade, turned out in droves to re-elect W. Because nothing, not the impending burst of the housing bubble, the long practice of corporate off-shoring that disemboweled opportunities for the American work force, or the hundreds of billions of dollars wasted on unnecessary combat, is scarier than same sex couples running around willy nilly without the blessing of the far right.

I know I am coming off rather partisan here, and admittedly I lean pretty far to the left in comparison with the right-hooking trend of today’s voter. But I am equally disgusted with Democratic leadership. As it was in 2004, they have assumed the defensive position (has nobody told them they actually WON both houses of Congress in 2008?) and allowed their foes across the aisle to determine the talking points.

Instead of using the run-up to the November elections as an opportunity to clarify their positions, to explicate the complicated pieces of legislation passed in the last two years – really important work in the areas of health care and financial reform that John and Jane Q. Public have yet to fully comprehend – they are allowing the conversation to veer once again toward disharmony. Thus instead of conveying in clear bullet point fashion what health care reform really means for the average American family, how their lives and balance sheets will improve incrementally, Obama and the Democratic leadership are permitting themselves to be dragged into the Tea Party trenches. When conversation turns toward repealing the 14th Amendment say, or the current outrage du jour – the “Ground Zero” mosque plans, Democrats inevitably fumble. How happy was I when Obama stood up and declared that the planned center was the very essence of freedom of religion and unity that makes this nation great? Yet how soon that pride turned into sadness the following morning when the President flinched, bullied by Fox News into clarifying that he was not commenting on the “wisdom” of following through with the planed mosque.

Sometimes it gets so that I lose my sense of reality. Following the news cycle, reading punditry online, watching the President who was elected in a wave of “change” enthusiasm, punt on the potentially politically unpopular, it is easy to get sucked into a demoralizing listlessness. Have we all become so angry and dogmatic that there is no room for a true dialectic anymore?

However I was witness to ample evidence this past weekend, in my own backyard, that perhaps many of us are just tired of talking. It appears that if there’s one thing we can all get behind, in a mutually respective and tolerant way, it is the right to party. I watched the happenings of a two-day street festival from the comfort of my balcony. Rather than experience the event on the ground, my bird’s eye view of party goers acted as nectar for the writer’s muse.

I live in a rather eclectic and diverse community by any standard, one of the northernmost neighborhoods in the City of Chicago. The vibrant area is marked by a huge population of recent African immigrants, Latinos, artists, musicians and a sizable LGBT enclave. I wondered, given the toxic socio-political environment in which we wade, if any of the current intolerance and anger would find its way to the streets of Rogers Park. I sat for two days like an armed sentry guard, on high alert for the first signs of unrest. I was people watching until my eyes hurt. I was determined not to let anything escape my notice.

You know what I saw instead of the looked for disharmony? Good fathers with healthy children of all races and sexual orientations, with excited youngsters running into their arms. I saw older men of every religious bent drinking too much and embarrassing their wives with outdated dance moves. I saw an energetic member of the counterculture perform an impromptu rhythmic hula hoop routine to the delight of the neighborhood children. I saw kids of every conceivable background, uniting to do what kids do: chase each other around and throw trash into large puddles of water. No angry, bigoted word emerged from any corner of this raucous event.

And that’s when I wished with all my heart for recording equipment and my own national TV station. I wanted to capture this colorful embrace of summer, and life itself, and make this the headline story on the evening news. “This just in! People still know how to get along and have fun! Film at 11.” Sadly, this has become the untold story in a nation that has lost its appetite for setting the standard of civic engagement in the free world. But maybe, just maybe if we could release ourselves from the chokehold of politicians and the media, the habit of being told who we are and what we want, we could learn to enjoy each other again. Maybe if the rancor were cleared from the air, we could begin to start solving the numerous problems facing our nation. The energy is out there, and some of it, lo and behold, is hate free.

Yale Instructor David Brooks Says “Campus Crusaders” Are Moral Zealots, Anti-Free Speech (June 6, 2015)

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In a post-9/11 world, self-styled “moderate” conservative andNew York Times Op-Ed columnist David Brooks has carved out a cottage industry conflating morality with anti-liberal politics. To be fair to Brooks, this has been a good business opportunity afforded by the “Do as I say, not as I do” public hypocrisy of the modern conservative movement and its 24/7 mouthpiece, Fox News.

An obvious example includes screaming ad nauseam about runaway deficits as the biggest threat to our nation in a craven effort to destroy the social safety net. Yet those deficit concerns suddenly vanish when old white men with itchy trigger fingers salivate over defense spending. Or how about the sanctity of life?

Nothing is more important than controlling a woman’s right to choose, because morality. Yet once the babies are born, those takers are on their own, especially if they’re brown. And the nearly 5,000 American soldiers who have died in Iraq, a conflict of choice predicated upon manufactured GOP intelligence? That’s not a waste of human life at all. No moral peccadillo whatsoever.

We’ve all become inured to the right’s insincere pearl clutching over “controversies” such as Benghazi, Obamacare and more while the middle and lower classes continue to lose socioeconomic stability. It’s hard to muster more than listlessness at the endless, disingenuous analysis of the moral failings of the suffering. Because if you’re rich, successful and healthy, it’s not because you’ve benefitted from a scale tipped in your favor according to the GOP. Nope. If you rise to the top of economic pile, it can only be because you’re more deserving. That’s how they pretend the system works, and if something is repeated often enough, it becomes conventional platform wisdom.

David Brooks never tires of trying to inculcate us unrestrained liberals with his party’s morality dogma. But this week, in a column entitled The Campus Crusaders, he takes the blame game a step further, arguing that today’s weak and infantilized college students result in idea-free academic zones. In a logical fallacy of impressive dimensions, the younger generation’s growing fatigue with the same old conservative conversations translates into:

“They are going after people for simply failing to show sufficient deference to and respect for the etiquette they hold dear. They sometimes conflate ideas with actions and regard controversial ideas as forms of violence.”

So conservative is the new liberal among today’s kids, is that right Brooks? Pupils intolerant of ignorance and backward-looking policies that make true opportunistic equality impossible are ethically bankrupt. And Brooks is qualified to make this judgment because he’s a Professor at Yale, thus often in proximity to students.

Let’s call this what it really is – pretensions to osmotic cultural anthropology couched in culture war sour grapes. And while we’re justifiably impugning Brooks’ snarky brand of faux academia, let’s also review some of the “sources” the longtime columnist leverages in constructing his argument.

On the Regnery Publishing website, the book is summarized as evaluating “a growing intolerance from the left side of the political spectrum [] threatening Americans’ ability to freely express beliefs without fear of retaliation.” You may be shocked (shocked!) to learn that Powers is a Fox New contributor.

Brooks misappropriates the March 21, 2015 work of his Timescolleague Judith Shulevitz to tie issue-based sensitivity around sexual assault and rape culture on college campuses to a liberal “form of zealotry.”

By linking to this website in a general way, rather than to a specific topic, Brooks appears to hope that readers will connect the site’s mission to “defend and sustain individual rights at America’s colleges and universities” with a conservative agenda. Brooks takes the lazy route to serving up specific examples of imperiled free speech in academia, and fails completely to correlate the content with liberal moral infirmity.

In the meat and potatoes of his column, David Brooks writes of today’s morally challenged student movement as one “led by students forced to live with the legacy of sexism, with the threat, and sometimes the experience, of sexual assault. It is led by students whose lives have been marred by racism and bigotry. It is led by people who want to secure equal rights for gays, lesbians and other historically marginalized groups.”

Here’s a thought I’d like to contribute to Brooks’ “idea-free” liberal debate. If the majority of today’s students refuse to create “safe space” for the continued subjugation of anyone not wealthy, white and male, perhaps the moral failing belongs to you and your fellow conservatives for expecting to be accommodated.  Many a belief and notion throughout history has been popularly shunted aside, not from moral corruption, but rather a modern inability to serve rational, progressive society.

NPR: National Public Ruckus (October 25, 2010)

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Bill O’Reilly is having a hell of a month. The professional muckraker and Fox News pugilist managed to manipulate his proffered vision of a tyrannically liberal media into a self-fulfilling prophecy on October 14th. That was the Thursday when, embroiled in a heated discussion with the ladies of “The View” over whether or not the “Ground Zero” mosque should ever see the light of day, O’Reilly caused co-hosts Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar to walk offstage mid-broadcast with five little incendiary words: “Muslims killed us on 9/11.” When head diva Barbara Walters responded by saying “I love my colleagues, but that should not have happened,” I am sure old Bill had trouble containing his glee.

Over the course of O’Reilly’s long career, I have witnessed this pattern over and again, the consistency of a practiced bully: keep yelling and poking until you hit the right nerve, then stand back and act befuddled, telling your adoring audience, “See, you can’t even have a conversation with these guys!” But why fix what isn’t broken? If nothing else, I admire the man’s PR savvy. After “The View” confrontation, that evening’s broadcast of “The O’Reilly Factor” welcomed over four million viewers, easily trouncing the competition at CNN, MSNBC and Headline News.

Joy and Whoopi played right into O’Reilly’s hand and all parties earned a couple of days of front and center media coverage. This is a page from the Fox host’s established playbook. However, I don’t believe the talking head was egomaniacal enough to predict that lightning would strike twice for him in the cultural zeitgeist this month. O’Reilly was nothing more than a fortunate bystander in last week’s blow up between NPR and longtime political analyst Juan Williams, and yet one can be certain that the incident created another occasion for the Fox News star to do the happy dance.

By now anyone who hasn’t been hiding in an underground bunker (a tantalizing prospect before next week’s midterm elections to be sure), has heard the famous exchange between Williams and O’Reilly that led to the former’s axe from liberal media stalwart National Public Radio:

“I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot,” Williams said. “But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.” To the suggestion that an expression of these views might be a bit, un-PC shall we say, Williams went on to state: “Look, political correctness can lead to some kind of paralysis where you don’t address reality.”

NPR did not wait long to act. In a tersely worded statement, the media giant called Williams a “valuable contributor” but said that his comments “were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.” And there you have it, right?

Wrong. In a turn of events that it is now certain NPR never predicted, the conglomerate began to take hits from all sides of the political and ideological spectrum. The axis of most of these potshots rotates around a single question: in this age of corporate media domination, a time of 24-hour viral spin, is there room left for free speech? For one moment, professionals of all stripes have been able to put aside the partisan spin to take an overdue look at the journalistic profession, a sector that has begun to have the kind of approval ratings that make members of Congress appear positively loveable by comparison.

The behemoth “liberal media” banner has taken so many punches lately from so many silos, I sincerely hope the vocation has given consideration to investing in one of the “Cadillac” health care plans that President Obama discussed last summer. Predictably, Fox News chief Roger Ailes, who has since offered the sacked Williams a job at the conservative outlet, labeled the analyst “an honest man whose freedom of speech is protected by Fox News on a daily basis.” One can hardly blame the network for its carpe diem approach to casting itself as the last bastion of the First Amendment, irritating as it may be.

However, more surprising was the response from left leaning publications like The Washington Post, which labeled the NPR imbroglio, “Williams’ Shirley Sherrod moment.” This reference to the former Georgia State Director of Rural Development for the USDA, who was unceremoniously dumped by the Department after a manipulative video produced by conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart framed her as a racist, is pregnant with meaning.

While Juan Williams’ statements on “The O’Reilly Factor” may have been cringe worthy to a subset of the American audience, they were clearly offered as opinion, a reflection of the commentator’s own experience and internal struggles, rather than a journalistic conclusion. The point of the dialogue, which lovers of Western democracy claim they desire, was to facilitate a discussion about the visceral reactions associated with wearers of traditional Muslim garb onboard aircraft. While Williams’ comments may have been clumsily framed, they should not have been cause for dismissal. Was O’Reilly sacked for his blanketed, incendiary rhetoric on “The View?” Once we start firing people for sharing their fears openly, no matter how misinformed we might find them, we have entered a new era of McCarthyism.

And the association between NPR and intolerance may lead to expensive repercussions beyond the costs of image repair. As the Associated Press reports:

“In response to the firing, South Carolina Republican U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint planned to introduce legislation to end federal funding for NPR, his spokesman Wesley Denton said Thursday night. Denton said the senator would expand upon his proposal in a statement on Friday.”

In rejoinder to this bit of legislative opportunism, sometimes Republican lawmakers and full-time media whores Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee joined the braying chorus for NPR’s figurative head. Yes, the non-profit membership media organization acted hastily, and perhaps unfairly, in its handling of Juan Williams, but blatant cynicism on top of cynicism is clearly no solution at all.

There are, however, questions to answer. Many card carrying liberals are uncomfortable with the proximity of NPR’s recent intolerance of dissenting opinion to the “fair and balanced” right wing slant from which the media warhorse once sought to set itself apart.