The problem with media balance

The GOP’s war on the media has gone into overdrive. And it’s working. Fewer people trust the media, and the media has to pretend to present both “sides” to deflect the criticism.

A perfect example popped up today. The “liberal” media gave us this doozy: “Did Clinton and Trump Both Collude with Russia?” This is the top story right now on USAToday. And, of course, it is a completely fair question…at least if you think hiring a private investigator to see if your opponent colluded with Russia is equivalent to colluding with Russia. It’s very confusing you know. They both say Russia in the accusation.

For every example of liberal media bias, I guarantee I can find a similar reaction to liberal media intentionally giving air time to objectively invalid conservatives viewpoints in the name of balance.

But of course, this goes beyond the president’s open disdain for the first amendment. And it certainly didn’t start with the president. The real goal of the GOP is to destroy any source that could credibly contradict their lies. Think of an objective body and I bet they’ve tried to discredit them. Scientists, universities and educators, journalists, the Congressional Budget Office…pretty much anyone that doesn’t parrot them is going to get attacked.

Retired Gen. Michael Hayden, who directed both the CIA and the NSA, describes Trump’s strategy this way in an interview: “A systematic effort to invalidate and delegitimize all the institutions, governmental and nongovernmental, that create the factual basis for action . . . so they won’t push back against arbitrary moves.”

The right wing echo chamber has created such a truth averse universe, it’s as if it’s the equivalent of matter to antimatter. The antitruth media. After the White Supremacist march in Charlottesville, Alabama conservatives blamed…wait, I’ll give you three guesses: Barack Obama, Donald Trump, or the KKK. If you guess Obama you get the free vacation and the matching set of leatherette luggage!!!

For Pete’s sake, the far right is currently in a tizzy because they are absolutely convinced that antifa is going to start a civil war tomorrow starting with beheading random white people. I cannot make this shit up. And the real kicker: it’s being propagated by at least 2 media sources that Trump just gave White House press passes to.

What hope do we have when people openly accept obvious lies as facts? What can be done when people know their news is not honest but don’t care? Surely nobody thinks Fox News is ACTUALLY fair and balanced. Hell, they even dropped the joke from their tagline.

Until we can have an honest debate in this country using a shared reality of the facts of the situation, or at least some overlapping facts, we are not getting out of this situation. But I’m not sure where that change comes from, because people have to want the truth rather than seeking out what makes them feel good.

Yosemite Sam for Senate

Because really, how much lower can the GOP go? At one point, ridiculous candidates for office were limited to local government, and around the time the Tea Party rose, a handful got into the House of Representatives. But not you’ve got people like Roy Moore almost a sure thing to win. They guy is not just an ultra-conservative. He’s an idiot. How do you get to be a state Supreme Court justice when you’re an idiot? And what’s worse, he’s corrupt. He took 1/3 of the donations from his “charity” to the tune of a million dollars over 5 years. Even when they had to mortgage the charity’s headquarters to pay him! And he’ll still almost certainly be elected in Alabama.

kid-rock

I get that in a really conservative district, the man with the most conservatives credentials will appeal to primary voters. But at what point do conservatives decide that they have limits? For Pete’s sake, Kid Rock is considering a run for Senate in Michigan! Kid Fucking Rock! Who’s next, ummm…hold on….trying to think of someone more ridiculous than Kid Rock. Hmmm. Alice Cooper! No wait, Kid Rock has the sex tape and is likely still an alcoholic and told the press the go fuck themselves recently. So, maybe outside music? Paul LePage! No wait, that doesn’t work, he’s already a state governor. I give up.

Here’s a tip for the GOP. When professional comedians struggle to create satire of your politicians because they can’t think of anything more ridiculous than the people in office, you might start to rethink the viability of your views.

A firecracker in a dumpster fire

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Teflon Don has decided to test his ability to deflect trouble again, this time with Puerto Rico. On the surface of it, he said some things that would all but sink another presidency. He suggested the hurricane there was not a “real catastrophe”, engaged in passive aggressive politics with a local mayor, and called out how much helping the island was hitting the budget.

Just mind bogglingly bad. Although, the idea of Trump as a grief counselor would be comedy gold. “I’m so sorry for your loss. He was yuge. I mean literally, the guy couldn’t stop eating, it was disgusting. But he paid for it in the end. Peace be with you. I gotta go over here and serve some punch now. Have a good time.”

And while that is genuinely bad, it’s only a firecracker in the dumpster fire of his presidency, so it barely gets a days news attention. But the part that sticks in my craw, the part that I don’t understand why none of his supporters seem to mind, is that he’s so transparently shallow. All he cares about is whether the press portrays him as doing a good job on the emergency. He doesn’t actually care about the people. Just the perception.

And it’s so obvious to anyone who hasn’t put their blinders on to support him. The right loves to circle the wagons when people criticize their own from outside their ranks. You would think eventually they would realize they’re defending a caricature of a rich asshole, but I’m not sure when, or even if, that will ever hit.

The “miracle” in Vegas

It’s funny how conservatives didn’t mind when Trump wanted to politicize the London bridge attack by advocating a muslim ban, but sensible gun control proposals are politicizing the Las Vegas shooting tragedy.

What they really mean is “let the pressure from this blow over” and we’ll forget about it.

The NRA, meanwhile, is pulling TV advertising for a week. What does it say about your message if you don’t feel quite as proud about it after 600 people get shot? How does this group have so much power? Oh, I know, because heavily gerrymandered districts mean most republicans threat comes from the right, not the center.

The president tried to distract from any action by calling the police response to the shooting a “miracle.” Say WHAT?

According to the timeline, the shooting started at 10:08. The police were outside the shooter’s door at 10:24. They didn’t enter the room until 11:20 when the SWAT team arrived.

Nearly 600 people got shot. Almost 60 dead so far. How many of those got shot between when the police arrived and when they went in? Can you imagine being in the crowd and wondering how long it would take police to stop the shooting?

Now, I’m not going to sit in my armchair and say that whatever officer was by the door should have charged the room, safety be damned. But I’m also not going to give a knee jerk “police are heroes” response as if they were firefighters running into a burning building when it a shooter was free to reign bullets on the Vegas strip for over an hour with nobody trying to stop him.

But calling the police heroes and saying now is the time to support them and pray for the victims rather than “politicize” the tragedy is what allows them to deflect taking action. They say we need to understand why the shooter acted. Was it mental illness (as if they have done a thing about that to date) or radicalism or something else. All of that misses the point. Every shooting will have different reasons, but many have one thing in common.

The REAL issue here is assault weapons. Only an assault weapon could possibly cause this much carnage. Trump tweeted after the London attacks how we weren’t talking about gun control because it was carried out with a car an knives. But 8 people died in that attack carried out by 3 people. A tragedy, but on a different scale. And 5 of them by knife. So 3x the terrorists and a fraction of the casualties. An assault rifle equipped with a legal modification to make it fully automatic dealt death on a grand scale.

I get that gun control opponents worry about a slipper slope. But most don’t complain that we don’t allow other military weapons in civilian hands like rocket launchers and tanks and 50mm anti-aircraft gatling guns shooting depleted uranium. They don’t mind drawing the line somewhere, but it seems fairly arbitrary to allow such a powerful weapon designed to kill humans on a mass scale on the side of legality.

Republicans are starting to meet reality

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Back in 2008, I thought the modern republican party was dead. They had gone as far right as they could possibly go and remain a mainstream viable party. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Good times, good time. I was so naive then.

See, what I didn’t realize is that they could go further to the right with a brand new political technique called unabashed lying. Sure, lying in politics far predates our founding fathers, but nobody had actually made it an official platform before. And worse, the American people have lapped it up.

Of course, it’s easy to yell insults from the cheap seats, and I think the GOP was genuinely surprised when it won in 2016 and realized, “oh crap, we actually have to make these lies into policy.”

The koolaid drinkers in the Freedom Caucus of course see no hypocrisy. They can’t understand why not everyone wants to give billionaires a tax cut and sell it as job creation. But the cooler heads in the leadership and Senate actually have to deal with the reality of their policies.

And so it is not without a small amount of curiosity that I look toward what republicans will actually do with power. I often wondered if the best way to defeat the republican lies is just by letting them have the keys and letting the country watch them wreck the car. Short term pain, long term gain? Or would they actually govern responsibly. They’ve backed themselves into an awful corner with their rhetoric.

And with only a short time left to pass legislation on a simple majority vote, the pressure is on to deliver SOMETHING.

And now we’re starting to see how they might confront reality, and so far it is taking 3 forms.

  1. Fuck you
  2. LALALALALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU BLAM!!!!
  3. The Apple method

1) The Fuck You method, is basically what’s happening on regulation and the environment. They’re trying to get as much of this out of the way as early as possible to put distance between these indefensible votes and the midterm elections. Votes like allowing oil companies to drill under your land without permission. Ok, I might have made that up, but you probably wouldn’t know without checking first.

2) LALALALALA BLAM!!! This is the current approach to healthcare. The objective is to move as fast as possible to avoid anyone accidentally running into any reality based arguments and just passing something plausibly “republican”. They’ll deal with the cleanup later. The justification on this appears to be something along the lines of “we just gave the states back control of their healthcare systems. If they screw it up, it’s their fault. I mean states rights.”

The problem is that the states don’t really have the same power to fund fixing their healthcare. How many medical device manufacturers would leave the state if they were to impose the Obamacare device tax? It’s not like North Dakota can tax a Boston biotech. But republicans know they have to pass SOMETHING on Obamacare and this has enough plausible deniability for the sure to come fallout that they can duck and cover.

3) The Apple Method. This is how Steve Jobs would stand up and get his audience to ooh and aaah and applaud and whistle over adding a feature that competitors have had for years. As an aside, I think it weakens the hype when Apple truly does something revolutionary, as it occasionally does, but I digress.

This appears to be a potential option for republicans on tax reform. See, you can’t cut taxes when taxes are already pretty low and expect revenues to rise. The Laffer Curve is a tried and true republican prop, but it’s also as laughable as when Bush tried to use it in 2001. What’s worse is that most of the GOP proposals would primarily benefit the rich and corporations. And if you didn’t notice the last election, voters are gettin KINDA touchy about the system being rigged.

So maybe they’ll just pass an innocent old middle class tax cut instead. They’ll get a feather in their cap, and only increase the deficit by 70 billion a year or so. That’s only another 15% or so on the current deficit, so maybe they’ll just stomach it and try to claim it will grow the economy.

What I’m really curious about is which of these 3 approaches they’ll do for the debt ceiling. I suppose, shock of all shocks, that they could choose a fourth option of “doing the right thing” but I’m not hopeful. I think it’s quite hilarious to see them control all 3 branches of government and then complain that they have to hold our credit and credibility hostage so they can cut spending. If you don’t want to borrow the money, don’t spend the money! But aside from that it’s, you know, economic suicide. I’m betting they go with door #3.

 

Hope for our country

One of the hardest things about Donald Trump’s election and subsequent tenure is my lost faith on my fellow Americans. To me, he seems like the worst president in history, and not by a small amount. He makes me long to bring back George W Bush. And yet, he retains a 40% approval rating. He was elected after offending nearly every group you could find at a fundraising fair, and behavior that would bet most people disqualified from serving as a local school teacher, much less POTUS.

But I at least held some faint hope that maybe he was just a slightly bigoted, hopelessly disconnected old grandpa who actually meant well. And then came Charlottesville. It’s hard to come away with any interpretation of those events that doesn’t lead to “our president is a full-on racist.”

Here’s what really interested me though. I worried about the role of racism in his election. What a tragic outcome for America if this is what got him elected. But it’s hard to discern how much was racism and how much was other stuff. So I kept a steady eye on those polls which rarely dropped below 38% in the Gallup tracking poll for more than a day or so. Would his numbers rise if people approved of this? Since Charlottesville, he’s been at 34 to 35% consistently, a drop of about 4-5% from his previous polling.

I gotta say, this gives me quite a bit of hope. It think it’s worth noting here that most Americans are not racist or even bigoted, and even fewer want to be. In 2011, well after the backlash to Obama, 96% of Americans say they have a positive opinion of Martin Luther King, and 69% are “highly favorable” opinion of him.

Even if you believe the GOP to be racist, what this shows is that racism is, at minimum, complicated. This cannot be a winning strategy for the GOP beyond the next couple of years. It makes me wonder what will happen to the current GOP. Will they bleed supporters? Will another party emerge? Will the non-racists in the party just vote for Trumpist republicans because they want other policies enacted like anti-abortion, anti-gay social policies or pro-tax, pro-business policies?

One thing seems for sure, the political parties we see today are unlikely to be the ones we see in a decade.

Southern Heritage

I am not southern. Let’s just put that out there. But then again, why not? I have as much claim to Southern Heritage as just about anyone outside of Birmingham Alabama. I was raised in Southern Missouri, which is closer to Arkansas than Nebraska in culture. My father’s side of the family is from Virginia and Mississippi and played a prominent role in my upbringing.

PROTESTERS SHOW CONFEDERATE AND US FLAGS AT PRO RENO RALLY.

So, why am I not southern? Well, I guess…because I choose not to be. The funny thing about how parts of the country are very liberal or conservatives is that it’s self fulfilling. I like San Francisco. And though I FEEL like a republican here sometimes, it’s more my political home than Missouri (even if Missouri will always be my home home).

So when southerners stand up and say what they stand for, I sometimes don’t feel like I get a say in that. But when southerners stand up and say that they need Confederate flags and statues to honor their southern heritage, well that’s every bit as much mine as theirs. And I reject that outright.

Donald Trump’s central argument in his ridiculous defense of the alt-right in Charlottesville seems to be that not all of the protesters were white supremacists and neo-nazis. Some were just people who love their southern heritage and don’t want to see these historical statues torn down. As if that somehow makes this innocent or innocuous.

Well, that’s poppycock. Maybe some of them DID march for that reason, but that’s not southern heritage. Those statues were erected during Jim Crow and the Civil Rights era to intimidate blacks. They are racist plain and simple. And even if I ignore that, the message is that the entire heritage of the south boils down to losing a war in which they were on the wrong side of history anyway. Surely there’s more to Southern Heritage than that.

As a quick aside, I’ve always found it funny how some of the most outwardly patriotic people will fly a confederate flag right alongside the stars and stripes that they fought a war to secede from. Even removing the racism, at worst it’s flying a flag of treason to the USA and at best it’s flying the flag of an enemy country. So which is it? Are you patriotic to the USA or the other country?

Anyway, I thought it would be a good idea to maybe give a quick primer on what is and isn’t southern heritage.

Yes: Biscuits and Gravy (remind me to make you Yankees some cause I guarantee you never had good ones in New York or California)

No: Celebrating traitors to our country

Yes: Southern Hospitality. At least when I lived there, most would take their worst enemy into their home and make them the finest meal of fried chicken and grits you ever had. And if you broke down on the side of the road? You’d have no problem finding help.

No: The Confederate Battle Flag.

Yes: Sweet Tea with Ice on a hot day. There’s nothing like sitting on the front porch on a warm summer evening with a glass of iced sweet tea. If you think a lot of this heritage has to do with food, that might be my Grandma’s fault. But they do make a contribution to the American food culture.

No: Carrying torches and white sheets. Ok, the truth is, racism is a part of the history (and the present) of the South. But that’s not something to be celebrated. Right thinking people want to move past that, even those that don’t aspire to the multi-racial utopia of the Bay Area.

This is not Southern culture, and it’s time for the South to let the rest of the nation know that they have a lot of things to be proud about that they can actually be proud of.