Why America’s News Media Sucks — The “Nicolle Wallace” Exception

By all rights, a left wing loon like me should detest Nicolle Wallace from a thousand miles away. But I adore her. I adore her show, Deadline White House on MSNBC. If you aren’t watching it or listening to it, you’re missing one of the few bright spots in the American News Media firmament — I’m also a Maddow fan, a Lawrence fan, a Joy-Ann Reid fan, an Ali Velshi fan and mostly an Ari Melber fan).

A good news show should be redolent of its host. Bad news shows work the same way of course. Meet The Press Daily is dopey as hell regardless of whether or not Chuck Todd is actually hosting it. I won’t go off on Chuck here — this ain’t about him). Accordingly, Deadline White House seems to flow directly from host Nicolle Wallace’s id.

Before she scored her own show, Nicolle co-hosted a season of ABC talk show The View. Before that she was GWBush’s White House Communications Director then served as a senior advisor for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign — tasked with handling Sarah Palin. She appeared frequently on network and cable news programs as the campaign’s spokesperson and defender. Nicolle has solid Orange County Republican bona fides.

I used to have family down in Orange County. I used to feel — driving down to San Clemente to visit — like we were driving into a strange foreign country with distorted values. That’s how different Republican Orange County felt from Democratic LA. On paper, I should watch Nicolle’s show the way I watch, say Alex Witt or Chuck Todd — with teeth gritted (Alex because she’s so mediocre, Chuck because he’s such a “Both Sides Do It” douche nozzle).

In 2016, Nicolle quit the Republican Party as it went Trumpian. Either the leap spurred something in her or she was always a softer version of an Orange County Republican.

Watching her show these days, if you didn’t know Nicolle’s past — deep in the Republican core — you’d be shocked to learn about it. She sounds so much like… like me. Yes, I’ll own it — I like Nicolle Wallace & her show because I agree with them. But I agree with the politics on a lot of MSNBC’s shows. Strangely, I rarely feel as justified after watching those shows. After watching Deadline White House, I often feel even more justified in my left wing loonie position than when I started.

That’s because Nicolle’s bottom line is receipts. Ya gotta bring receipts. Nicolle’s view of the news and the news landscape is fact-based, not feeling-based. Years of watching her convince me that this matter-of-fact, limited melodrama, relentlessly honest worldview reflects who she is down to her toes. The discussions are almost always smart, informed, savvy, clear-eyed and fearless.

And when it comes to pillorying Donald Trump and every Trumpanista, no one delivers a clean kill the way Nicolle does. She shies away from playing too much Trump on her show. But, when she does and the camera returns to Nicolle’s face — wow.

Sometimes there’s a laugh. It’s so particular, that laugh. It’s the laugh of a woman who knows she’s just had a man bullshit her. It skewers all by itself. But throw in Nicolle’s laser-like eyes — she’s good on camera, too — and you’ve got something that crosses rock solid news analysis with poetry.

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Why Our Main Stream News Media Sucks – “Benefit Of The Doubt” Edition

Dear Stephanie Ruhl (sorry for using you as an example but you’ll thank me in the end):

I write this as a fan — someone who respects your talent and skill as a financial reporter. You know your stuff. But, when you turn from analyzing numbers (and what they could mean) to analyzing humans (and what they could mean), you lose your way. Take the subject of Donald Trump. You report on him every single day.

Every single day, Donald Trump does something that an American president should never do. He says something that a grown up should never say. He commits crimes, violates long-standing norms, openly betrays the country — hell, part of the running joke we’re all in on is the idea that Donald Trump does something bad, wrong or illegal every day. In a courtroom, this would be called “Preponderance Of Evidence”.

Think of it as a connect the dots picture like this one…

The preponderance of the available evidence says “It’s an elephant”. But, as the dots aren’t actually connected — and the elephant completely revealed — I guess one could think the picture could be something else but considering the preponderance of the evidence, you’d have to be a moron to go there. Seriously — a moron. It’s not a picture of anything else and was never going to be a picture of anything else. To ask “But, what if it’s a picture of a whale?” would be stupid. If we were to engage with you and your question, we’d have to point out how all the evidence points to the picture being an elephant.

Wasted time, wasted energy, wasted everything. That’s what happens when you give the benefit of the doubt to things that do not deserve any such benefit. And yet — every day, as you report on Donald Trump — you give him the benefit of the doubt. As if maybe he isn’t a racist… or a misogynist… or a corrupt criminal… or a traitor.

No, no, no, you surely think — “I’m just being objective”. Fair enough. Objectivity is essential to good journalism. Objectivity is perspective. But having perspective means you DON’T have to entertain things that your perspective deems unworthy. And having perspective means you KNOW there are plenty of things unworthy — of your time, your energy, your “but, what if…?” questions.

“But, what if…?” is not journalism. It’s you (or a journalist like you) being foolish and credulous. It’s you trading in your skepticism for a steno pad.

But, what if our country really isn’t facing an existential crisis because the president and his political party sold us out for money, power and permanent minority rule?

Connect the dots, damn it. Even simpler — Connect THE dot…

Why Our News Media Sucks — Steve Kornacki Edition

I consume a lot of news — not so much for the news as because the storyteller in me hates watching the story of all our lifetimes get fumbled so completely by America’s Main Stream News Media. As I’ve blogged here, American journalism is infected with a number of diseases, “Both Sides Do It-ism” being the most pernicious. We live inside a false narrative that Donald Trump is a legitimate POTUS because our MSM keeps that fallacy alive.

Our problem isn’t so much Donald Trump being an asset of Russian intelligence — which he absolutely is; it isn’t a question — our problem is that the whole Republican Party is also a Russian asset — being fully bought & paid for both with cash & secrets kept. And, our other problem — the Fourth Estate, charged with being the final check on power has failed us miserably whether through failure of imagination or utter lack of journalistic talent. Or, the other possibility — they never had an ounce of integrity to begin with.

Look — I’ve made TV shows & feature films. I’ve auditioned and hired hundreds of actors. Whenever I can, I like to read with actors myself (giving them more to work with than our casting directors might do). Reporters are no different from actors. They’re just actors who’ve learned how to share a microphone because how they “act” can impact how an interview turns out or how they report a story. Trust me — they’re actors reading from a script, most of them. Which brings us to Steve Kornacki…

I’m sure Steve’s a lovely guy to work with. He seems upbeat, like he’d be a fun hang. But that ain’t what we’re here to talk about.

Most of the time, Steve works the numbers. His co-workers always seem amazed by the fact that Steve has all these numbers at his fingertips but Steve’s not compiling those numbers, he’s just reporting them — then adding a gloss of “analysis”. Steve’s great at pointing at the numbers. They seem to excite him like nothing else. And he can bore in deep on just about any number in front of him. But for all Steve can tell us about a grain of sand, what is made of, he can’t tell you where that grain of sand is. He has no idea whether it sits on a desert island or in the middle of the Sahara Desert.

Like a lot of numbers guys, Steve has no perspective about the numbers beyond the numbers themselves. That stunning lack of perspective is what makes Steve Kornacki so ordinary. He’s like a lot of modern American journalists.

The problem is this — Why can’t (why won’t) the Steve Kornacki’s report the Trump Russia story faithfully? Why do they insist on normalizing behaviors that should never have been normalized under any circumstances? Our MSM acts like they’ve only just stumbled over Donald Trump’s racism. Um, no, folks — Trump’s been racist since he dropped from Mary Trump’s rancid womb.

What does it take for a person in America’s Main Stream News Media — Steve, for instance — to accept facts as facts? Why would a reporter — Steve, for instance — make statements that reveal either 1) he hasn’t read the full Mueller Report or 2) he read it but was too stupid to understand it and too much of a male to ask questions? I offer this video as proof.

Here, Steve mixes it up with the always excellent Zerlina Maxwell. Steve literally leans in — the nice guy gets offended at being contradicted even though Zerlina brings nothing but receipts. Steve leaps in to inisist that the Mueller Report exonerates Trump of collusion — though (if ya read), that’s not even remotely what it says. Zerlina points out — she’s not voicing an OPINION about Trump’s complicity in stealing an election, she’s talking facts, evidence & a raft of serious-as-a-heart-attack accusations.

What, Steve Kornacki, is so hard about doing your damned job?

Donald Trump Is The American Caligula… That’s Not A Good Thing

Not A Revelation: Donald Trump thinks he’s King… or, in German — “Kaiser” — the Germanification of the name “Caesar”.

But Donald Trump is such an incompetent, that he can’t even get being a “Caesar” right. He’s gone and modeled himself after another Roman emperor — Caligula.

We keep reaching for the words to describe our times — times that are increasingly indescribable. The word Michelle Goldberg used today is perfect (until the Trumpanistas surpass it): “Debauched”. We live in Debauched Times because the man occupying the White House is a modern, Adderall-huffing, bloated orange Caligula.

Donald Trump has destroyed every bit of common decency we ever associated with ourselves. While the real Caligula probably wasn’t anywhere near as insane as the Caligula in our imaginations (his enemies wrote the histories), the more we experience Donald Trump and his myriad debaucheries, the more we have to look at Caligula and ask “Okay, but what if he really was that bad?”

In addition to killing everyone he feared (including the men who put him in power), Caligula declared himself a god. He replaced the heads on the statues of gods all around Rome with his own head. Most famously, Caligula wanted to make his horse consul. Between and around all that, Caligula epitomized debauchery in every form. If it felt good to him, he did it.

Or, as Caligula himself put it: “Remember that I have the right to do anything to anybody.”

That sounds almost painfully like “I alone can fix it”.

Just as Caligula debauched (and debased) an already debaucheded Roman society, so too is Donald Trump taking our worst instincts and feeding them Trumpian steroids. We stand by, watching (disapproving — horrified even), but, in fact, doing nothing to stop it while the debauchery continues unabated. We have blown past moments of what should have been end-of-the-line absurdity — images that previously would have defined a presidency and ended it on the spot —

Instead, these images have become shards in a massive mosaic that, if you look at it one way, looks exactly like Donald Trump. But, if you turn your head and look at it slightly askew? You see the deeper problem within: Massive, systemic, foundational REPUBLICAN corruption.

This shouldn’t be a revelation (though it apparently is — and that’s horrifying): Our problem isn’t Donald Trump, it’s the whole damned Republican Party. It’s the 1% trying desperately to make minority rule (by them) a permanent fixture of American political and social life. They have already hijacked the judiciary (that would be Mitch McConnell denying Merrick Garland or any Obama judicial appointment a hearing then cramming every doctrinaire conservative shithead into the openings deliberately left behind). They’ve already used two stolen SCOTUS seats to make political gerrymandering a permanent fixture — thus putting the legislative branch in their clutches forever.

Democrats may win the overwhelming majority of the votes but gerrymandering dilutes those votes down to where a handful of Republicans can beat them. With the legislative branch permanently in their hands, the executive is easy — especially when concurrently you’ve been remaking the presidency as a side show Caesar-ship. Just not the right Casear…

Pervs Of A Feather Perv Together: The Goal Of A Sexual Predator Is Destruction Of His Prey — As A Person

I feel like we’re living the opening moments of David Lynch’s movie “Blue Velvet”. We open on a vision of American bliss circa 1955 (or so) — A dad out watering the grass outside his slice of suburbia. The dad clutches his chest suddenly and collapses. As he lies on the ground, helpless, we push in on the grass beneath him. And it’s there where we find what’s really going on in this scene — it’s busy. It’s violent. And there’s rot all around. A terrific metaphor.

As a culture, we’ve been dominated by dicks from the start. That’s dicks, Dicks and “dicks”.

We’ve also been dominated by those dicks’ dicks. And therein lies our problem — a problem on its way to being mitigated by the flood of women seeking and acquiring political power. Their emergence as a viable, independent (multi-faceted) voting block has already changed America’s political landscape profoundly. While no one was looking, the emergence of America’s women as a force has already been acknowledged by America’s smarter boardrooms.

For all their right wing nuttery, The 21st Century Fox board of directors made it clear how clear they were that the 21st century world was different than the 20th century one when they fired Bill O’Reilly — their cash cow. Women had turned on O’Reilly. They were turning away from the brands that advertised on O’Reilly’s “The O’Reilly Factor”. Women had already become the chief decision-makers in most American households. Lose America’s women, you’re as good as done.

Most of the companies that advertised on O’Reilly’s show saw the handwriting. It was female — and it wasn’t coming back ever. Fox’s problem — women were on the verge of abandoning them completely. They tossed Bill O’Reilly overboard. O’Reilly, don’t forget, was/is a sexual predator who thought the workplace was a snack bar for his sexual peccadilloes.

If sexual predation was a mostly “black problem” — from the white point of view — we’d have fixed this already (racism would trump everything else). But, in our culture, sexual predation is a kind of male privilege. The more money a male has, the more predation he’s entitled to (apparently). The really, really rich predators? They can, per Donald Trump, pussy-grab at will.

Donald Trump and Jeffrey Epstein are “pervs of a feather”. That similar taste for “women on the younger side” (actually, we call them GIRLS because they are NOT YET women) should not be news to anyone — especially if they work in our less-than-observant main stream news media. A simple Google of Trump & “perversion” will score you millions of results and shitloads of irony.

While none of the women who’ve already come forward to tell their stories of being raped or assaulted or abused by Jeffrey Epstein and his friends have said “He took my humanity”, that is what each of their stories shouts. E. Jean Carroll’s brave confession in New York Magazine articulated that experience in detail, bringing us into the Bergdorf-Goodman dressing room right alongside her as Donald Trump literally raped her. To deny someone’s request to stop is to deny them. If the “no” in question is their personal space — or the plane of their body being violated — that is a denial of their personhood. The rapist — in this case Donald Trump — has placed his desire to put his penis where he wants — over the desires of his penis’ target. Donald Trump’s penis was more important to Donald Trump in that moment. Like every rapist’s penis, Trump’s mushroom dick had been weaponized.

Rape — like all sexual assault — is not sex. It’s violence. It’s assault and battery of both body and (here’s the important part) “soul”. As a survivor of a sexual assault when I was 14 (a thing I kept “secret” from myself for 45 years — it was a secret only in that I had failed to acknowledge what I k new for a fact had happened), I’ve got skin in this game. The man who sexually assaulted me did not see me as a “fellow human”. Though he never penetrated me, he saw me as nothing but a sperm receptacle. Under better circumstances (from his point of view), that is exactly what I would have become.

I guess I got lucky on that one.

But the man who assaulted me did leave a mark — a permanent one — on my psyche. He put me on an island alongside him — just me, him & our secret. If you didn’t know my secret, you didn’t really know me. And no one (not even me) was getting in on that secret. Nothing good can come of that. My secret nearly killed me. For real.

That — destruction — is the ultimate goal of a sexual predator. The moment I became healthy enough to confront what happened to me, I became a threat to mine. 45 years unfortunately was too long to do anything about it; my predator was already dead. But, had I found the strength to confront my truth and tell my story sooner — you see where I’m going. It’s better for the rapist that the evidence of his rape vanish. As rapists know though — a person doesn’t have to physically “vanish”. If you can vanish their personhood — it’s just as good.

We’ve got a front row seat now to how it all works. Trump has continued to deny that his rape victims were even good enough for him to stick his dick into. I don’t know about you, but saying “I save my rape for attractive women” makes it a thousand times worse. Never mind the fact that it’s bullshit. A college roommate’s dad once said of his son — a good friend of mine — that he’d “stick his dick in a snake”. Yeah — 99% of men at some point in their sexual life would have done that because our penises hold that much sway over us.

Every man has at least thought (even if still clothed) “Please — touch it” while sitting with or standing with an object of their desire. What they did or didn’t do to get their junk touched — that’s what separates the men from the boys from the pervs. A man looking for a sexual partner — as in someone with whom to experience sex WITH (as opposed to imposing sex upon) will always be adrift on a sea of doubt and uncertainty. Sometimes it’s hard to read another person’s messaging — especially when its ambivalent. The strict Rule Of Thumb has to be in the absence of a full-on, unequivocal “yes, I want to do this with you”, the answer is “no”.

Our peckers need to hear that “no” loud and clear.

Dear America: You Can Have Baby Talk Or You Can Have Truth; You Cannot Have Both

Donald Trump being president (footnote – illegitimate president) has put America’s Main Stream News Media in a pickle. How do you report the Truth when the Truth speaks dirty words?

I could almost get nostalgic for the days when each TV Talking Head had to decide how they were going to handle “pussy-grabbing”. The thought of saying those words — yes, it’s absurd that we’re even having the conversation — it’s uncomfortable because every bit of this is so many light years beyond normal’s zip code. Trump’s presidency has relentlessly assaulted truth, our sensibilities — the language even. Maybe the language especially.

We all know that, backstage, political people talk just like everyone else — except worse. We pretend in public life that they do nothing of the kind. If they did talk dirty backstage and cut secret deals, it’d mean they were all liars. As if we didn’t know already. That’s another environment where we willingly accept the baby talk version vs the adult version. That can’t possibly end well for us.

Confession: I’ve always had a taste for darkness. I love Diane Arbus photos. Weegee. When I was 16, I worked as an orderly during the summer at one of the hospitals where my surgeon father had privileges. My best friend Danny and I (his dad was an orthopedic surgeon and Danny likewise orderlied) liked to play a game. We’d swing by the pathology lab where one of us would open a specimen jar or silver tray filled with diseased organs or other excised body parts — and the other had to guess “What Is It?”

Danny won the whole summer when he opened a large tray filled with… lots of yellow fat, a shrivel of skin to one side and — I gave up, having no idea “what is it”. Danny pointed to something floating in the muck — it was where the nipple had sloughed off from the rest of the breast. So — two 16 year old breast-obsessed boys gaped in awe, disgust and amazement at a female breast seen, kinda, from the inside.

Maybe that cold, hard slap of reality did something to me. What I saw didn’t turn me off, but it definitely informed me. You could call breasts anything you wanted after that — to me, it was the contents of that silver tray — flesh and everything beneath it.

We’re not talking here about excessive use of certain words (because I accept advertising on my pages, I moderate my language here with the understanding that my blog’s title already limits me with some advertisers — irony, she is cruel, no?) We’re talking about something more fundamental: how people react to those words. And why.

If I said “Quick — put the image of a bowel movement into your head”, you would picture a turd. Now, just as quick — what’s that thing called? Regardless of what you call it, the object doesn’t change. It’s still the same image, the same object. If I went on American television, I could — on, say, a news show on CNN or MSNBC — call that object a bowel movement. I could call it a turd or “poop” even. I can use that baby talk word. I could string it together endlessly if I wanted to — “Poop-poop-poop-poop-poop-poop-POOP!” But — up until very recently — if I called it “shit”, I’d be thrown off the air possibly even for good.

Donald Trump has challenged our news media in a million different ways. To our collective detriment, they’ve only just started rising to the challenge. We have a president whose obscenity only begins with the words he uses while conducting the Peoples’ business. It’s absurd to worry if repeating the word “bullshit” will get you suspended, fired or worse while we, as a nation, hold brown-skinned children in concentration camps.

Our problem with “curse words” is a symptom of a tragic disease. We worry about blemishes when there’s rot underneath. Our worrying about the wrong thing — that’s the disease.

It reminds me of one night when I was in high school. Mid-70’s. There were three networks — ABC, CBS & NBC. On CBS, they were running the last night of a blockbuster TV event, the climax of Helter Skelter, the dramatization of the Manson Family murders and prosecution. NBC counter-programed a movie premier (back then, it was “an event” when big feature films premiered on television — which meant premiering on network TV): the movie version of Kurt Vonnegut’s anti-war masterpiece “Slaughterhouse Five”.

Being a kid, the Manson Family story was a dark blur. I didn’t know much about it — so didn’t watch the first two nights. Being a huge Kurt Vonnegut fan, I tuned in to watch “Slaughterhouse Five”. The book’s hero — Billy Pilgrim — is unstuck in time and floats freely between all the moments in his life — from birth to death (he’s murdered). Also included in these life moments — the time Billy spent while a specimen in a human zoo on the planet Tralfamadore. Billy shared an enclosure there with adult film star Montana Wildhack and together they have a baby.

Ya with me still? There are two important moments toward the end of the book. At the story’s climax, the Allies firebomb Dresden, Germany — a beautiful cathedral city with no strategic importance. At the ending, Billy watches a war movie where the firebombing happens in reverse — the fires go out as the bombs retreat back up into the bombers that dropped them.

Then Billy finds himself back on Tralfamadore — where he watches Montana Wildhack breastfeed their baby.

So — on Channel 2 (back then in Baltimore), CBS depicted the climactic scenes of the Manson Family’s evil. Being TV — American TV — in the 70’s, the murder and mayhem were handled tastefully. The point wasn’t titillation, it was truthful storytelling. It was still disturbing.

Meanwhile, on channel 4 (NBC back then in Baltimore), where hope for the future enters the story — the American audience never got to see Montana Wildhack breastfeed a baby because the censors at NBC cut it from the movie. Because breastfeeding a baby is obscene (cos it involves a naked breast).

I was probably 17 at the time but it made a real impression on me. I’m writing about it 40+ years later. NBC baby talked its audience that day.

It’s a very real relief to hear actual journalists use the words Donald Trump uses when they report on Trump. It makes it that much more jarring when a colleague resorts to baby talk instead of treating their audience like adults.

I’d like to make a deal with our Main Stream News Media. You treat us like the adults we are and we’ll treat you like journalists. Deal?

Want To Know What “The Precipice” Looks Like For American Democracy? We’re There… How’s The View?

The Supreme Court just refused to rule on political gerrymandering — EVER — in essence legalizing minority rule in America. Meanwhile — stunning tragedy occurs daily on our Southern border — by design. And also meanwhile, a Russian intelligence asset occupies the White House while his whole political party stands by — because they, too, are, it turns out, Russian intelligence assets.

Some of us have been screaming about the death of American Democracy for so long now, we’ve merged into the background noise. Even those of us who saw Trump’s craven criminality, his duplicity, his deceptions — and even his outright treachery — from the beginning are shocked by how much worse TrumpWorld has been.

Let’s nail that down — TrumpWorld has been exponentially worse than even the worst worst case scenario.

The thing we didn’t count on — the lurking iceberg, it turns out — hasn’t been Donald Trump’s treasonous relationship with Russia, it’s been the Republican Party’s deeply cynical play — to USE Trump’s relationship with Russia (and their own) as a means to force permanent minority rule down the country’s unwilling throat. Republicans can’t ever seem to get the “rapiness” out of their system.

We live inside a false narrative — that Donald Trump won an election. He didn’t. If anyone won in 2016, it was Russia. Take Russia completely out of the Trump equation and Trump doesn’t even survive the primary process. Betcha there’s evidence aplenty that Russian efforts and active measures also were employed against Trump’s republican foes. Russia owns us. Not entirely. Saudi Arabia also owns a piece of us now. As does the UAE… and Israel.

Our values, our institutions, our norms — lots of it is gone already. We’ve normalized lying and deception and fraud. A flagrantly criminal administration openly obstructs investigations into its own flagrant criminality — while the MSM watches, muttering to itself that it can’t be witnessing a crime — cause crimes don’t get witnessed.

So — the SCOTUS won’t stand up for American Democracy. The Republican Party certainly won’t do it (it’s counter-intuitive for them). And the Main Stream News Media won’t or can’t do it because they’re too addicted to “both sides do it” journalism, false narrative manufacturing and navel gazing to meet their Constitutional responsibility as the final check on power. The Democratic Party wants to do the right thing but has a historical tendency to dither.

That leaves US, fellow Americans. The survival of the greatest experiment in human self-government will fall to US. Here’s the joke. The overwhelming majority of us WANT this experiment to continue. We want it to be better. We want it to serve waaaaaaaay more people — both Americans and people who want to be Americans. And we want the experiment to reach, benefit, and draw in every American and every person who comes to America, seeking their fortune and future.

No one else can make that happen except us. The more of us that show up in 2020, the better our chances of continuing the experiment. That doesn’t mean chase white men around, begging for their vote. It means chasing the 50% who don’t vote — but need to.

That’s the challenge facing us. There IS a way out of this. It won’t be easy, won’t be fun, won’t be clean, won’t be without lots of bloodletting. But, we have no choice.

The alternative is republicanism, authoritarianism and — say it with me — “permanent minority rule”.

The majority needs to put their foot down hard.