The Reason “Both Sides Do It” Is Bad Journalism

In the “Pantheon Of Wrongheaded Common Wisdom”, “Both Sides Do It” is king, queen and the rest of the demented Spanish Aristocracy. It takes a nubbin of “maybe” and makes it incontrovertible fact. Bad behavior does not belong to any political party. Yes, both sides are physically capable of doing things they shouldn’t and then lying about them to keep from being revealed. Historically, both sides have “done those things”. But (and here’s where “both sides do it” hits a wall and loses), if we put it all on a scale and measured the two piles of awfulness against each other? As with right here, right now, Republican-brand awfulness is exponentially worse for America than Democratic-brand awfulness in large part BECAUSE THERE’S SO MUCH MORE OF IT!

Proportion and perspective are two things “Both Sides Do It” journalism jettisons from the get-go. It says a thief is a thief is a thief — regardless of whether it’s Bernie Madoff stealing billions because he’s a greedy pig or Jean Valjean stealing bread to feed hungry people. “Both sides ‘do it’.” See what I mean? Though theoretically correct, it is absolutely wrong in its framing because it equates two things that shouldn’t be equated.

I’ve worked as a journalist. I’ve been held to journalistic standards. In the absence of hard evidence, one must be skeptical. That’s SKEPTICAL as opposed to CYNICAL. There is a difference.

If your starting point for every story is “both sides do it”, you’re not being skeptical about human beings, you’re being cynical; you’re assuming the very worst for no reason other than you’re assuming it. Authoritarians want the population they control to be deeply cynical — making authoritarianism the only means to control all that irredeemable, inevitable bad behavior. When the press equates an act of extreme corruption with Joe Citizen claiming a few deductions he’s not entitled to — that puts a smile on a cynic’s face.

“See?” he’ll say, smiling, “Both sides do it!”

Take this to the bank, American news media: both sides DON’T do it and never have. You need to expunge “Both Sides Do It” from your way of thinking — from your brains entirely. That’s not a helpful suggestion, that’s a demand. Going forward, America needs “moral journalism”. I don’t mean phony “moralistic” journalism puked out by phony journalists who place themselves above the fray (though both sides “do it”, they apparently don’t), I mean journalists who bring perspective to work every day.

This is not an impossibility. MSNBC has multiple journalists hosting multiple shows that DON’T “Both Sides Do It” — Ali Velshi (an awesome journalist), Nicolle Wallace (fearless as hell!), Rachel Maddow (relentless and so articulate), Joy-Ann Reid (equally relentless). So, it IS possible for news networks to hire and keep journalists on their roster who DO bring perspective to work with them every day. But they also have Chuck Todd — the King of “Both Sides Do It”. They have other reporters like Stephanie Ruhl (who, though excellent when reporting on the financial world, gets lost in “Both Sides Do It” the instant she turns to reporting politics) — let’s call them “Both Sides Adjacent”. And they have Kelly O’Donnell — the QUEEN of “Both Sides Do It”.

“Both Sides Do It” refuses to take sides — even when there are no sides to take other than “pro-democracy” and “pro-athoritarianism” and the pro-authoritarian side accuses the news media of being fake. To accept that statement because you dare not get involved is to validate bullshit — even if that’s not the intent. THAT’S the biggest, baddest ripple effect rolling off of “Both Sides Do It’s” cynicism — the validation of bullshit.

Want to know why America felt so ripped apart at the end of the Trump years? Because we were facing the terrible consequences every day of being told the lie — that both sides would take us to this same, awful place.

Want to know why this morning feels so wonderful — on top of the change in leadership coming less than two weeks from now? Because we now look forward to breathing air that doesn’t stink of bullshit. That doesn’t stink of “both sides doing it”.

The News Media’s Failure Of Imagination Is Killing Our Democracy

We live in a news world where a big slice of the news audience is better informed about what’s happening than the news people reporting the news. Maybe that’s because, unlike the news media, those of us in the cheap seats — untouched by the whorish need for access — can see all the players for who and what they are rather than what they can do for our careers. You’d think a crisis like this would force every person calling themselves “a journalist” to set aside the old rules of engagement. You’d think a man relentlessly lying to their faces for four plus years would eventually cause some sort of dynamic response. Aside from scratching their heads harder and longer? Most journalists have learned exactly nothing from their experience with Donald Trump.

Eventually, we’ll understand why most of our news media couldn’t aggregate the Donald Trump story which would have had them reporting on Trump as a stone cold criminal even before he was sworn in — just like Fusion GPS sorta kinda did. Fusion, the commercial research/political intelligence firm founded by former Wall Street Journal reporters Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch, was hired in 2016 by the publishers of Jeb Bush-backing Washington Free Beacon to do oppo research on Trump. As Glenn Simpson testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on August 27, 2017, before beginning their formal work, Fusion did its due diligence: they got their hands on every piece of publicly available material they could on Donald Trump. They got and read magazine pieces, newspaper articles, they listened to radio interviews, watched TV shows and movie appearances. They spent a fortune on Amazon, visited actual book stores and even went to the public library to find what they needed. What Fusion found there — in publicly available material that ANY reporter could find (had they the motivation) — convinced them so completely that Donald Trump was a money laundering criminal in league with the Russian mob that they went and hired an English company called Orbis because its owner used to work for the British MI6 and had the best contacts bar none inside Russia.

Fusion demonstrated imagination — and did something about it. So did Christ Steele. When HE looked inside Russia to answer Fusion’s questions, he was deeply troubled by the answers coming back. He was even more troubled when the American government failed to heed his red flag warning that Russian intelligence was coming at us, cyber war style and we were doing nothing to stop them.

Because HE had imagination — and could extrapolate not only what Russia was doing but what our non-response to it was doing consequently — Chris Steele did everything in his power to put his work product (raw intelligence!) into the right American hands that could process it correctly and react accordingly and do it now.

Failure of imagination has haunted the American press especially where the threat of right wing terrorism is concerned. How easily do American journalists prick up their ears every time a Republican shouts “socialism” compared to when a Republican behaves like an authoritarian shit? They’ll jump right into a discussion about single payer universal health care with “But, isn’t that socialism?” but never even think to question Republicans and the legality and morality of their actively engaging in voter suppression. That, too, is failure of imagination.

When our news media failed to remind its news audience every day of the 2020 campaign that, for the first time in American history, a president was running for re-election having been IMPEACHED for CHEATING in the very same election in which he was running, that was a failure of imagination. When they relentlessly wondered aloud why Trump so relentless sucked up to Vlad Putin — their inability to answer their own question was a failure of imagination. That the news media even now can say that what Trump is doing is treasonous — and yet still ask aloud “Will he run again in 2024” is proof that they are utterly incapable of imagining a functional and functioning Department of Justice.

You’d think the possibility of making one’s bones on the greatest story anyone will ever get to cover would inspire more journalists to journalistic greatness. But to see oneself winning a Peabody or a Pulitzer takes incredible imagination (if one really has a shot at one).

No wonder achieving that kind of journalistic greatness can only ever be a dream for them — requiring imagination. Some circles are just plain vicious.

Maybe Our News Media Shouldn’t Take Its Audience — US — For Granted…

Of all the things Team Biden must accomplish pronto on January 20, 2021, atop the list must be setting the Department Of Justice back onto a course of justice and away from its role as a mob boss POTUS’ consigliere. Had our news media not normalized a thousand terrible Trumpian behaviors as “different” rather than “objectionable” or “illegal”, we might not be facing a Constitutional crisis on January 6. Too much of our news media still aspires to be the next Judith Miller — the New York Times’ access whore who sold her sole out so that Dick Cheney might whisper lies into her ear. Even more take it on faith alone that “both sides do it” and will willingly tie themselves in knots to avoid asking white conservatives the same impertinent questions they automatically burp at progressives.

Our news media assumes we’re as stupid, vacuous and intellectually incurious as they are. Boy, are they wrong. The rise of citizen journalism has saved professional journalism from itself. Now, let’s understand — as it destroyed every other business it touched, the internet is destroying the business model for journalism. Has destroyed it already, in fact. The pandemic then came along and demonstrated how anyone with a Zoom account is now just as much a TV talking head as the most experienced TV talking head.

Hell, in my other incarnation — as The Faitheism Project — I do a podcast every week now just like every other podcaster out there. I may not be much competition right now for the big players, but we’re still competing nonetheless. The internet levels all playing fields — for better and worse. The news audience — and I consider myself just another piece of it — is far more sophisticated and savvy than it was in the days when all we had was ABC, CBS and NBC. We sit down in front of our monitors or TV sets more conversant in the visual medium, it turns out, than the people we’re watching and listening to.

TV news media truly don’t understand the language of the medium they’re working in. Example — back when it was still kosher to put climate deniers on the air, the TV news networks would, as a matter of course, put climate scientist and climate denier into a “50-50” shot that splits the screen right down the middle. That’s great. It appears incredibly fair. And it IS being fair — to bullshit. It’s being incredibly unfair to the Truth however.

The problem is the climate scientist has mountains of hard data to back up what he’s saying. The climate denier has stuff he pulled (almost literally) from his ass. They are NOT the same thing. Yet there they both are, being presented in what’s called a “50-50” shot. Fifty percent of the screen to science and fifty percent of the screen to bullshit. See the problem? A truer, more accurate representation would give more like 99% of the screen to the climate scientist and maybe one percent to the climate denier. And the climate denier would be somewhere in the corner of a frame, virtually impossible to see.

A lot of us live in a constant state of war with the press — not on the press itself but on its utter failure of imagination and it’s stone cold refusal to see or acknowledge that failure of imagination. In fact, most of the press does not see itself as culpable in any way. They arrogantly hold themselves “above the fray”, never taking sides even when taking sides is demanded. One only worries about being seen to take sides if one hasn’t the courage of one’s convictions (or, more likely, no convictions to begin with).

I’m not alone in watching cable TV news not so much for the news as for the constant assurance that we’re just as screwed up today as we were yesterday — maybe a bit more screwed up in fact. Donald Trump has turned most of America into the world of Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil”. That’s not a good thing. Logic is that world’s kryptonite. If America’s journalists weren’t trying to convince themselves that Democrats and Republicans are all really the same person (which we absolutely are NOT!), they’d be banging away at some other story already.

America’s J-schools all need to take a break from producing journalists. They need to sit back and truly see what they’ve done to the rest of us: a party that feels compelled to explain everything and a party compelled to explain nothing. After a certain point, the trains will become physically incapable of being on time.

A few years back, the 21st Century Fox board of directors chose to end their relationship with Bill O’Reilly at a time when O’Reilly was their biggest draw, their cowiest cash cow. And yet — the 21st Century board of directors understood and agreed that O’Reilly had zero future at Fox News. The reason? Fox News’ advertisers were signaling from afar. The big advertisers were the first to grasp that, as women were more and more becoming the buying-decision decision makers in American households, it no longer behooved the big advertisers to ignore them. If America’s women — out of disgust — were likely to vote with their pocketbooks, then how and why they voted was going to become vitally important.

Fox News cannot survive without big companies advertising on it. Money drives every decision they make. Never mind what anyone on Fox ever says. Watch what they do. Their actions speak every dirty secret their words refuse to betray.

Of Bond Villains And Presidents

Some of us used to joke how much Donald Trump was like having a Bond Villain as president. Been a while since that was funny. That’s the problem with irony: it can cut like a knife. One of the reasons our news media cannot wrap its head around Trump — to this very day — is because they lack the imagination to “see” Trump. Because they’ve convinced themselves that “both sides do it”, they’ve already got it in their heads that if Trump hadn’t done it first, some Democrat would have done it anyway. So, whatever Trump is doing — it’s not “corrupt”, it’s not a “crime”, it’s not even “treason”. It’s “the new new normal” because this (apparently) is what “both sides do”.

No, it is not.

Ronald Reagan was the first “movie star president”, but he wasn’t the first POTUS to use “movie star thinking” to win a presidency. Jacqueline Kennedy may have associated JFK’s 1,000 days as POTUS with “Camelot” after he was assassinated, but the idea stuck: a story about our present fit snugly with a story about a mythological past that never was. The Kennedy White House had all the same sparkle as Hollywood. Why, Hollywood stars like Marilyn Monroe even famously sang “Happy Birthday” to him. Americans like that. A lot. We especially like it when you do things positive with that star power. Or convince us that you are even if you’re not.

Back to Reagan. He understood the seductive qualities of smoke plus mirror. Stories can be as real as reality if you want them to be. Style over substance is not a new idea. Trickle down economics, coming from Reagan, was like the last little bit of a movie star’s gold-plated essence seeping into ordinary Americans’ grey, humdrum lives. It doesn’t seem like Reagan was anywhere near as cynical as the rest of his party. He may really have seen America as some “shining city on a hill”. Problem was (and remains) — the shining city in Reagan’s mind was all painted on a backdrop.

Ronald Reagan wasn’t the first person to get confused by Hollywood into thinking his version of America was “America”. In the terrific “An Empire Of Their Own: How The Jews Invented Hollywood”, Neal Gabler theorizes that our whole notion of “America” is, in large part, a fiction invented by Jewish movie studio owners (with plenty of Jewish writers and directors, actors and other technicians assisting) to, in essence, give them something into which to synthesize. Having spent almost two thousand years as “outsiders”, Jews suddenly had a chance, Gabler thinks (and, personally, I like his thinking), to invent a world that might more willingly accept them.

Having spent a career in the “making shit up” business, I’m keenly aware of the media’s power to invent not just worlds that don’t exist but ideas that, without the smoke and mirrors, couldn’t hold water. Time travel, for instance. A lot of “why” people think it’s possible is because stories have said it is. Those stories weren’t based on any sort of physics. They were based on “hey, wouldn’t it be cool if…!”.

Trump is even more of an invention than Reagan was. Trump’s dad — Fred — knew his son was a “lox” as a negotiator. And anyway, making deals you never intend to honor is not actually “negotiating”. If Mark Burnett never imagined “The Apprentice” then none of Vladimir Putin’s investment in Trump would ever have paid off. But, Putin understands how propaganda works. He knows how to use it: destroy our common idea of “reality” then use the ensuing chaos to invent a “new reality”. Like, say, one where Donald Trump isn’t corrupt or a traitor.

Bond villains aren’t supposed to make you think. Even if they have some theoretically correct point of view — humans need to be stopped from destroying the planet — Bond Villains always go about it too heavy-handedly. I always wonder as I watch Bond movies, who’s cash flowing this guy? Who’s paying for the high tech set up and the gadgets and the rocketry and the people! Think of the payroll a guy like Blofeld has to maintain. Some of those people are super qualified, too. They don’t come cheaply. And is there any sort of profit-sharing involved? What kind of benefits does a Blofeld offer people he hopes will willing break the law with and for him? How do people who work for Blofeld report their income?

I know — it’s stupid to worry about things like this — he’s just a Bond Villain FFS! But then, I’m a John Le Carre fan, not an Ian Fleming fan. Oh, sure — in my youth, Bond was great fun (but then, Sean Connery was the Bond of my youth and movies like “From Russia With Love” remain the canon’s gold standard because they keep Bond’s world more real than surreal. I wonder if “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” suffered from an emotional Bond at the ending (he openly cries when his lover is shot dead — by Blofeld) or a more or less lackluster Bond (George Lazenby) trying to fill in for the recently departed-from-the-franchise Connery.

Le Carre (one of 2020’s cruel losses) based his Circus on the very real British spy agency he worked for. His spies weren’t about adventure or busting super villains, they were about betrayal — personal and tribal. The (usually) unspoken mantra underlying most of Le Carre’s work: “Love is the thing you can still betray”.

Though personally incapable of love, Donald Trump is much more a Le Carre villain than a Bond Villain. Trump’s villainy is pure betrayal. Not of love, but of everything else — everything everyone else loves. We know who his backers are. Even his political party knows who Trump’s backers are — the backers who aren’t them, I mean. The backer who holds them all in their thrall. The backer who’s been running this show since Trump was declared the “winner” in 2016: Russia.

No writer sitting down to write this, what we’ve been living, as a Bond movie could get away with it. It’s relentlessly over the top for starters. Who the hell acts like this — outside of a Bond movie — and not one of the good ones? Turns out, Donald Trump does. His whole party does.

In the Bond movies, the villain either dies spectacularly or gets away to fight another day. Soon enough, another cash flowed Super Villain will step up to fill the vacuum (having apparently fooled his investors into believing he could do what all the other supervillains couldn’t — deliver a return on their investment). We never get to see actual justice delivered — the kind that would flow from We The People. Bond movies don’t seem to exist inside the same democracy we do. Or did…

That’s what’s on our plate: how do we deal with the Bond Villain in front of us? He may not be a very good Bond Villain, but he’s ours. In fact, Trump’s such a crap Bond Villain that he doesn’t even qualify. He’s more a small screen TV villain punching above his weight — getting away with it — but only until now.

Come January 20, 2021, we will begin to write Trump the ending he deserves. We will challenge every single pardon he’s issued because we must. Trump’s whole presidency is based on treason — take Putin out of the 2016 equation and Trump never gets through the primaries. Just like traitors can’t legally become president, whatever they do WHILE president — that also doesn’t count as “legal”. How could it?

By obstructing justice, Trump and the GOP have tried to keep the rest of America from learning what the REAL story of the last four plus years has been. That obstruction is about to hit a wall. A rejuvenated Department of Justice dedicated to Justice (rather than to being a mob boss president’s consigliere), asking hard questions under oath — restarting every investigation Bill Barr or Rod Rosenstein stopped (especially the counter-intelligence investigations into Trump’s relationships with Russia) — will change the landscape significantly — just by asking hard questions under oath.

Anyway — Trump was never the real Bond Villain at the heart of this story that Mitch McConnell. Mitch after all is the link to the answer to my questions — who pays for these Bond Villains and all their toys? Turns out? Our villains are so bad — and so real? They put Bond villains to shame.

There Can Be No “Forgive And Forget” Until The Entire GOP Owns What They’ve Done

Dear American News Media: I sure hope you’ve noticed that BOTH SIDES are not trying to completely destroy our entire democratic system of government for entirely corrupt reasons. That kinda makes a difference when asking the Democrats to “forgive and forget” what the Republican Party has been doing on the downlow and is now doing out in the open. The Republicans don’t think there’s anything to “forgive” (though they sure wish we’d forget about it!). That’s because they’re CRIMINALS doing criminal things. Until they 1) STOP behaving like criminals, 2) ADMIT that they’ve been behaving like criminals, 3) agree they need to be PUNISHED for behaving like criminals and 4) are willing to ACCEPT that punishment for BEING CRIMINALS, then it makes zero sense to “forgive and forget”. It only makes sense to prosecute them. BECAUSE THEY’RE CRIMINALS.

We are not dealing with any sort of “level playing field” here. Donald Trump — and the white men around him — are accorded a completely different set of rules than anyone else. They start by skirting The Law’s letters while rampantly violating its spirit. Then, once they’ve normalized violating The Law’s spirit, they make THAT “the law” itself — their violation of it. Abracadabra! Criminal behavior is now legal behavior. Virtually the entire Republican Party is now openly behaving like a criminal enterprise. They know THAT’S not entirely legal yet — but that’s the endgame they’re now pursuing: fully replacing OUR democracy with THEIR criminal enterprise.

The stone cold truth is, the Republicans can no longer stop behaving like criminals. They’ve crossed some sort of “criminal Rubicon”. The best they can hope for is a better class of prison cell should We The People manage to shut down “this thing of theirs”. And, rest assured, WE ARE GOING TO.

Journalist, attorney and journalism professor Seth Abramson posted a terrific thread on Twitter last night on the subject of “forgiveness” — well, “forgiveness” via pardons which, in the Trumpian universe is simply more, bigger corruption —

America has every right to be worried that Donald Trump — a two bit criminal punching waaaaaaay above his class — will get away with it (along with every one of his criminal co-conspirators). Should that happen — should these traitors “get away” with betraying the country, it would, in effect, be THE END of our country. A country that refuses to defend itself from an attack — we are most assuredly under attack — can’t really claim to be “a country” anymore. It’s already split up into its more localized, tribalized parts. I, for one, refuse to live in that country. Except, I’m not moving out. I expect THE TRAITORS to move out.

I intend to do whatever I can do to make that happen.

The way our news media reports it, you’d think we were stuck here. Doomed to be politically Chernobyl’d to death first because a Department of Justice rule wouldn’t let us indict a criminal because he was POTUS and then because we couldn’t figure out how to outmaneuver a criminal pardoning himself.

As usual, very few in America’s news media ever bring perspective with them to work — and, considering as they’re reporting FROM HOME, it must mean they have no perspective there either. They’re always Chicken Little, running around headless.

The answer to our problem lies right there in Mr. Abrahamson’s first sentence: “The Pardon Clause prohibits using the pardon power to obstruct impeachments“. Hey, isn’t that EXACTLY what Donald Trump is doing — HAS BEEN DOING all along? Obstructing justice? Obstructing his own impeachment? Since literally everything Trump’s doing flows from that criminal wellspring, why are we even having a conversation about whether or not what Trump is doing has “legitimacy”?

We’re having the wrong conversation again!

“Forgiveness” is a grace. It is not for criminals to take — like they take everything else — it is ours to grant SHOULD WE CHOOSE TO GRANT IT.

But, we owe it to ourselves (we owe those traitors nada) to allow for the possibility of forgiveness so as to fast track the forgiveness process. As I said above, we lay out a simple, step-by-step for each Republican to follow. But, to get to the forgiveness they need (so as to NOT destroy their families for generations to come), first they’re all going to have to accomplish step one: CONTRITION.

Mea culpa.

In their cases, they all need to plead “mea MAXIMUM culpa”. If they can’t muster that, we can’t even think of mustering a scintilla of mercy.

Let the chips — and the punishment — fall where they will. Or, as my college kid puts it: “caveat emptor, bitches!”

Can We Please Agree: “If” Donald Trump Committed Treason, His Whole Presidency Is Treasonous

Trust me here: one plus one equals two. It just does. Donald Trump behaves the way he does (and has) toward Vladimir Putin because Donald Trump is a traitor. If we took Putin out of the equation entirely, not only would Trump not be POTUS, he would never have run for president in the first place. It’s not new news that Trump is corrupt — and corrupted by Russia (among others). Why, the Republican Party itself KNEW IT for a fact even before their 2016 convention. Current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy said it OUT LOUD for a roomful of the GOP hierarchy to hear: “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrbacher and Trump”.

How did then Speaker of the House Paul Ryan respond? Per the Washington Post: “Ryan instructed his Republican lieutenants to keep the conversation private, saying: ‘No leaks. . . . This is how we know we’re a real family here’.” When told that Russia had likely compromised their presidential candidate, the GOP leadership didn’t call the FBI, they ran for their bunker. Mark this — even before he won his own party’s nomination, Trump was allied with a foreign government actively engaged in a CYBER WAR against us. Trump doesn’t have to know anything inside Putin’s head to be guilty of committing treason. Useful idiots are just as treasonous as useless ones.

Our news media — always light years behind this story — still wonders aloud why Trump is so chummy with Putin. If they scratched their heads any harder while pondering that question, they’d create permanent divots in their noggins. Repeat: one plus one equals two. Trump is chummy with Putin because Putin owns him. Nothing Trump has done before or during his presidency would contradict that. Trump’s treachery is the biggest open secret in the whole history of secrets.

His treachery is the reason he’ll fight to the bitter end to hold onto power — as if it was his to “hold onto”. That’s Trump’s big mistake. It’s the Republican Party’s big mistake, too. They’ve forgotten, authoritarian shitheads that they are, that power in our democracy flows from us, We The People. We may not be good at asserting ourselves until forced to but once we do, our intentions are almost always clear. We just asserted how much we want Trump fired. We weren’t kidding.

“Both Sides Do It” brand journalism refuses to take sides — because “both sides do it”. By assigning any one argument a 50-50 chance at being right, they assume that any two arguments being made are literal equals. Both sides have their “point of view”. That may be, but having a point of view doesn’t mean you have a point. They’re not the same thing. The guy who just stole your car may have a reason (he needed money), but so what? The bottom line is HE STOLE YOUR CAR. He can never be its rightful owner no matter how much he drives around in it.

“Both Sides Do It” journalism disagrees. It concludes it’s his car if he says it is. Who are they, the news media — or us, the car thief’s victim — to tell him otherwise?

Just as a car thief can never be your car’s rightful owner, “if” Donald Trump committed a crime — ANY CRIME — in order to become POTUS, the act of committing that crime VOIDED his presidential bid. You cannot commit a crime in order to become president. Likewise — you cannot CHEAT to become POTUS. Correction — you can certainly cheat (people have!) to become president. But, if we catch you at it, that cheating negates your success. Cheating to win does not and can NEVER equal NOT cheating to win. Otherwise, why wouldn’t everyone cheat to win? If the other guy’s cheating to win — taking a big steaming dump on the rules in the process, you’d be an idiot to stick to the rules. He’s not.

Why do we insist on letting the cheater always have an unfair advantage?

Trump has projected his illegitimacy from day one. Why, oh why, are we so dead set on not listening to him? The reason Trump can never stop being POTUS is because the instant the title ceases to be his, the indictments and subpoenas will drop on him like nuclear fallout. Same goes for every single Republican who, though knowing or suspecting what Trump (and the other Republicans) were up to, remained silent. That racist “good ol’ boy” complicity doesn’t play here anymore.

There will be a day of reckoning when we face the stone cold truth: Donald Trump was never the legitimate president. He never had the AUTHORITY that flows from LEGITIMATE AUTHORITY. Just because Trump STOLE that authority and MIS-USED IT to, say, nominate judges — it doesn’t mean he ever actually HAD the authority to do that. Trust me on this — if you or I enter a contest, cheat to win and then get found out? Whatever we won in the competition? We’re not getting to keep it — and rightfully so: IT WAS NEVER OURS.

The same goes for every judge Trump nominated. If he never had the rightful authority, then none of those nominations can stand. Each and every one of them is an affront to American democracy. They fly in the face of the rule of law and the Constitution. Why should we — who follow the Constitution — be bound by those hell bent on destroying the Constitution? Why should (or would) Democrats go forward — attempting to govern — with Republicans who’ve questioned the whole system’s integrity — because they want to destroy it and replace it with permanent minority rule?

It would be stupid beyond words to tell ourselves we’re bound by what criminals did. No, we’re not. The correct response to a child throwing a tantrum isn’t to get down on the floor and tantrum alongside them. You don’t parent by acting like the child and you don’t ever chase a rabbit down its hole.

The correct answer to “But, Trump says…!” is “So what?” He’s a liar. He needs to bring receipts to the table from now on. Otherwise, we’ll assume he’s lying. And why would anyone with two brain cells listen anything a liar says? See how that framing works?

That’s the simple trick our news media needs to teach itself. Of course, if you think truth and bullshit are the same thing (because both sides do it), you’ll never frame anything the right way. The fact is, We The People will not permit Trump or the Republican Party to get away with betraying us.

Whether or not we hold the news media accountable — that’s a whole other question.

Can America Ever Forgive The Republican Party For What It’s Done?

I’m all for kissing and making up. But, kissing and making up for the sake of kissing and making up usually ends badly. The compromises made just to get along aren’t genuine or satisfying. They were entirely situation and now that the situation’s changed? Up until now, America — well, the Democrats — have been relentlessly pressured to forgive the Republicans their trespasses. That’s pressured by the news media — who, the “both sides do it” kool-aid pumping through them, only ever want progressives to kowtow before conservatives and never the other way around. Even now — with Republicans revealing themselves as outright SEDITIONISTS, no reporter has (to my knowledge) stuck a mic in a Republican’s face and demanded “But aren’t you afraid of what Democrats will think of you?”

For some reason, what Republicans think matters more than what anyone else thinks — even though what Republicans “think” is authoritarian, anti-Democratic and corrupt.

As usual, the news media is miles behind the story curve. Hell, most of our news media hasn’t figured out how to aggregate a story so that the story they’re reporting reflects the most up-to-date understanding of what WE KNOW NOW instead of what little THEY knew when they started reporting the story. Too much of our news media (looking at YOU, MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle!) asks “Yeah, but what if…?” questions (“Yeah, but what if there’s nothing wrong with authoritarianism?”) that give credence to bullshit. “Yeah, but what if…?” is the modern version of “When did you stop beating your wife?” The only way to answer is to ask the questioner what’s in THEIR head. Why are THEY so determined to run down a rabbit hole?

If our news media could just connect a few of the visible dots — impeached POTUS with a strange connection to Russia and myriad instances of secretive behavior with Vladimir Putin and Russia launching a massive cyber attack against us as Trump’s presidency draws to a close while Trump and the Republicans REFUSE to acknowledge that Trump lost in a landslide — maybe, just maybe, they’d stop asking themselves WHY the Republicans STILL refuse to abandon Trump and Trumpism. What, they wonder, is Trump’s Svengali-like hold on these people?

It ain’t cowardice. It’s kind of the opposite — a boldness. These people are behaving TREASONOUSLY. They’re behaving like criminals and co-conspirators determined to stop any and all investigations into what happened to get us here. What they’re doing — trying to deny We The People our voice and choice — is sedition. It’s a deliberate attempt to destroy not only the greatest experiment ever in human self-government but those of us who want to continue that experiment and improve upon it.

We stand at a literal crossroads. We will go one way or the other. There can be no compromise between democracy and authoritarianism. We chose democracy. So, the question is: what do we do about the authoritarians in our midst? Do we kiss and make up with them?

Ask a hard question. That one’s easy: NO! No, no, no, no, N O ! It simply is not possible. You can compromise with evil all you like. Evil will never compromise with YOU. Likewise, you cannot “forgive” evil. Evil never thinks it’s done anything that needs forgiveness. It thinks you’re an idiot for thinking that way. Having no integrity, evil will happily tell you whatever you want to hear — just so you’ll compromise with it. How “Mitch McConnell” does THAT sound?

Which of these corrupt, treasonous faces, I wonder, does our news media want Democrats to look into and say “I forgive you!”

Mitch’s?

Bill Barr’s?

Mike Pence’s?

Matt Gaetz’s?

Jim Jordan’s?

Devin Nunes’?

Ron Johnson’s?

Stephen Miller’s?

Donald Trump’s?

Okay — I’ll keep an open mind for two seconds. Is there ANY way I’d forgive ANY of these corrupt, racist, treasonous rat bastards? Maybe. But, first, they’d have to show significant contrition.

Not “kiss and make up” contrition, REAL contrition; real “come-to-Jesus”, “Do unto others” brand, mea culpa contrition where the “contritionist” literally throws themselves at our feet, begging for the mercy they KNOW they do not deserve. They have to be THINKING the song “Amazing Grace” because they ARE the “wretch” once lost, now found, once blind, now able to see.

But, alas, they won’t. That’s one of the most prominent features of these criminals: THEY’RE CRIMINALS. By choice. And, if you don’t know what happens when you give criminals a “pass” — because you’ve forgotten or forgiven what they’ve done — allow me to welcome you into the ranks of America’s journalists.

You’re now ready for your close up.

“Both Sides Do It” Journalism Is Immoral; It Needs To STOP

I just watched morning host Cris Jansing — while interviewing fellow host Joe Scarborough about his Harry Truman bio — ask if Joe DiGenova (one of Donald Trump’s LAWYERS!) suggesting execution for people with whom they disagree politically was just “some strategy”. The obvious answer is “No, of COURSE that’s not just “some strategy”. Wanting to execute people with whom you disagree is monstrous. It’s evil and indefensible. Yet Chris Jansing called it a “strategy”. What if executing political foes WAS a Trumpian strategy? What would Chris Jansing call it then? What would Chris call such an immoral strategy? Would she break down and call it “immoral”?

She should. But, the fact that we don’t know that she would? That’s as much a reflection on Chris as it is the school of journalism she practices: “Both Sides Do It”.

Journalists need skepticism in their tool belt. Too many think cynicism is just another brand of skepticism. It’s not. They’re two very different things. A skeptical journalist wants receipts for everything — or, hopefully, enough good circumstantial evidence that “equals” a receipt. A cynical journalist just flat out assumes the worst possible outcome because everyone’s a scumbag. End of story.

From that point of view, a thief is a thief is a thief no matter the scope of the thievery. Bernie Madoff stealing billions (albeit mostly from millionaires) is exactly the same as, say, Jean Valjean (the hero of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables) stealing bread to feed hungry people. A thief is a thief is a thief: both sides do it. Except, really, they don’t. Scale matters. Motivation matters. Patterns of behavior matter.

Yet something in “Both Sides Do It” can’t aggregate anything. While assuming the worst of people, it doesn’t aggregate the “worst” — the reasons for thinking the worst. So, if Donald Trump says “pussy grabbing” after insisting that “Mexicans are rapists”, “Both Sides Do It” journalism doesn’t add those two together. By the time Trump said “pussy grabbing”, most “Both Sides Do It” journalists had already forgotten “Mexicans are rapists” as if some “other” offensive candidate had said it.

That’s the normalization process at work. By the time Trump got to “pussy grabbing”, “Both Sides Do It” journalists had already normalized “Mexicans are rapists”. It was just something a “different kind of potus candidate” says. And, eventually — the kind of thing a different kind of potus says. To normalize evil is to be evil. That’s because evil never compromises with anyone. People always compromise with IT. And the moment you do? It’s “game over”. Evil just won.

Among “Both Sides Do It’s” worst offenders is NBC News’ Kelly O’Donnell.

Kelly is an award-winning journalist. She’s respected by other journalists. That’s a problem. She’s not just terrible at her job, she’s immoral and every time she gets on camera, she spews immoral journalism at us. Kelly thinks her job is to faithfully report whatever Donald Trump or his administration says without editorializing. In “normal world”, reporting about a “normal administration”, that would be one thing. That has NEVER been the case here. Reporting lies you KNOW are lies without FIRST pointing out that they’re lies is journalistic malpractice at best.

Is there a line in the sand for Kelly? Is there something Trump might say that was so deliberately cruel and egregiously incorrect that even Kelly might hesitate before repeating it? For instance — what if Trump spewed “And, by the way — people tell me Kelly O’Donnell eats children for breakfast!”? Would Kelly O repeat the president’s words faithfully because, well, “they’re the president’s words”? Or would Kelly O FINALLY draw a line in the sand?

Would Kelly O think “Hey, wait a minute — I KNOW I don’t eat children for breakfast (too much cholesterol!)” Would she say to herself “If I repeat these words, people might think they’re true — that I really DO eat children for breakfast!”? Would she put her foot down finally and say “Mister President, NO! I refuse to repeat what you just said because it’s bullshit!”?

I wouldn’t hold my breath. I guess that makes me cynical where Kelly O is concerned.

Yeah, okay — ya got me. I have zero faith that reporters/hosts like Kelly O’Donnell or Chuck Todd or John King or Wolf Blitzer or Andrea Mitchell or Alex Witt or Kris Jansen will ever bring enough perspective with them to work each day to evolve. Even as the Chuck Todd’s shake their heads in consternation, unable to fathom why Trump or Republicans do the seemingly inexplicable things they do, they’re looking for ways Democrats do the exact same things.

Except Democrats don’t do the exact same things. If Democrats did the exact same things as Republicans, they’d BE Republicans. We don’t. We never have. We’re still every bit the same group of whom Will Rogers said “I’m not a member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat”. Diversity doesn’t not march in lock step. It does the opposite; that’s its strength. “E Pluribus Unum” — out of many, one — preaches the opposite of “Both Sides Do It”. There are no “both sides”. There’s OUR side. The American side.

We are engaged in a Great Moral Struggle. The American People didn’t just “vote Trump out of office”, we repudiated him. More Americans voted for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris than have ever voted for any presidential ticket — and by a margin of over six million votes. As for Trump’s number, let’s stick a pin in it. As any journalist with an ounce of perspective would tell you, when Donald Trump complains about something, whining about it relentlessly, pay attention to it: he’s projecting his guilt. If Trump’s accusing Democrats of voter machine fraud, it’s because HE’S COMMITTING IT HIMSELF.

As I wrote here, when you “own” the machines, when you have full backdoor access to them, when you your political interests are tied in to one of the two parties whose elections you’re always tallying — and your business is completely unregulated — it offers opportunities to the less scrupulous. People avoiding transparency (could Diebold and ESS — who make the majority of American voting machines — have tried any harder to resist hand-marked paper ballots for security reasons?) shouldn’t be given a pass just because they’re white, Christian guys running a business. But “Both Sides Do It” journalism refuses to aggregate or judge a story. They get the pass every stinking time.

One could probably count the number of times on one hand that ANY American broadcast journalist or news show host reminded their audience before a segment that Donald Trump was the FIRST POTUS EVER to run for re-election HAVING BEEN IMPEACHED for CHEATING in the very election he was now running in. It’s never happened before. It’s truly extraordinary.

And yet — it never even made it INTO most news stories about the election. Both sides DON’T get impeached for cheating in elections. Both sides don’t get impeached over blow jobs either but that’s a whole other story.

I have to wonder. If we transported the bulk of American journalists from today back to Germany in 1931, how would they “represent”? Would they sniff out Hitler for the monster he was? Or would they “Both Sides Do It”? Would Hitler’s authoritarian violence just be the “Both Sides Do It” counter to those pesky communists protesting? People did see Hitler for who and what he was. Just not enough people in the right places.

That’s what makes “Both Sides Do It” journalism so dangerous to our democracy. Its lack of perspective isn’t just a character flaw, it’s a fatal one. It TURNS political behavior INTO innocuous behavior when Republicans suppress Democratic voters and turns a victim reporting a crime into political behavior when Democrats react to having their votes suppressed. When journalists refuse to judge these acts — and call them what they are up front — crime and crime victim become one and the same thing.

Both sides do NOT do it. They never have. They never will.

America’s News Media Has Confused Being “Skeptical” (What They Should Be) With Being “Cynical” (What They Are)

Skepticism and cynicism are not the same thing. Don’t believe me — look em up. If I was being skeptical, I’d want to see proof of something before going along with it. If I was being cynical though? I wouldn’t care about any proof because I’ve already assumed the worst. A pox on everybody’s house — “both sides do it”. If I was cynical, I wouldn’t need proof that “both sides do it”. And if there was any sort of “proof”, it wouldn’t need to be equally distributed; most on one side and a little on the other is the same as fifty-fifty; it’s still a matter of “both sides do it”!

“Back that up or it’s bullshit!” would be a perfectly legitimate response to a politician saying something for which he has zero receipts. It’s appropriately skeptical. Are you telling the truth? Okay — prove it. By contrast, asking someone a “But, what if bullshit is true?” type questions — that’s not being skeptical at all. “What if bullshit were true?” is the quintessential cynical question.

The only place where bullshit can be true is in a completely cynical world. It can be true, it can be untrue, it doesn’t matter. The ending has already been decided. Everything sucks and there’ll be no changing it; we might as well all fold up our tents and go home. Seeing the world cynically means seeing the very worst in people no matter what. Even if they prove their worth, the cynical have an explanation ready to go. They’re not what they seem. Nothing is so don’t trust it. Assume the worst and you’ll never be disappointed.

You might not be disappointed, but you’ll never be happy either. And you’ll never see the truth or be able to discern it. There’s really no advantage to becoming cynical — unless you want to end your days living in a police state where survival is what matters. Cynicism assumes that the bad guy will get away with it in the end — that, on some level, everyone’s a bad guy, so what difference does it make who wins? Everyone’s motives are suspect. Everyone has a political agenda — even if they don’t think so.

That’s rubbish. It’s stupid too. And offensive.

When a Republican suppresses a Democratic voter, the Republican is doing it for an entirely political reason: to win an election so as to put the power of government into his hands and not the Democrat’s hands. When the voter whose vote is being suppressed raises their hand to complain about what the Republican is doing to them? They’re NOT being political. They’re the victim of a crime. One of their rights has been taken from them and that needs to be addressed. Not for political reasons but for reasons of justice and free and fair elections.

If the news media had taken a more skeptical approach to Donald Trump than the cynical approach they took, things might have turned out better for them. They would have demanded to know WHY Trump thought “Mexicans are rapists” before moving on to “pussy-grabbing”. And a skeptical press would never have been content to let that slide. A skeptical (rather than a cynical) press would have handled “But her emails” a lot better. Rather than cynically assuming the worst about Hillary Clinton, the press would have taken a more moderated, evidence-based approach. They would have concluded – as they did – that there was no “there” there.

If you want to see rock solid journalistic skepticism hard at work, watch Nicolle Wallace’s Deadline Whitehouse on MSNBC. Watch Rachel Maddow and JoyAnn Reid. Watch Ali Velshi and Chris Matthews. Watch Lawrence O’Donnell.

If you want to see empty-headed cynicism, watch Chuck Todd. Chuck is the “dean” of “both sides do it” journalism. He has zero intellectual curiosity. Zero perspective. Zero critical thinking skill.

We’ve survived Trumpism. A rejuvenated Department of Justice is going to make the next few years a rolling smorgasboord of corruption prosecution. There’ll always be a dozen or so pots on the boil with a few more waiting in the wings. From the second he stops being POTUS, Trump will have legal problems that no amount of bullshit pardons can assuage. He’s not running in 2024. The only running Trump will do between now and then is, maybe, a run for the border. I suggest slashing the tires on the Trump jet to prevent that from happening.

The Republican Playbook Is Now The Trump Playbook: That’s Why They’re Accusing Democrats Of The Very Crime THEY Are Guilty Of…

Want to know the stone cold proof that Republicans are using (and probably have been using) voting machines to steal elections? They’re now accusing Democrats of doing it — without a lick of proof. Because there isn’t any. But — here’s the point — when the Democrats (a functional Department of Justice functioning again) begin to investigate what exactly happened in 2016 and in this election and they focus their attention on Republican voting machine fraud? The Republicans will claim it’s pure retaliation.

See how that will work? When the criminals finally get accused of their crime? They’ll claim the accusation is entirely political when, in fact, it’s not political at all.

If our news media hadn’t instilled the bullshit idea that “both sides do it” (they absolutely do not), such a hacky move would fail right off the bat. But, that’s the “genius” of the Trump playbook. It relies on the news media’s inability to focus, their love of jingly-jangly keys and squirrels, their refusal to approach the subject with an ounce of perspective. Remember in 2016, during one of the debates when — after Hillary Clinton accused Trump of being a “Russian puppet”? Remember how Trump responded?

“YOU’RE the puppet”. Uh huh. Who looks like a “puppet” in THIS now infamous photo?

Ya think we’ll ever see the “notes” from the FIVE SECRETIVE MEETINGS Trump had with Vladimir Putin? Maybe we will on the day Putin decides to burn Trump — and dumps EVERYTHING onto our heads — every bit of Republican collusion with Russia’s cyber war on us. Imagine the chaos THAT would cause internally.

Remember the last time a transition played like this one’s playing? Of course not. It’s never happened before. Hell, Barack Obama KNEW he was turning the government over to a criminal (and a traitor) but the transfer of power was bigger than him. See, both sides DON’T think like Republicans think. Only Republicans think like Republicans. They aren’t playing a game, interfering with the transfer of power, they’re playing FOR KEEPS. Because they have no choice.

Trump’s playbook is a criminal’s playbook. All its plays are meant to circumvent the law (or break it entirely) so as to get richer, richer and richer. The Republicans had no objection to that playbook — so long as they got their cut and Power went to them. The point of the exercise for them is permanent minority rule. If the majority of Americans get to have a say? It’s just like Trump said — Republicans won’t win another election.

As I wrote here, it wouldn’t take a grand conspiracy of Republicans to use voting machines to literally steal elections. While the Republicans are accusing Democrats of FLIPPING votes, that’s not the smart way to win via internet-connected voting machine. The Republicans’ problem is they have zero receipts. There would be receipts if votes had flipped. Well — correction — if those machines spit out paper receipts that a voter could check — the voter could catch the mistake. As happened in Mississippi.

If machines beyond that one polling place started acting the same way — flipping votes from Republican to Democrat or Democrat to Republican — red flags would have gone up. They didn’t. That’s not how the Republicans cheated.

Now, remember: the companies that make most of our voting machines — Diebold, ESS, Dominion — they’re all owned by Republicans. Proud Republicans who donate to political campaigns (a clear conflict of interest). But it gets “conflictier”. There are Republican politicians ADVISING these companies and even sitting on their boards of directors. Sorry, but assurances from people that conflicted — with a history of ignoring conflicts of interests — do not get a pass.

Instead of flipping votes, the Republican play has been to pad their numbers. We don’t know how long Republicans have been doing this but even a cursory glance at, say, Mitch McConnell’s county-to-county vote totals makes you think something is beyond rotten in the State Of Kentucky. Though there are more registered Democrats than Republicans in Kentucky, though county-after-county has Moscow Mitch winning not only all the Republican votes but big chunks of the Independent and Democratic votes too. Mitch’s approval rating in KY is around 18%. That does not fit with Independents and especially Democrats crossing over in huge numbers to vote for Mitch. And yet…

Mitch won 15% of Black voters, far higher than your typical Republican. He won people who make more than $100,000, and people who make less than that. He won 56% of men and 59% of women.

Racist, old misogynist Mitch McConnell got nearly 60% of Kentucky’s women? Bullshit. Stick a microphone in the face of a few and maybe we’ll begin to believe it. Those women don’t exist in reality though. They were created inside a voting machine.

Here’s now it works: the code says something like “for every tenth Republican vote, add one”. So, ten votes becomes eleven, twenty becomes twenty-two, thirty becomes thirty-three et cetera. The machine is adding TEN PERCENT to the Republican’s vote total with almost NO WAY TO VERIFY whether or not actual voters made all those votes.

Their historical and relentless lack of transparency is troubling. Their need to win elections at all costs is even more troubling. Their current behavior — trying openly to toss the will of the people aside in favor of their blatant theft — cements the certainty that this is exactly what the Republican Party is doing.

In the Donald Trump cheating playbook, one never brings receipts. Why would one? Any receipts (if they’re legit) can only screw you. That’s probably why Republicans NEVER bring receipts. It’d be like negotiating against yourself. And losing badly.

The Republican Party has now set itself squarely in opposition to democracy and especially OUR democracy. Can we please, please, please accept what they’re telling us? Their playbook doesn’t include allowing Democrats political power ever again. It’s understandable. The moment the Democrats are back in power (as we’re about to be), the Republican Party is going to have endless legal problems.

Good. It couldn’t happen to a “nicer” bunch of raping & pillaging pirates. Republic