The News Media’s Total Failure Of Imagination Is Killing Us

The American news media trying to tell the story of what Donald Trump and the Republican Party did and are still doing to America is a lot like the notion of a couple of blind guys who’ve no idea what an elephant is, trying to make sense of one for the very first time. In the blind guys’ defense, they’ve never encountered an elephant before; they’re entitled to their bafflement. America’s news media knows exactly what the Republican Party is and what Republicans are — they’ve been covering them differently than they cover Democrats for a long, long time apparently because they recognize how different they are, “both sides do it” be damned. America’s news media has it in their heads — because Republicans put it there — that Democrats are as cynical as Republicans (and Republicans are cynicism’s poster boys), that Democrats do things for the very same power-mad, greedy-to-their-toes, white hegemony defending reasons Republicans do. Over the course of Trump’s presidency, the news media allowed itself to be lied to relentlessly — and accepted it as “just how President Trump is” as if Trumpism was some kind of “new normal” we’d all have to get used to. No actually — we don’t have to get used to it.

To this day, most of the news media scratches its head as it wonders aloud why pretty much every Republican remains loyal to Donald Trump despite the fact that he lost the White House for them and lost the Senate. There were some pickups in the house but — how about we stick a pin in Republican election results until AFTER we shine a bright light on electronic voting machine maker ES&S and the way some Republicans — Mitch McConnell comes to mind — keep winning elections with numbers that simply don’t add up. Republican loyalty to Trump stumps the American press. That’s weird considering they themselves have already answered their own question. They wonder why current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy flips and flops on Trump’s culpability in the January 6 insurrection like the answer was unknowable when the Washington Post (among other papers) reported in 2017 about a RECORDED conversation they heard about a meeting of the Republican leadership in 2016 a month before the GOP nominated Trump to be their 2016 standard bearer.

The Post reported: McCarthy said upon entering the meeting, “There’s two people I think Putin pays, Rohrbacher and Trump — swear to God!” That got a few laughs. But no one questioned it. No one said, “Whaaaaat? Kevin — are you kidding? If you’re not, WHY would you say or even THINK such a thing?” As a matter of fact, no one in the meeting seemed the least bit shocked or even surprised. No one picked up a phone to call the FBI, that’s for sure. If anything, calling the authorities and doing what was their PATRIOTIC DUTY would have been a good thing. Instead, then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan committed everyone present to an omerta:  “No leaks. . . . This is how we know we’re a real family here.”

To my knowledge, not a single journalist has stuck a mic in either Kevin McCarthy’s or Paul Ryan’s face and demanded what the flying eff that conversation was about — and WHY Kevin thought Putin paid Rohrbacher and Trump and WHY Paul Ryan insisted everyone present keep that problematic secret a secret. You’d think — considering what transpired DURING the Trump presidency — especially Trump’s odd relationship with Vlad Putin — that the question would occur in every journalists mind organically. And yet…

This is what journalistic failure of imagination looks like. There’s a “dot one” big as a house and a “dot two” that’s even bigger. Their connection seems more than obvious. Except to American journalists who apparently cannot imagine that dot one could possibly connect to dot two. To be fair, good journalists require receipts before making accusations in print. In “espionage world” however — the world where Russia launched a still ongoing cyber war against us — receipts don’t necessarily exist; if they do, no one’s going to see them. In the same way the existence of a distant exo-planet must be inferred from how its physical presence alters the light being emitted from its star, evidence of Trump’s relationship with Russia must be inferred from HIS behavior in and around Putin.

Unfortunately, even pictures speaking thousands of words can’t convince our news media of the obvious.

What makes this sad situation even worse is that journalists themselves can’t abide other journalists who DO show imagination. To this day, some “journalists” still think of Christopher Steele’s raw data output — “The Steele Dossier” — as unverified rubbish. Um, no actually… Not understanding that one must view raw intel data differently than, say, a deposition hearing where everyone’s sworn in, most journalists fell down the rabbit hole of “knowability”. Without a literal smoking gun to wrap their minds around, they couldn’t imagine how the Donald Trump dot connected to the Vladimir Putin dot. But, even that roadmap was laid out for America’s news media by former and respected members of their ranks!

On August 22, 2017, former Wall Street Journal reporter and co-founder of research firm Fusion GPS Glenn Simpson was called before the Senate House Intelligence Committee (then being run by the Republican Senate). The Republicans were desperate to cast the Steele Dossier as rubbish because, in fact, it wasn’t and isn’t. Simpson explained how the Dossier came about. In the lead up to the 2016 election — during the primaries — the backers of conservative newspaper The Washington Free Beacon (Marco Rubio supporters) hired Fusion GPS to do oppo research on Trump — something political operatives and their money have done forever. As part of their normal due diligence, Simpson explained, his team got their hands on every piece of publicly available material they could that had anything to do with Donald Trump. They found every book about Trump, every newspaper or magazine article. They tracked down every TV appearance, every radio interview. To get their hands on this material, Simpson testified, his team went to every bookstore they could, they combed Amazon. They even went to the public library.

What Fusion found in publicly available material shocked them — these professional journalists who had covered financial corruption their whole careers. And, while the dots themselves did not spell out “Trump Launders Russian Mob Money Via His Atlantic City Casinos”, they might as well have — that’s how loudly the alarm bells started ringing inside Glenn Simpson’s and Fusion’s head. To investigate further (the Free Beacon was now gone, Rubio having dropped from the race; the bills now went to a Democratic donor), Fusion subcontracted out the Russian side of the investigation to an English research outfit called Orbis which was run by the Chris Steele, the highly respected former head of the MI6’s Russia desk. No one had better, more reliable contacts inside Russia than Chris Steele. No one.

To see the value of Steele’s work product you have to remember 1) it’s raw intel and 2) there’s way, WAY more to what’s in the Dossier than just whether or not Donald Trump watched a bunch of Russian hookers piss on the Moscow hotel room bed where Barack Obama had recently slept. There are plenty of other uncomfortable details. Their ick factor may not be as high, but their treason factor far surpasses it. Steele’s work product confirmed what Kevin McCarthy thought about Trump: that Putin owned him outright. One plus one equals two.

Hey, look, American journalists — there’s one story proving another one’s veracity! Or, with Donald Trump and the GOP is that still just not good enough?

The Press Insists They Don’t Know WHY The Republican Party STILL Follows Donald Trump — That’s A Lie! We ALL Know Why…

I’m old enough to remember when saying things like “Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia is mighty suspicious!” would get eye rolls because I was desperate to make a mountain from something less than a molehill. Alas, Trump’s relationship with Russia was never a molehill. It’s not a mountain either — it’s the whole freakin’ mountain RANGE. For the life of me, I cannot get why storytellers (that’s what journalists are — they’re storytellers in real time) can’t for the life of THEM figure out how to aggregate a goddamned story! The American Press can’t say that they had no idea Donald Trump “might be” a traitor when they themselves reported that possibility themselves a year into Trump’s presidency! For real! The Washington Post (and most other papers) published reporting about a conversation that took place between the GOP leadership a month before the Republican Party made Trump their presidential nominee (in other words — the convo they were reporting on took place A YEAR BEFORE; the Post became privy to a RECORDING of the meeting, giving it solid, evidentiary support. Current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy walked into the meeting and said out loud: “There’s two people I think Putin pays, Rohrbacher and Trump — swear to God!”. No one present disputed McCarthy. Quite the contrary. Then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan — like everyone else in the room — seemed both unsurprised and unfazed. No one demanded to know why McCarthy thought this or what put such an insane idea into his head. Ryan led them to decide they wouldn’t talk about such things outside rooms like that. “That’s how we know we’re family”, Paul Ryan said, sounding for all the world like a mafioso — and not the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States Congress.

In a civil case — compared to a criminal case — the standard required for conviction is 51%. The preponderance of the evidence and not some “smoking gun” suffices. Our news media has gotten it into their heads that their job is to be an absolutely neutral arbiter of events. Just the facts, ma’am. That’s swell. But, as the facts add up, they paint a picture — and either we accept the picture being painted or we don’t. If we accept the picture, we need to incorporate what we’ve just learned into the larger picture of what we know. And what we know should be the evolving story basis for all reporting. Instead, our news media heard “Mexicans are rapists!” — and squawked about it for a few minutes — then moved on when “Pussy grabbing” became the next topic. In short order, our news media move move on from “pussy grabbing” to “But, her emails!” Strangely, “But, her emails” aggregated — we heard about it constantly; it WAS the starting point for the press’s stories about Hillary Clinton.. “Mexicans are rapists” and “Pussy grabbing” did not aggregate. Our press still wondered aloud “Is Trump a racist?” and “Is Trump a rapist?”

Yes and yes — hell, Trump even confirmed it for them! And, STILL — to this day — many “journalists” will shift uncomfortably in their seats like the hemorrhoid they’ve been nursing just flared to life if they have to ask “Is Trump a racist?” As if it’s a question! For the record, it’s NEVER up to a racist to decide if he’s a racist. How the hell would HE know — he’s a racist FFS! The only people with the perspective to tell you whether or not someone’s a racist is the racist’s victim. And if they claim racism — do NOT dismiss it out of hand. That would be racist of you.

The press could have established the truth about who Donald Trump is and even the likelihood of his criminality — and even his treachery — if they’d bothered to do the same due diligence Fusion GPS did when hired back in 2016 by the publishers of the Washington Free Beacon. They were Marco Rubio backers and wanted to get some dirt on Trump so they hired Fusion GPS, the research company started by former Wall Street Journal reporters Glenn Simpson and Peter Frisch. When called before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, August 22, 2017 — then under Republican control bent on undermining the integrity of the Steele Dossier — Glenn Simpson testified that before formally beginning their deep dive into Trump, they did their “due diligence”: they got ahold of every piece of publicly available material they could — newspaper articles, magazine pieces, radio interviews, TV shows. They got them from Amazon and other online merchants and used bookstores and even the Public Library. What Fusion found — hiding in plain sight — was the kind of info ANY JOURNALIST could find easily if they’d just get off their asses.

Fusion got the distinct impression that Donald Trump had laundered Russian mob money through his bankrupt Atlantic City casinos. THAT’S why they sub-contracted the Russian part of the inquiry to someone who might could answer those questions about Trump and his relationships with Russian mob money. Christopher Steele had run the Russia desk at Britain’s MI6. He had perhaps the best Russian contacts of any Westerner outside Russia. Steele’s work product, by the way, has passed most every smell test it’s been subjected to. This is raw intel data — never intended for uninformed eyes because uninformed eyes won’t contextualize so as to extract the value. Steele — a better American patriot than any Republican — was so concerned by what he learned that he became obsessed with getting his work and its assessments under the noses of someone willing to do something. Chris Steele had no personal ax to grind. And yet, some people in our press, to this day, will frame the Steele Dossier from Trump’s criminal point of view.

During the entire 2020 presidential campaign, our news media seemed to completely forget the fact that Trump was the first person EVER to run for office after BEING IMPEACHED for attempting to cheat in the very election he was now running in. Think about that — both because it happened and because our news media forgot about it — even as Trump continued to cheat his way to victory. Talk about your “patterns of behavior” and “preponderance of the evidence”. There should not be a question as to WHY Trump acted the way he did. This picture alone — coming when it did after the meeting where Trump sperm burped Putin’s whole name in real time (that’s what it sounded like to me) — should have been the end of Trump’s presidency.

Donald Trump is a racist because he has victims who’ll call out his racism. The same goes for Trump’s other crimes. We don’t need to end up getting shot by Trump on Fifth Avenue to know he’s standing there — on Fifth Avenue — and he’s got a gun. If we go to Fifth Avenue — or anywhere near Trump — we might could get shot. Trump’s a traitor, too. We need to stop waiting for Vlad Putin to put up a YouTube video where he spills it all like we really were living in the worst reality show ever and it needs to wrap up cos the season is over.

Trump epitomizes “White Man’s Bamboozlement” — white guys getting away with crap non-white people could never get away with. Republicans used to be better at hiding that fact from everyone else. Trump liberated them from caring whether the rest of us know or not. The Republican Party, by its own admission, is now the Trump Party. The Trump Party is a treasonous criminal enterprise. Therefore, the GOP is now a treasonous criminal enterprise.

Want to know WHY almost the entire Republican Party is still in bed with Trump, still perfectly happy to let him brutalize and abuse them? Because they’re all co-conspirators in a massive crime bent on destroying our democracy. Throw in treason — still a capital offense here in America — and you can see why this is “all or nothing” for the GOP. There’s no going back anymore. There’s only the hopelessness of the mission: permanent minority rule. That dangerous idea is about to get crushed. The wave Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are riding today as the first cash begins to flow through the Covid-19 Relief Plan into the pockets of 85% of Americans won’t crest for a long, long while. It certainly won’t crest before 2022 so, please, put all concerns about the GOP taking the House in the mid-terms completely out of your head. These are not normal times, stop thinking normal things will happen.

Our news media definitely wasn’t up to covering Donald Trump. They’re even less qualified and capable of covering the aftermath of Trump and Trumpism.

If You Want To Know What Donald Trump Will Do Next, You Have To Think Like A Criminal

Here’s a basic storytelling rule of thumb: good people behave like good people and criminals behave like criminals. That’s how storytellers signal to their audience that the story they’re telling takes place in a world we all recognize. Now — if it’s a good story, the good people may turn out to be criminals and one or two of the criminals may turn out to be good people. But, we’ll see all that in the context of the story. Actions and thoughts will tell us who the real good people and criminals are just before the final fade out. Regardless of who turns out to be what, when the full picture is revealed, good people will have behaved like good people and criminals will have behaved like criminals.

Donald Trump is a criminal. Being a rich, white guy, we shrugged off Trump’s pre-POTUS criminality in real time, letting him repeatedly piss all over us. When the Washington Free Beacon hired Fusion GPS to do oppo research on Trump back in the early days of the 2016 campaign, Fusion started its work by first getting its hands on every piece of publicly available material about Trump. Books, magazine and newspaper pieces, TV and radio appearances — everything. Their due diligence — the work they did BEFORE actually starting the work — convinced them (Glenn Simpson, Fusion’s co-founder testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on August 22, 2017) that Trump had strong ties to Russian gangsters and likely laundered their money through his bankrupt Atlantic City casinos.

That’s why Fusion hired Christopher Steele (and his company Orbis). Steele had excellent contacts and sources inside Russia, having run MI6’s Russia desk.

To see Donald Trump as just a “different kind of POTUS” (as many in our news media still do), is to see Al Capone as just “a different kind of businessman” or Pol Pot as “just a different kind of politician”. Yeah, okay — you could say that and you’d be right, but… it’s kinda beside the point. But, if you don’t see Trump as a criminal — either because you truly don’t see him that way or because you refuse to — then you are reporting on a Donald Trump who doesn’t actually exist except maybe inside your head.

Example — NBC News’ Kelly O’Donnell. She seems like a very nice person. That very nice person should find another line of work. She’s not particularly good at journalism — all her awards be damned. Kelly is a lipstick-wearing steno pad. She thinks “journalism” is repeating back the words people speak to her. But Kelly doesn’t leave it at that — just repeating, say, what Donald Trump says. No, Kelly goes the extra mile. She “characterizes” Trump’s bullshit — she “puts it into his voice” — speaks what she insists is Trump’s thinking behind it all.

Oh, FFS! Kelly’s a nice person — we all agree. Donald Trump isn’t. He’s a rapist and a racist and a bigot and a serial adulterer and an abusive parent and a criminal and a traitor (that’s just for starters). His thought process doesn’t work the same way Kelly’s does. He doesn’t justify himself to himself the way Kelly justifies herself to herself. So, when Kelly applies how SHE thinks to how Trump thinks — it’s completely wrong. The person she’s describing — Trump on the outside, Kelly O’Donnell on the inside — DOES NOT EXIST except in Kelly’s soft, mushy mind.

Kelly’s not the only offender here. It’s the rare working journalist who’ll put themselves inside Trump’s head. “We can’t know what he’s thinking,” they insist — as if Trump’s own words, whole PATTERNS of thinking and the assurances of those who know him weren’t enough to convince THEM. FFS — in a civil trial, all one needs is 51% certainty to win and what is the news media if not a court of PUBLIC opinion?

In most talking head panels, they’ll allow for 90% of the spectrum of possible explanations for Trump’s behavior. He’s completely innocent is at one far end. But, look to the other far end — it’s not there: that’s the missing 10% (generously assuming that total innocence and total guilt are equally likely when only total guilt actually is). Think about that — these conversations between serious people will allow that Trump could be completely innocent but completely guilty? No way! If you can’t allow for the possibility that Trump is 100% a criminal — and does what he does BECAUSE he’s 100% a criminal — then when you put yourself inside his head and (try to) stare out into the world through Trump’s red-rimmed eyes, you’re mis-reporting it. Hell, you’re not seeing it, period.

Want to know why Trump will do anything and everything to stay POTUS for the rest of his life? HE’S A CRIMINAL! He’s been protected all this time by that ludicrous DoJ RULE (it’s not a LAW) — put in place to hinder Nixon and Agnew! Without it, Trump would have been indicted eons ago. Team Mueller would NOT have felt constrained; they held back accusing Trump because that same rule prevented Trump from, in essence, defending himself. A technicality has kept the most corrupt president in the country’s history in power.

If you think of Trump that way — desperate to avoid testifying under oath because you will perjure yourself because you ARE a stone cold criminal and a traitor — then his behavior isn’t mystifying at all. The dots all connect and the picture you get is complete and logical. But, as we know — it ain’t just Trump.

Our news media scratches its head even harder when it tries to make sense of Republicans. “Why, oh why do Republicans go along with this madness?” our press asks itself. They all must be terrified of Trump. Terrified of his voters. Yes and yes. But it’s bigger than that. Prison is the bigger motivator — fear of going to prison and dying in prison. The split second Trump has a legal nightmare, so will virtually every single Republican — because that’s how conspiracy works. See something, SAY something. See something, say NOTHING? An actual journalist should ask “WHY?” Why say nothing? Who are you protecting?

The Republicans knew even before the 2016 convention that Trump was dirty. But then, they were already dirty, too. That’s why then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan admonished the meeting of muckety mucks to stay silent on the matter of “Putin paying Rohrbacher and Trump” by “keeping it in the family”. Sounds like a mafia family, no?

It’s the storyteller’s job to keep the heroes and the villains straight inside their head. To do that though, you have to have a deeper grasp of who they really are. You have to look past the icing and dig into the cake beneath. Imagine you’ve just taken a mouthful of rotten cake — made even more horrible because the icing was so pretty. No projectile vomiting allowed! Now — describe the taste in your mouth.

I bet the only thing you say about the icing is how deceiving it was. Now, please — go on! Tell us how terrible that cake tasted and still tastes. Tell us how you might never get its essence out of your mouth or senses even. Finally — how do you feel about the baker? Put yourself inside HIS mind as he concocts the flavor he intends to fool you into tasting.

I always wonder this about Kelly O’Donnell. If Trump (because he’s Trump) said “I know for a fact that Kelly O’Donnell eats children!”, would Kelly faithfully report it even though she’s pretty certain that she doesn’t eat children and never has? Or would Kelly — as she always does — repeat the words simply because Trump said it?

I betcha Kelly would (finally) draw a line. I bet that she’d (finally) step outside of her ivory tower of “both sides do it”. She certainly wouldn’t put herself inside Trump’s thought process so as to personalize WHY he thinks Kelly does this terrible thing because, she’d know, every thought she’s attributing to Trump is utter bullshit.

Isn’t perspective funny, that way?

Dear News Media: If You See Trump As A Normal POTUS, He Makes No Sense; If You See Him As A CRIMINAL — Voila! He Makes PERFECT Sense

To this day, our news media — supposedly our MOST informed people — cannot fathom Donald Trump. They still wonder what his “strategy” is, what master plan he’s following, being after all a master negotiator. Why does he only ever appeal to his base, they wonder. Why does he kowtow to Vladimir Putin? Why does he lie so relentlessly? Why won’t he concede? I agree — if viewed through a normal lens (as if Trump was a normal person)? It’s baffling. But, pull another lens out of the kit — the “Trump’s A Criminal” lens — and attach it to the camera. Now what do you see? Suddenly, Donald J, Trump makes complete and total sense, doesn’t he?

Trump kowtows to Putin because Putin owns him. When we have a rejuvenated Department of Justice, expect the counter-intelligence investigations that Rod Rosenstein killed to finally take flight. The reveals will be damning for everyone with an “R” next to their names. The power grab we’re experiencing isn’t a new idea or impulse for the Republicans. It’s their ultimate wet dream though. And, right now, they’re pulling their plonkers so hard their plonkers might come off (just not in the way they want em to).

The constant flow of reveals has gone all in one direction, revealing more details of just how corrupt Trump is. Just how shameless and soulless and fatuous he is, too. Figuring out a guy as blatantly corrupt as Trump is should not be this challenging to America’s news media. Hell, Fusion GPS were so blown away by Trump’s blatant money laundering via his bankrupted Atlantic City casinos that they hired Chris Steele (former head of the MI6’s vaunted Russia Desk) to investigate just how big a criminal Trump was.

If the news media were capable of aggregating all the details they themselves have reported about Trump, they’d be reporting on a criminal finally run to ground — not by law enforcement but by We The People. Alas, instead, to this day the majority of the news media reports on Trump as if he were as innocent of corruption and treason as you or me.

How one frames a story IS the story. If you tell the story of Al Capone as hagiography, he’ll appear as a saint. If you tell the story of Jean Valjean as just a guy who stole bread? You kinda miss his story. If you didn’t see that Donald Trump entered office a criminal, a cheat and a traitor, then whoever you were reporting on, it wasn’t Donald Trump.

If you tell the story of Trump running for re-election without mentioning each and every time that he was the FIRST person EVER to run for re-election having been IMPEACHED for cheating in that very election? You’re not telling the whole story and you’re certainly not reporting Donald Trump accurately.

If you never asked what THIS picture was about — you’ve never reported Donald Trump accurately.

If you see Trump as a traitor, by the way, he makes even MORE sense…

Our News Media Should Begin Every News Broadcast With A “Previously On” Segment So Even THEY Know The Story AS IT IS Already

What is it about returning to “Square One” every day that America’s news media finds so alluring? It’s as if, in their heads, even after the Red Wedding, they all keep waiting for Eddard Stark to reappear in the story. If our news media had been doing its job correctly, our starting point every day — in the Donald Trump Presidency story — wouldn’t be “a different kind of POTUS running a different kind of presidential campaign”. It’d be about a stone cold TRAITOR, surrounded by co-conspirators, stumbling through their coup d’etat’s death throes. That IS the story that we’re starting with TODAY, Election Day 2020.

The genius of a “previously on” segment in a story is that, with a few quick reminders — visual and auditory — most of what’s gone on BEFORE this episode started gets re-established in the audience’s mind: here’s what you need to know NOW if the next part of the story’s going to make any sense to you. Of course, “previously on” assumes the audience is up to date enough with where the story is that these quick reminders will set up the next part of the story. That assumes, of course, that the storyteller is up to date. Our problem, here in America — our storytellers don’t seem to know much about the very story they’re reporting on!

I watch a lot of news. I don’t watch so much “for” the news (that’s what Twitter’s for — even the news networks keep their fingers on that pulse), I watch (through metaphorical fingers) for how the news networks report the news. I’m a storyteller by trade and nature. So are journalists — they’re real-time storytellers. Regardless of whether you tell stories in real time or with a little hindsight, the rules of storytelling are the same. If you want to do it correctly, every scene needs to add new information to what we knew in the previous scene. Even if it’s to subtly shade a story nuance, a scene must add something or it doesn’t belong. It’s telling the audience something it already knows.

Why, we have to ask, is the storyteller doing that? For the benefit of the story? No. For the benefit of the audience? No. They’re doing it for their own benefit — because they need to keep reminding themselves what the story is. And, if you’re telling a story this important to the Commonweal and the greater good? You had better deliver your A-game. Alas, that is not happening with most of our news media.

That’s the frustration a lot of us have felt all along as we watch this story unfold — and as we watch the news media struggle to tell the story. Their audience is often miles ahead of them. Now, to be fair, a news audience doesn’t have to maintain the journalistic standards journalists must to maintain their integrity. Me? I can spew anything I like, supported or unsupported. I’m just a guy with an (informed) opinion.

But, that informed opinion is informed mostly by the news media’s reporting. I’ve been aggregating the story all along in my head. You know — “keeping track of it”. Following the characters as we learn more about them — seeing how both they evolve and our understanding of them evolves. Kinda like how Fusion GPS started with one view of Donald Trump — before they began the oppo research the conservative, Jeb-Bush-backing Washington Free Beacon hired them to do in the leadup to election 2016 — then switched to another view of Trump after their due diligence turned up surprising information about him. As Glenn Simpson, Fusion’s co-founder, explained in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in August 2017, Fusion’s due diligence amounted to getting their hands on every piece of publicly available Trump-related material they could from newspapers, magazines, the radio, TV or anywhere.

The reason Fusion contacted Christopher Steele — to help answer some of the questions their due diligence had raised — was because Steele had the best contacts inside Russia of pretty much anyone outside Russia. Fusion was adding information to the story and using it to constantly update their idea of Trump, who he is and what he’s really up to.

On the other side of that equation is our news media who, to this day, continue to scratch their heads, mystified by Trump and his “different kind of POTUS” behavior.

You know what the news media should have been reporting every day? That Donald Trump is the FIRST PRESIDENT EVER to run for re-election HAVING BEEN IMPEACHED — for CHEATING in the very election he’s now running in. And everyone with a double digit IQ agrees that the Republican-led Senate failed to live up to their oaths of office by not even having a real hearing to address the charges.

Think of everything we KNOW about Trump. Think of the cruelty. Of the sexual predation and rape. Think of the cheating on his wives. Think of the racist business practices. Think of the consistently suspicious behaviors — now outed as outright crimes. Think of all the Constitutional violations that, for some reason, we’ve decided to ignore. Think of all the dubious if not downright treasonous relationships Trump has with authoritarian rulers and thugs. Think of what Trump (and Jared Kushner) pal Mohamed bed Salmon did to Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Think of this photo (with Trump’s literal “face of treason”) —

Real journalists like Seth Abramson & Sarah Kendzior, working outside institutional journalism, have produced work — using the news media’s own product — to aggregate the story of a criminal coup d’etat by Donald Trump and the Republicans. This is not some imagined fiction. There are receipts FFS. Mountains of them. Hell, we watched treason happen — live and on TV. We’re still watching it today as Donald Trump takes a sledgehammer to what remains of our electoral process, all at the service of Vladimir Putin.

Except this time, just enough of the press is woke — and plenty of the electorate — to move first and protect ourselves. You see, we’ve been aggregating the Trump story. We’ve seen him lie 30,000 plus times and now assume he always lies; it’s incumbent on Trump to PROVE he’s NOT lying. Imagine if the press did that!

Imagine if, during even one news conference, one member of the press — in response to Trump spewing lies at them — had said “I’m sorry, sir, but you’ll need to back that statement up or it’s bullshit”. You don’t ask a liar to explain their lie, you TELL the liar their lie is a LIE. You do NOT give the lie credence.

See the difference? Even if you think the lie’s a lie (inside your head), you’ve asked the question in a way that gives the liar latitude. “Explain” assumes there’s something TO explain. Beginning with “that is a LIE” instead, puts the lie front and center as the status quo. The lie is the one thing we know for a fact. The liar is completely on the defensive and the one arrow in their quiver has no point.

There’s one basic rule of thumb when chasing rabbits. Do NOT follow them down their rabbit holes. Wait for them to re-emerge THEN whack-a-mole them.

As we begin Election Day 2020, the “previously on” segment should have made voting — for those NOT in the Trump Forever 30% — a no-brainer. After all, why would any self-interested person vote for someone as selfish as Trump whose interests begin and end with himself? They wouldn’t.

That’s the story.

Election 2020: Prediction Time

From the second Donald Trump first stole the presidency in 2016, the only remedy available to We The People was going to be We The People. Barack Obama pretty much told us that in his farewell speech. As we speak nearly 100 million Americans have voted already. Considering how apathetic most Americans are come election time? That’s not insignificant.

Maybe being at war has inspired us to take our most sacred right as citizens more seriously. On the one hand, there’s the cyber war that Russia launched against us. On the other, there’s the Culture War launched by the snowflakey right wing against the diverse rest of us. Seeing all those Americans lining up to vote gives me hope — and it’s proving Obama right.   

If I go back and look at things I prognosticated before Trump was elected (going back to Facebook posts and tweets and blog posts), I’ll admit: I was wrong about Trump.  I wasn’t wrong about what he would do, I was wrong about how completely he’d get away with what he was doing.

I was wrong about Trump lasting four years.  I did not see that.  I did not see him pulling us out of the Paris Accords or treating Kim Jong-Un like a brother.  I didn’t see him betraying the Kurds or opening vast tracts of the Arctic to pollution.

I figured, by the time he got around to that stuff?  He’d be gone.

I was wrong, you see, about the complicity of the people around him.  It never occurred to me that the entire Republican Party would close ranks around Trump entirely out of party loyalty — in the face of the fact that he is a clear and present danger.

That’s not ME talking, that’s David Laufman, Former chief of the Department of Justice’s National Security Division’s Counter Intel & Export Control Section (that’s how real and technical this guy is):

This is not an ordinary election between two competing political sides.  Victory by one side will result in a very different America from what will result — sorry, what could happen — should the other side claim and get to experience their victory.

In 2016, don’t forget, the majority of Americans voted against Trump but got Trump anyway!  It feels kinda… un-democratic.  In fact, it feels kinda suspect — especially considering as the majority — by a lot — voted for the diametric opposite of what we’re living through.

That’s the thing — while life may appear to go on should Trump “win”, that will only be on the surface.  And for some.  For others, life stopped going on the moment Trump “won” the first time.  For plenty of people, life began to stop.  Literally. 

Pandemics are not political.  Why is ours?  Oh, right… 

The problem is, Trump did not “win” the 2016 election.  We still need to deal with that fact; in fact, Trump’s illegitimacy is at the heart of the question we’re asking today — or the predictions we’re making.  

In one sense, every American presidency is like a four-year story cycle with that president as the story cycle’s hero.  If we like the story cycle (and the hero), we’ll put our money down for a sequel.  If we don’t, we’ll start a new story cycle with a new hero.

Some of us understood what the Donald Trump story cycle was really about from the get-go: corruption.  His “politics” have been all over the place because he’s not a political creature.  He’s a guy looking to make a deal and if being a Democrat in NYC makes dealmaking easier than Trump’s not just a Democrat, he’s the most passionate pro-abortion Democrat of all!  Trump’s not political.  He’s flat out cynical.  He thinks everyone else is as corrupt as he is.

If only Democrats were accusing the Trump admin of corruption, an argument could be made that the accusation was political in nature.  But, there’s the Lincoln Project.  And a growing list of other Republicans — politicians, public servants and military people — who have come out and openly stated that they are voting for Joe Biden as should you because Trump’s so corrupt.  This list is amazingly long!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Republicans_who_oppose_the_Donald_Trump_2020_presidential_campaign

When literally hundreds of important, knowledgeable people from Trump’s own political party openly speak of how dangerous he is to the republic itself, I’d say that deserves our attention.

This is not an ordinary election.  The choice isn’t between two variations on a theme.  It’s between two diametric opposites.  With very real consequences for either side when the other side wins.

Very, very real consequences will ensue.

The best indicator of future events is past events.  When humans consistently behave a certain way in the past, we can make an informed guess about their future behavior.  A person with a history of getting violent when triggered in the past will probably get violent when triggered in the future (unless he does something to stop it).  If we can’t assess future risk based on the past, we’re left to face the future blind.

It comes down to what we KNOW empirically based on the past.

Part of our problem with Donald Trump — and predicting what he’ll do — is that our idea of him is tainted by television.  An awful lot of Trump’s voters voted for him because they believe to this day that Trump IS the character he played on The Apprentice.  Except he’s not.  Trump the “master negotiator” and “great businessman” was an invention of Mark Burnett’s.  

Master negotiators and great businessmen don’t declare bankruptcy as many times as Trump has — and they don’t owe over a billion dollars — AS TRUMP DOES — a fact he does not deny!

Before I make my predictions, one story.  From the moment the Steele Dossier first came to life, everyone around Trump worked overtime to trash its credibility.  The news media never understood it in its proper context — it’s raw intelligence data.  

Let’s be clear: Steele’s work product has proven to be almost (not entirely) accurate.  There are still questions about it but the overwhelming majority of Steele’s observations and notes pan out or have since panned out.

https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/the-inside-story-of-christopher-steeles-trump-dossier

https://www.lawfareblog.com/steele-dossier-retrospective

First, you have to understand how the dossier came to be in order to understand what it is and why it’s important.

During the 2016 primaries, the owners of the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative newspaper, hired Fusion GPS to do oppo research work on Donald Trump.  The Beacon’s owners were Jeb Bush supporters and they wanted dirt on Trump.  

Fusion was a research firm co-created by Glenn Simpson, a journalist who’d written most recently for the Wall Street Journal (hardly a bastion of liberal idealism).  When hauled before the Senate Judiciary Committee in August 2017 (the Republican-led committee was trying to undermine the dossier’s integrity), Simpson testified that, having gotten the assignment from the Free Beacon, the first thing Fusion did was its “due diligence”.

They got their hands on every piece of publicly available material about Trump.  They got newspaper clippings, books and magazine articles.  They watched every video they could find, every radio show interview he did.  They went to Amazon and actual book stores.  They even went to the public library so as to exhaustively find every piece of publicly available material — just so they’d have a STARTING PLACE on Trump to work from.

And their STARTING PLACE, Simpson testified, was the absolute certainty that Trump had used his (now bankrupt) Atlantic City casinos to launder copious amounts of Russian mob money.  In order to answer that question (and other questions about Trump’s strange relationships over the years with shadowy Russians), Fusion sub-contracted out the work to Christopher Steele, former head of the MI6’s Russia desk (MI6 is Britain’s CIA).  Steele had the best contacts inside Russia bar none.

The dossier is simply Steele using his sources to provide a picture of all the intel currently floating around inside Russia about Trump — and his relationship with the country’s leaders.  And its criminals — since, really, Russia is run by criminals.  

Okay, okay — I’m getting there!

My predictions come loaded down with baggage — they’re informed by a lot of reading.  There are journalists and other informed writers of this story who’ve brought remarkable insight to how I see what’s happening here: Sarah Kendzior, Seth Abramson, Rachel Maddow, Nicolle Wallace (Sarah Palin’s former handler!), Andrew Weissman, Mary Trump and Glenn Simpson himself (in Crime In Progress, his book about the Steele Dossier and Fusion’s own investigation of Trump).

Another thing I got wrong: like many people, I thought somewhere between Robert Mueller and the FBI, there was an ongoing counterintelligence investigation that was going to connect all the dots between Trump and Russia.  We learned recently however that assistant AG Rod Rosenstein, a Trump supplicant, told Team Mueller to stay in the Wikileaks lane.  They were under the impression that the FBI was handling the counterintel op.  But Rosenstein never told the FBI to pursue the counterintel op.  Deliberately.

In other words, the most important investigation into what happened behind the scenes in 2016 to explain the strange relationship between Team Trump and Russia never happened.  Those questions remain unanswered though they must be asked.

Let’s remember something: Donald Trump was impeached for cheating in the very election he’s running in.  And the thing he was impeached for was cheating in THIS election the same way he cheated in the last election.

That is my starting point.  This is not an election between two political ideologies.  

It is between right and wrong (let’s avoid good v evil, wink-wink).  

I’m not alone in thinking this.  The most prominent, forceful, brutally honest voice in the pre-election mix just might belong to THE LINCOLN PROJECT.

https://lincolnproject.us

The Lincoln Project is made up of Republicans (some now former Republicans) including George Conway (Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway’s HUSBAND!), Rick Wilson & Steve Schmidt — John McCain’s campaign manager.  These are serious Republicans.  Patriotic Americans. Good people.  Good people with whom people on the left disagree politically.  But we can all live with that because good people can argue amongst themselves and find compromises they all hate equally.  The stone cold truth is: the left needs the balance of the right as surely as the right needs the balance of the left.  Our success does indeed lie somewhere in the middle.  

To get there from where we are — swinging violently to the right against the majority’s will — to where we need to be — a more moderate “center” — requires more than just a jerk to the center.  That’s not what’s coming.  And a jerk to the far left is coming.  The Lincoln Project Team understand that.

This is from THEIR mission statement: “We do not undertake this task lightly nor from ideological preference. Our many policy differences with national Democrats remain. However, the priority for all patriotic Americans must be a shared fidelity to the Constitution and a commitment to defeat those candidates who have abandoned their constitutional oaths, regardless of party. Electing Democrats who support the Constitution over Republicans who do not is a worthy effort.”

Further, their web site states: “… sectionalism in the country and factionalism in government has led to ever uglier examples of how our political system is failing. President Donald Trump and those who sign onto Trumpism are a clear and present danger to the Constitution and our Republic. Only defeating so polarizing a character as Trump will allow the country to heal its political and psychological wounds and allow for a new, better path forward for all Americans.”

The have produced some breathtakingly brutal ads that point directly at their problem with Trump and Trumpism: it’s sheer immorality. 

An example:

https://lincolnproject.us/video/cruel

Remember as you watch — this is Republicans addressing what other Republicans have done.  They’re advising the undecided to vote for Joe Biden not for political reasons but for moral ones.

I repeat: though I have deep and profound issues with Trump politically, my deepest issue with him transcends politics completely.  My core issue with Donald Trump (as candidate and now as president) has always been with his total lack of moral character.  His sexism.  His constant houndogging outside his marriage.  His blatant racism.  His creepy sexuality toward his own daughter.  It almost doesn’t matter what the man’s politics are.  Even if I agreed with his politics, I’d object to him as a human being.  I am not alone in feeling this way.

I believe (based on copious receipts provided by good, competent, genuine journalists) that Trump and those around him knowingly committed multiple crimes in order to “win” election 2016.  One of the protections Trump is hiding behind is that DoJ rule that says you can’t indict a sitting president.  THAT is what Trump must avoid at all costs: being indicted.

That’s what every republican has to avoid — the legal consequences of their criminal actions up till now.

You have to have this in your mind when you turn to the future — and what will happen should Trump “win”.

MY PREDICTIONS

Trump won’t “win”.  He literally can’t.  He literally never did.  

The only way Trump “wins” this election is because he’s stolen it.  Again.  Trump has no intention of governing this country in the way it was designed to be governed.  He and his party are actively engaged in preventing other Americans from voting — because they don’t want those Americans to vote them out of office.

Sorry, that’s not how this country works.  Not THIS country, not yet.  

This desperation speaks to what will happen when We The People (not the Democrats or Joe Biden) throw Donald Trump and a huge swath of the Republican Party out of power.  People are coming out to vote who have never voted before.  Young people are voting as never EVER before — and they’re voting, most of them, in one direction: for something and against the other — because of what the other is and not because of its politics.

  1. Donald Trump will get blown out by the biggest margin ever.  More Americans will vote in this election than, perhaps in any other election ever. That’s for a reason: the overwhelming majority of Americans are done, done, DONE w Donald Trump and what he’s doing to America.
  2. IF Trump claims victory, it will be through manipulating the courts and the vote count.  As Trump himself has said OUT LOUD: the problem with letting too many Americans vote is it’s always bad for Republicans.  (“They had things, levels of voting that if you’d ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again” — that’s Trump during an appearance on Fox & Friends.) Again, Trump may claim victory but he will not have legitimately won.  He “got away with it” last time; he won’t this time.
  3. Joe Biden will win handily.  The Democrats will increase their lead in the House and they will flip the Senate.  Then, here is what (I predict) they will do
    1. The Democrats will increase the size of the Supreme Court — from 9 seats to 13 or 15 at a minimum in order to make the SCOTUS look more like We The People and less like just one segment of our population.  
    2. The Democrats will make Puerto Rico and Washington DC states — giving them two Senators each — helping to bring some balance back to the Senate and how it “represents” Americans and their interests.  
    3. The pandemic (as much as the Democrats) will make socialized medicine and universal basic income done deals. They’ll launch a massive infrastructure project even bigger than Roosevelt’s WPA — all in order to help get the economy out of the ditch it’s in — the ditch Trump and his coronavirus response put us and the economy in.
    4. As Joe Biden said, it won’t be up to him what “happens” to any Republican who might have behaved illegally over the last four years, it will be up to a newly rejuvenated Department of Justice — as per our Constitution and the rule of law.  If the rule of law dictates the Justice be visited upon all the Republicans now fallen from power then so be it.  They knowingly violated the rule of law which is what brought us here.  Behold The Day Of Judgment.

In neither case will life go on as it was.  

Life will go on but we are about to experience the kind of profound political and social change that followed the Black Death.  In the same way that bubonic plague ended feudalism, the coronavirus pandemic will undermine crony capitalism and usher in a more socialistic approach to life and governance.  

My big prediction? Change is coming!

NOTE: this post was also published at https://faitheismproject.com/.

Failure Of Imagination — As Much As Treason — Got Us Here

It sucks waking up every day, feeling exactly what former first lady Michelle Obama described yesterday in her podcast — a persistent mild depression. I’d quibble with the word “mild” but then I’m a quibbler by nature.

Mrs. Obama was speaking more to the relentless parade of racist cop incidents. Yesterday’s wasn’t deadly but it was horrifying nonetheless. Cops in Aurora, CO stopped a van with a family of African Americans in it — a mom, her daughters and some other kids. The cops were looking for a stolen MOTORCYCLE. They drew up alongside the van, GUNS POINTED at it — AT CHILDREN.

This would never have happened to a white family. Listen to the sound of those terrified children and then look to the WHITE COPS (a female included). Wonder what could be going through their minds. Wonder at the inhumanity.

Think about the trauma that will haunt all of them forever.

I sure hope the people in that van can sue the Aurora, CO Police Department. They’re going to need the money to pay for their therapy. And, it seems, the only way to drain racism from a police department is to, first, drain it of money. At least the money that supports the racism inside a police department.

It gets extra disgusting when you consider that the people inside the van are paying the tax dollars that resulted in them lying on the pavement, terrified for their lives. They paid for that. They will pay for it the rest of their lives.

This has been going on FOREVER. Black people have been saying it. Racists have an excuse. They’re the cause. What about the rest of us white people? Why have we put up with it?

Down deep? Most of us didn’t believe it. Not so much because it strained credulity but because it was too monstrous for our tender, white minds to process. We couldn’t imagine it. Our imaginations failed.

Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia has also revealed a failure of imagination — on the part of most Americans but, worst of all, on the part of our news media. Plenty of them STILL can’t imagine that Donald Trump has any sort of “unseemly” relationship with Vlad Putin. They still wonder aloud why Trump is always so beholden to Putin.

If they scratched their heads any harder, they’d create permanent divots in their skulls.

The truth about Donald Trump has always sat there in clear view. FFS — the first concerted oppo research carried out against Trump established that. Paul Singer, the money behind the Washington Free Beacon (a conservative news organization awarded for its journalism by the extremely conservative Heritage Foundation) hired Fusion GPS to dig up dirt on Trump. Fusion was a research company run by former Wall Street Journal reporters Glenn Simpson and Thomas Catan. For the record — no one here is a raving socialist.

Simpson testified before the House Intelligence Committee on August 22, 2017 for ten hours. Back then, the House was run by Republicans who were trying to undermine all investigations into Trump’s 2016 campaign and its strange relationship with Russia. Simpson testified that the first thing Fusion did after getting the oppo research gig was their due diligence. They got their hands on every piece of Trump-related anything (newspapers, magazine articles, TV interviews, radio interviews, books). They scoured the internet, shopped at Amazon, visited actual bookstores and even the public library.

What they found — in publicly available material, in other words, information ANYONE could find — convinced them that Donald Trump could well be an international criminal who’d used his bankrupted Atlantic City casinos to launder Russian mob money. If that was the case, they understood, then Trump was completely compromised. To do the dirty work inside Russia, Fusion sub-contracted the work to Orbis, a London-based private intelligence firm run by Christopher Steele — former head of MI6’s Russia desk.

That’s why the Steele Dossier exists. It’s Steele’s raw intel. Let me repeat: it’s RAW INTEL. If you don’t understand the difference between raw intel and news reporting, you should put down the raw intel. It will confuse you.

In the shadow world of spies, one can’t rely on a “smoking gun”. One has to rely on context — the most complete picture one can form so as to discern real objects from fog. The Steele Dossier paints a picture that has remained mostly accurate about Trump and the many ways Russia has compromised him.

And yet, our news media STILL describes this document as fake.

Because Donald Trump and the Republicans describe the dossier as fake. Of course, they have to — they’re all compromised toghether. Hell, the Republicans knew Trump was in bed with Russia during their 2016 convention. Current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy famously walked into a meeting of Republican muckety-mucks and said “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump”. Then Speaker of the House Paul Ryan wasn’t shocked by that news. He was so un-shocked in fact that 1) he didn’t call the FBI and 2) he swore the whole room to secrecy. “No leaks. . . . This is how we know we’re a real family here.”

From the get-go, Donald Trump has openly given away our secrets to Russia. He famously told Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that firing Comey took all the pressure about Russia off his back. How hard would it be to imagine what that really meant? And yet, our news media couldn’t make that leap.

We don’t know what secrets Trump has shared directly with Vladimir Putin — his chief handler — because Trump has never let Americans in on the meetings. The Russians always seem to know what went down though. How much imagination does it take to connect dots here?

Look at these two photos of Donald Trump and Vlad Putin. How much imagination does it take to extrapolate what these photos are shouting at us?

Donald Trump violated the Constitution the moment he took an oath to uphold and protect it. We knew it as he did it — and yet did nothing. Failure of imagination — to act but also to recognize what the ripple effects of our failure would be. Our imaginations failed to tell us that there would even be ripple effects.

Yet, here we are.

Racism is failure of imagination. Extreme religiosity is failure of imagination. Of course it is — you’re letting an imaginary creature or creatures do all your thinking for you. Misogyny is failure of imagination. So’s bigotry and fear of LGBTQ people and intolerance and ignorance of any stripe. It’s all failure of imagination.

Fortunately, failure of imagination is fixable. All one has to do is step outside the box you’re living in, take off your normalcy bias blinders and open your damned eyes.

LOOK at what is instead of assuming you know what is. Actually LISTEN to people and what they need. Imagine solutions that aren’t earthbound. Yes, we can’t make the impossible possible. But we have to be willing to challenge the impossible. Better yet, let’s give our imaginations a chance.

We may find that what we thought was impossible isn’t.

When This Is All Done, Can We All Agree That Anyone Who Says “Nobody Coulda Seen It Coming!” Is An Idiot?

Nobody coulda seen a worldwide pandemic coming? Wrong. People like Laurie Garrett have been predicting it for years. Nobody coulda seen Donald Trump coming? Oh, please.

Fusion GPS c-founder Glenn Simpson testified before the Senate Intel Committee in August 2017 about what happened when Fusion did their due diligence before commencing the opposition research the Washington Free Beacon had hired them to do on Donald Trump. Simpson testified (to a Republican-led committee trying to undermine the Steele Dossier’s integrity), that what they found in publicly available material convinced them that Donald Trump had laundered Russian mob money through his Atlantic City casinos — which was why they sought out and hired Christopher Steele. Steele — former head of Britain’s MI6’s Moscow desk. No one had Steele’s contacts or deep background knowledge of how Russia worked.

Chris Steele certainly saw Trump coming. Even after no one was paying him anymore, Steele was still desperate to get someone — anyone — to look at his work (including, I bet, the very people who’d just hired him). It was Steele’s persistence that (eventually) got his raw intel into the hands of the late Senator John McCain.

Plenty of people saw Trump coming — and accurately predicted what would be the outcome of having Trump (literally) occupy the White House.

And nobody saw the explosive rage against racism coming? You’d have to be blind or conservative to think that way. This has been coming at us since the Republic’s founding because we thought slavery wasn’t heinous enough to banish from our shores. We compromised with evil. It was only a matter of time before the costs came due.

“Nobody coulda seen it coming” is what lazy-assed people say to themselves. It’s absolution by ignorance — and it’s bullshit.

Why Our Main Stream News Media Sucks — “It’s The Framing, Stupid” Edition

It physically hurts watching most of our Main Stream News Media grapple with Donald Trump. He’s so much a creature of their making — his entertainer’s DNA is the same as theirs — that they fail to see their own fatal flaws in him.

It’s days/weeks/months/a presidency like this that make me think about Paddy Chayefsky’s brilliant screenplay Network.

If you haven’t seen it, see it! When you remember that Chayefsky wrote it eons before Fox News flared to life in Roger Ailes’ fetid mind (the feature came out in 1976) — a propaganda tool designed from the ground up to stop a Richard Nixon type president from ever getting caught again (that’s right — Roger Ailes believed that had Fox News been around during Nixon’s time, Nixon would never have had to quit) — Network becomes even more visionary.

Chayefsky anticipated the marriage of news and entertainment — and the birth of their Frankenstein Monster-like love child — a wildly out of control noise machine that gleefully blurs the lines between fact and fiction, reality and bullshit, ordered moral rectitude and total Machiavellian chaos. In one extra-brilliant scene, Ned Beatty — playing the Chairman Of The Board — explains “the rules” to renegade anchor man Howard Beale (Oscar winner Peter Finch). This is a wonderful example of “FRAMING”…””

…And YOU, Mr. Beale, have disturbed the Fundamental Forces Of NATURE!”

9A5% of our Main Stream News Media cannot “frame” a story to save their lives. To save OUR lives either. We need to remember — so does our Main Stream News Media — that journalists are storyteller first and foremost. News is just the story of what’s happening now and why. Journalists must follow the same rules fictional storytellers play by — if they’re going to be any good at storytelling.

All storytelling begins with framing. It’s storytelling’s “In the beginning…”. Do we frame Hitler (in a story about him) as a good guy or a bad guy? The overwhelming majority of us would probably frame Hitler as the villain regardless of the piece. But a few — white nationalists for instance — would probably frame Hitler as a hero. Framing equals point of view. Whose point of view does a story represent.

If you go and frame a story from Hitler’s point of view — or, say, Donald Trump’s — then things like Jew hatred to the point of causing a Holocaust or caging Latino babies at our southern border — then outright evil doesn’t seem so… “evil”. Evil gets normalized. Not all at once — but enough so that the next evil act plays to a collective psyche that accepts a certain amount of evil as “just how things are”. No, they’re NOT how things are.

Framing begins with what you know and what you can legitimately believe based on the preponderance of evidence. Donald Trump is a liar. Donald Trump is a money launderer. Donald Trump is a fraud. Donald Trump is a bully. Donald Trump is a racist. Donald Trump is a rapist. Donald Trump is a traitor. One could legitimately frame any story about Donald Trump from any one of these points of view — and successfully tell a NEWS story.

One could NOT (for comparison’s sake) frame a story from the point of view that Donald Trump is an honest actor who believes every word he reads off a teleprompter. That story would be demonstrably false even as you told it. And yet — our Main Stream News Media persists in framing the Donald Trump story from that very perspective: that Donald Trump is a normal person and a normal president. Sorry — I got that slightly wrong: they frame Trump as a “different kind of potus” who “expresses himself directly”.

Allow me to translate from the bullshit — “Trump’s a chaos agent and we have no idea how to report on him”. There’s no such thing as “different”. A journalist reporting that a politician is “different” because he ignores all rules and norms is a lazy journalist. “Why” are they different? “What do you mean exactly by ‘different’?” To call Donald Trump “different” is to frame Trump from the point of view of bullshit. It helps no one — except Donald Trump.

And that — right there — is the problem. When you frame a story from the point of view of, say, a villain — you see the world through the villain’s eyes. You empathize with the villain and see their goals as our goals. You normalize evil and make it not only respectable but desirable.

The Poster Girl for this rancid brand of un-journalism is NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell.

Kelly O’Donnell – A nice person (I bet) with zero perspective (I’m positive).

I’m sure Kelly’s a lovely person. I’m sure she’s a wonderful friend — she seems very empathetic. But she lacks critical faculties. She’s no more discerning of the Truth than an open microphone. Kelly happily reports everything Trump says from her White House beat as if Donald Trump was a tower of integrity whose every word was his bond.

FFS, Kelly — when we look back at this period a few years from now (provided we’re not all living in a gulag or a mass grave), we’ll look squarely at the Fourth Estate and their many profound failings. Journalists are the only job mentioned specifically in the Constitution. They are obligated to be our final check on power.

But a check that frames stories from the point of view of the things it’s supposed to be checking cannot check shit. It surrenders the necessary perspective the moment it starts reporting. Any story about Trump that doesn’t immediately frame Trump as a liar is a lie itself — how can it not be? It’s telling the liar’s lie for him. carrying his lying water wherever he wants it carried.

This isn’t hard to fix. Gaining perspective is as easy as stepping back from a story and allowing yourself to see all the great details you’ve uncovered in the largest possible context — so that you can see, evaluate and appreciate how your small cogs work as part of the larger wheel. I think of NBC’s number cruncher Steve Kornacki.

I’m sure Steve’s a lovely person, fun to lunch with. And he’s bright, too. I’ll give him that. But bright without perspective is less bright than it could be. Than it SHOULD BE. Steve Kornacki can tell you everything you want to know about a grain of sand — so long as we’re only talking about that one grain. Does that grain of sand live on the beach at Malibu or smack in the center of the Sahara Desert? Steve can’t tell you that.

He can only frame the grain of sand’s story from the grain of sand’s point of view. That is only part of its story unfortunately.

We need our news media to report the WHOLE Trump story every time out of the gate. We need them to see Donald Trump the way Fusion GPS saw Trump. Fusion, you’ll recall, was the research entity hired by the Washington Free Beacon then (through intermediaries) the Hillary Clinton campaign to learn all the could about Trump — through legitimate means. Fusion (as principle Glenn Simpson testified to Congress), upon being hired, started the job by doing its due diligence. They got ahold of every bit of publicly available material concerning Trump. Books, magazines, video, radio, internet. They bought from Amazon, browsed book stores & magazine racks and even went to the public library. What they found in publicly available material so convinced them that Trump had used his Atlantic City casinos to launder Russian Mob money that they hired former MI6 Russia desk guru Christopher Steele. Steele had the best sources inside Russia.

Fusion, in its report to its clients, framed Trump from the widest possible perspective. That perspective saw Trump as a criminal.

There is nothing whatsoever — still, to this very day — stopping America’s Main Stream News Media from doing the exact same due diligence.

It’s a little late now, of course. CNN & MSNBC (and all the rest) could easily have done this back when Trump was insisting that Mexicans are rapists. Perhaps if our Main Stream News Media HAD done that, there wouldn’t be a pile of dead Mexican bodies right now in El Paso.

When our MSM mis-frames stories, it isn’t just bad storytelling, it’s toxic to our Democracy.

Our Dirty Secret: We Now Accept A Shitload Of Corruption As “Normal”. Spoiler Alert – BLAME THE MEDIA

Spoiler Alert Redux: BLAME THE MEDIA. They betrayed our trust in them. I bet money had something to do with it…

Yeah, yeah — it’s not entirely the media’s fault. We aren’t sheep out here, beyond the media bubble. But most people don’t have all day to sift through or triangulate all the information pouring on us to feel clarity about what is true and what isn’t. We identify a voice or two that we trust. When that voice speaks, we’ll feel secure that THEY, at least, aren’t bullshitting us.

This doesn’t apply of course to Fox News viewers.

The Press is the only job mentioned in the Constitution. They’re the only profession enumerated there (in the First Amendment) and given a mission: to be the Peoples’ last check on Power. That means they have to have a ZERO TOLERANCE for corruption since even the tiniest bit can grow (quickly) and bring down the whole system itself. Because self-government is based on TRUST. We have to TRUST that We The People aren’t trying to screw each other over. There’s simply no room for corruption in that equation.

The moment our Press accepts one tiny bit of corruption — or, should I say, the moment our Press ACCEPTED corruption — they helped set us on this very road we’re on. They’re not completely to blame, of course, there’s the corruption the Press didn’t report on. Who are they? And WHY did our Press fail to warn us about them?

During the Bush years, there was a New York Times reporter named Judith Miller. Judith traded a big chunk of her integrity to have access to Dick Cheney. That gave her an inside track to Cheney’s story. He wasn’t telling her the whole truth however. And there was Judith in the end — with a bullshit story under her byline and her integrity in tatters.

Our Press helped sell us the False Narrative we’re living inside of now — that Donald Trump is a legitimate president who “won” in 2016. “But he won the election” has been the mantra for two years to explain the screaming incongruities of Trump’s actions and the electorate’s disgust. “But he won the election” they say — as if everything surrounding the election (you know, RUSSIA) had nothing to do with that incongruity. Never mind every animal instinct inside of us screaming “That’s Bullshit!” — “But he won the election”.

For The Record: It was reported back in real time — 10 days before the election, Paul Manafort (having been forced to LEAVE the Trump campaign because of his ties to Russia) RETURNED to the campaign with this directive: “FOCUS ON PENNSYLVANIA, WISCONSIN & MICHIGAN”. Trump won those three states by a combined total of less than 80,000 votes. No one has ever done any official forensics on the machines (that’s not to say that people haven’t looked at the results — and seen some very real mathematical anomalies including similar vote totals across multiple counties). No one, to date, has asked Paul Manafort (though I’m sure Team Mueller has) — “What’d ya mean by that, Paulie?”

Remember — Even Team Trump expected to lose. There are stories of true shock in the Trump camp. There were stories of Melania especially — raging at Donald because he had assured her he would lose; the whole “deal” they had was he would lose.

Quick Digression — I’m quire convinced that Euro Trash FLOTUS is as much a part of Putin’s active measures against us as was Mariia Butina. Melania isn’t nearly as trained (I don’t think) — but we’ve got so much to learn still…

These stories WERE reported at the time. For some reason — despite their strangeness — they didn’t catch much heat. Shame. We might have gotten to the bottom of this sooner. But, back then, we were living large on lies. We had feasted more than we realized on bullshit — and had been calling it prime rib. More fool us. But then, remember — BLAME THE MEDIA.

As the story of what REALLY happened behind the scenes of our election began to find sunlight, one story caught the Media’s attention: The Steele Dossier. It was so sexy sounding. Its origins were even sexier. It all sounded like something out of a John Le Carre novel. On meth. Quick

Quick background: Back when in the early, early days of the 2016 campaign, a conservative news site — The Washington Free Beacon — hired a company called Fusion GPS to do oppo research on Donald Trump —

https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/10/28/560544607/conservative-website-initially-hired-firm-that-later-produced-trump-dossier

The Free Beacon (rightfully) feared Trump. Like everyone else with a pulse, they’d heard rumblings about Donald Trump and various illegal behaviours. Fusion GPS was co-founded in 2011 by Glenn R. Simpson (a former investigative reporter and journalist for Roll Call and The Wall Street Journal), Peter Fritsch, (former Wall Street Journal senior editor), and former Wall Street Journal journalist Thomas Catan — so they had rock solid bona fides. Some more info about Fusion is here —

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fusion_GPS

When the whole Trump-Russia saga began to emerge — and the first obstructions of justice flared, Glenn Simpson was called before Congress to testify (the intention of the Senate Republicans being to tamp Simpson down and discredit him and the Steele Dossier; this occurred at roughly the same time Devin Nunes was making his “Midnight Runs” to the White House). He told some fascinating stories that blew up repeatedly in the faces of the Republicans who’d brought him there. Shame it didn’t get more attention but — c’est lat vie (or our Press).

Among the things Glenn Simpson said under oath was this: When got hired, they did what they always do first — their Due Diligence. Their due diligence consisted of getting ahold of every newspaper article, every magazine article, every video, radio show, anything anywhere in any format — if it was PUBLICLY AVAILABLE, Fusion got its hands on it. They ordered it from Amazon. Found it in book stores. They even took it out of the library if that’s where it was. Due Diligence it’s called.

Simpson testified under oath that what Fusion GPS found IN PUBLICLY AVAILABLE MATERIAL gave them pause. It convinced them that Donald J Trump had (at the very least) been laundering money for the Russian mob forever. And if you’re laundering money for the Russian mob, you’re laundering money for the Russian government — Vladimir Putin in particular. It’s Russia. That’s how it works there.

Fusion wanted to hire the best Russia hand in the business to dig into that. The Free Beacon bailed. They weren’t interested in knowing that much about Trump (who was on the way to becoming the GOP’s nominee). I guess it might have changed how they felt about him SO much they did something. Shame about that.

In April 2016, the law firm Perkins Coie retained Fusion on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the DNC to continue their work. Fusion hired Chris Steele in June 2016. When Perkins Coie ended their contract with Fusion in October 2016, Steele — who’d become so concerned by what HE was uncovering that he continued working gratis because he cared about the Western Democracies. If you want — Simpson’s full August 2017 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee is here (Simpson & Fritsch even wrote an op-ed in the NYTimes demanding their full testimony be released) —
https://apps.washingtonpost.com/g/documents/politics/read-the-full-transcript-of-glenn-simpsons-senate-testimony/2700/

So — The Steele Dossier (a collection of raw, unvetted intel actually) became a kind of bete noir for America’s news media. They glommed onto the first word that, while being true about the dossier, also betrayed a wide beam of editorial ignorance about the espionage trade: “Unverified”. While the claims made in the Dossier may indeed have been “unverified” by them, there were people verifying or quite capable of verifying most everything Steele wrote. In fact, on the subject of the Steele Dosser, the Press got quite belligerent — as if, somehow, Christopher Steele needed to prove his product’s claims to THEM before they could possibly pass muster.

It was bizarre, frankly — these “journalists” who hadn’t done THEIR due diligence about Donald Trump, casting aspersions on someone else’s DUE DILIGENCE. Bizarre? It was PERVERSE.

As we keep learning: Nothing in the Steele Dossier has been “disproven”. Steele’s work product — and remember — Chris Steele ran the MI6’s Russia Desk. He had great contacts. He had integrity. Side note: When the FBI wanted to take down FIFA’s Sepp Bladder for being corrupt — they hired Chris Steele. The man’s work was solid. He had a solid reputation.

But our Press had been compromised already. They were still buying everything Trump or his underlings said at face value (no matter how much it stunk up the joint). Instead of trying to perhaps even verify some of the claims themselves — they shrugged the Dossier off as “UNVERIFIED”. Think about that in retrospect — the great bulk of our Free Press were denying a desperate whistle blower (desperate in part to save THEIR hides, rights & Constitutional purpose) in favor of the CRIMINALS & TRAITORS who were coloring the False Narrative.

The fix was already in though. By then — keep in mind — the Press had already accepted things that could not possibly be “accepted” before. By “accepted” I mean “NORMALIZED”.

Yeah, sure — the press reacted to “Mexicans Are Rapists” & “Pussy Grabbing” with all the proper alarm. For two seconds. Then they turned their focus to fresh outrage — and they stopped asking about these outrages. The effect was immediate: Trump’s bigotry and misogyny were now baked in to The Product that was Trump. And the Press accepted those things as “Part of Him”. Voila — the unspeakable had been normalized.

Taking the bait, our Press yapped about emails instead. Benghazi. Then the Comey Letter (a whole other subject for discussion). The Press’s inability to discern real from bullshit — and their carnival barker mentality could likely have changed the whole course of the election right there. In retrospect, the Press’s relentless harping on the emails (stolen property, don’t forget) will be seen as its blind spot. Its nearly fatal blind spot.

Now we live in a time when it is acknowledged that most everything that spews from the president’s anus-shaped mouth is a lie. Yet most of the press report it as if it could be true. They’re getting better at contextualizing it but — we’re so late in the game and they’re still so loathe to use the word “lie”. “Falsehoods” still abound. So does bullshit.

It wold be awesome if we could go back in a time machine to that moment before our Press ate, digested & pooped out to us as truth Trump’s first lie. Unfortunately, that’s not an option. All we can do is learn from our mistakes. Too bad learning from our mistakes is not a given.

We’ve never been “here” before — to this terrible, treasonous place. We can still save ourselves — what’s our choice? But We The People can’t do it without our Constitutionally mandated partners: The Press.

But we need them to swear off corruption. Cold turkey. Zero Tolerance. The moment they sense it (or even suspect that they sense it), they need to speak up. Loudly and persistently cos we’re not always good at listening. It’s hard to listen sometimes when so much bullshit is being thrown at you.