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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Our News Media Sucks — Steve Kornacki Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Made A Terrific New Friend Yesterday — My Diametric Opposite

I am not making this up. I met my diametric opposite a few days ago. We kinda it it off. By yesterday, when we parted ways, I couldn’t get him out of my head.

Come the fall, my daughter will matriculate at UC-Davis. Despite the havoc Prop 13 wreaked upon California’s educational system, our state universities remain a shining example of what public education can be. For two days, we were both plunged into the University’s culture — my daughter off with the students, me off with the parents. As this isn’t my first time at the UC Rodeo, I was familiar with the tropes. The nuggets of good, UC-Davis-specific info were massively outnumbered by well-meaning-but-generic suggestions about dealing with our freshman angst and our own.

My new friend Gary and I started chatting — just because we were sitting near each other while waiting for one of the information sessions to start. We all wore badges with our names, our student’s first name and their intended major. That way, all the parents had a way to break the ice with each other — just by reading each others’ badges.

I’m not subtle in a room. Gary saw me immediately for what I was — a progressive. Gary did a little “lawyerly” poking around. He showed me a picture of a Remington rifle he was interested in buying. It was a nice-looking rifle. Not my thing but, still, my under-reaction surprised Gary.

The subject of marijuana had come up. I forget why. It seems to come up a lot around me. Gary had recently developed type 2 diabetes. When he and I and the two other hookey-playing dads sat down for an off-campus beer, Gary and I were the only non-drinkers. I asked if he ever used cannabis instead. Gary said he almost did once (at UC-Davis — he was a very proud alum) but hadn’t since — and really couldn’t because of his work.

Gary, ya see, is a judge. A very conservative judge from a very conservative part of California. The instant I heard Gary was a judge, I was captivated. I grew up a surgeon’s son. While I thought of my dad as “dad”, other people revered my dad because of what he did — and did for them. Working as I have in show business, I’ve seen people be revered because they can memorize dialogue and act it out on cue. But, perhaps because I grew up being unimpressed, I became immune to being impressed. Gary being a judge (never mind his politics) made him a guy with a job I wanted to know more about. The perfect basis for a friendship.

Now, I hope Gary will forgive me for this. I’m about to give away his secret. He’s a profoundly decent man. His care and compassion for drug addicts — his work on their behalf to keep them out of the penal system (but with the penal system’s threat very real) makes him a hero. There’s a saying in the Talmud: “Save one life, you save the world”. I told Gary that’s what he was doing. He downplayed it. The last laugh is mine — I’m shouting it from the rooftops here.

The truth is, because Gary isn’t a doctrinaire conservative — and I’m a pragmatic progressive — we found an amazing amount of, if not common ground, then ground where structures could be built where we both could live. It’s funny how when you put politics — even differing politics — inside decent people, one hears the differences but one also sees a way to get past them. Decency is a remarkable thing, I tell ya!

Decency means you have to listen sometimes — and wait your turn to counter. You have to argue facts and not feelings. You have to stay reasoned and reasonable.

I have a confession to make. I used what my new friend Gary told me about himself against him. And he let me. The subject of Donald Trump came up. The subject of Russia came up. The subject of Robert Mueller and The Mueller Report came up.

Gary said he hadn’t read the report, didn’t intend to, and thought it was a waste of time. That’s when I played dirty. I talked to my new friend Gary as the compassionate, law-abiding judge I knew he was — there was video, news reporting — testimonials from drug addicts who’d been saved from their own demons. Gary is especially fond of his time in drug court. He’s put more than a few demons to the sword there.

I put Robert Mueller into Gary’s courtroom,. Was Mueller a “good witness”? Purple Heart War Hero… Second longest-serving FBI Director… a man who’d spent his whole career as a public servant — whose reputation even now remains sterling. I asked — if the evidence presented in the 488 page Mueller Report was evidence presented in HIS courtroom, how would Gary feel about it?

I told you — Gary is a very decent man. He did not disagree that AG Bill Barr misrepresented Robert Mueller and his work product. The more we talked about the subject, the quieter Gary became. I don’t argue feelings. I argue facts (and I can back up everything with receipts if needed because I’ve learned the hard way — it sucks being humiliated by someone who does bring proof that they know whereof they speak). But feelings are part of the equation and depending on how intense those feelings are, the facts can easily get de-contextualized. A fact out of context is a statistic waiting to be abused.

Gary and I talked about the 2nd amendment too. We talked about how it’s worded. We talked about guns and gun culture. Though it pains me to say it, i don’t see how we’d ever make America a giant gun-free zone. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work toward it. My bet is the more women flood the political system, the tighter gun restrictions will be because mothers hate the thought of anyone’s baby getting shot.

Guns will be a series of conversations we’ll have over time, I bet. I believe we will have those conversations. And though we won’t see eye-to-eye, I believe we’ll begin to see ways to bridge the chasm. Decency, I believe, will make the chasm harder to maintain. I hope that Gary’s decency was a reflection of my own. Having someone listen to you — really listen — changes things.

I bonded with Gary. I found a compadre (and a partner in crime). I found someone whose world fascinates me — as my world fascinates him. I doubt we’ll ever have the same war stories.

As someone who rages against political opponents like a fool shrieking into the void, I found it incredibly satisfying to listen. To ask questions. To understand the perspective that made another person who they are.

I guess that’s what happened. I looked inside the heart of another person — and saw them beneath what they thought.

I can’t say for sure if this new friendship will endure. I want it to. I already come away from it enriched by it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I guess I got lucky on that one.

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

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

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

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

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

On This Perverse Independence Day, A Reminder — American Exceptionalism Is REAL: It’s Our DIVERSITY…

Today may be July 4, but it doesn’t feel like a normal Independence Day. More like… Trumpendance Day. Not a national celebration, a national tragedy.

If our problem were only Donald Trump — his corruption, his crime family and their spider web of self-serving criminal enterprises — his treason — this “problem” would have been solved already. Not hyperbole: the entire Republican Party is evidently complicit in every last bit what Donald Trump is doing, has done — intends to do to what was the United States of America. Not to get too far into the weeds (there are so damned many) — The demographics clearly against them (remember those “demographics” — we’ll return to them shortly) — the Republican “brain trust” saw that the days of White, Christian hegemony over America were sunsetting — and fast. Popular vote numbers (and the more Americans who vote, the more Democratic we tilt) put the presidency (the Executive Branch) permanently out of reach. The Legislative branch also looked dicey. The one shot the Republican brain trust saw as a means to hold onto power: capture the judiciary. Fill the benches from SCOTUS on down with permanent appointees, every last one a cultural/legal troglodyte, wedded like a Bride of Christ to the idea that America needs to live in its Antebellum past.

Those people have hijacked the country. Before that, they hijacked the language (twisting “A well regulated militia” into “have all the guns ya want!”) and even history (going into the Civil War, not a single seceding Confederate state said a word about “state’s rights”. Every single secession document sites slavery as its reason for leaving the Union. The South proved the maxim — never mind who wins the war, what matters is who wins the peace that follows. The South managed to revise history to make us think we weren’t still arguing about slavery.

Those people — Conservative, white Christians — also have tried to hijack the idea of “American Exceptionalism”. They want everyone to believe what makes us different — special, damn it! — is white, Christian men and their money. That is prime, grade A bullshit.

American Exceptionalism is its diversity.

With the caveat that step one involved wiping out most of America’s native population (guns, steel and especially germs) — and with the added caveat that European populations were living in abject squalor while great civilizations thrived across North America — America was a kind of blank slate culturally and historically. Whereas the Gauls, the Celts, the Bretons, Aquitanians, Ligurians, and Germanic people arriving at the beginning of the Frankish Empire (481–843) would, in time, evolve into “French People” just as the Hun tribes in Germany became Germans, the Swiss became Swiss, the Spanish became Spanish and the Italians became a collection of disorganized city-states masquerading as a country, there were no tribes present on North America to eventually evolve into those “people”.

As I said, aside from the ones the arriving Europeans wiped out, THEY were the foundation for what became “Americans”. But not just Europeans. They weren’t the only ones here. There were still native Americans. And lots of Africans. There were, in fact, people from all over the world — here at the founding of the country and immediately thereafter. The white men who drew up the documents over-represented themselves and their interests — as wealthy white men always do. But the ideals transcended their narrow-mindedness.

Look at America’s history, who contributed to it, who BUILT the country, not just with their labor but with their passion, their idealism, their love of the idea of building something of your own creation — that you participate in governing. What a remarkable notion to spring from the minds of people who’d always been ruled over by kings and inheritors of power. No more inheritance — power would spring from the Will of The People.

And the people, as we know — as any Republican can tell you, their pearls clutched tightly — are, have been and are getting even more DIVERSE.

Happy Birthday, America. Happy Exceptionalism!