The Trick To Defeating Republicans In 2022 (And Beyond) Is To Call Them What They Are: CRIMINALS

I’m old enough to remember when the GOP was one of America’s two principle political parties. Now there’s only one — the Democrats. The GOP can no longer honestly call itself a “political party” because the GOP can no longer honestly do ANYTHING. That’s not a small detail. It’s not exactly a secret either. The Republican Party with two or three exceptions stands one hundred percent with Donald Trump. Never mind a few self-serving votes here and there for infrastructure dollars — despite Trump’s demands that they vote down all infrastructure. That’s pure political cynicism at work. The fact is, they still stand with Trump. Whatever Trump wants to do to their party, they will let him. They don’t have a choice. Yeah, to a degree it’s fear of being primaried by someone even more Trumpified than they are. Anyone with integrity would stand up for what’s right; at the very least, they’d do everything they could to uphold the oath they took to protect and defend the Constitution from all enemies foreign AND domestic.

In America, what do we call someone who’s either broken or refused to uphold the oath they took? Frequently, we call them “the current officeholder”. We call them that because there’s no actual penalty for violating one’s oath of office. Funny thing? There’s supposed to be: removal from office. If the act they took that violated their oath of office broke any kind of local laws, then they might face legal jeopardy. As we know from common experience, plenty of politicians violate their oaths of office. Pretty much none of them ever get removed from office for doing it. Gosh, could THIS kind of baked in corruption be one of those reasons Americans have grown cynical about our politics?

We’ve enabled our political class to all nod and wink at each other as they take their oaths of office: “We all understand that this activity is pure kabuki and we all understand that none of us will ever confess that truth”. That is fixable and we must fix it. But, alas, now that the doors have been thrown open to corruption, it’s going to be hard to close them. It’s just easier to be corrupt than to maintain one’s integrity. To maintain one’s integrity, one must deny every greedy impulse one has. One must place the greater good above the good of any one person — including oneself. Like I said — it’s no picnic. The rewards are more subtle than the creature comforts greed provides.

Part of our problem in telling this story is our news media’s inability or unwillingness to differentiate between Truth and bullshit. “Both sides do it” journalism is, by its nature, deeply cynical. It’s also profoundly wrong. Both sides do not do “it” because the two sides are, really, nothing alike. Yes, both sides have their points of view, but both points of view don’t carry equal weight. A point of view based on good, solid data and logical, reviewable analysis has earned the right to be accepted as “truthful”. A point of view based on feelings, conspiracy theories, Fox News and QAnon drivel is drivel. The two things are NOT equal. If you could hold them in your hand, you’d get it: these two things are not even remotely the same thing. But, when, as our news media does, when they give credence to bullshit, bullshit becomes truthful. They’re saying clearly of something they know is bullshit “It may sound like rot, but (“both sides do it” after all), under some bizarre, imaginary, pretzel logic circumstances, it could be the truth and for that reason, we must give it credence as if it is the truth”. Um, no. Bullshit is always bullshit. It’s never the truth. That’s why it’s bullshhit.

We need to get it into our heads that there’s no such thing as a person with 99% of their integrity. Integrity is an all or nothing proposition. Either you have it or you don’t. We’re all born with one hundred percent of our integrity intact. Here’s the problem with that: that is all we get. It surrounds each of us like parapet made of gossamer. If we dig in our heels once under attack — if we make defending that parapet everything — that gossamer will hold fast like titanium. On the other hand, if we waver (worse, if we give in to corruption), that gossamer will have already dissipated into nothingness. The very instant one’s integrity gets dinged, either one addresses the ding immediately or, in time, that one ding will become two and then four and then eight et cetera.

Current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy walks around with literally zero integrity. That’s been the case his whole political life but it became demonstrably factual on June 15, 2016 when Kevin — a month before the GOP convention where it was already a foregone conclusion that Trump would be their nominee — entered a room of GOP leaders and said out loud “There’s two people I think Putin pays — Rohrbacher and Trump — swear to God!” At the same time Kevin lost his integrity, so did everyone else in that room.

Mind you, this conversation was recorded and played a year later for a Washington Post reporter. No one on the recording replies to Kevin with a horrified “Whaaaaaaat? Kevin — are you sure about this?” No one says “Hey, that’s a problem! We’re about to nominate a guy owned by Russia to be POTUS?” Instead, those assembled go along with then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan’s suggestion to not discuss this matter outside this room. “That’s how we know we’re family,” said Paul Ryan. If we had video of the meeting instead of just audio, I bet we’d actually see Ryan twirling his moustache as he spoke those words.

What the Republicans did that day was treasonous. That is a stone cold fact. If you even suspect that America is under threat from a hostile foreign power (and a country engaged in CYBER WAR with us is indeed behaving with hostility) then you are obligated to ACT. If you don’t — as the Republicans didn’t — we have to ask “WHY?” Why did Paul Ryan and Kevinn McCarthy and every other GOP leader in the room that June day NOT tell anyone about what they suspected? Why did they lie about “joking” the one time any of them were confronted about the conversation? Trust me: no one there was “joking” in large part because no one there was capable of making a joke. One must be able to laugh at oneself to have a “sense of humor”.

If you can’t laugh at yourself, that means you can only laugh at others. That’s the tell. If you can’t laugh at yourself but only can laugh at others, it means YOU HAVE NO SENSE OF HUMOR. Donald Trump notoriously has no sense of humor. But, you could pretty much point at any Republican and find the same thing: people incapable of laughing at themselves but more than happy to laugh their heads off at others. That’s bullying. And bullies are notoriously unfunny. Because they have no sense of humor. Kevin McCarthy was not joking. He was learning something plenty of his GOP fellow travelers already knew — that Donald Trump was a fully owned subsidiary of Vladimir Putin.

Everything that follows — every lie, every attempt to obstruct justice, every brazen attempt to overthrow the last election’s results — is flat out one hundred percent ILLEGAL. What the Republicans are doing isn’t them “expressing their opinion about American democracy”, it’s them trying to end our democracy — in direct opposition to the majority’s wishes (and that’s not some slim majority either!). This is NOT “political behavior”, it’s CRIMINAL behavior being done for a political reason (to force permanent minority rule down the majority’s throat).

Democrats have a frustrating habit of dithering when they should be acting. We get lost in the weeds because the rules matter so much to us. We don’t feel entitled to fix what’s wrong if we’re behaving wrongly at the same time. We really do value people over profits (unlike Republicans who always favor profits over people) but the evidence of that is harder to discern. The child tax credit Team Biden just introduced (which has already cut American childhood poverty in half!) is evidence of that. That same sense of caution stands between us and calling out Republicans for who and what they really are.

How treasonous does Trump have to behave towards Putin before some intrepid reporter focuses on it? How many times does he have to openly support Russian intelligence over our own or give Putin the benefit of the doubt he never deserved? How many openly obstructive acts must one person attempt on a regular basis before sensible people stop giving that obstructive person the power to obstruct justice? Or the benefit of the doubt that THAT’S what they’re up to?

Donald Trump was the ONLY American president to run for office AFTER having been impeached. He’s the first American POTUS to run for office after having been impeached for cheating in the election he was about to run in! All by itself, that screams volumes. When we get to the moment when we FINALLY say out loud to ourselves that, yes, but for Russia Trump would never have become POTUS, we will be on the road to recovery. For starters, we will have finally said out loud what Kevin McCarthy did on June 15, 2016: Trump is a criminal and because the Republicans did nothing about it, so are they.

Now — what do we do about the fact that the criminal behavior the Republicans STILL are engaging in is TREASONOUS? For one thing, how about we don’t call it what it isn’t: “an opinion”.

Criminals have opinions just like everyone else. Everyone’s got a point of view. But not all point of views carry the same weight. Not all points of view are based on facts and observations. Some points of view traffic in conspiracy theories or cultural-political hackery. That’s not the same as reality or the truth.

America needs to start calling bullshit what it is: BULLSHIT. We need to start calling people who obstruct justice what they are: criminals. We need to reframe how we see ourselves not as two equally valid points of view but as a complex, multi-faceted point of view. Also we need to understand that not all points of view have a “point”. A traitor like Donald Trump absolutely has a point of view — that he’s happy (if not desperate) to share. But, being a lying, rapey, greedy scum bag, his point can only be to justify his awful point of view. His awful, INDEFENSIBLE point of view.

The press keeps reminding us that the common wisdom is that the out of power party (in our case the Republicans) always do great in the first mid-term after a presidential election. That’s almost always the case during normal times. Except these times aren’t even remotely normal. They’re like nothing we’ve ever been through before. America and Americans are more woke than they’ve ever been. For some reason, people wanting to defend democracy isn’t sexy enough for our news media to stay focused on. They like covering crazy people better. And pretending they’re sane.

It’s like covering Republicans like they were honest actors.

The Reason Big Business Will Absolutely “Quit” The GOP Is The Same Reason Bill O’Reilly No Longer Works At Fox News

Hey, remember Bill O’Reilly? Bill sure wishes most of us did remember him. But, for most of America, O’Reilly sits in the “Whatever happened to?” heap and not anywhere near the top. The reason most people don’t even think about O’Reilly any more as a “choice” in the news-entertainment marketplace is exactly the same reason that all America’s Big Businesses are now turning their backs on the Republican Party over the violently anti-democratic voting laws its members have drawn up all over the country, starting with Georgia. In a consumer-driven, free market economy — that, itself, relies on a stable, genuinely democratic political environment to cash flow it — anything that causes those consumers to stop consuming products & services is bad for business. If those causes are potentially long-lasting (more to the point, if the EFFECTS those causes cause are likely long-lasting), it’s entirely in Big Businesses long term interests either to remove or mitigate those causes as quickly (and cheaply) as possible. But, Big Business also knows it has a secondary problem to contend with: branding and co-branding. Just as Fox News saw clearly that continuing to co-brand with Bill O’Reilly had to end, so, too, will America’s Big Businesses see that they can no longer “co-brand” with the GOP.

O’Reilly, remember, had a history of sexually intimidating female co-workers (though the word in his mind was probably “seducing”). This happened. And, famously, this. This did, too.

Meanwhile, a paradigm that had actually shifted years before was finally recognized by America’s Big Businesses — at least the ones who advertised on Bill O’Reilly’s top-rated Fox News show “The O’Reilly Factor”. As Time pointed out on April 6, 2017, ” …companies that advertise on The O’Reilly Factor have seen intense pressure on social media to stop running ads on the show. Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai were the first companies to pull their spots…”. Seeing the positive response those two big companies got, more of O’Reilly’s sponsors, their “integrity” having been fluffed, either pulled their ads from O’Reilly’s shows or (in the case of My Pillow, thought about it). Consider for a moment, what this really meant.

This was not one decision made in one boardroom that changed things, it was one decision being made in MULTIPLE boardrooms that changed things — because it all flowed from the same key data point: the majority of buying decisions in American households (especially the larger buying decisions) were being made by WOMEN. Appeal to the women in American households and your chances of making or keeping those households as customers increased. However, lose them as customers — especially over something like serial sexual harassment allegations — and you’d probably lose them forever. All those boardrooms saw it clearly: they could not advertise on any show having anything to do with Bill O’Reilly a moment longer. They transmitted that new paradigm to the 21st Century Fox Board (they oversee Fox News among other things). The 21st Century Fox Board did the only thing they could do as responsible stewards of their corporate entity: they canned Bill O’Reilly’s ass despite the fact that he was their main cash cow.

That’s freakin’ tectonic! Quietly, in the background, America’s Big Businesses took care of business — yes, out of greed, but also out of greed that recognized it needed to be on the right side of history. That happens from time to time; it’s like a broken analog clock being right twice a day. While crony capitalism has made a mess and a mockery of American capitalism — a thing which Team Biden, we hope, will begin to rectify in ways large, small and permanent — actual capitalism has, out of sheer survival instinct, worked as a kind of shifting ballast. That precedent is being repeated right here, right now in Georgia. While Coca Cola, Delta and Home Depot among many others had hoped to avoid getting dragged into American politics, if you donate money to legislators who want to legislate away our democracy — from a minority position — that fact now officially binds you together in the public’s consciousness. In other words, America understands that if you donate money to a politician, we can now take it for a fact that you AGREE with what that politician is trying to do. If the politician to whom you give money actively seeks to take away a customer’s VOTING RIGHTS, then that customer — and every other customer — will assume YOU also seek to take away your customer’s voting rights. If you can live with that — go ahead. Try it on. It won’t fit how you think it will.

Big business, if it’s to endure, must think strategically — in the longest terms possible. What’s good for the next quarter or two may be toxic to every quarter beyond. Living for today at tomorrow’s expense is how businesses die. This behavior doesn’t require a soul; only a survival instinct. Screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky nailed this dynamic tension in his brilliant screenplay “Network” where — 25 years before it came to be — he envisioned the corrupting journey our news media would take from being respected, respectable news organizations to being entertainment companies with a little news thrown in. He saw Fox News coming from a million miles away. In Chayefsky’s Nostradoumus-like imagining, a weary news anchor named Howard Beale (who works for an imaginary 4th network called UBS — this was well before anything like Fox existed) becomes an unlikely populist icon/Jeremiah who taps into America’s latent rage; they’re all “mad as hell” and are “not going to take it anymore!” The UBS board, torn between keeping their integrity — albeit as the 4th place network and finally justifying themselves to UBS’s shareholders by making a little money for a change, choose the latter of course. But, Howard Beale is less than compliant. The silly man has begun to believe his own hype about being a “Jeremiah”. In this scene, UBS Chairman of the Board (played brilliantly by Ned Beatty) reads the riot act (and a few other acts) to Howard Bealed (Peter Finch who won an Oscar for his wonderful performance but died of a heart attack before actually winning the thing!).

It is one of the best pieces of screenwriting EVER. Fight me, if you dare…

Most of the corporations mentioned are no longer players — or even playing, some of them. They’ve been replaced by Amazon and China. But, aside from that? Almost every single word applies.

Bill O’Reilly was not accorded the kindness of such a “sit-down” with Rupert Murdoch. That’s how far gone, O’Reilly was. America’s Big Businesses have officially put the Republican Party on notice.

The GOP now finds itself sitting in the chair Howard Beale sat in while Ned Beatty rails at them. Remember what happens to Howard Beale in the movie? Spoiler Alert: it’s the very same thing that’s going to happen to the GOP. No one will mourn them. Hell, no one will even bother to make the funeral.

The world will be too busy trying to make a buck.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear American News Media: YOU Will Be The Problem Until YOU Stop Being It

When your job is to tell our story in real time, as it’s happening, it’s vital that you know how to frame that story — in real time. If you screw up the framing, you’ll end up telling the wrong story. Our news media can’t ever get the Donald Trump story right because they insist on framing Trump’s story from TRUMP’S point of view. That’d be great if Trump were even semi-reliable with the facts. The fact that he lies about everything — that’s his most prominent feature.

On the one hand, a storyteller SHOULD base their story about this character on the fact that they always lie. On the other hand, a storyteller shouldn’t base their story on this character’s lies as if they were true. Because they’re not — and it skews the whole story away from REVEALING who the character is toward revealing nothing except the depths of the storyteller’s credulity. Trump is not some visionary whose lies are part of some grand vision. He’s just a goddamned liar. He’s a goddamned criminal. His lies are meant to keep him from getting caught. Period, end of story.

You’d think professional storytellers could tell it.

This isn’t every journalist working this beat, but it is most of them. While their dedication to the journalistic ethos of fairness is admirable, they seem to have confused political neutrality with complete detachment. They don’t want to judge whether anyone’s politics are right or wrong. Okay, fine. But, then they go and assume that EVERYONE is being political — “both sides do it”.

Except that’s not true. Both sides don’t “do it”. Example: both sides do not relentlessly try to suppress the other sides voters. Both sides do not approach elections the same way. Both sides do not want every single eligible voter to vote.

When a suppressed voter raises their hand to complain that their vote is being suppressed, they’re not being “political”. They are responding to a political act however. The person suppressing their vote IS acting politically. In fact, the whole point of voter suppression is to undermine the other sides ability to conduct politics. To get what they need from the political process. To suppress a voter is a political act. To defend the suppressed voter is NOT. It’s an act of patriotism actually.

And an act of civil obligation. The vote suppressor is breaking the law.

All this is framing. It’s seeing the story from the neutral perspective journalists aspire to. Real neutrality would involve asking what everyone’s motives were rather than assuming.

What are Donald Trump’s motives? That’s not a hard question. As big a liar as he is, Trump is remarkably transparent. His motives are always right out in the open. You don’t even have to scrunch up your eyes to see them. The trick apparently (to judge by our news media) is in accepting what you’re seeing.

Plenty of journalists HAVE accepted what they’ve been seeing all along: Sarah Kendzior, David Corn, Seth Abramson. Even the former Wall Street Journal journalists at Fusion GPS — the research firm hired by Republican-owned Washington Free Beacon to do oppo research on Trump during the 2016 primary season accepted what they saw (after doing their due diligence): that Trump was almost certainly a criminal who’d been laundering Russian mob money through his failed Atlantic City casinos. Some journalists have accepted that Trump is every bit the rapist all the brave women who’ve come forward SAY he is.

Some journalists have accepted that Trump is the rapist he himself says he is.

And then there’s the rest…

The ones who “reset” every day to a bizarre “Square One” where Trump is a “normal POTUS” who ran a normal campaign in 2016, not at all touched by a hostile foreign power actively engaged in an undeclared cyber war against us. That Trump “strategizes”. He’s a brilliant businessman and a master negotiator. He’s a good father and husband. He was a great student. He’s well read. He’s loved and he’s made us more respected.

All because he says so.

This liar.

There’s a traditional English entertainment that plays at Christmastime called pantomimes.

These theatrical pieces are almost always based on some old chestnut — Cinderella or Puss In Boots. The story’s just a framework on which to hang a somewhat improvised game of call and response with the audience. At some point in almost every pantomime, the bad guy will end up standing behind the Good Guy who’s downstage center talking to the audience.

The audience — since their participation is expected — will tell the Good Guy with increasing desperation that the Bad Guy is behind him. The Good Guy — finally getting the message — turns one way but misses seeing the Bad Guy. He turns the other way — misses seeing the Bad Guy again. It’s maddening of course. That’s the point.

In a panto, it’s also part of the fun. Here in reality though, watching Trump and the GOP stand behind the news media while We The People shout “Look out behind you!” has become part of the tragedy. The news media has become part of the story. That is, their inability to tell the story has become part of the story.

Bullshit and truth are not the same thing. When a reporter, attempting to be “neutral” asks a “Yeah, but what if bullshit was true?” kind of question, they’re giving credence to bullshit. Regular bullshit is bad. Bullshit given the credence of Truth? Oy.

Is it really a wonder why at least a third of America doesn’t know what the Truth is anymore? It’s understood that political actors — Fox News — have made it their purpose to undermine everyone’s journalist credibility including their own. They need “truth” to flow from the top, truth being whatever the criminals running the kleptocracy say it is. Orwell knew what he was talking about. Control the past, you control the future.

The “truth” is, Donald Trump sucks at messaging. That is, he sucks at messaging anything other than what he is — a traitor and a criminal. The bulk of our news media also sucks — at storytelling.

It’s a fixable problem. All they have to do? Open their eyes. Accept what they know and make it part of the story.

Neutrality toward the Truth is not neutrality. It’s journalistic malpractice.

There Is Nothing Wrong With Advocacy Journalism — Hell, Our News Media Have Been Doing It For The Right Wing For Years

Quick — who are the most popular journalists at MSNBC? By journalists, I mean people capable of working journalistically because they’ll back up everything they say with receipts?

Joy Reid just premiered her show The ReidOut to huge ratings. Rachel Maddow’s interview of Mary Trump killed everything else on TV the night it aired. Nicolle Wallace — once Sarah Palin’s handler — has become a beacon of clear-eyed, ethical reportage. None of them shies away from the “political bent” their journalism clearly favors — that is, by telling the story correctly, with full perspective, the story forces them to certain conclusions the facts spell out. Those conclusions — in the current environment — support one side’s arguments over the other not because they’re politically better but because one argument is moral and the other is immoral.

Those three women — plus Ali Velshi — represent a kind of journalism that doesn’t seek to take sides but, now that it knows what it knows, it must START from a place that “appears” to support one side only in that so does the truth. The truth supports only one side here — because only one side in this argument HAS “a side”. Bullshit and lies are not one “side” of an argument. They’re an attempt to de-legitimesize the argument as a whole. To give them any sort of credence is to say “Okay, but what if bullshit was true?”

That’s a false dichotomy since bullshit is never true. We shouldn’t have to consider the possibilities of doing things because “bullshit says” because why would anyone listen to bullshit in the first place?

“Both sides do it” journalists, that’s who.

“Both sides do it” journalism is corporate journalism’s answer to any sort of burgeoning advocacy journalism. “Don’t get on your high horse,” it wants to tell advocacy journalism, about the injustice it wants to actively engage, “Democrats ‘do it too’.” What they’re equating — if there’s anything to equate — is “Republicans are corrupt” but “so are Democrats”. Republicans may be corrupt on a scale that dwarfs anything any Democrat could even imagine but if even one Democrat behaves corruptly?

Both sides do it.

So — there’s no point in seeing Democrats’ reacting to Republicans behaving criminally for what it is since (the theory says) Democrats behave just as criminally (both sides do it). Therefore, Democrats are just behaving politically. And just like that — following the rule of law becomes a political act.

Fox News has been acting as the GOP’s propaganda arm forever and everyone knows it. They even say it out loud. Fox News regularly practices advocacy journalism. So long as we all understand that that’s true? I, for one, don’t have a problem. I’m all for MSNBC owning outright its left-leaning nature. Remember — if leaning left wasn’t paying off for MSNBC, they wouldn’t be doing it. Leaning left DOES pay off. We may not deliver the zombie numbers of Fox viewers but (in a normal economy), left-leaning viewers are further up the purchasing power food chain.

Remember: most major buying decisions in American households are made by women. Piss them off and they’ll stop buying your products. That’s what big advertisers like Coca Cola recognized a few years ago when they told Fox News they would no longer advertise on Bill O’Reilly’s prime time show. Coca Cola knew from research that if they did stick with O’Reilly, a big chunk of their customers would stop buying their products because Bill O’Reilly had a habit of abusing women and sexually abusing women. The 21st Century Fox board knew it had no choice but to kill its cash cow. To have kept O’Reilly would have been far more expensive.

Perversely, that was an example of the roots of advocacy journalism — wanting to do the right thing — catching up to Fox News via its board room.

The “Right Thing” exists. It’s real and it’s doable. It applies to ordinary citizens and our politicians. It applies to journalists, too. Freedom after all is not free. It can’t be because nothing is free. The cost of being free is having responsibilities and obligations TO that freedom. These aren’t abstract debts — they’re real. If you don’t pay your debt, your obligation will soon overwhelm you.

American journalism also has an obligation — the one enumerated in the first amendment — to be the final check on power. That, all by itself, is advocacy journalism. Right is being advocated over might.

In other parts of the world — England, for instance — where newspaper cultures still exist, it’s understood that The Daily Telegraph and the Times Of London are right-leaning if not entirely right wing newspapers while The Guardian and The Independent have a more progressive bent. In other words — the editorial slant of the papers is well known up front. The journalism stands on its own — though the stories they pursue do answer their call toward progressivism. So long as a journalistic source makes that clear up front?

Then they have no other explaining to do to justify their work and their conclusions. You can measure their investigations and work against their politics and make up your own mind as to how much their politics colored their investigation. If, however, the investigation is well-documented? That fact should speak loudest.

While Progressive advocacy journalism will absolutely have a political sheen to it, everything below the sheen is real. That’s the nature of advocacy journalism because what advocacy journalism is always advocating for: the Truth.

The “Republican Brand” Is Now As Toxic As Cancer

Cancer Salesmen insisting that cancer is good for us, good for America!

Imagine if cancer had a “brand”. You don’t have to — it’s the same as the GOP’s. Republicans suck at governing mostly because it’s their mission to prove that government doesn’t work. So, whenever they get into power, they turn government into a branch of their own corrupt enterprise.

Donald Trump IS the Republican Brand. So’s Mitch McConnell and Bill Barr and Mikes Flynn, Pompeo & Pence. Greed is the Republican Brand. And Corruption and conspiracy and — here’s the big one: TREASON. Yes, treason is absolutely part of what one should think of when one thinks “Republicans”.

Republicans MADE treason their brand when they took all that Russian money into their campaign coffers in 2016.

Republicans made treason their brand when they embraced Donald Trump — KNOWING that he was taking money from Russia.

Republicans made treason their brand when they did everything possible to obstruct every investigation into Russia’s involvement with Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Republicans made treason their brand when they refused to convict Trump for trying to pull the same treasonous bullshit with Ukraine in 2020 that they pulled with Russia in 2016.

Republicans make treason their brand each time they look away when Trump & Putin communicate sans notes, note-takers or anyone overseeing what exactly Trump is giving away.

It’s the treason that drives the rest of Republican corruption now. It has to. Once the GOP committed themselves to Trump, once they hitched their wagon to him — albeit reluctantly at first — the game was over. There couldn’t be any coming back — ever.

While the news media continues to scratch its head, unable to fathom why Republicans still only reluctantly disagree with Trump, the business world has already begun to separate themselves from Trump and the GOP because they care about their brands. The exodus didn’t just start however. Twenty-First Century Fox — the corporation that oversees Fox News — made a decision back in 2017 that reflected the reality that’s thudding hard into the Republican Party right now — they fired Bill O’Reilly.

O’Reilly, remember, was Fox’s cash cow before Tucker Carlson. The sexual misconduct accusations that ended O’Reilly’s tenure weren’t the first. And, in another time, the accusations might have been ignored as they always had been. But Twenty-First Century Fox’s board of directors saw red flag warnings ahead and chose to change course. The warnings came via their advertisers — who said they would no longer support O’Reilly with their ad dollars. And the advertisers were reacting to the most important fact in their universe: the majority of buying decisions in most American households were being made by women.

The advertisers needed women to like their brands so that they’d buy them. They knew however that women don’t care for men who sexually harass or abuse women. They won’t buy products from men like that — or companies that stand with abusers. Women, the advertisers understood, were the key. And, if women weren’t going to support Bill O’Reilly, neither would they.

That spelled the end of Bill O’Reilly at Fox. The toxicity of his brand did him in.

Branding can take years — decades even — to create yet moments to destroy. Guys like Kevin Spacey are terrific actors with remarkable bodies of work. But, in the public’s mind Kevin Spacey’s brand isn’t acting anymore. It’s sexual deviance. Yeah, Kevin beat the rap on one charge but that charge against Kevin didn’t happen in a vacuum.

No one wants to work with Kevin anymore. If Kevin signs on to a movie or TV project now, everyone else will bail on it. Welcome to Pariahhood, Kevin.

Give the GOP a few months — the day after election day — and they’ll know exactly how Kevin feels.

Even if the Republican Party cheats on an even more massive scale than they did in 2016 and comes away with a “win”? It won’t play like a win — not this time. This time, the cheating will have to be so staggeringly obvious that even our press will have to check their “both sides do it” heads at the door.

“Live with it” is how Republicans want to brand their coronavirus response. “Die because of it” will be the way the American public “brands” it however.

But then, what kind of branding did we expect from a death cult?

Donald Trump Isn’t Just “Worse Than Watergate”, He’s Watergate’s “Unfinished Business”

On the one hand, Watergate was merely a cover up of a second rate burglary, the cover up being the crime that brought Nixon down.  But, on the other, Watergate was also a prosecution of the political culture that made the second rate burglary a viable political option – committing an actual crime to undermine your political opponents.

Paul Manafort, Roger Stone & Lee Atwater — in business together in 1980

That “Do ANYTHING To Win” mentality didn’t die with Watergate.  Guys like Roger Stone, Paul Manafort and Lee Atwater kept it very much alive.  So did Roger Ailes.  Ailes openly said that he created Fox News as a mechanism to prevent any future Watergates – that is, prevent the press from STOPPING the dark, authoritarian politics behind Watergate because the press (well, Fox News anyway) would be stoking the flames that made Watergate possible. 

Fox News was created to foster the culture of Republican political corruption.  And Fox News had an awful lot to do with the rise of Donald J. Trump.

Roger Stone, too, has never been shy about his love for Nixon.  FFS, the bastard even got a tattoo of Nixon on his back. 

The joke will be on Roger though.  I bet inmates are already lining up to meet Roger when he becomes a federal prisoner; they all want bragging rights.  They want to tell their pals that they looked Dick Nixon right in the eye while they shot a load.

The march toward impeachment during Watergate was much more of a slog – took longer – than most people remember.  Then, as now, Republicans dug in their heels, determined to protect their president.  It wasn’t until the reveal that there were tapes – irrefutable evidence that Nixon knew about everything and actively participated in the cover up – that Republicans like Barry Goldwater marched dutifully to the White House to explain to Nixon why he’d be resigning.  Impeachment and conviction were done deals.

We have “tapes” again now.  And, as before, it will be the cover up that brings a president down.  But that, pretty much, is where the similarities end.  Nixon and company were covering up a burglary – committed for political purposes.  Trump is covering up high crimes, misdemeanors and outright treason.  Whereas the rest of the Republicans were pretty much innocent of complicity back during Watergate (they may have suspected Nixon was guilty but they in no way participated in what Nixon did), that’s not the case today.

The reason most Republicans will not – and cannot – turn on Trump is because they themselves are completely complicit in all of the underlying crimes. 

All of the Republican leadership – Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy – knew or suspected that Russia was way up their ass during the 2016 campaign.  Kevin McCarthy famously entered a meeting during the 2016 convention and voiced his concern that “Russia is paying Dana Rohrbacher and Trump”.  Paul Ryan responded: “Let’s keep it in the family”.

Mitch McConnell has taken MILLIONS from Russia into his PAC. Innocent on the surface perhaps (we need to change those laws pronto), not even remotely innocent just below. Moscow Mitch made it his personal business to lift the sanctions on Putin Pal & GRU Guy Oleg Deripaska – the very person to whom Paul Manafort handed the proprietary polling data Russian military intelligence weaponized and turned on Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan – the tree parts of Hillary Clinton’s blue wall that Trump won by a combined 87,000 votes. Deripaska was sanctioned BECAUSE he interfered in the 2016 election.

We also know now that Russia infiltrated the NRA.  Using its skilled agent Maria Buttina, Russia used the NRA to spread money and influence – and the NRA knew goddamned well that that’s what Russia was doing.

Wayne LaPierre, too, is the right wing finishing what Watergate started.

It’s not a coincidence that the two most damaging assaults on our whole political system came from the right – from conservatives – from Republicans.  It’s not a coincidence because they’re connected.

How “Democracy Of The Marketplace” Works: You Vote With Your Dollars

In America, for better or (mostly) worse, money talks and everything else just sits quietly and listens.

Hell, we’re so stupid about money that we even put it (profit incentive) at the heart of our healthcare system — and we can’t figure out why our system is now the most expensive healthcare system on earth…

Until we fix that problem — money and greed and how they’re screwing up our Democracy — we’ll have to play by money’s rules. So long as the good or service isn’t already monopolized like cable TV used to be, and so long as there’s legitimate choice between legitimately competitive companies offering the same product (unlike old school mattress shopping, for example, with all its bullshitty obfuscations meant to prevent comparative shopping), the marketplace does offer its own form of democratic process. Let’s call it “The Democracy Of The Marketplace”.

I desperately need a widget. Turns out there are three widgets on the market from three different widget-makers. I’m going to have to make a choice. My money therefore will “vote” for one of the three products. That company will get my dollars while the others languish without it and, I expect, quickly go out of business. As if.

But — this being a marketplace — if a million of me do the exact same thing — and most of the widget market goes to one of the three companies, the two also-rans will have to strategize quickly or widget-maker #1 will come looking to finish them off because, from a business-bottom-line point of view, competition is expensive. So — what inspires the “me’s” of the marketplace to vote one way vs the other?

My Jewish family used to chuckle at all the other Jewish families happily driving around in their BMW’s & Merceds Benz’s — luxury cars now made by factories and companies that, during the war, built the very death machines that murdered the relatives of those very Jews. Oy.

And then we bought an Audi. Ya know? Those Germans? They make a good product. And these Germans weren’t those Germans. That’s how we got there, my family. That’s how a product “overcame our resistance” (sales training lingo). All our Jewish families voted with our dollars and our votes said “Germany, we forgive you”.

Take that however you want. It’s simply the Democracy Of The Marketplace. Even Genocide can be accommodated.

That power cuts both ways however. When enough people “rise up” against a product and refuse to buy it, that product goes away — and, often, the company that made it. That, too, is the Democracy Of The Marketplace in action.

Sometimes the Democracy Of The Marketplace speaks quietly but powerfully — without even knowing. Remember Bill O’Reilly? Used to be the top cash cow at Fox News — despite accusations of serial sexual harassment. But, then, something changed. A tipping point. Women became openly outraged at O’Reilly’s behavior and his company’s failure to do anything about it. They went directly at O’Reilly’s sponsors. They stopped buying their products because the sale of those products was helping, in part, to pay Bill O’Reilly’s salary. They decided to STOP voting for Bill with their dollars.

The sponsors are Big Companies of course that rely on selling lots of products to lots of people in order to stay in business. Scale’s important to them. When these Big Companies take a hit, it’s automatically big (it must be if they perceive it as a “hit” to their bottom line). They need to address the cause of that hit. In their case, they were losing significant sales because their products had been co-branded with a man their customers hated.

As “branding” goes — and branding is everything these days — that’s like busting a cap in your own head.

The 21st Century Fox board of directors saw it clearly: their advertisers would no longer support Bill O’Reilly’s show. If Fox News wanted to carry it, they’d have to pay for pretty much the whole thing (except for their smaller sponsors) by themselves. That ain’t their business model. No one’s that indispensable — not even cash cow Bill O’Reilly to Fox News.

Money talks. Fine. My money will not vote for any company that co-brands with racists. I am trying to get as much of my money as I can away from companies that co-brand in ANY way with Donald Trump. It’s a simple fact — a teeny-tiny part of every dollar I spend with, say, Verizon or Home Depot, will end up in the coffers of some Political Action Committee meant to achieve some political end the Big Company wants.

As Bill O’Reilly can tell you — there’s a tipping point in there somewhere. Cross it at your peril.

Too many Captains Of Industry turned out to be pirates. We need to punish the pirates and inspire more captains with a conscience. We need to vote for those companies and their products — even if they cost a few dollars more.

Don’t measure the cost difference only in dollars and cents. There’s another cost element that’s part of the equation — one’s “soul”.

Given a choice between widget A (made and sold by people whose values I share and applaud) and widget B (made by racists, rapists, corrupt polluters and treason enablers), my hard-earned dollar will leap from my pocket to widget A. That’s how certain my vote will be.

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.