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Credit the mainstream media – they’re doing a great job in the age of COVID-19

Credit the mainstream media – they’re doing a great job in the age of COVID-19

Over the years those of us who follow politics and policy from a more liberal perspective have certainly had our bones to pick with the mainstream media. We only have to recall the 2016 election and the media’s treatment of Hillary Clinton’s email non-scandal whilst it simultaneously went through painful contortions to normalize the candidacy of the abnormal, not to mention utterly vile, Donald Trump to get our blood boiling. But as we face our greatest trial since World War II in the form of the COVID-19 coronavirus, we should recognize the bang-up job the mainstream media has done during this challenging time. 

In the face of a crescendo of nonsense, bullshit, lies and outright hostility both from the president and from his propaganda machine at Fox News, the American mainstream media have steadfastly delivered facts, truth and useful analyses on a daily basis from the moment it was clear that we faced the mortal threat of a pandemic. Certainly from January onward, the media was sounding the alarm by reporting on what was happening in China and on what was being said in response by public health professionals here.  Crucially, the media refused early on to be deflected by a clueless Trump and continued to press him and his administration on their actions, or lack of them, and to hold them accountable. Particular kudos, I believe, are owed to the brave souls of the White House press corps who face unprecedented vitriol from Trump who is quick to anger and lashes out with a vitriol and meanness we simply haven’t seen before in a president – and hope we never see again. Whether it’s Amiche Alcindor of PBS and others who commit the unpardonable sin of quoting Trump’s own words back to him or Jonathan Karl of ABC asking about a report published by his own government inconveniently highlighting equipment shortages in hospitals, Trump resorts to bullying and belittling the offending journalists who are simply trying to do their jobs.

Alcindor and Karl are professionals, of course, for whom this is all merely water off a duck’s back. But they are human too and it cannot be pleasant for even them to be treated this way before the world, and especially galling by someone they know is completely unfit to hold the office of president. And although divided along partisan lines the media has a good deal more credibility with the American electorate than does Trump.

So a tip of the hat to the journalists of the mainstream media. Keep up the great work guys!!

Donald Trump Portrait in Words

Donald Trump Portrait in Words

Do you find yourself running out of words to describe President Donald J. Trump? Well then you’ve come to the right place. I started compiling a personal dictionary of adjectives to describe him since he began his campaign that I’d like to share with you now. This is a work in progress that I will keep at the top of the blog for awhile – maybe until Election Day. I plan to link the words to news stories and opinion pieces that are apropos to the words.

Here are the words you can use to meticulously describe President Trump.

Incompetent Aberrant Presumptuous Cynical Wanton Retaliatory Amoral Puerile Malignant Atavistic Neurotic Autocratic Bawdy Negligent Sordid Catty Malevolent Severe Belligerent Ignominious Mercurial Bigoted Tyrannical Incurious Salacious Brazen Calamitous Vindictive Rapacious Persecutory Sinful Churlish Evil Volatile Combative Lewd Confused Kackistocratical Resentful Hubristic Contemptuous Mendacious Contentious Impulsive Corrupt Vituperative Crooked Slimy Cruel Decadent Repetitive Indignant Deceptive Antagonistic Detestable Nihilistic Pugnacious Dictatorial Dumb Reckless Duplicitous Egotistical Extreme Feckless Amateurish Snide Glandular Rude Capricious Greasy Megalomaniacal Harsh Misogynistic Truculent Coercive Hostile Wicked Hurtful Ignorant Sneering Dim Immoral Arrogant Imperious Profane Inane Scandalous Petty Inimical Licentious Circumlocutionary Louche Aggressive Manipulative Vainglorious Mindless Wayward Narcissistic  Xenophobic Nasty Nepotistic Obscene Erratic Obstructive Paranoid Bellicose Destructive Perfidious Soft Petulant Crass Racist Defensive Rakish Annoying Ribald Demagogic Savage Desperate Scornful Captious Shameless Authoritarian Stupid Vexatious Abusive Vulgar Devious Bullshitter

Burma Shave

Burma Shave

“I guess you’d say I’m on my way to Burma-Shave,” sings Tom Waits in the 1977 song “Burma-Shave”. But where is he going with his female friend? Somewhere, but nowhere in particular. They are just going, getting away from trouble with the law, and from a town that doesn’t have the distinction of being a dead end; it’s just “a wide spot in the road”. Burma-Shave isn’t a destination, and it isn’t even a journey, which implies some kind of specificity. Burma-Shave is the anonymous, insignificant, American ubiquity, the inland ocean in which a person could lose themselves. It is the road; or rather, it is the road-side.

There’s something nostalgically current about this story that grabs me. Maybe the viral nature of the campaign that capitalized on the baby-boomers’ generational separation from their parents via the interstate highway system that connected the east coast from the west by 5 days and a now easily-obtainable, used automobile or a ride.

Corporate Citizen Dick Boeing vs. Arrogant Prick Cadillac ELR

Corporate Citizen Dick Boeing vs. Arrogant Prick Cadillac ELR

Speaking of total dicks like Mr. Boeing in the post below, last night I was reminded of another big dick in manufacturing – Cadillac.

This commercial first aired during the Super Bowl. I think it was won the “Ugly American Award” or maybe the “Arrogant Prick Award”. I can’t remember which one. Anyway, I hadn’t seen it since the big game until last night during The Academy Awards. In case you were lucky enough to miss it and don’t know what I’m talking about, here is the worst car commercial I’ve ever seen. It’s titled “Poolside”.

What kind of person would feel good about buying a Cadillac ELR after watching that nightmare of a commercial? Only some selfish prick that worships the likes of my tax-cheating neighbor, Corporate Citizen Boeing.

The American Dream is dead.

Go buy a Fiat. They make arrogance-free commercials.

Homophobic Duck Dynasty Star and his Dumb TV Network

Homophobic Duck Dynasty Star and his Dumb TV Network

Some people said there was nothing homophobic about that Duck Dynasty guy’s beliefs. To that, one can only say, “How do you breathe since you are so fucking dumb?” Putting gay relationships on the same continuum as bestiality is pretty much the definition of homophobia.” — The Rude Pundit

Okay, so I’ve never watched Duck Dynasty and I never will. It falls into a category of television shows I will not watch, but I did see Phil Robertson interviewed by Terry Bradshaw on the Fox NFL pregame show a couple months ago.

Anyway, back to the issue at hand: Who’s dumber: Duck Dynasty’s followers or A&E Network for censuring him?

Many of Phil Robertson’s followers are probably just as ignorant as he is, but his network is DUMB! Dumb because they took him off the air. People want to see him more now, not less. And they could all learn a little something by watching him and observing other people’s reactions to his homophobic and racist comments. Some people might even begin to recognize some of Phil’s ugly traits within themselves and, if they did and began to question why they hold such views, they just might begin to change them.

Jon Stewart Takes Down Fox News – the Lords of Bullshit Mountain

Jon Stewart Takes Down Fox News – the Lords of Bullshit Mountain

I turned on my TV this morning hoping last night’s episode of The Daily Show was available on demand, and it was. Not only was it available, but it was uncensored. WTF? Yes, there were no bleeps in the opening segment titled “Chaos on Bullshit Mountain.” And I must say it’s one of the best segments I’ve seen on the show. It starts about 2:25 into this video…

…and continues with this one…

…and ends with:

The biggest problem with the denizens of Bullshit Mountain is they act like their shit don’t stink. If they have success, they built it. If they failed, the government ruined it for them. If they get a break, they deserved it. If you get a break, it’s a handout and an entitlement. It’s a baffling willfully blind cognitive dissonance best summed up by their head coach in what is perhaps my favorite sound bite of all time: Craig T. Nelson, “I’ve been on food stamps and welfare. Anybody help me out? No.”

Enjoy. (No guarantee that the videos will remain uncensored.)

Hunter S. Thompson Explains Oliver North’s Role in the Iran-Contra Affair

Hunter S. Thompson Explains Oliver North’s Role in the Iran-Contra Affair

Hunter S. Thompson 1987
Hunter S. Thompson 1987

U.S. Marine Corp Lt. Col. Oliver North was indicted on sixteen felony accounts stemming from his involvement in the Iran-Contra Affair.  In his testimony before a joint Congressional Committee, he admitted to lying and to shredding government documents, and he said he joined the covert Iran-Contra operation because he thought it was a neat idea.

Hunter S. Thompson followed the hearings closely and published many columns about the whole sordid affair and those involved in it.  I am posting his work now because Oliver North, who should be rotting in prison, has the gall to criticize President Obama for not obtaining approval from Congress to go into Libya.

This is from Thompson’s June 16, 1987 column published in his collected works titled Generation of Swine:

USMC Lt. Col. Oliver North will probably get 300 years – even if Ed Wilson is right – but he is too guilty and too obvious and too easy, in fact, to get off with anything less than 25 or 30 concurrent, which means he will do about three – unless he can come up with a better idea, like turning in somebody bigger.

From the moment North took the oath before congress, the American public was infatuated by the man in uniform with perfect posture and a respectful demeanor.  Hunter Thompson wrote about it in his column dated July 13, 1987:

One public opinion poll on Friday had North with a truly awesome “approval rating” of 96 to 4 percent, much higher than Ronald Reagan, Jesus or even pure cocaine.  The Iran-contra scandal that once looked deeper and dirtier than Watergate was suddenly transformed by North’s performance on network TV into something on the scale of American heroism like Valley Forge or MacArthur’s return to the Philippines…. The shameful saga of Oliver North was so heavy and strong that it caused rich men on Wall Street to weep openly and small children in Hollywood to dance and jabber with joy.

It even brought tears to the eyes of Crazy Bob. “This guy is the real thing,” he said when North went off the air on Thursday. “I want to send him a check.”

I stared at him for a long moment, then I whacked him on the side of his head. “You fool!” I said. “I’m tired of your lame Nazi gibberish.” He leaped off his stool and went into a fighting stance, but I quickly jumped back and hissed at him: “Semper Fi! Semper Fi! 269 dead boys at Beirut Airport! Two hundred and sixty-nine dead U.S. Marines, Bobby!

He stiffened, then dropped his hands.

“Yes!” I shouted. “And we know who did it, don’t we?”

“Iranians,” he muttered. “That stinking Ayatollah.”

I knew he had been in the Navy – nine or ten years in one of the super-elite SEAL units… the Marines get a lot of publicity and they look good on TV commercials, but even drill sergeants at Parris Island will admit that 99 out of 100 Marine recruits would be routinely rejected if they ever tried to qualify for the SEALS. A pencil-necked weekend warrior like Oliver North couldn’t get hired as a male nurse in a SEAL unit.

I put my arm around Crazy Bob’s shoulders and sat him back down on his stool. “And who was it, Bobby, that sold all those bombs and missiles and rockets to the Iranians?”

“Jesus Christ,” he said. “It was Oliver North, wasn’t it?”

“Yeah, Charlie,” I said. “It was him – and he was well paid for it, too. Ronald Reagan called him a great American hero, and George Shultz put his arm around him and thanked him for doing good work.”

So much for Ollie mania.

Why does anyone give credence to Oliver North’s opinions today?  He belongs in prison.  Only Fox News would hire a swine like Oliver North and let him rant about what he perceives are President Obama’s abuses of presidential powers.

Who will Fox hire next?  Perhaps they can get Kerry Killinger to offer his opinions about how regulating banks is totally unnecessary.  Or maybe they could get Gary Ridgway to do a special dispatch from prison on how to pick up girls.

GOP’s Fear of NPR

GOP’s Fear of NPR

It‘s all so painfully familiar.  A newly elected, Republican majority in the House of Representatives, filled with zealotry, hubris and self-righteousness, sets its sights on the relatively paltry amount of taxpayer funds (0.012% of the federal budget) that go to National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service.  It’s 1994 all over again, except that the ultra-conservative element aka the Tea Baggers within the GOP caucus is even more extreme.

To listen to these GOP ideologues, NPR and PBS are hotbeds of liberal bias.  But the question that occurs to me is: do they really believe this nonsense?

I’ve watched Jim Lehrer on the PBS Newshour for more years than I care to remember and I still can’t say with any confidence which party affiliation he holds – if any.  About the only thing I’ve learned about him from watching the Newshour is that he is a former Marine.

The same is true of any of the hosts on the many NPR news shows such as Morning Edition, All things Considered, Talk of the Nation, and Weekend Edition.  Even NPR political correspondent Mara Liasson manages to negotiate the minefield of being a regular panel member on Fox News Sunday with feline, albeit maddening, agility without betraying her political biases (poor old Juan Williams remains the lonely target of whoever the two conservatives are on the panel).

If their fiercest GOP critics actually bothered to watch PBS or listen to NPR, they would know that no issue of public policy is aired without equal time given to the conservative or GOP viewpoint.  If any of the GOP congressional dolts are in any real doubt, they should contact right-wing think tanks such as the Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation or the American Enterprise Institute, or the neoconservative Weekly Standard, to ascertain how many times in the past year their representatives have been asked to present the view from the right.

The fact is that both NPR and PBS provide the news and in-depth analysis with an almost fanatical lack of bias.  Any regular viewer or listener is likely, on the other hand, to be better informed about the key issues of the day, both domestic and international, than those who rely on ABC, CBS or NBC, with their headline-only coverage, or Fox News which is simply the propaganda arm of the right-wing of the Republican Party. 

And that may be the real rub. I don’t think it’s liberal bias that bothers Republicans, but the unmatched ability of public television and radio to present the unvarnished truth. And truth has, for a long time now, been the enemy of a GOP that embraces alternate realities, misinformation and outright falsehood.  With an informed public, how could we have had “death panels” or weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, or the subliminal message that Iraqis participated in 9/11 or a thousand other lies?  Given equal time, it’s right-wing ideas that invariably come off worst and that, of course, is the problem.

NPR and PBS are national treasures of which all Americans should be justly proud; the only real pity is that every American doesn’t tune in.  In providing an unparalleled blend of news and culture, NPR and PBS serve us well indeed, and are worth every penny of tax-payer funding they receive.

But not for Republicans; for them it is the ignorance of Americans that is truly bliss.    

Tucker Carlson Calls for the Execution of Michael Vick

Tucker Carlson Calls for the Execution of Michael Vick

That’s right… Tucker Carlson, that guy Jon Stewart eviscerated several years ago was back on television last night filling in for Sean Hannity.  And what did this self-proclaimed follower of the Lord Jesus have to say?  This:

“I’m a Christian.  I’ve made mistakes myself.  I believe fervently in second chances,” Carlson said.  “But Michael Vick killed dogs, and he did in a heartless and cruel way.  And I think, personally, he should’ve been executed for that.  He wasn’t, but the idea that the president of the United States would be getting behind someone who murdered dogs?  Kind of beyond the pale.”

Yes, Tucker Carlson has made mistakes – like just being on television playing a clown on Crossfire and making incredibly stupid statements.  Fox News gave him and second chance, and he, unlike Michael Vick, blew it.

Yes Tucker, what would Jesus do if he were in the room as a witness to the execution of Michael Vick?  Would he just stand there and let it happen or would he call out the people who supported the execution and expose them as hypocrites and fools?  (And by the way, are there any stories in The Bible about people being put to death for killing animals?  Even in the Old Testament?  I can’t recall any.)

You can watch the video here.  You’ll see that none of the three people on his panel of guests agreed with him, but then who would?  Execution for cruelty to dogs?  Really?  And what would the penalty be for beating one’s wife, girlfriend or children?  Drunk driving?  Rape?  Tucker Carlson would probably like to see all the perpetrators of such crimes executed.

Or maybe he’s just talking out of his ass like he used to do because President Obama went out of his way to acknowlege the Philadelphia Eagles for giving Michael Vick a second chance in life.  Carlson just couldn’t let that go, because whatever Obama does or says has to be wrong, and Carlson is paid to attack  him.

Jon Stewart will be back on the air next week, and he must be salivating over this tasty video clip that the Tucker Carlson left for him and his crew.

The Phony Story about Obama’s $200 Million Per Day Trip to Asia

The Phony Story about Obama’s $200 Million Per Day Trip to Asia

One of the big stories last week was about how Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge and the rightwing gasbags at Fox News picked up a bogus story about the cost of Obama’s trip to Asia where he was to meet with leaders in India and attend the G-20 Conference in South Korea.  They were all making claims that it would cost $200 million or more per day and that 34 Naval warships would be traveling to the area in support of the president.  It was all a lie based on what an anonymous person claiming to be an Indian provincial official told India’s Press Trust.

I think the best reporting of the news coverage of the outlandish rumour mongering by the usual suspects on The Right was done by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show with a segment titled “Doubtsourced.”

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The best piece I’ve read about the story is today’s New York Times column by Thomas Friedman.  Mr. Friedmann’s column titled “Too Good to Check” is about how Anderson Cooper of CNN acted on his instincts telling him the story was too outlandish to be true, so he actually did some research and reported the facts, not the rumour.

“It was an anonymous quote,” said Cooper.  “Some reporter in India wrote this article with this figure in it.  No proof was given; no follow-up reporting was done.  Now you’d think if a member of Congress was going to use this figure as a fact, she would want to be pretty darn sure it was accurate, right?  But there hasn’t been any follow-up reporting on this Indian story.  The Indian article was picked up by The Drudge Report and other sites online, and it quickly made its way into conservative talk radio.”

Cooper then added: “Again, no one really seemed to care to check the facts.  For security reasons, the White House doesn’t comment on logistics of presidential trips, but they have made an exception this time.  He then quoted Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, as saying, “I am not going to go into how much it costs to protect the president, [but this trip] is comparable to when President Clinton and when President Bush traveled abroad.  This trip doesn’t cost $200 million a day.”  Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, said: “I will take the liberty this time of dismissing as absolutely absurd, this notion that somehow we were deploying 10 percent of the Navy and some 34 ships and an aircraft carrier in support of the president’s trip to Asia. That’s just comical. Nothing close to that is being done.”

Friedman then closes by stating what is frighteningly wrong with our nation’s “news” organizations:

When widely followed public figures feel free to say anything, without any fact-checking, we have a problem.  It becomes impossible for a democracy to think intelligently about big issues — deficit reduction, health care, taxes, energy/climate — let alone act on them.  Facts, opinions and fabrications just blend together.  But the carnival barkers that so dominate our public debate today are not going away — and neither is the Internet.  All you can hope is that more people will do what Cooper did — so when the next crazy lie races around the world, people’s first instinct will be to doubt it, not repeat it.

Yes, if only our media outlets could employ people to research stories and report facts and then express opinions based on facts, maybe we would have an more educated public that would cast their votes based on the truth instead of lies.  We can only hope…