Monday, August 29, 2016

Shall We Stop This Bleeding?



Conservatism is done, sir.  It is done.  Whatever dreams of glory you had back in the heyday of St. Ronald Reagan when you sowed the seeds of your own downfall, those dreams are dead. And whatever sad band of bigoted miscreants, imbeciles and con men may still remain after this election -- drowning in their own lurid lies and pathetic alibis, dancing on Lincoln's grave -- the Republican party is over,

From Business Insider"Donald Trump broke the conservative media":
...
One of the chief problems, [Wisconsin Conservative talk radio host Charlie] Sykes said, was that it had become impossible to prove to listeners that Trump was telling falsehoods because over the past several decades, the conservative news media had "basically eliminated any of the referees, the gatekeepers."

"There's nobody," he lamented. "Let's say that Donald Trump basically makes whatever you want to say, whatever claim he wants to make. And everybody knows it's a falsehood. The big question of my audience, it is impossible for me to say that, 'By the way, you know it's false.' And they'll say, 'Why? I saw it on Allen B. West.' Or they'll say, 'I saw it on a Facebook page.' And I'll say, 'The New York Times did a fact check.' And they'll say, 'Oh, that's The New York Times. That's bulls---.' There's nobody — you can't go to anybody and say, 'Look, here are the facts.'"

"And I have to say that's one of the disorienting realities of this political year. You can be in this alternative media reality and there's no way to break through it," Sykes continued. "And I swim upstream because if I don't say these things from some of these websites, then suddenly I have sold out. Then they'll ask what's wrong with me for not repeating these stories that I know not to be true."

Ziegler said he faced much of the same problem.

"If you are a conservative talk show host, which I am, if you don't accept that it's likely Hillary Clinton has taken part in multiple murders, or that Barack Obama is a Muslim extremist sympathizer who was probably born outside this country — if you don't accept those two things, it's almost as if you're a sellout. You're a RINO. You're somehow part of the liberal elite. It's nuts. It's making my own show very difficult to do. It's almost where to the point where we are not able to function."

He continued: "It's almost like it's a disease, and it's taken over people. I don't remember this being the case four years ago. But something has happened. Something snapped. But now all of a sudden, if a story comes out, and it's not on Breitbart or endorsed by Drudge, it can't be true. Especially if it's about Donald Trump. Which is flat-out ludicrous."

Asked why none of his criticism of Trump seemed to put a crack in the real-estate mogul's armor, Beck paused.

"I think that people are very lost, and they don't know what to do at this point."
...
Of course you don't remember "this being the case four years ago", because our years ago, you were inside the bubble, asshole. And from inside that wingnut event horizon, everything always looks superfuckingawesome!  But by it's very nature, the bubble is always constricting and as one Conservative holder-of-opinions after another has rudely discovered, those ever-shifting boundaries are constantly patrolled by the heresy hunters.  And one Leftist Devil once saidonce purity itself becomes all you care about -- once it becomes a distillery race to see who can get to 100% -- the chicken farmers are never far behind:
The main Islamist group in Algeria, the GIA, ended up being led by a Mr. Zouabri, a chicken farmer, who killed everyone who disagreed with him. He issued a final communiqué, declaring that the whole of Algerian society should be killed, with the exception of his tiny remaining band of Islamists. They were the only ones who understood the truth.
Frankly, if I had my way, should Hillary Clinton be elected President in November, I would urge her to forget about holding her inauguration on the western front of the United States capitol and instead, have it right on the front porch of the Appomattox Court House in Virginia just to make the point absolutely crystal clear.

Of course you can fight on for a good long time -- you have an impressive stockpile of crackpot billionaires apparently willing to underwrite any ludicrous misadventure, and millions of obedient Fox News cannon-fodder "patriots" who are dumb and desperate enough to napalm their own dicks on Donald Trump's command.

The bleeding can go on for a long, long time if you refuse to have it any other way.  But your cause is lost, sir, and the war is over.




Race-Bait and Switch



For years, it has been ridiculously obvious that the Beltway media simply cannot function without the crutch of its Both Sides Do It lie.  

Cannot.  
Function.  
Period.

And for this I blame Chuck Todd, and a boatload of others just like him*, for reasons that -- believe me -- after 11 years, I get tired of reiterating.  But until I get Mr. Todd and his collaborators under some hot lights and sweat the details of his part in the Beltway media conspiracy out of them, nailing the same painfully obvious theses to the media's cathedral door over and over and over again is the best I've got.

This radical media bias in favor of a comforting fairy tale was never particularly well-hidden because it didn't need to be:  virtually no one inside the belly of the media beast -- people whose chosen profession ostensibly has something to do with speaking the truth -- is going to risk their position by speaking this obvious truth out loud.

But after years of maintaining the Big Both Siderist Lie by lending its tattered mantle of respectability to an increasingly dangerous and bizarre gallery of Conservative lunatics and con men in order to achieve "balance", the Beltway media finally arrived at the place it was headed all along:  with a Republican Party which was now so openly and confidently racist and insane that there is no possibility of wishing it away any longer.   Or, as Brother Charlie Pierce puts it:
One of our two major political parties has nominated a megalomaniacal know-nothing for the highest office in the land. He is demonstrably racist, demonstrably unfit for the office, and very nearly demonstrably cuckoo bananas. That is the only story anybody should be covering, and there is no Other Side to it. Both Sides do not nominate Donald Trumps. Elite American political journalism is either unwilling or unable to accept the obvious truth of this.
The Irresistible Force of the Donald Trump nomination had finally collided with the Immovable Object of the Beltway Both Siderist Lie.  And the existential consequences have been both disturbing and hilarious -- fodder for several dozen more essays than I have the time or spirit to write.

One of the most deleterious side-effects of Donald Trump's candidacy has been the mainstreaming of America's more quotidian racism and commonplace right-wing crackpottery that are usually cranked up to "8"*, but are being smuggled into respectability under the cover of being slightly less awful than Trump, who cranks it up to "11".

Which is why I predicts that once Trump finally crashes and burns, the Beltway media will do exactly what it did when the Bush Administration crashed and burned:  they will skip right over all those inconvenient Liberals who had been right about the coming debacle all along, they will anoint as brilliant prophets the likes of Bill Kristol, Eric Erickson, Joe Scarborough and any other Conservative who bailed on Trump in the 11th hour in order to back some other staggeringly-unfit wingnut, and they will embrace anyone, anywhere who will put on a suit, sit in front of a camera and speak the holy words -- "Both Sides were to blame" -- out loud.  

Unless we on the Left push back loud and hard and in one voice, sooner than you will believe possible you will wake up to find that the same Conservative goblins who have already crippled this country almost beyond repair have monetize yet another disaster of their own making, exiled fact-based reporting, causality and linear from the media entirely and used their craven Beltway collaborators to seal the deal.  




*For example, at the exact moment I am writing this, Mrs. Alan Greenspan is on MSNBC helping  notoriously unhinged gorgon, Ann Coulter, pimp her shitpile of a book(s) under the cover of a serious discussion about immigration.



Sunday Morning Comin' Down: This Business We Call "Show" Edition


There were a lot of terrible people getting away with saying ridiculous things on teevee this Sunday, but I have to say, Chuck Todd's "Meet the Press" was almost literally unwatchable:  a complete, abject, ass-showing capitulation to the will of the Right and the Manifesto of Both Siderism.

And this short clip of Chuck Todd I snipped from a 70 minute interview he did on "The Moment" back in June of 2015 explains why:


See, the confusion comes when people mistake Chuck Todd for a journalist.

But Chuck Todd is not a journalist.

Chuck Todd is an entertainer, as are most of the people you see dancing for paychecks at the Sunday Mouse Circus.  They are due no more deference as journalists or experts than the guy playing the title role in a high school production of "Jesus Christ, Superstar" deserves to be treated as the risen Lord.  Also, they are due no more First Amendment "free press" consideration for the product they are selling than Barnum, Bailey and his sister, Sue.

Chuck does not "interview" people, or assemble panels of experts to try to inform his audience -- that is what journalists do.  As an  entertainer, Chuck and the producers and executives who order him around cast various other performers in predetermined roles on his teevee show. So should you stumble across the excruciating sight of Chuck Todd pretending to be a journalist seated across the table from Reince Priebus pretending to have an endoskeleton, understand that you are not watching two seasoned professionals at the apex of the fields of journalism and politics respectively: you are watching two drunks thespians leaning on each other in public.

Of course, no matter what, the Prime Directive of the Beltway media is to defend the Both Siderist narrative.  It is the Hive Queen which must be protected at all costs.


So you see the problem?  Now that Trump and his Trumpshirts have come roaring out of the Konservative Klan Kloset where the GOP has kept its base stashed for decades (and right where the dirty Liberals have been telling you they were all along), it is impossible for anyone with a shred of integrity or a functional conscience to go on with this Both Siderist farce.

Fortunately, the forward-looking geniuses at Comcast/NBC didn't hire someone to as their lead rodeo clown on "Meet the Press" with a shred of integrity or a functional conscience.  Instead, they hired Chuck Todd, who damn well knows that his real job is to get the Beltway Both Siderist gravy train back on the fucking tracks immediately.

And key to this strategy is to make sure at least one seat on "Meet the Press" (and usually more) is held open for flat-out, bold-face wingnut talking point dispensing machines like Hugh Hewitt.  And because, like most conservative pundits, Hugh Hewitt does not feel normal, human emotions like shame or guilt, he is quite capable of pivoting directly from a question about Trump and immigration, to a soliloquy on how Bill and Hillary Clinton are both criminals whose arrest and trial are just around the corner:
CHUCK TODD: Has he done damage on immigration or not, Hugh?

HUGH HEWITT: No, I think he's helped himself a lot by appearing to bring more humanity to his position, especially with regards to families. It was a terrible two weeks. I think what we will hear, eight letters, F-A-R-A-F-C-P-A. Foreign Agent Registration Act, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The Clinton Foundation is in trouble, Doug Bannon. Even the former President is in trouble on these two very complex, very applicable laws.
And about the inconvenient fact that Donald Trump just picked the publisher of the most nakedly racist, lied-riddled rag in the country?
HUGH HEWITT: But I will say this, for every Steve Bannon and Breitbart and there is a David Brock and Media Matters; for every Ann Coulter, there's a Michael Moore; for every single Milo there's a Maher. And so, there's a reflection--
...

CHUCK TODD: I think we as discussed, we may be one oppo drop away from Bannon not being a part of this campaign.

HUGH HEWITT: Very possibly. I will point out, though, that Secretary Clinton carries more baggage than Marley's ghost--

CHUCK TODD:Well I want to transition to that--

HUGH HEWITT: And one of those is Sidney Blumenthal. So if you want to talk about toxic people following around in the wake of a candidate, let's hone in on Sidney Blumenthal and the Clinton gang from the '90s, more baggage than Marley's ghost. I mean, that's why she--
Of course, since the mission this week was to get the Both Sides gravy train back on track, Chuck Todd quickly scuttled away from talk of Donald the Bigot to balance out the Beltway scales with Fake Clinton Foundation Scandal:
ANDREA MITCHELL: So it is going to be a slow wind down, it's not going to be wound down, by the time if she's elected and takes over.

HUGH HEWITT:But that's not an excuse for breaking the law.

ANDREA MITCHELL: I'm not saying that's an excuse.

JOY-ANN REID:What law was broken?

ANDREA MITCHELL:There is no law.

HUGH HEWITT: The quo and quid pro quo is the meeting and you cannot set up meetings on behalf of--
Of course if you care even a little bit about this future of this country, watching this freak show can be 57 different kinds of maddening, especially if you supplement Hugh Hewitt's abbreviated lies on "Meet the Press" with a longer, unabridged version of those same lies on "AM Joy" that same day. 

And while it was entertaining to see Mr. Hewitt very nearly side-eyed to death by the rest of the panel, since Mr. Hewitt does not feel human emotions like remorse or guilt, he was unperturbed as he ran though his a  flat-out, Soviet-style denial that anything untoward or racist had ever gone on in the Republican Party during the entire time he had been a member (since 1968) and -- once again -- Breitbart's Steve Bannon running the Trump campaign is exactly the same as Media Matters, Ann Coulter is exactly the same as Michael Moore, and also too, Sidney Blumenthal!  (h/t Crooks and Liars):


But if you are frustrated or saddened by this wretched spectacle because you are worried that it will corrupt national political journalism beyond repair, well I have some good news, and I have some bad news.

Good news, you are not watching the death of honest national political journalism because, bad news, 
honest national political journalism died years ago.  What you are watching is a puppet show, scripted and staged to look like "news" by morally bankrupt bean counters who you will never see on camera, for the purpose of pulling the highest ratings possible while protecting the only asset the Beltway has left: its holy and inviolable dogma of Both Sides.

Which is why, in the end, Robert Costa was tapped to bring everyone back to where this miserable shitwagon was headed all along:
ROBERT COSTA:  You got 75 days left. Is it about the Clinton campaign and the foundation or is it about the Alt Right and Trump?

CHUCK TODD: Great closing point, we'll pause it there.

ANDREA MITCHELL: A pox on both your house.

CHUCK TODD:  There it is...
There is is indeed.





Saturday, August 27, 2016

Trumpwrangler Kellyanne Conway Goes Back To Square One


And she was sooooo close (the last 30 seconds are especially apt.)

Because once again:








Peak Both Siderism: The Southern Avenger



Unbeknownst to me, last week was apparently declared "National Both Sides Do It Week" during a secret conclave of the lords of the Beltway media, because that shit was everywhere.  Because without

Of course Chuck Todd was all over it:





From the Today Show:



And Michael Steele -- whose role in the Republican Party was explained eloquently by Malcolm X here -- loves some false equivalence for breakfast, lunch and supper more than Paula Deen loves butter


But nowhere was the Big Beltway Both Sides Lie more in evidence than on the once-respectable Christopher L. Hayes teevee show where the con-artist formerly known as the Southern Avenger took the floor to explain that the best way to deal with the white supremacists who have taken over the Party of Lincoln was to ignore them, and that (per the video above, h/t Crooks & Liars) all this reckless ginning up of racist rhetoric was the fault of...

...wait for it...

...the Left and the Right!

So if you've ever wondered how in the world every single fucking bigot and gutless "independent" in Christendom all learned to reflexively bark out the identical alibi -- "But Both Sides..." -- every single time another Republican atrocity is laid at their feet, now you know.

They learned by watching teevee.  By reading the newspaper.  By listening to the radio.  By hearing the same, despicable like repeated by respectable men and women everywhere.

Because without the Big Beltway Both Sides Lie, the Beltway media would be unable to function. Which is why they have to work extra hard to manufacture ever more bullshit rationalizations every time reality threatens to derail their morally-bankrupt gravy train.  Which these days is every god damn day.





Pivot Arriving Too Late To Save a Drowning Bigot


The Outsider


This is a picture I took at the Chicago leg of Bill Clinton's "I Am Bulletproof" victory lap --


-- in January of 2001 (I still have my little flag somewhere.)

In the balconies were aldermen, commissioners, state senators, and other members of Illinois' political middle management.  In the mosh pit were muggles like me.  And crammed on stage with Clinton and Alexis Herman (who spent so much time in Chicago they were considering naming a concourse at Midway after her) were all the political power brokers, rising stars and those-who-are-owed-favors of the first water -- Dick Durbin, Bobby Rush, Richie Daley, etc.

And you who are very, very clever will look very closely at this picture will not fail to notice who is missing.  A still-relatively-obscure state senator named Barack Obama who had, only ten months before, lost his primary bid for the U.S. House of Representatives to Bobby Rush (the bearded African American gentlemen on the right) by a blowout margin of 2-to-1.  (For the record, I still have my ticket stub from his "Barack the Vote" fundraiser.  Yeah, I was an O-bot long before it was either cool or villainous :-)

My point being, sometimes political parties do open the door for relative outsiders.

Democrats, for example, took a chance on a man conjured out of their best hopes.

Republicans, by contrast, have nominated the personification of their most dangerously ignorant, racist fears.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Professional Left Podcast #351


"Failure is not an option."
--   Gene Kranz, Apollo 13


Links:



Looks Like I'm Dead Again


Which is always exhilarating. 

From Jeet Heer at The New Republic:
What Were Blogs?

The demise of Gawker.com also marks the end of the utopian promise of blogging. Here's what killed them.
By my reckoning, this is the 25th or 26th "Blogging is dead" article I have read in the last 10 years. Let's see where this one goes.
At the height of the blogging craze, there were even utopian claims made on its behalf: Blogging would give us (finally) the Republic of Letters that the Enlightenment promised, a world where everyone could be a writer and find an audience—an interconnected network where, in true McLuhanesque fashion, a divided world would become a unified global village.
For the record, I was never for believing "utopian claims", nor did I really doubt the media establishment's ability to smother and/or co-opt anything that threatens it. What I did underestimate was the Beltway media's capacity to simply deny the reality on a mass scale. To haul up the draw bridges, hunker down and play the "Both Sides" game indefinitely from behind an impenetrable wall of money and clout regardless of how massively the facts debunked their bullshit narrative.

In this case the obit was made funnier by this Tweet from the author, crowd-sources the existence of "bloggers" before he put the pennies on our eyes.  Sadly, I did not make the cut (Spoiler: I never make the cut.)

Mr. Heer continues:
To judge by Read’s account, both Gawker and blogging were victims of their own success, albeit in very different ways. Gawker got big enough to earn a frighteningly powerful enemy, a relentless and unforgiving man who deployed his vast resources and the legal system to crush the publication. Blogging got so popular that it caught the attention of the mainstream media, which bought up the best talent, and of Silicon Valley, which recast the writer’s medium from an intimate platform that was all about voice to a social network all about clicks and shares. Banks are lucky enough to be too big to fail; Gawker and blogging were too big to succeed.
Look, blogging is just writing and I write well.  Better than 90% of the hacks and clowns who get paid to push a pen around at any rate..  And my record demonstrated that I have been on the right side of (and way the fuck ahead of the curve on) more important issues in American politics and media than the aforementioned, 90% of the pundits who get paid to push a pen around.

I have worked media before.  Been on radio many, many times.  Been on teevee many times. Written for mass audiences.   I have a pleasant voice.  I think fast on my feet. I know the issues and how rto frame a cogent argument.  I know how to wear a tie and how not to say "fuck" when the little red light is on.  And yet after 11 years at this keyboard and six years podcasting, I cannot snag a gig putting words in a row anywhere.

I have also heard on good authority that Serious People actually do read what I write and like it, but that I am too "strident: for the medium of, say, television.

Which I mull over as I watch Lawrence O'Donnell handing a platform over to Glenn Fucking Beck.

Followed the next day by Chris Matthews putting Ann Coulter on television to promote her shitpile of a book.

Followed the next day by Chris Hayes putting the Southern Fucking Avenger on television who repented of his sins a few minutes ago which qualifies him to explain that the best way to deal with racism is to ignore it and also too, Both Sides!
I care about moving beyond groupthink where right and left stop dehumanizing people more than I care about a flag.
Followed by Lawrence O'Donnell, this time handing a platform over to Ben "Turd Tornado" Shapiro.

Followed by... followed by... followed by... (h/t Aaron Sorkin.)

So stridency is not the issue.  Neither is competence, or facility with language.  I would also point out that MSNBC (just to pick on them) also employs a whole contingent serial liars, barely-sentient has-beens, Obvious Merit Hires like Lil' Luke Russert (h/t Charlie Pierce) and various human-shaped algorithms whose sole purpose is to sit in chair and say "Both Sides" on cue. 

Anyway, these people and their conspiracies are so thoroughly protected from scrutiny and accountability as to make what I do here laughable -- so far above my pay-grade that I can't see their aglets from here.  And maybe putting these little words in a row was ultimately a waste of time and effort that could have been better spent write ad copy for boner pills and high-end vacation getaways. 

But here's the irony: while blogging itself may have been too big to succeed, as a blogger -- as a writer -- I remain too small to care :-) 




Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Empire Business


Mr. Adrian Zackheim is a New York publishing mogul who swings enough wood to rate +1,500 words in the New York Times detailing every fussy little detail of his engagement, his wedding, his floral arrangements and and the flavor of his wedding cake.

He is also a New York publishing mogul who, in 2003, took a long look at the already-saturated but incredibly profitable business of binding and selling wingnut hatespeech to bigots and morons at a yooooge markup and said "Me too!"

Here is Mr. Zackheim from a 2003 interview explaining his decision to get into the business of binding and selling wingnut hatespeech to bigots and morons: (with emphasis added):
...
It's not all that complicated. Penguin is the number two trade book publisher in the U.S. We have tremendous reach in this market. That has given us an opportunity to interact with a huge audience. We weren't addressing the conservative opportunity head on. We were publishing excellent voices, but by no means a comprehensive mix. We weren't representing opinions on the right, and we wanted to avail ourselves full time of the best people from this side of the political arena. For a publisher, finding the best authors and helping them reach the largest available audience is simply a good business opportunity

There is no discontinutity* between our conservative line and anything else we're doing. It's like any other good publishing program. Our business line, Portfolio for example, now occupies a leading position we didn't hold before—because we're focused on consistently offering the best books to the broadest possible audience within the business market.
/brief driftglass aside/  "discontinutity" is misspelled in the original text, which is such a delightful irony in an article about the "Rebirth if Conservative Publishing in New York" that I thought I'd just leave it there -- the cherry on top of a three-scoop turd sundae /end brief driftglass aside/

One such "excellent voice" that Mr. Zackheim bound and sold to  bigots and morons was "The Truth About Hillary: Followed By A Long-Ass Secondary Title Because Those Are Popular" by Edward Klein.  It was a book so spectacularly shoddy that it took Media Matters around 45 seconds to fact-check it to death (because apparently "fact checking" is not an editorial service on offer at Mr. Adrian Zackheim's Sentinel HC.)  A book of such epic FAIL that several prominent Conservatives took a big public dump on it.  From Wikipedia:
 "Why on earth would you put such a terrible story in your book...that looks to be flimsily sourced at that?" -- Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review.

"...one of the most sordid volumes I've ever waded through." -- New York Post columnist John Podhoretz 

"Mr. Klein’s title led me to believe that his book would be pointing out these little hypocrisies, but instead he grovels below the belt — delving into the Clintons’ sex life, which is none of our business."-- Alicia Colon of the New York Sun,

"...assumes the market is conservative and conservatives are stupid." -- Wall Street Journal resident bar fly, Peggy Noonan
So why bring this up today?

Because Mr. Adrian Zackheim's "best person" with an "excellent voice" this month is Ann Coulter, whose latest visit to the wingnut welfare feeding trough -- a national book tour promoting Bigotry For Dummies "In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome!" -- has been somewhat glitched by the fact that on the day the book dropped, the actual Donald Trump blew an 11-million-undocumented-worker-sized hole in the predicate on which her latest shitpile of words is based.

Which the lovely and talented Blue Gal has detailed here at Crooks & Liars:
Ann Coulter's Fabulous Twitter Meltdown: My Book! My Book!
From where I stand in a cornfield a million miles from the New York publishing industry there are many things I cannot know about Mr. Adrian Zackheim.  However, what I do know for certain is that he clearly does not care the tiniest shit about publishing the "excellent voices" of "the best people" on the Right. What I can also ascertain even from a very long way away is that he obviously does care a great deal about money, and status and being able to enjoy the finer things in life.  

And what I can also see very clearly even though half a continent and several dozen social castes separate us is that, like any other drug kingpin who lives large on the misery and desperation of people he never has to look in the eye,  Mr. Adrian Zackheim doesn't much care where the money comes from, as long as it keep coming.