How to Cover the Tweeter-in-Chief

January 2nd, 2017

trump-twitter-media-cartoonThere is clear consensus that America’s 45th President will have no desire or inclination to pursue a good relationship with the press/media. In a single article in Politico recently, three uniquely well-qualified people opined as follows:

“Joe Lockhart, White House press secretary under President Bill Clinton, said President-elect Donald Trump creates his own facts, something former President Richard Nixon would do.

Nicolle Wallace, communications director for former President George W. Bush, said Trump doesn’t need the press, but wants it “like an addict craves their drugs.”

Ari Fleischer, a former White House press secretary for Bush, said the feeling is mutual between Trump and the press, calling it a “double-barreled hostility” where the media can’t stand Trump and Trump returns the favor.”

So what’s a reporter/editor committed to ethical journalism to do over the next few years?

First and foremost, remember the distinction between how his supporters and the rest of us view what he says, i.e. that Trumpkins take him seriously but not literally, while we tend to do the opposite.

Second, recognize that he will conduct his Presidency in much the same way as he ran his Campaign: no regard for the rules, no respect for tradition, no adherence to protocol. The word “unprecedented” is about to lose its meaning, because everything he does can be described that way.

Third, accept the fact that most of his communication with the public will be via Twitter. He’s not going to hold pressers. He won’t (or can’t) answer questions in any detail or depth. He doesn’t believe in daily briefings. Hell, he might even skip the Correspondents Dinner. Scott Spicer and whoever supplants Jason Miller could have the easiest ride ever for a comm staff: they might not even need to know how to write.

With those tenets as a foundation, here are some suggestions.

Disregard at least half of his tweets. The more you cover his tweets, the more he will be encouraged to do it, so be selective. The majority of his tweets are petty and personal, either attacking someone for criticizing him, panning something he saw on TV, or congratulating himself for being commended by someone. Those tweets are not newsworthy and don’t warrant coverage of any kind.

Set a practice of re-confirming the other half. As loony as some of his statements may be, he does occasionally say something that is actually relevant to the operation of government. Those tweets should be covered and reported — but only after you’ve checked with his minions to confirm that (a) he has not reversed himself yet; (b) he was not just riffing; and (c) checked with his minions again. Every f***ing time. After a few months of being asked repeatedly whether Himself meant what he said, or had reconsidered it, and having to explain to him why whatever he said isn’t being reported instantaneously, the minions will adapt to being more helpful.

Issue a weekly summary for the tweets that are relevant to the operation of government. Most of his tweets will not be worth a whole article, and only about one in ten will warrant more than a line or two. So a list should suffice — especially after the machinery of Congress gears up and begins to drown him in legislative process.

Cover and interview others instead. There are plenty of well-spoken, knowledgeable people around Washington you can talk to on any given day. A lot of them are highly informed and actively engaged in a wide range of issues, and would be happy to be interviewed and share their thoughts with you so that you can report them. The rest of us will appreciate it if you do that.

Open Letter to Steven Bittel & Alan Clendenin*

December 22nd, 2016

fl_election_mapOne of you is likely to be captain of the ship for Florida’s Democrats come January 14th, when 1000+ party poobahs gather in Orlando to decide our future, so it seems appropriate to offer some objective advice from an independent source with significant experience but no vested interest in the outcome other than saving our nation from tyranny and despotism.

First, it’s helpful to remember that good decision-making begins with a clear perception of the situation in which you find yourself. Then – and only then – can you begin to consider possible courses of action, calculate which course is in your best interest, and finally, take that action.

This has been a challenge for the FDP for some time now, at least partly because the FDP has failed (refused?) to recognize its real place in the political zeitgeist. The FDP portrays itself as, and acts as if it were, a majority party — despite the fact that only about 38% of the voters in Florida are registered Democrats. While there may be a planet out there beyond the Milky Way where less than 50%+1 constitutes a majority, it is not this one.

Prior to the “Reagan Revolution” of the 1980s, Democrats did hold as large as a 4:1 majority among Florida’s registered voters. But about half of those registered back then as Dems were actually Dixiecrats: folks who supported candidates like George Wallace, who won 28.5% of the vote in Florida in 1968, just behind the 31% garnered by Hubert Humphrey. Most of the Dixiecrats had jumped to the GOP by the 1980s and stayed there. But that’s only half of the data tale.

Like most states, Florida has seen exponential growth among voters who choose to register with neither major party. Colloquially (and incorrectly) referred to as “independents,” these people now account for nearly 30% of Florida’s voters. The biggest chunk of them are registered as “NPA” (No Party Affiliation), but a lot of them are members of minor parties, ranging from Green and Libertarian to Ecology and Socialist Workers. (Those are all real names.)

Bottom line: 56% of Florida’s voters are NOT Democrats.

Keeping those statistics in mind, the next number of note is 67, which is the number of counties in Florida.

In recent history – meaning the last 10-12 general election cycles – the pundits have decreed that all elections shall be won (or lost) in the Big Three and the I-4, i.e. Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties, and along the interstate between Tampa-St. Petersburg (Hillsborough-Pinellas Counties) and Orlando (Orange County). This flawed theory disregards reality as much as the hallucinatory notion of a Democrat majority. And here’s why.

Shortly after the debacle on November 8th, MTP Daily presented a “Data Download” segment that reported the TOTAL vote difference in Presidential elections 1992-2016 in several swing states.

In Virginia, with 20 million TOTAL votes cast between 1992 and 2016, the difference was 72,060. In Ohio, with 34 million total votes during that time, the difference was 68,864.

In Florida, with 50 million total votes across the seven cycles, the difference was 11,296.

That is not a typo.

Do the math and you’ll see that the difference translates to 168.6 votes per county. If just that many votes per county had gone the other way in the 61 counties not included in the Big Three/I-4 strategic theory, the total difference would be almost completely eradicated.

So here’s the objective advice from an independent source with significant experience but no vested interest in the outcome other than saving our nation from tyranny and despotism.

#1: Adopt a 67-county strategy. Turn-out in smaller counties is almost always higher than it is in the big counties, and it costs a lot less to run campaigns in those areas.

#2: Don’t ignore “independents.” It doesn’t matter how people are registered. What matters is how they VOTE. (See Donald J. Trump, 2016)

#3: Think purple. Florida never has been, is not now, and is not likely any time soon to become a “blue” state. Except in a few metro areas, you will find more center-right voters than center-left, and very few left of center.

There’s a lot more, but this is already over-long and the rest is for Dems’ eyes only, so we’ll close here and wish the best of luck to whichever one of you prevails. You will surely need it.

*ICYDK: Steve & Al are the top contenders for the chairmanship of the Florida Democratic Party.

 

The Art of Propaganda

September 24th, 2016

trump-lies

 

“The people will believe a big lie, but not a small lie.”

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

The first quote is from Adolph Hitler. The second is from Joseph Goebbels.

More than one study of Hitler’s psychological profile has analyzed his stunningly successful use of “The Big Lie” and other propaganda techniques he used to advance his evil plans.

Here’s an excerpt from the work of The Nizkor Project, an Internet-based educational project run by B’nai Brith Canada which is dedicated to countering Holocaust Revision and teaching about the Holocaust to combat hatred:

“His primary rules were never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong…”

If that sounds familiar, it should. Both the excerpt and the quotes clearly describe the fundamental operating principles for a certain presidential candidate, whose disregard for the truth is roughly equal to his disregard for women, Muslims, African-Americans and people with disabilities.

Unfortunately, so many people – and websites – are spreading so many lies, both big and small, today that it can be hard to find the truth. As a result, a lot of people have decided to believe no one and nothing except for what they personally, individually hold to be true, according to their own heavily filtered sources.

Because belief is motivated primarily by faith instead of reason, it takes effort to break through to a person who has blindly accepted “The Big Lie.” But it’s worth trying to keep even one of them from making the kind of mistake that could cost all of us.

Election Day is around the corner. Please keep trying.

Donnie On the Spot: How does he do it?

September 18th, 2016

almightyDonald Trump was tweeting about the bombing on West 23rd Street in Manhattan almost as soon as it happened. And it’s hardly the first time that he has been “Donnie-on-the-Spot” with commentary about such an event.

In fact, he seems to possess something akin to prescience when it comes to tragedies that make the kinds of headlines that feed into his dark narrative of violence and fear, and inflame his base.

As he himself might say: What the hell is going on? And as he himself might do, we are wont to speculate. In his style, here’s how he might put it:

“We don’t know what’s going on, but perhaps he has inside information. It could be that some of his disgusting Russian pals are involved. Or not. We just don’t know. But it’s unbelievable and we have to look into it.”

In 1982, Irving Wallace produced a riveting novel about a megalomaniacal media mogul who conspires with terrorists, including Carlos The Jackal, to manipulate, control and ultimately create the news. At one point, he even engineers an assassination attempt on the Pope. His objective of course, is absolute, ultimate power.

The real-life villain most often cited in reviews and discussions of the book is ruthless Rupert Murdoch. But in the current political environment, the rules have been (at least) suspended, so it’s fair game to imagine the GOP presidential nominee in that role.

He certainly has the money and the connections. He also has the kind of unbridled ambition that motivates extreme acts and behavior.

On the other hand, there may be nothing to the idea. But, as noted, we just don’t know. Maybe we should look into it…

How low can he go?

September 13th, 2016

f_os_anothertrumprally_160319If the presidential election were decided by a limbo contest, Donald Trump would win easily – because there is no bar too low for him to slither under.

He’s denigrated women, Hispanics, the disabled and Muslims. He’s insulted black people and Gold Star families, and called his effort to avoid STDs in his youth his “personal Viet Nam.”

For 15 months, he has snarled and growled his way through speeches laced with rhetoric lifted straight from Nixon’s Southern Strategy. He’s cozied up to white supremacists like David Duke and hired the alt-Right’s leading media figure as his campaign chief. He’s encouraged those at his rallies to treat protestors with hostility and commended them when they did.

Now he complains that an assessment of some of his fans as racist, homophobic and xenophobic is unfair and inappropriate. So let’s look at the record.

What do you call the behavior of the Trumpkins in Kansas who attacked two Muslim and Hispanic students and called them “brown trash”?

Or those at a Las Vegas rally who yelled “Sieg Heil” and “light the m***erf***ker on fire” toward a black protester?

How would you describe what happened to the black protestor in Birmingham who was punched, kicked and choked? Or to the Latino in Miami who was knocked down and kicked?

Those are just a few examples of scores of similar incidents chronicled since Trump descended his golden escalator to launch his campaign by calling Mexicans criminals and rapists.

Google “Trump violence” and you’ll get 93,800,000 results, the top 20 of which detail hostility towards minority protestors by Trump fans.

A Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll of 16,000 Americans conducted in June-July found that “Supporters of U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump are more likely to describe African Americans as “criminal,” “unintelligent,” “lazy” and “violent” than voters who backed some Republican rivals in the primaries or who support Democratic contender Hillary Clinton.”

That’s racist – and it’s deplorable.

The same poll found that “Trump supporters are more than twice as likely as Clinton supporters to have negative views of Islam.”

That’s xenophobic – and it’s deplorable, too.

In a Suffolk University poll released just before Labor Day, 44% of ALL those responding said they think the GOP nominee is racist. That figure rose to 60% among Hispanics and not surprisingly, 83% among blacks.

Birds of a feather… water seeks its own level… call it whatever you want.

The GOP nominee has called his people unto him, and they have come.

What do black Americans have to lose?

August 23rd, 2016

hqdefaultDear Donnie –

You are certainly entitled to an answer to the question you put recently to black Americans, i.e. “What the hell do you have to lose” by supporting you. But since you apparently sometimes forget that as the Republican nominee, you have an obligation to support your party’s policies and initiatives, and if elected President, you would have to work with Congress to accomplish almost anything, here are a few examples of what black Americans stand to lose by supporting you – or really, almost any Republican.

The Vote

The right to vote is already under attack in 21 states by laws, pushed by GOP-majority legislatures, designed to restrict voting rights in ways that directly and disproportionately affect minorities. Despite recent court decisions that have blocked a few of them, 15 states still will have new voting restrictions in place this year for the first time in a presidential election. The new laws range from strict photo ID requirements to reduced early voting time to onerous registration restrictions.The situation would be even worse were it not for the courts, but you have promised to appoint conservative judges in the tradition of Antonin Scalia, who led the decision to gut the Voting Rights Act of 1965. That would surely close off that avenue of relief.

Health Care for Women

Aside from Obamacare, which the GOP majority in Congress has attempted to repeal, gut or otherwise undo dozens of times, there is the matter of health care for women, which is even more critical for minorities. Ever since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, the GOP has worked to reverse its effects through legislation designed to defund, limit or eliminate completely access to abortion, contraception, family planning and even the most basic kinds of preventive care, such as PAP smears, mammograms and testing for STDs. Your party’s platform calls for more of the same, and you have pledged allegiance to the anti-choice cause, even calling for penalties for women who have abortions. Those positions further endanger an already at-risk population.

A Fair Living Wage

No demographic is in greater need of an increase in the minimum wage than the African-American worker – and especially the young African-American worker. At the current Federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, which also happens to be the standard for about half of the states, a full-time worker’s annual income would be just above the baseline poverty level. But you have said that the minimum wage is already too high, and that you would not support an increase.

Whether it’s motivated by jaw-dropping ignorance of the issues or astonishing tone-deafness when it comes to minorities, your question demands an answer, so here it is. What black people have to lose by supporting you, in a word, is “Everything.”

Commie Con?

August 14th, 2016

160805_RK_Former-Observer_jpg_CROP_promo-xlarge2When a former CIA official wrote recently that the Republican nominee for President had become “an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation,” there was ample cause to give the theory credence. There is also more than a little reason to think that said agent might not be altogether “unwitting.”

Begin with the fact that Donnie has expressed admiration for Putin, and Putin has returned the compliment. Add Donnie’s invitation to Russia to intervene in the U.S. election by “finding” Hillary Clinton’s emails; and his espousal of anti-NATO positions that would serve Russia’s goals.

But for those who like to connect the dots and follow the money, there’s more. A lot more. With sources noted in parentheses, here are some examples:

  • Donnie’s current campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, “has long and deep reported ties to pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine.” One of them was Viktor Yanukovych, a Putin ally and 2004 candidate for president who was elected after his opponent died of poisoning during the campaign and, following massive protests, had to face a revote, which he lost. (Politifact)
  • Jones Day, the global law firm whose Washington offices have hosted several high-level Trump campaign confabs, has had an office in Moscow since 2004, and is involved in “some of the most significant and high profile cross-border M&A, finance, and capital markets transactions in the region.” (jonesday.com)
  • The Trump Organization has received project financing, including $50 million in one instance, from “non-traditional institutions” with ties to Russian interests in ways that led to scrutiny, suspicion and accusations of fraud. (TIME)
  • According to Donald, Jr., “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets.” He told a real estate conference in 2008 that “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” (eTurboNews)
  • When Donnie moved the Miss Universe Pageant to Moscow in 2013, it was at the behest and with the encouragement of a billionaire Russian real estate developer with close ties to Putin, who Donnie thought could give him the footing he needed to build a grand hotel in Russia. (Politico)
  • Frank Mermoud, coordinator of the Washington diplomatic corps for the RNC in Cleveland, is a former state department official involved in business ventures in Ukraine via a Black Sea-focused oil and gas company of which he is a director, and is on the board of the US Ukraine Business Council. Mermoud was reportedly instrumental in convincing the RNC platform committee to remove references to arming Ukraine in its fight against pro-Russia rebels. (The Guardian; PoliticusUSA)

Unwitting? Not very likely.

Scary? You betcha.

Dear Donnie… Time to come clean

August 10th, 2016

imagesAQDZKS14Dear Donnie:

It’s time for you to come clean.

It’s been over a year since you officially became a candidate for President, and as you have reminded us repeatedly during that time, you’re way smarter than the rest of us.

So if it’s true, as you’ve said, that you’re “a really smart guy” with “a very good brain,” how come you and your surrogates are still excusing your numerous gaffes, misstatements and missteps as utterances by someone who’s “not a career politician”?

Surely, a man who knows “more about ISIS than the generals,” and whose “IQ is one of the highest” can suss out the role of a common pol in less than a year.

Shouldn’t a man who has amassed “a net worth of over $10 billion” and “created tens of thousands of jobs” be able to stay on message for more than 48 hours at a time – instead of losing his cool and going ballistic every time somebody criticizes him?

Shouldn’t “a really smart guy” with “a very good brain” know the difference between Tim Kaine of Virginia and Tom Keane of New Jersey? Or that Russia had actually already invaded the Ukraine?

Shouldn’t a man that smart be familiar with the Nuclear Triad and be able to identify David Duke as a Ku Klux Klan leader without being prompted? Or know better than to raise the horrific spectre of political assassination by suggesting that “Second Amendment People” might stop Hillary Clinton’s agenda?

As Paul Manafort must have told you by now, there’s a HUGE difference between dancing around on the edges of politics, throwing verbal grenades at people just to watch them explode, and actually being one of the participants in the ring – i.e. a candidate.

In case he didn’t, here’s the skinny. When you’re a candidate, you’re accountable for everything you say, every minute of every day, and everybody’s opinion matters. You win or lose points on the basis of how you deal with controversy; how well you handle criticism; and the dignity with which you carry yourself in the process. And the more you fluff off outrageous statements you make by saying “It was just a joke,” or “It was just a suggestion,” or “The media took it out of context,” the more ground you lose.

So which is it, Donnie: Are you stupid? Or do you think we are?

How long must we wait?

July 8th, 2016

assets-2016_Minneapolis_woman_livestreams_her_dying_boyfriend_seconds_after_he_is_shot_by_a_cop_973400301

 

How many videos of black fathers/sons/brothers being killed by police must we see before we acknowledge the problem?

Here is a PARTIAL list of black men who died at the hands of police officers in the last couple of years:

Dontra Hamilton – Milwaukee – 4/14′

Eric Garner – New York – 7/14

John Crawford III – Dayton – 8/14

Michael Brown – Ferguson – 8/14

Ezell Ford – Florence CA – 8 /14

Danta Parker – Victorville CA – 8/14

Akai Gurley – Brooklyn – 11/14

Tamir Rice – Cleveland – 11/14

Rumain Brisbon – Phoenix – 12/14

Jeraime Reid – Bridgeton NJ – 12/14

Tony Robinson – Madison WI – 3/15

Phillip White – Vineland NJ – 3/15

Eric Harris – Tulsa – 4/15

Walter Scott – North Charleston SC – 4/15

Freddie Gray – Baltimore – 4/15

Dontrell Stephens –West Palm – 5/15

Christian Taylor – Arlington TX — 8/15

Akiel Denkins – Raleigh NC – 2/16

This week, we add to that list the names of Alton Sterling, Baton Rouge LA, and Philando Castile, Falcon Heights MN. By most credible accounts, that makes at least 114 black men killed by police in 2016 – so far.

The fact that Diamond Reynolds (pictured above) had the presence of mind and the courage to live-stream a video of Philando Castile’s killing at the hands of a police officer while her toddler sat in the back of their car says volumes about where we are as a people today. So does the fact that vengeance against police was sought immediately, in Dallas, for the deaths of Castile and Sterling.

If even half as many white men had been killed by cops across the last two years, Congress would have passed a sweeping reform bill to address the problem, perhaps by giving police departments more money for training or establishing new, higher standards for hiring. State legislatures across the country would have adopted new laws to make local cops more accountable, or give citizens more of a role in making them accountable – or something.

But these are black men. We don’t care as much about them, do we. After all, they have a tendency to be in the wrong place at the wrong time; or they have a history of miscreant behavior; or they gave the police officers who shot them reason to fear for their safety.

Change is a four-step process. It begins with articulation; continues with discussion; proceeds through litigation; and ends in legislation.

When it comes to the systemic racism that infects our justice system, from the local police precinct to the courtroom and the prison, we seem to be stuck in phase one. What will it take to move us forward? And how much longer must we wait?

New Koch? Don’t believe it.

June 30th, 2016

koch1Imagine you are a battered woman whose abusive husband shows up one evening with a dozen roses and a box of Godiva chocolates. Smiling and cooing, he announces he’s made reservations at your favorite nouveau cuisine café. After years of torment, you’d be justifiably suspicious.

So it is that any American who has been paying attention to politics across the last few decades should look askance at the wave of warm-and-fuzzy commercials recently released by Koch Industries. They sound like something borrowed from a Bernie Sanders speech.

For the past couple of years, Koch has run fairly standard institutional ads that tout its brand and its widely diversified business activities with the tag line “We are Koch.” In sharp contrast, the new campaign strikes chords on several social issues, including prison reform, and makes a tiny gesture towards income inequality. The last line of the script reads as follows: “At Koch, we believe it’s time to replace the barriers… to end the divide… to replace winner-take-all with a system where we all can win.”

Charles and David Koch are avatars for the upper 1/10th of the One Percent. They are not nice people, and they have never – ever – previously demonstrated any concern for the average person.

Their father was a founder of the John Birch Society. David was the Libertarian Party’s vice-presidential candidate in 1980. Over the next 20 years, Charles and David engaged in and won a brutal battle with their brothers Fred, the eldest and Bill, who is David’s twin, for control of the family empire.

Since the 1980s, they have led or actively supported efforts by a host of ultra-conservative outfits, including but not limited to the Cato Institute, Americans for Prosperity and ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) to inflict financially and socially restrictive policy on middle-class workers, women, the poor and minorities. And they, more than anyone else in the right-wing billionaire-donor club, enabled the rise of the Tea Party.

Now, all of a sudden, they are concerned about the rest of us?

It’s ironic as all get-out that two guys who did so much to create the schism in American society are now calling for it to be corrected. So we have a duty to ask “Why?”

Apparently, what has happened is that the Koch brothers are not happy with the GOP’s nominee, so instead of plowing money into his campaign, they are looking to bolster senatorial and congressional candidates — along with their own image.

Don’t buy it. Or any of the products that bear their logos.