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      A lot of mistakes come from assuming rationality means “thinks the same way I do” rather than “reasons from premises I might not share.” Left than 1/1000 economists predicted the financial collapse, because they reasoned from assumptions like “the market is self-correcting” or “housing prices never go down.” (Sometimes both at the same time, which is rarely […]
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Marty Baron: Investigate the media

Hi Marty. I just finished watching Spotlight. I’d read that you moved on from the Boston Globe to The Washington Post. To be honest, I took WaPo out of my twitter feed. Over the years, I’ve become sensitized to artfully crafted turns of phrase, carefully selected words with specific connotations, and media narratives. I can tell when the media is trying to shape what I think and, since I prefer to draw my own conclusions, I don’t read as much of your paper anymore.

You probably don’t know who I am. I’m just a blogger, sitting out here in the Oort belt of the blogosphere. I’ve been posting semi-regularly and editing infrequently since 2008. There are a lot of adjectives in my posts.

Another reason you may not have heard of me may be attributed to the fact that female bloggers do not usually make the cut in Greg Sargent’s Plum Line. I’m not complaining for myself. I’ve never wanted to be famous or widely read. If I had any ambitions in that regard, I would have spent more time trying to toe the party line, jazzing up my CSS and editing. I might have chosen a more gender neutral pen name as well. Digby has done that. She had to.

Greg Sargent works for you, doesn’t he? At one point a few years ago, I was trying to find a way to represent how underrepresented women were in getting their opinions mentioned in the traditional media, and considered using the Plum Line’s evening round-up as an index. But then real life intervened and I was laid off for an extended period of time. Long term unemployment didn’t get a lot of attention in the major newspapers in the past five or six years. Maybe journalists found it boring or they were “whistling past the graveyard”. But I did find an interesting pattern with respect to the NYTimes coverage of the long term unemployed back in about 2010. It bore no resemblance to any reality I knew and looked like gratuitous kicking of people when they were down. Not only that but it was bound to have an effect on HR hiring managers and talent acquisition specialists. You may want to have a look at that post and tell me what you think. What were the NYTimes journalists up to?

You may be wondering why I am writing what seems to be a long, rambling, “stream of consciousness” blog post to someone who doesn’t have time to read long, rambling “stream of consciousness” blog posts from a virtual nobody who doesn’t read your paper. Recent events have compelled me to write this, specifically the collective freak out over Donald Trump. I am not a Donald Trump supporter. No, I have been a Hillary Clinton supporter for about 23 years since I was just a young suburban mom and scientist in New Jersey. I also haven’t been a Barack Obama supporter. In fact, I didn’t vote for him twice. There are many reasons for this, racism not being one of them. I’ve blogged about what I saw happening in my party, the media, my industry, and my own series of unfortunate events, since January 2008, if you’re interested in my perspective.

I’m writing to you because the media may be overlooking its own culpability in the strength of Donald Trump’s presidential run. Maybe that is intentional. After all, it’s a story, in a presidential election year, and it features a candidate who must be making David Broder roll over in his grave. These kinds of stories almost write themselves. It must be difficult for reporters to check their enthusiasm.

My opinion, for what it’s worth (see above for Plum Line index commentary) is that the public is reacting to the media’s obsession with 1.) covering Donald Trump and 2.) getting Hillary Clinton by any means necessary. It has succeeded beyond its wildest expectations where Hillary is concerned. Nobody trusts her. That could be a problem because even Hillary’s staunchest critics have to admit that she is the most qualified of the current crop of candidates and the one least likely to make a rookie mistake. That’s not a plug for my candidate. It’s just happens to be the truth. But she’s got an uphill climb to convince many Americans that she can be trusted.

Let’s take a news article about Hillary on today’s front page of The Washington Post. Here’s the headline and the blurb:

Clinton used private server to write 104 emails later deemed classified

The finding is the first accounting of her personal role in placing information now considered sensitive into insecure messages during her State Department tenure.

Do I need to read any further? I am assuming that the truth is in the headline. The emails were later deemed classified. That means, at the time they were written, they weren’t classified. I don’t know why they were classified later or what the subjects of the emails were. I have to ask myself, if she wrote emails on her gmail account and not her private server, and those emails were later classified, would we consider this a legitmate news story?

There were 104 emails. I’m sure that if there was something earth shatteringly critical and dangerous for the enemy to know, you would have put that in the headline. But this article looks like just another hit on Clinton. Now, I have to ask myself whose water you are carrying? Are those persons using The Washington Post because they know you are compliant? Is that compliancy the result of genuine study or previous bias?  You may consider this an unfair characterization of the Hillary pieces you run routinely. I might agree with you but I don’t find this kind of coverage for any other candidate. At this point, it’s just boring but it still serves the purpose of undermining her credibility. I don’t trust your motives. What’s in it for me, an average American, if you take down the one person I can safely rely on to not blow up the world while you let other lesser candidates bogart your main headlines?

This is one of the reasons why I don’t read your paper. It’s dishonest even when it’s reporting the truth. And if you’re dishonest about Hillary, who or what else are you not being honest about?

Donald Trump, on the other hand, can do no wrong. By that I mean, short of molesting a kid on live TV, the more that gets thrown at him, the more support he seems to attract. Even live TV child molestation might not work. He might say, “That’s not my short, stubby penis, I don’t know who that penis belongs to. I’ve never even met that kid and if I did, I don’t remember it.” And the journalists will try try again and people will ignore them and cheer and go vote for Trump anyway. To me, that’s a sign that the media narratives may only have limited traction these days. I used to think that was a good thing. Now, I’m not so sure.

So, if Trump really is as dangerous, unscrupulous and unpresidential as we are told, maybe you might want to investigate why it is that no one cares anymore.

Could it be that the major media has not been sufficiently critical of itself? Has it become a player instead of an objective analyst, with or without adjectives? Does the telecast of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner suggest a certain vanity?

Have you asked yourself whether Thomas Friedman’s chat with various cab drivers conveys sufficient understanding of the plight of the average American? Are you comfortable with the accusation of racism that the administration and its surrogates casually throw out when it is criticized? Could it be possible that not challenging this accusation has lead many people to feel powerless to get their concerns heard? Is it possible that not all of Donald Trump’s supporters are racists but are frustrated at having their issues ignored?

Has your paper been fair in reporting what it is that concerns Americans? Has it dug deep into the problem of long term unemployment and underemployment? Does it know what it’s like to live on Social Security in retirement without a pension? Has it done any investigative reporting on the 401K problem? I have to give credit to the NYTimes for its series on the cost of healthcare. Have you done any reporting on how the ACA was developed and who the major players were? What were their goals? How much skin in the game did they decide would cripple the act?

Has your paper examined why it has such hatred of the Clintons? At this point, after years of investigations that went nowhere and several searches of the Clintons’ underwear drawer, it’s starting to look like this is personal. I’m not singling out the Washington Post on this but the media does seem a little bit incestuous. There are only so many major newspapers in the country and it seems like most of the reporters have jumped from one to the other, and back again. Does it feel too clubby? Do you all hate the right people?

Major papers do not change their columnists frequently either. Do you think the shortage of female opinion columnists has anything to do with the treatment of Hillary Clinton or lack of interest in issues important to women in general?  How many female columnists would it take to balance this inequity? Studies have previously suggested that when women represent 30% of country’s government, this can have a substantial positive impact on the overall quality of life in that country. Are you prepared to increase the number of women on your editorial page to improve its quality?

Do you find there is a problem with credentialism in your newsroom? Do you only hire from certain schools? Does it help to be a legacy? Is it better to hire someone with contacts in government who are friends and acquaintances?

I ask these questions because the quality of journalism can also have a systemic effect on the news. If your newsrooms are cluttered with journalists who are captured by their social group, academic credentials or gender, that is going to be reflected in what hits the front pages and gets covered by cable news. If your reporters and columnists do not accurately report the news, or care to understand what it is like to live as a middle class to low middle class American, or how the powers that be have affected that American’s life and future, does your paper remain relevant? Should you be surprised when Donald Trump starts winning primaries?

Maybe someone is trying to tell you something.


Friday: Ruh-Roh, The Shrill One’s Hair is on Fire

David Broder, Medieval MD.

David Broder, Medieval MD.

Remember the accounts of Richard Clark and George Tenet at the 9/11 Commission hearings about how they were running around the White House with their hair on fire trying to get Condi’s and W’s attention in the summer of 2001?  They knew something bad was going to happen and even went to the trouble of delivering a presidential daily briefing called “bin Laden determined to strike within the US” to Bush while he was on vacation.  Remember how they said he told them it was harshing his mellow and he didn’t want to hear about it anymore?  Jeez!  Why didn’t we impeach the guy!?  Bill Clinton could *never* have gotten away with that.  Oh, yeah, Nancy took impeachment off of the table.

Well, Paul Krugman, aka “The Shrill One”, must have written his last column with his hair on fire.  Our economy balances on the edge of a knife.  One false move and we’re right back to the “Buddy Can You Spare A Dime” days.  You know, I don’t think he’s kidding.  The layoffs are coming fast and furious and pretty soon, the economy is going to shrink in a big way.  But it’s Obama and the Republicans playing games that has Krugman worried:

It’s as if the dismal economic failure of the last eight years never happened — yet Democrats have, incredibly, been on the defensive. Even if a major stimulus bill does pass the Senate, there’s a real risk that important parts of the original plan, especially aid to state and local governments, will have been emasculated.

Somehow, Washington has lost any sense of what’s at stake — of the reality that we may well be falling into an economic abyss, and that if we do, it will be very hard to get out again.

It’s hard to exaggerate how much economic trouble we’re in. The crisis began with housing, but the implosion of the Bush-era housing bubble has set economic dominoes falling not just in the United States, but around the world.

I think that Krugman has touched on something and may have briefly overlooked its significance.  He says, “Washington has lost any sense of what’s at stake”.  This is the nail hitting statement of the piece.  Washington, ie, the Villagers, has never had a firm grip on reality.  They have their own fantasy version created straight from the smelly, old brain of David Broder and his friends.  Broder is the equivalent of a medieval physician.  No matter what you have, the cure is to smear it with goat dung to bring draw out the evil in the form of pus and then he will bleed you for awhile.  The Villager crusade against reality started when Hillary Clinton entered the race.  Immediately, they consulted their Aristotle and diagnosed that she had improperly violated the natural order so they sought to return her to her level.  The signs of an impending catastrophe with the economy have been around for a couple of years now, so much so that the podunk Des Moines Register specifically cited it as a reason for endorsing Hillary over Obama.  But this made no difference to the Villagers who were determined that no one should question their authority to wreck a woman’s career whenever it struck their fancy.

Now, this is not to say that Hillary would have been able to save the world.  When she first started out, even I wasn’t totally convinced she could overcome the tsunami of Republican opposition she would have faced.  But circumstances and adversity have a funny way of forging some raw elements into steel.  But this is beside the point.  Hillary is not our president.  The Villagers saw to that.  And since they were so successful, they are now strengthened.  No one stood up to these anachronisms stuck in the past.  They were unable to imagine a future that might be as bleak as The Great Depression.  They are still writing weighty tomes praising the virtues of bi-partisanship and lark’s tongues.

The unfortunate thing is that their young apprentice, Barack Obama, seems to have genuinely bought into the bi-partisanship philosophy.  The Bushies dragged the country so far to the right and the country is so out of joint that voters everywhere voted in desperation for a Democrat.  And now that Obama has majorities in the House and Senate and all the power in the world to set things right, what does he do?  He tries to appeal to… Republicans?  Well, I’m glad to see that he’s made a speech.  That’s very public and loud and finger wagging.  But as we have pointed out before, integrity means matching your word with your actions.  If they don’t gem, all the speeches in the world aren’t going to save us.  We will have to comb through the stimulus package to see how sincere he and Congress really are.  Are they paying any attention to the man with his hair on fire?:

So what should Mr. Obama do? Count me among those who think that the president made a big mistake in his initial approach, that his attempts to transcend partisanship ended up empowering politicians who take their marching orders from Rush Limbaugh. What matters now, however, is what he does next.

It’s time for Mr. Obama to go on the offensive. Above all, he must not shy away from pointing out that those who stand in the way of his plan, in the name of a discredited economic philosophy, are putting the nation’s future at risk. The American economy is on the edge of catastrophe, and much of the Republican Party is trying to push it over that edge.

First thing we do: shoot the bipartisanship messengers.

Thursday: The Village, SIDS and everything

I’ve been searching for a plot summary of the 2008 election and the four years to come.  What explains the way things have played out?  What are the forces at work?  Who has the true power?  I can say with assurance that if the DNC had gone with Hillary Clinton, the party and the country would have been better off, even if the economy and government were in a shambles.  Instead, we have something that is dead before it begins.

But first, a little diversion.  Back in the day, when certain kinds of high powered workstations were new and groovy, they were also prone to failure within a few weeks after delivery.  The technical support specialist would come on site, open the sucker up, poke around a bit and say, “I hate to tell you this but your elunium pu36 explosive space modulator has SIDS and we’ll have to swap it for a different one.”  Hmmm, I would say, perplexed.  What happened?  The TSS would smile thoughtfully.  “It just left the factory that way.  It has a flaw.  Sometimes it’s one thing, sometimes it’s another.  It happens.  We test them before they leave but we don’t test them long enough to catch everything.  If the unit is going to fail, it usually does it within the first month and it’s probably a major failure.  So, we don’t even bother trying to fix it.  We just replace the whole unit.”

Conflucians, the Obama administration has SIDS.  It is already a failure.  It has a flaw in its design.  The flaw has been there since the beginning but the product was so shiny and new and promised to make our lives so much better that many people overlooked it.  The sucker is version 1 and no one in their right mind buys version 1 unless it comes from Apple.  And even then, you make sure you buy it with your platinum VISA with the extended product purchase warantee and a direct line to some geeky Genius.

The QC test for the Obama administration is the Villagers, that little bastion of political pundits and DC courtiers with the narrow minded collective conscious that is stuck in the fifties.  They are the status quo.  They are the power.  Piss off a Villager and your job is misery for four long years.  The Clintons know that the Villagers never forget.  Their memories are lonnnnnnng.  Their grudges never ending.  They pass judgement on everything: Your marriage, your clothes, your children, your interns, your policies that might cost them a teensy bit more in taxes or anything that might make THEIR lives uncomfortable.  You can’t do anything in DC without the approval of the Villagers.  They control the horizontal and the vertical.  Step out of line and your ass is glass.

Both Hillary and Obama knew that.  But where Hillary was willing to take them on and was actually succeeding, pressing forward inch by inch against the hurricane force gusts of Villager hot air, Obama decided to gain their confidence.  He bravely marched over to the Villager side and adopted all of their conventional wisdom.  Hillary was a monster, women should be seen, not heard, the new FISA law is good, telephone companies were viciously maligned, the Iraq War isn’t nearly as bad as we thought, Michelle will make a great “Mom-in-Chief”.

Obama bowed and dipped and flattered and danced a merry little Pavane.  All was cheery and delightful.  He was the perfect solution to their civil rights dilemma.  Why, he is just like them, except a little darker.

Meanwhile, David Axelrod and David Plouffe fluffed the nation’s nipples in extended foreplay, whispering sweet nothings into our ears about how good it was going to feel when Obama finally won.  There would be multiple orgasms across the nation.  It kept building and building and many waited in breathless anticipation for the next big thing, the new electronic gadget that we all had to have by Christmas time.

Well, we’ve got it.  But it will never work right.  Because in order to get the presidency, Obama had to play the Villager game.  And these people might be stubborn in their foolish consistencies but they aren’t stupid.  They know the creature that Obama is.  He’s b-b-b-bad to the bone.  He’s corrupt as all get out.  They know and he knows that Blago knows where all of the bodies are buried.

Now, Obama can make all kinds of promises and policies and have Jon Favreau insert “hope!” and “Change!” into every speech but Obama knows that if he proposes anything to displease the Villagers even one little bit, he’s going to be slung with a big, stinky albatross called Milorod Blagojevich for the duration of his four long years. And we have seen that Obama is very reluctant to court controversy.  He’s not a fighter.  He’s a “get out of town on the day of a tricky vote” kinda guy.  He will not stand up to the Village because he is afraid of them.  Before he can sign one bill into law, Obama is already a non-functioning unit.

So much for hope and change.

As for Hillary, well, we can’t look back.  We can only look forward.  It’s not a good year for her.  It seems like she’s got enemies everywhere but she actually had only one- sexism.  I’ve tried to figure out what it is that would cause her to lose so spectacularly and nothing else makes sense.  It can’t be arrogance because the powers that be tolerated a surfeit of that from Obama.  It’s not stupidity.  She outshined her opponents.  Ruthlessness was hailed in Obama but condemned in her.  I think we have to acknowledge that sexism is at the root of all evils that befell Hillary this year.  It’s the kind of sexism that emanates from political scions like Ted Kennedy, whose own family had issues with women who were a bit too unorthodox.

The Jezebel wore Scarlet

The Jezebel wore Scarlet

His own sister Rosemary was lobotomized, not for mental retardation, but because she was an angry young women who didn’t fit in with her wealthy social climbing family.  Think about that for a sec.  Women in Kennedy’s family were kept in a convent and parts of their brains were removed because they threatened to ruffle the smooth facade of the Kennedy mysitique.  We shouldn’t forget this.  The Ted Kennedy generation of his family is full of socialites with charitable causes, debutantes and women who married for titles.  Women were  definitely subordinate and objects of affection, or non-consensual sex for the likes of Ted Kennedy’s generation.  This is the man who put all of his lever pulling to work for Obama and to the detriment of Hillary Clinton.  This is his mindset.  It’s sexism.

But she nearly beat the old dudes.  Nearly wrested the power away from them.  Nearly banished the Villagers from court.  If it weren’t for the corruption, the flaw, that lies at the core of Obama’s meteoric rise to fame, she could have pulled it off.  Instead, we have a president who will be frozen in amber by that corruption.  Stray but a little from the edge of a knife and he will be the victim of Villager backlash. And they will be vicious.  Blagojevich will be blackmail that keeps Obama in line for the next four years.  Even if Obama had initially courted them with the intent of defusing them with legislation later, this latest scandal with Blagojevich threatens to make that impossible.  It’s already out there and the ties are there, like faint silvery lines just waiting for the press to do its job and illuminate them.  At its own convenience, of course.

The Obama administration has SIDS.
Update: Kudos to Joseph Cannon for bringing us a little Fitzmas.  He’s done a stellar job following the Blagojevich indictment.  Today, he rewrites The Little Drummer Boy and Oh Come, Oh Come Emanuel!  Deeelightful!

This Week’s ESP- January 27, 2008

Sibyl TrelawneyTime to predict what next week’s themes are going to be:

  • High Broderism is still the Villager’s favorite governing style.  It doesn’t rock their little boat on the Potomac.  For those new to this term, High Broderism is the theory espoused by WaPo columnist David Broder that if the Democrats would just abandon every one of their core principles and reach out to Republicans and compromise with them, then, every pressing issue would be resolved amicably and we’d all have tea,  This is ridiculous, of course.  Because the cold hard reality is that Republicans don’t believe in compromise.  They are prepared to hold their breaths while strangling the country to get what they want and they are perfectly capable of doing it from a filibuster proof minority.  You can’t get around them with less than 60 votes in the senate and they are impervious to negotiation.  But it all sounds so harmonious and philanthropic.  So, Obama is running as the High Broderite candidate and pulling the young, independents and the college educated (but not necessarily smart) onto his side in order to win the nomination.  If he wins it, the GOP is going to paint him as the biggest flaming liberal whoever lived.  But getting back to High Broderism, expect this to be pushed heavily by the media using the clip of Obama’s SC victory speech as an example of what the country wants.  They will continue to pressure Clinton to abandon “partisanship” for the sake of bringing the country together.  The country doesn’t really want High Broderism.  It wants universal health insurance, social security, social justice, the rich to pay their fair share, labor protections, etc, etc.  But strategy is so much harder to describe in 30 seconds than an optimistic Change! soundbite.  If I were running, I’d turn this around on the media and ask them to identify what they mean by the terms “partisanship”, especially when it comes to a primary season where the contestants are supposed to be representing their “party”.  We’ve learned from the past 2 elections that running to the right of the party doesn’t work so appealing to the party in the primary season would seem to be pretty logical, especially if the rest of the country is on our side.  Emphasizing the differences between the two parties should work once High Broderism is defined as a failure.  One need only point to the well-meaning but feckless Congress as evidence of how it works.
  • Obama is a cypher.  Expect Hillary to try to pin him down.
  • Expect the Big Dawg to lower his profile.  Expect his every utterance to be misinterpreted and magnified anyway including ordering his coffee black.  I don’t agree with Josh Marshall when it comes to the Big Dawg.  If anything, Bill has held back.  Obama is an incredibly weak presidential candidate when you think about it.  He really doesn’t have much going for him other than an inspiring stump speech.  But the media is clearly on his side.  What I *have* noticed, however, is the consistent level of disgust across the lefty blogs with Hillary’s campaign machine and operatives.  I personally *loathe* Joe Trippi and David Axelrod and think they’re both disgusting, as disgusting as any Hillary operative.  But the antipathy runs against Clinton’s camp quite heavily.  I don’t know if this is genuinely earned.  Like I said, I find all of the campaign’s consultants to be overpaid shills.  So, I’m wondering if the lingering aftereffects of the Clinton investigations and impeachment has some of us conditioned to feel especially nauseous whenever Bill Clinton shows his face on TV.  I appreciate Josh’s struggle with his uneasiness but I just don’t find his explanation convincing.  I would definitely object if Bill was actively defending Hillary against unfair treatment but that’s not really what he’s been doing.  His attacks on Obama have actually been quite tame and Hillary has shown herself to be more than capable of defending herself.  She could do the next week all on her own with no one but Chelsea stumping for her and her strengths would no be diminished.   I think Josh has to think about this some more.  There’s something else at the bottom of all this disgust that probably doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when you get right down to it.
  • Expect Obama’s camp to start accusing Clinton’s of calling him a “Black candidate” in order to marginalize him. The fact that it was Obama’s camp that played the race cad to begin with will be conveniently overlooked.  Also, should be easy to thwart.  You know it’s coming.  OK, it’s already here and they are already pouncing on Bill Clinton’s statements about Jesse Jackson’s wins.  But here’s the thing, the only one who would have benefitted by stirring up racial tension in SC is Obama.  And he did it to win the majority Black voters.  So, now he has identified himself with black voters and he wants to be seen as a racially diverse candidate.  The rest of the country is sitting back and seeing this incredible blowout in a southern conservative state, the legacy of slavery still evident by the one room wooden cabins under the Spanish moss on old plantations.   We all know what South Carolina is or at least, I have a clue because I  lived there as a kid.  Obama was always going to win this state.  If he wanted to be a diverse candidate, he didn’t have to drive a wedge in the party with race baiting.  Merely showing up would have given him a nice win.  But that just wasn’t good enough.  So he pulled out all of the stops and got this wildly lopsided victory and has now somewhat defined himself.  He can bluster about the Jesse Jackson comments now and expect everybody and their brother to take his side but this genie is already out of the bottle.  Florida isn’t that far away from South Carolina and the south hasn’t been completely erased there.
  • Expect DailyKos to go through another “Rec List Hostage Crisis” as the Edwardians try to deal with the next stage of grief.  But as flawed a politician as Edwards is, his core Democratic principles are closer to Clinton’s than Obama’s.  Something to think about.