So much wrong in Washington No problem, local media to the rescue

Republicans are digging the grave of Obamacare. Should they whistle as they work? Nate Silver of 538.com tweets

We estimate the GOP bill has plurality support from voters in only ~80 of 435 districts, and a majority in only about 3 (!) of 435.

Huh. Weird…

The GOP bill is widely unpopular??? Isn’t this supposed to matter in our system of government? Isn’t it supposed to matter a LOT? Isn’t it sort of a fundamental, bedrock principle of democracy/self-government?  Surely our local editorial page will grab a-hold of this and, you know, weigh-in soon!

 



CBO estimate: 24 million to lose insurance under new GOP health plan But -- on the bright side -- tax cuts for the rich!

Ezra Klein at Vox.com explains:

Here, in short, is what the AHCA does. The bill guts Medicaid, halves the value of Obamacare’s insurance subsidies, and allows insurers to charge older Americans 500 percent more than they charge young Americans.

Then it takes the subsidies that are left and reworks them to be worth less to the poor and the old, takes the insurers that are left and lets them change their plans to cover fewer medical expenses for the sick, and rewrites the tax code to offer hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts to the rich. As Dylan Matthews writes, it is an act of class warfare by the rich against the poor.

Why, this seems bigly significant. You can be sure our local newspaper will want to weigh in on this pretty darn soon.


Why is the Wisconsin State Journal editorial board in hiding? Toothless dog ill serves its readers

Took a peek at the State Journal editorial this morning…. Jeepers. Worse than usual? There’s actually a typo in the headline (and the URL)… Willy Steet. Steet?!? Well, typos do happen.

It’s harder to ignore that it’s a badly over-simplified analysis and thus, shall we say, not good. A huge obstacle to this little co-op paying a ‘living wage’ is that it’s just a single business operating in a sea of competition. Why can’t one gas station sell regular for $2.25 when other gas stations are charging $2.00? This is basic stuff. Note to Milfred: Maybe this is why living wage advocates tend to favor living wage laws affecting businesses in general?

Once again the editorial page is talking about some diddly little distraction

But again, ignore that. Ignore the typo, ignore the foolish analysis. The big thing (once again) is that the editorial page is talking about some diddly little distraction when bigly things is happening in America.

  • Healthcare coverage for 20 million Americans is being damaged or simply eliminated.
  • The rich (incomes above $250,000) are about to get a 600 billion dollar tax cut as part of the bargain.
  • Paul Ryan’s out there rattling off his buzzwords. “It means more choices and competition.” “You can buy the plan that you need and that you can afford.”
  • Doctors oppose it. Nurses oppose it. Hospitals oppose it.

This is a very big deal for lots of Americans and for the American economy. It’s an utterly teachable moment about what our political parties are standing for today.

Is the State Journal with Ryan on this? Do they have any thoughts? Anything?

Not yet.



Paul Ryan: weakling, con man, misleader Ryan in headlines

paul-ryan-60-minutesOver the weekend we got to see Speaker of the House Paul Ryan on CBS News’ “60 Minutes”… Did he disagree with Donald Trump’s [fantastical made-up fantasy] claim of millions of illegal voters in the last election? Mr. Ryan: “I don’t know. I’m not really focused on these things.”

This is actually quite serious. The supposedly “responsible” or “traditional” or “establishment” leaders in the Republican Party [see also Reince Priebus and VP Mike Pence] are actively helping Trump weaken our democracy.

It is time… way past time… for the non-insane press, which is now just one segment of what Americans regard as their news and information system, to call a spade a spade.

Here’s a list — ranked, roughly, from best to worst — of news headlines covering Ryan’s remarks:

GQ: ‘Paul Ryan Apparently Doesn’t Give a Shit if Donald Trump Lies About Illegal Voting’

Politico: ‘Ryan won’t repudiate Trump’s false illegal voter claims’

Raw Story: ‘I have no knowledge of such things’: Paul Ryan plays dumb on Trump’s big lie about illegal voters

Mediaite: Paul Ryan on Trump’s Voter Fraud Claims: ‘It Doesn’t Matter to Me,’ He Won

Yahoo news: Paul Ryan on Trump’s baseless voter fraud claim: ‘Who cares what he tweeted?’

Huffington Post: Paul Ryan On Donald Trump Tweeting Lies: ‘Who Cares?’

Salon: Let’s watch Republicans feign ignorance about Donald Trump’s bogus voter fraud claims

Wisconsin State Journal: Paul Ryan: ‘Who cares’ what Donald Trump tweets if problems are fixed

To their credit, the Wisconsin State Journal did publish something.  But why is the headline so ambiguous? After reading the headline, would anyone know what the story is about? The story is: Trump manufactures a self-serving lie, a YUUUGE lie, a lie corrosive to American democracy. And Paul Ryan fails to marshal courage to say bupkis.

 


Big Lies… endlessly repeated It takes a toll

Now we shall have a President-elect who just lets the Big Lies fly.

It’s not as if past Presidents have never misled us. But in the past Presidential lies were relatively rare and then carefully constructed. They were reviewed and polished by high-level wordsmiths and cautious handlers before being rolled out to the public. Think Condi Rice’s line, “…there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly Saddam can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” That was a work of art delivered on behalf of her President. It was scary as hell, and uncheckable by the press. True, it was checkable by U.N weapons inspectors, but that’s another long story.

But now Trump. Now we have a President-elect who wakes up at 3 in the morning and delivers a load of obvious rubbish via Twitter.  Being who he is, he has 16.5 million Twitter followers, which includes of course at least half the reporters in America. He has no filters of his own. At 3 AM, in his gold-embroidered pajamas, he has no handlers. This will be our new world:

trump-tweet-1a

The idea that busloads, or thousands, or now (in the fevered brain of a President-elect) millions of people are illegally voting in U.S elections really got rolling about 6 years ago. It’s still got momentum. And it’s always been baseless. It was a lie manufactured out of nothing by GOP governors and GOP state legislators working to make voting more difficult and suppress voting among Democratic constituencies. There was never any evidence of voter fraud. When the governors and legislators were pressed for evidence, none was forthcoming.

This was, in a way, quite sadly instructive. Turns out, propaganda campaigns are easy. No jingles are necessary, no clever ad-copy is needed. No actual evidence is required. Propaganda simply needs to be repeated, like any other advertising.

Look at the voter fraud lie. Begin by simply asserting (against all evidence) that some horrible thing (voter fraud) is going on. When challenged for evidence, ignore the challenge. Simply go back to the original assertion. Do it over and over. Remember, you don’t need everyone to buy your beer; you just want a lot of people to do so.

These GOP governors and legislators never paid any price for peddling this lie. The mainstream press remained largely predictably supine.

And now we have a man ascending to the pinnacle of world power — a U.S. President-elect — who merrily repeats the “illegal voter” b-s.

By now millions of Americans believe that busloads, or thousands, or (ludicrously) millions of people are voting in our elections illegally. Millions of us also believe that President Obama is a Muslim, or was born in Kenya.

When repeated over and over, even the most absurd claptrap finds a home in the minds of the gullible, and the lightly-informed, or the predisposed. And remember, you don’t need everyone to buy your beer; you just want a lot of people to do so.

Is there any hope that we shall survive this collapse in the public dialog? Probably not. Really. Probably not. But let’s enjoy a small moment of progress. Here are a couple of headlines from our most valuable national press outlets– the New York Times and the Washington Post (h/t Melissa Block at NPR):

trump-tweet-1-headlines

Now the first headline (from the NY Times) is the better. The debunking is located right in the headline. The WaPo’s debunk is in the sub-headline. But it too is a step forward. This is progress, but should the public have waited for this for six years? When some politician is spouting what is well known as rubbish, headlines that repeat or reinforce the rubbish do the public great harm. And those headlines happen all too often.

It’s nice to be polite, but if you’re a journalist being polite to a barrel of rubbish? And maintaining that pose over a span of years? What should we suppose might happen?

 


Finally, Mr. Milfred pipes up on Trump Wisconsin State Journal: Clinton, not Trump

[Almost] no American newspaper has endorsed Donald Trump for President.

Stalwart Republican newspapers like The Arizona Republic have warned their readers don’t vote for Trump.

Newspapers that have never before taken sides in a presidential race (e.g., USA Today) have called Mr. Trump “unfit for the presidency”.

So, we had wondered back on August 21,  “Will the Wisconsin State Journal ever start addressing the Trump phenomenon?”

It’s true that 5 months earlier the State Journal had published an earful when Trump threatened to “open up our libel laws” (?) to sue news organizations for being too critical.

“If I become president, oh, do they have problems. We can sue them and win lots of money.”

It’s true that this anti-constitutional dumbassery deserved pushback, very strong pushback, but still we had to withhold credit at the time, because Mr. Trump had been offering multiple stupidities, lies, and reversals week after week after week. And yet, seemingly, it took a threat to the newspaper industry to get Mr. Milfred aroused? We were not wowed by the moral clarity of defending one’s very own wheelhouse.toles-trump-covers-every-side-of-every-issue

But now at long last, on Sunday, Mr. Milfred put forward an official endorsement for the 2016 race: “Hillary Clinton — by far — is best prepared to lead our nation toward peace and prosperity.” And his essential brief against Trump? “[H]e can’t even work with his own party. He’s tearing the GOP apart.”

So that was pretty good. You know, accurate. So, pretty good!

Mr. Milfred might have said that Trump is tearing America apart, not just his beloved GOP. But baby steps….

Now if, if, if Mr. Milfred hopes to rebuild a winning future for conservatism, or America, or the world in general, he could stand to read not here, but the blog of NYU professor of journalism Jay Rosen. Many of the old rules of journalism are fried, he says. There is actually some bipartisan agreement on this starting point.


Normalizing hate And nonsense, too

NY Times columnist Tom Friedman who, for years, has written breezily about worldwide social/technological disruption, has given himself a new beat. Now he writes — and not breezily — about the Trump problem

…Trump just skips from blaming Mexican immigrants for high murder rates, to President Obama for inventing ISIS, to China for creating the concept of global warming, to thousands of Muslims in New Jersey for celebrating 9/11, to Obama for really having been born in Kenya, to an I.R.S. audit for preventing him from showing us his tax returns — which would probably show that he paid no taxes.

Every word of it is a lie that most in his own party won’t call out.

toles-trump-covers-every-side-of-every-issueWhy thank you, Mr. Friedman! As you know, most of the press cannot bring itself to call anything a lie. Heck, they can’t even call something “nonsense” or “unsupportable” or “fantastical”.

Remember Trump’s 1st foray into politics — the birther libel? It was a lie and nonsense and racist. Our press found it impossible to say so, but they did help spread the lie by “covering” the “story”.

Can you imagine the damage Trump could do to the fabric of our democracy if he had the White House pulpit from which to preach his post-truth politics — how it would filter down into public discourse at large and infect every policy debate?

Yes, that would be bad if public figures could just shoot their mouths off without “being held to account” by our bulldog independent press. It might, as Friedman says, “filter down into public discourse at large.” Is he saying that might happen in the future? Friedman continues

“Donald Trump has not only brought haters into the mainstream, he has normalized hate for a much broader swathe of the population who were perhaps already disaffected but had their grievances and latent prejudices held in check by social norms,” observed Josh Marshall, publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com, in his blog on Saturday. “This isn’t some minor point or critique. It’s a fundamental part of what is at stake in this election…”


Let’s not talk about global warming Where's the profit in that?

burning earthJuly wasn’t just hot,” sez the Times editorial page. “It was the hottest month ever recorded.”

Fourteen of the 15 hottest years have occurred since 2000. Does any serious person not see what’s happening?

Still, the steady approach of catastrophic global warming — no matter how dire, no matter how evident — is never much of a topic for the Wisconsin State Journal editorial board.

  • Are they climate denialists? No, that’s not it. Every once in a while there’s a crumb of evidence that they do know it’s a real thing and that it’s happening.
  • Are they reluctant to ‘call out’ climate denialism or the climate deniers? Well, this seems much more likely. Since climate denialism has for at least a decade functioned as a bright identity marker in our tribal politics, as well as a marker of being in touch with reality — with the Elephants in denial and the Donkeys not — it’s gotten very hard to make the case that oh, everyone’s to blame. Saying, “everyone’s to blame, both sides do it, the truth is somewhere in the middle…” this is the safe spot for American commercial journalism, and of course it’s not always wrong. But to make this claim about climate change is journalistic nonsense, so the State Journal editorial page just shuts up about it. It finds a million other things to talk about.