Friday, August 26, 2016

Looks Like I'm Dead Again

Which is always exhilarating.

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

The demise of 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.

" 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.

Journalism: Then and Now

20 years ago, one of Chicago's most-respected news anchors and hard-political junkies, Carol Marin, resigned her job at Chicago's most-watched nightly news program because the station hired Jerry Springer to fizz up their ratings.  From the Chicago Tribune, May 4, 1997:
Chicago News Anchor Quits After Station Hires Jerry Springer

The decision by a Chicago television station to hire Jerry Springer, the host of a syndicated talk show, to provide commentaries on its nightly newscasts has led to the resignation of one of that city's most popular and respected television news anchors.

A second anchor is almost certain to follow her this summer, staff members at the station, WMAQ-TV, said on Friday. If so, the hiring of Mr. Springer, whose talk show usually deals with vulgar subject matter and who occasionally engages in the ''ambush'' interviews that have prompted widespread criticism of the talk genre, could shake up news-viewing habits in Chicago.

On Thursday, Carol Marin, one of the two anchors of the 10 P.M. news on WMAQ, the NBC-owned station in Chicago, announced her decision to quit after a protracted dispute with the management over the direction of its newscasts. Ms. Marin, who had been the anchor for 12 years, has won numerous awards for reporting, including 15 Emmy Awards and 1 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University award for broadcast journalism.

The other anchor, Ron Magers, had previously said he might also quit. On Friday, he issued a statement saying that he disagreed with the hiring of Mr. Springer but that he would fulfill his contract.

Staff members close to Mr. Magers said he had tried to renegotiate his contract to allow him to leave in the summer and was likely to do so. His contract would have continued for three more years.

The departures of two leading anchors would be highly unusual for any television station, but especially so in the case of WMAQ because it leads the Chicago market among the viewers most sought by advertisers.

Ms. Marin said in a telephone interview that she ''could not understand at all'' why the management had chosen to ''take the news in a whole new direction.''

That direction, she and other staff members suggested, is toward a more tabloid-style newscast. The management of WMAQ did not respond to calls on Friday. But the president of NBC's stations division, John Rohrbeck, said WMAQ would not adopt a tabloid style.

He suggested that Ms. Marin's departure was a result of longstanding unhappiness with the management.

The decision to hire Mr. Springer was ''a symptom of where news is heading,'' Ms. Marin said. She did not dispute the station's right to choose its staff. ''But for me, it crossed a line I would not cross.''
20 years later, and what was once the only even-remotely "Liberal" national teevee news outlet in American now looks more and more like the bottom of Sean Hannity's birdcage:

20 years ago, Jerry Springer was ''a symptom of where news is heading,''.

20 years later, and "news" -- which barely exists any more at all -- has sunk so far past that point that it is no longer detectable by the most powerful ground-penetrating radar.

Alt Right At-a-Glance

Are we clear now?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Today In Republican Detachment Disorder:  Party Like It's 1999 1994

The GOP is just a party, and parties weren't meant to last.

First it was Charlie Sykes, a professional Conservative radio creature who suddenly noticed after decades of feeding the beast in the basement that -- Holy Sorcerer's Apprentice, Batman ! -- the beast in the basement had kicked the door open, slithered up the stairs to the Mr. Sykes tidy parlor and was intent on making Mr. Sykes its next meal.
Since last year, the most influential political talk show host in Wisconsin has found out just how hard it is to be a #NeverTrump conservative on right-wing radio. Ever since Sykes began denouncing Donald Trump on the air—which he does just about every time he talks about the presidential election—he’s strained his relationships with the listeners of his daily radio show.

Sykes’ many arguments with listeners over Donald Trump’s serial outrages have exposed in much of his audience a vein of thinking—racist, anti-constitutional, maybe even fascistic—that has shaken Sykes. It has left him questioning whether he and his colleagues in the conservative media played a role in paving the way for Trump’s surprising and unprecedented rise.
"Since last year".

Put a pin in that.  You'll need it later.

Next up, Mr. John Ziegler who, according to his Media-ite bio, is "a nationally-syndicated radio talk show host and documentary filmmaker" who you can follow on The Twitter at @ZigManFreud or email at

If you (who live blissfully outside of the wingnutosphere) have heard of Mr. Zeigler at all before today, it may be because of the low-rent hit-job "documentaries" that he has produced slandering the Clintons, whining about the Terrible Liberal Media Conspiracy, protecting child molesters, and so forth.  Or you might know him for running his yapper in front of various microphones like so --
Ziegler made the following remarks while introducing Fred Thompson at a campaign rally in California: "In case you missed it, some nut job broke in [to Clinton's campaign office] and took hostages and apparently threatened to blow himself up unless he got a chance to speak to Hillary. Now, I found this rather odd because I always feel like blowing myself up after I hear Hillary Clinton speak". ABC News says the audience "laughed and applauded",[62] while described the remark as "unfettered nastiness".[63]
Just one more of Murrica's hundreds of Limbaugh hatepuke imitators who have made a living by toxifying this country almost beyond repair.

Which is why this headline in Media-ite --
All Along I Thought Trump Wasn’t a Conservative/Republican, But Now I Realize I’m Not 
by John Ziegler | 3:56 pm, August 23rd, 2016
-- cracked me right the hell up.

Yes, cats & kittens, one more professional Conservative well-poisoner has finally taken a sip of the water he has spent his professional life poisoning and is shocked that it tastes so...poison-y.

After much thumbing of his suspenders and gassy orating on the meaning of True Conservatism, Mr. Ziegler finally gets around to the sobbing-like-a-baby part in which he -- just like Mr. Sykes -- swears he was cruelly betrayed by millions of Fake Conservatives who snuck in and short-sheeted the Party of Lincoln in the middle of the night while everyone was asleep:
...I thought that I understood what it meant to be a conservative or a Republican. To me that involved believing in limited government, a strong national defense, fiscal responsibility, constitutional principles, character and honesty in our leadership, and accountability for one’s own actions. What I have been very late to realize is that none of these things are particularly important in today’s Republican Party because the platform apparently got completely changed without anyone telling me.
Oh the fucking humanity!

Mr. Ziegler continues:
In Trump’s party belief in any particular policy or principle is completely arbitrary and is dependent on what suits our fearless leader on any given day (even, it now seems, with regard to his core campaign issue of being super tough on illegal immigration). Even more remarkable than the ever changing policy positions is how utterly irrelevant actual “issues” are to his campaign at all.

In fact, a list of what “Republicans” now stand for has nothing at all to do with policy or principle, but rather is filled with beliefs about very specific concepts. For instance, being a member of the current GOP pretty much requires you to pledge allegiance to most, if not all, of the following views...
There follows a long list of demented conspiracies and jaw-dropping hypocrisies familiar to every Liberal in Christendom.  In fact, this list reminded me of nothing so much as a much, much longer list -- the Bayeux Tapestry of such lists -- published six years ago by "American Dad" (aka. Russell King): a Republican who had finally had it up to here with his party.  The original list has been eaten by internet goblins, but here is the open letter with which Mr. King led off his magnum opus:
An open letter to conservatives

March 22, 2010, 3:16PM

Dear Conservative Americans,

The years have not been kind to you. I grew up in a profoundly Republican home, so I can remember when you wore a very different face than the one we see now. You've lost me and you've lost most of America. Because I believe having responsible choices is important to democracy, I'd like to give you some advice and an invitation.

First, the invitation: Come back to us.

Now the advice. You're going to have to come up with a platform that isn't built on a foundation of cowardice: fear of people with colors, religions, cultures and sex lives that differ from your own; fear of reform in banking, health care, energy; fantasy fears of America being transformed into an Islamic nation, into social/commun/fasc-ism, into a disarmed populace put in internment camps; and more. But you have work to do even before you take on that task.

Your party -- the GOP -- and the conservative end of the American political spectrum have become irresponsible and irrational. Worse, it's tolerating, promoting and celebrating prejudice and hatred. Let me provide some examples -- by no means an exhaustive list -- of where the Right as gotten itself stuck in a swamp of hypocrisy, hyperbole, historical inaccuracy and hatred.
And now, finally, we amble back to that sentence fragment from Mr. Charlie Sykes' article in Politico  -- "Since last year" -- which you have been patiently holding all this time and compare it to the very first sentence from Mr. John Ziegler's article in Media-ite (emphasis added):
For over a year now I have been trying to warn Republicans and conservatives about Donald Trump...
Wow.  Somebody pin a fucking medal on this hero.  Because as long as the mindless, bloodlusting herd he was helping to chum into a frenzy were marching where he wanted them to go (namely right over you and me and the Kenyan Usurper) Mr. John Ziegler was perfectly happy making a buck off of their racism and rage.  

And then one day -- Holy Sorcerer's Apprentice again, Batman ! -- he went to the crapper to find tha the beast in the basement had kicked the door open, slithered up the stairs already know the rest of that story.

I won't go into the long, ugly transformation of the modern GOP from the Party of Lincoln to the Party of Jefferson Davis that has been going on in fits and starts since at least the late 1940s.  Suffice it to say that the rot at the heart of the Republican Party has been clearly visible since the mid 1990s to anyone with the upper body strength to open the New York Times and read the King's English.  And yet for the last 22 years, anyone speaking that truth out loud was not only exiled from polite society but trashed for being a dirty, Murrica-hating, terrorist-loving hippies and a dupe of the Sekrit Liberal Media Conspiracy by the people like Messers Sykes and Zeigler.

And now, suddenly, saying exactly the sort of things for which the dirty hippies have been cast out and spat upon for decades...

...has become an open invitation for Mr. Zeigler to pen columns for Media-ite, and an e-ticket for Mr. Sykes to appear on cable teevee, apparently any time he pleases.

Now do I mean to suggest that people like Messers Sykes and Zeigler should not be appearing on teevee?

Of course not.

In fact, I firmly believe that they should appear on teevee.

Along with Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski and Mark Halperin and Michael Gerson and David Brooks and Chris Matthews and Peggy Noonan and Ron Fournier and Jennifer Rubin and Michael Steele and Kathleen Parker and Phil Griffin and Jeff Zucker a hundred others

At least once a week.

Each with their head shaved.

Each wearing a sign that says "I Collaborated".

(Should you be so inclined I have put out my PayPal button.  However like the Clinton Foundation, I solemnly promise to suspend all fundraising activities once my weekly column in the New York Times and my permanent gig as a rotating guest on MSNBC and CNN are secured.)

The Apollo 13 Election

To put things in the proper perspective, it might be useful to understand that we are not living through an "Apollo 11" election.  This is not a smoothly-run exercise in applied expertise -- a rendezvous with destiny that will be watched with pride by people around the world.

No. with the nomination of Donald J. Trump as the Republican standard-bearer, this has become the "Apollo 13" election.

This has become an honest-to-god, disaster-in-space election because the GOP has finally done what they have been trying to do for 30 years: inflict such catastrophic damage on our democracy that the entire America experiment in self-government in now at risk of failure.

But failure is not an option, which is why this time, history will measure our capacity for leadership not by the first footprints the Obama campaign leaves on an alien world, but by how skillfully the Clinton campaign can pilot our crippled craft back to Earth without getting us all killed.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Hey, St. Petersburg, Before You Ring Your Bell

Just been down in Beltway town
Done my time in hell...

Best-selling Author David Brooks speaks at SPC Foundation Distinguished Speaker Event

Best-selling author and op-ed columnist David Brooks will be speaking at the Second Annual St. Petersburg College Foundation Distinguished Speaker Event at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 21 at The Palladium Theater, 253 5th Ave. N. St. Petersburg.

As a widely acclaimed political and social analyst, David Brooks is a keen observer of the American way of life and a savvy commentator on present-day politics and foreign affairs. He has a gift for bringing audiences face-to-face with the spirit of our times with humor, insight and quiet passion.

Brooks holds several prestigious positions including op-ed columnist for The New York Times and analyst on the PBS NewsHour and NPR’s All Things Considered. Additionally, he appears regularly on NBC’s Meet the Press. His latest best-seller, The Road to Character, tells the story of ten great lives that illustrate how character is developed. In a society that emphasizes success and external achievement, The Road to Character is a book about inner worth.

Event tickets are $65 for orchestra seating and $55 for balcony seating...

Event sponsors are: Raymond James; Bright House Networks; Cisco; Duke Energy; Merrill Lynch; LEMA Construction; Carroll Family Foundation; Ken and Sandee Cherven...
 It's the Duke Energy sponsorship that makes it art.

Meanwhile and unrelatedly, Mr. David Brooks of the New York Times has once again sublimated his many spectacular professional failures into another rambling, discursive contrail of words about how "American Leadership" has failed --
Why America’s Leadership Fails
-- through no fault of anyone.
When you spend time around government officials you are constantly struck by the fact that they are more impressive in private than in public. Somewhere at the base of their personal story you usually find an earnest desire to serve some vulnerable group.

The fact is, political lives are simply not that glamorous or powerful or fun. Most politicians wouldn’t put up with all the fund-raising, the stupid partisan games, unless they were driven at some level by the right reasons.

But over the years, many get swallowed by the system...
It's the system, man!  The system!

Then comes the obligatory Both Siderism:
For example, Hillary Clinton seems to have been first inspired by a desire to serve children...

Mitt Romney seems to be an exceptionally fine person...
Because in David Brook's Conservative Dream House and Opium Den, Hillary Clinton is running against Mitt Romney, Mitch McConnell is a dedicated public servant, Paul Ryan is a reasonable Centrist, the Caucus Room Conspiracy never happened and Fox News/Hate Radio never existed.

See, it's not that Mr. Brooks' Republican Party is so chock full of out-and-proud bigots and imbeciles that it has finally gone as nutso in public as they have always been in private.  No, the real problem is a "careerist mentality" (and the aforementioned "system") to which politicians in both parties all apparently succumb in equal numbers to equally bad effect:
But a careerist mentality often replaces the vocation mentality. The careerist mentality frequently makes politicians timid, driven more by fear of failure than by any positive ideal.

Such people are besieged by the short-term calculations and often forget about their animating vision and long-term ideal. They rationalize that, since the opposition is so evil, anything that serves their career serves the country. This is not just bad for the people involved but for the system itself.
And then Mr. Brooks' already-barely sublimated denialism and self-loathing finally bobs close enough to the surface for anyone to see:
I do think there’s often an arc to vocation. People start with something outside themselves. Then, in the scramble to get established, the ambition of self takes over. But then at some point people realize the essential falseness of all that and they try to reconnect with their original animating ideals.

And so I think it possible to imagine a revival of vocation. If Clinton is elected, maybe even she can remind us that we’ve all developed these bad habits, that most of us secretly detest the game we’re in and the way we are playing it.
Hillary Clinton will never be my ideal Liberal candidate, but she is an intelligent and capable public servant and for-real policy wonk.  And if the Sanders/Warren wing of the Democratic Party can continue to shepherd her in the right direction, it is possible that a President Hillary Clinton will accomplish many good things.  

But however successful a Clinton Administration may prove to be, it will never be powerful enough to save David Brooks' soul.

Down the road a piece, Yastreblyansky. raises a welt:
What would [David Brooks] like to be thinking about? He has no idea, but he has a kind of emotion in the shape of an idea, which is a nostalgia for the time when it used to be fun...

Monday, August 22, 2016

If the State of the Fox News Republican Party Is a Civilization-Threatening, First Order Disaster...

...then what is your obligation as a journalist?

As a voter?

As a citizen?

As a human being?

Kellyanne Conway: Twenty Dollars, Same As In Town

Senior Trump Bullshit Dispenser, Kellyanne Conway, before Donald Trump started paying her (from the Washington Post):
In April, Conway appeared on CNN and defended a short-lived alliance between Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) to stop Trump, a strategy that she considered "fair game."
"Of course it's fair game," Conway said. "Oh, absolutely. It's completely transparent. Donald Trump's tax returns aren't, and I would like to see those be transparent."
Kellyanne Conway after Donald Trump started paying her:
"I've learned since being on the inside that this audit is a serious matter and that he has said that when the audit is complete, he will release his tax returns," Conway said during an interview on ABC's "This Week" that aired Sunday morning. "I also know as a pollster that what concerns people most about quote 'taxes' is their own tax liability, and so we appreciate people being able to see Hillary Clinton's plan and Donald Trump's plan and figure out who will really get the middle-class tax relief."
According to Trump's attorneys, his tax returns filed since 2009 are under audit but those from 2002 to 2008 are no longer under audit. Conway said Sunday in an interview on CNN that she does not want Trump to release those returns, either.

To quote (possibly apocryphally) Winston Churchill, "Madam, we've already established what you are. Now we are haggling about the price”.

Petulant Lunatic Provides Local Blogger With Free Content

Somebody got his phone back...

*** Tweet deleted. Was from a parody account and incorrectly attributed by me to Donald Trump. Thanks to Alert Reader JM for catching it ***

Oops. I meant petulant lunatics, plural:

And all of this is taking place on one of those "blue-leaning" networks which has poor Matt Taibbi all twitchy because they are obviously completely in the tank for Hillary Clinton.

This the intersection of your Free Press and your Representative Democracy, America.

Cherish it! (h/t Mr. Pierce)