Archive

January 27th, 2017

The Tempting of the Media

    There are two common views among journalists about the fate of our profession under the presidency of Donald Trump. The first is that ours is an age of maximal danger for the freedom of the press, that Trump’s war on newspapers and networks will escalate from tweets to Erdoganian crackdowns, that truly independent journalism will be marginalized while the White House breeds a lap dog press.

    The second is that this will be a golden age for the media, offering reporters a chance to shake free from access journalism and source-greasing and actually do their job in full, while finding in a Trump-fearing country the audience for serious investigative journalism that many believed had vanished with the internet.

    As the press eases into covering President Trump, however, I have a different worry. Mainstream journalism in this strange era may be freer than the fearful anticipate, but not actually better as the optimists expect. Instead, the press may be tempted toward — and richly rewarded for — a kind of hysterical oppositionalism, a mirroring of Trump’s own tabloid style and disregard for truth.

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How long will Sean Spicer allow himself to be humiliated by President Trump?

    This is your dream, Sean Spicer - to be White House press secretary. Anything you can do in your dreams you can do now.

    I borrowed those words of encouragement from Twilight Sparkle. You know, the "My Little Pony" character. Spicer should be familiar with the quote because he used it last summer to argue falsely that Melania Trump didn't really plagiarize Michelle Obama in a speech at the Republican National Convention. (He contended Obama's words were so generic that they were virtually indistinguishable from Twilight Sparkle's and therefore could not be the subject of a legitimate plagiarism claim.)

    I figure Spicer could use a little pick-me-up after his Worst Week in Washington, and his favorite flying unicorn is just the one to deliver it.

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Dear media: The Trump White House has total contempt for you. Time to react accordingly.

    Here is one thing we learned about the new Trump White House this weekend: It views the institutional role that the news media is supposed to play in our democracy with nothing but total, unbridled contempt. We may be looking at an unprecedented set of new challenges for the media in covering the new president. What remains to be seen is how it will respond.

    The New York Times reports Monday morning that journalists are deeply alarmed by statements made by Trump's top advisers over the weekend, in which they faulted the media for reporting accurately on his inaugural crowd size. Jeff Mason, the president of the White House Correspondents' Association, is quoted lamenting that the Trump White House must "get started" on a more constructive basis with the media.

    But I fear these journalists are understating the problem. This isn't simply a matter of signaling bad relations. Rather, what Trump and his advisers are doing is explicitly stating their contempt for the press' institutional role as a credo, as an actionable doctrine that will govern not just how it treats the press, but how it treats factual reality itself.

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Never Mind The Facts

    Never mind the facts, I know what I believe seems to be the prevalent thinking in all too many instances - on both the political right and the left. Knowing that a leopard can't change its spots we should not be surprised that the 45th President gave another campaign stump address instead of an inaugural come together message. That certainly explains him but what I can't understand is the criticism of Barack Obama for not fulfilling all his campaign promises.

    Yes, we had high hopes in January of 2001 when our first person of color took the oath of office thereby becoming the most powerful man on the planet--power in one sense but not in all the details of political nuance controlled by an opposition legislature. He had only two years of party control of the Congress, hardly time to make a dent, much less implement all our high hopes - high hopes of correcting things that had been years in the making, particularly our race relations.

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Breaking news: You can't believe what President Trump says

    I've spent the last few days reading accounts of President Donald Trump's inauguration speech, but I'm having a fundamental problem absorbing the analysis because I simply don't believe anything he says.

    I'm not just saying that I don't believe that "carnage" describes the American condition (if it does, we need a new word for Syria), and I say that as someone who's been trying for decades to get policymakers to pay attention to the economic costs of globalization.

    I'm saying I don't believe that he believes it.

    From his speeches to his tweets, Trump does not speak truth. Instead, he speaks in two modes. One, he says what his audience wants to hear, and two, he does his "Art of the Deal" shtick, trying to put perceived enemies and negotiating opponents back on their heels.

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Trump's imaginary 'voter fraud' claims will make it harder for minorities to vote

    President Trump has claimed repeatedly and falsely that voter fraud, rather than voter preference, robbed him of the popular vote last fall. And even though experts have debunked his claims, he's now calling for a major investigation of November's elections.

    The kind of investigation Trump is calling for already happened: In 2002, George W. Bush's administration conducted a comprehensive five-year study and found little to no evidence of widespread voter fraud. Recent examinations have come to similar conclusions, with a 2016 study finding that voter fraud is not a persistent problem.

    So why does Trump continue to make such claims when they have been repeatedly demonstrated to be false, even by members of his own party? Simple: Because claims of voter fraud offer a seemingly legitimate justification for enacting restrictive voting laws that have the effect of making it harder for people to vote, particularly people of color who are statistically likely to vote for Democrats.

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Flynn is creating the most military-heavy National Security Council of the modern era

    President Donald Trump is filling the government's national security leadership with former military officials and businessmen, rejecting the policy and academic types both parties have traditionally relied on. But the militarization of the Trump foreign policy team is even more concentrated on the White House staff led by national security adviser Michael T. Flynn - and it has observers both inside and outside the administration concerned.

    Flynn, a retired lieutenant general, is steadily assembling the most military-heavy National Security Council staff of the modern era. His effort stems from two motivations, according to several transition officials I spoke with. First, he wants people he knows and trusts. More broadly, Flynn believes that the Obama administration's NSC staff had a dearth of real war-fighting experience, resulting in bad policy decisions and poor follow-through, especially when combating terrorist groups abroad.

    "We're going to have people who have looked down a rifle scope," Flynn often said at meetings during the transition, according to one senior transition official.

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January 26th

Big-box stores should go back to the future

    If you'd told me back in 1984 that in 2017 we'd be talking about the collapse of Macy's in particular and department stores in general, I'd have been shocked.

    I really didn't expect them to last this long.

    As a young reporter enjoying an income noticeably above minimum wage for the first time, I finally had enough money to indulge my love of clothes -- not designer duds, but the mid-priced garments stocked by stores like Macy's. But since I was working every day and traveling to visit my long-distance boyfriend (now husband) most weekends, I had little time to shop, especially in big stores.

    Generalizing from my own experience, I concluded that with women entering the labor force in ever-increasing numbers, the days of leisurely housewives roaming department-store aisles were surely over. People would want to shop in small stores with focused inventories, where they could find what they wanted on a quick lunch break, or, like me, they'd order from catalogues.

    Remember them?

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America’s Great Working-Class Colleges

    The heyday of the colleges that serve America’s working class can often feel very long ago. It harks back to the mid-20th century, when City College of New York cost only a few hundred dollars a year and was known as the “Harvard of the proletariat.” Out West, California built an entire university system that was both accessible and excellent.

    More recently, these universities have seemed to struggle, with unprepared students, squeezed budgets and high dropout rates. To some New Yorkers, “City College” is now mostly a byword for nostalgia.

    It should not be.

    Yes, the universities that educate students from modest backgrounds face big challenges, particularly state budget cuts. But many of them are performing much better than their new stereotype suggests. They remain deeply impressive institutions that continue to push many Americans into the middle class and beyond — many more, in fact, than elite colleges that receive far more attention.

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A Cabinet Made for Rich Anglos

    Donald Trump, the billionaire real estate investor who began his run for the presidency and was one of the clowns who campaigned on promises that couldn’t be kept and fear that enveloped his core base, is now President Trump. Hillary Clinton accumulated about three million more votes than Trump, but the Trump campaign focused upon the Electoral College that gave him the presidency.

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