Unnamed sources? Journalists should teach readers why they were used

On Thursday, four journalists for CNN reported:

The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, US officials told CNN.

CATEGORY: JournalismInformation. Indicates. Associates. Communicated. Suspected. Operatives. Possibly. Coordinate. Information. US officials.

Huh? Could this lede be any more vague? This lede is all may have — which leaves open the possibility of may not have.

The story, reported by Pamela Brown, Evan Perez, Jim Sciutto, and Shimon Prokupecz, contains unnamed sources in 10 of the story’s 18 paragraphs. The FBI director is named, but only in reference to stories reported earlier. White House spokesman Sean Spicer and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov are named, but only in chiding the findings of the story. Two paragraphs near the end of the story contain no sources and appear to be the conclusions of the reporters.

Continue reading

WordsDay: Literature

Jane Austen, alt-right heroine…say what…?

“I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.” – Jane Austen

Various news sources, both here in America and elsewhere, are claiming that Jane Austen, doyenne of English respectability, has become a heroine to the despicable group called by the all-too-euphemistic moniker the alt-right.

Jane Austen (image courtesy biography.com)

For any rational person (and my beloved Miss Austen was nothing if not rational) her embrace by such loathsome characters is both horrifying and bizarre. Conservative as she was (Austen found her contemporary Byron’s behavior wild and reprehensible, for example, violating as it did the established social mores of Regency England), Austen undoubtedly would have found the behavior of a number of the more well known figures of the alt-right movement equally reprehensible. One has a difficult time, indeed, imagining Miss Austen feeling able to tolerate being on the same planet, much less in the same room with creatures such as Richard Spencer and Milo Yiannopoulos.

The alt-right loves them some Jane, though – for reasons that mystify anyone capable of reading Austen’s work intelligently. Continue reading

Donald’s “America First” budget puts Americans dead last

Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention.

This is the America First budget. In fact, we wrote it using the president’s own words. We went through his speeches. We went through articles that have been written about his policies … and we turned those policies into numbers. (from NPR)

That’s what Mick Mulvaney, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, said while briefing reporters on Donald’s proposed budget.

America first.

How does eliminating the healthcare of 24 million people put America first?

How does eliminating funding for the Independent Chemical Safety Board, which investigates industrial chemical accidents and ensures the safety of the public, put America first?

How does eliminating funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which ensures universal access and helps fund non-profit, community television and radio stations around the country, put America first?

How does defunding the organization that helps train and pay for minorities to access civil rights lawyers, the Legal Services Corporation, put America first? Continue reading

Nearly everything you need to know about TrumpCare

Trumpcare (image credit: NotionsCapitol)

TrumpCare’s first draft was written in secret. Obamacare was written largely in the public view.

TrumpCare was written over the course of a few weeks. Obamacare was written over the course of four months.

When drafting Trumpcare, Republicans didn’t get public input from doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, or patients’ advocacy groups. Democrats held public hearings with doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, and advocacy groups to get their input on early drafts.

TrumpCare was introduced to the House before the Congressional Budget Office had a chance to estimate how much money TrumpCare would save or cost, or how many people would lose their insurance. Obamacare went through multiple revisions, most of which were reviewed by the CBO. Continue reading

If Congress decides to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure, keep tabs on who gets it

The grades are in. The nation’s infrastructure is close to failing.

aging-infrastructureThe 2017 report card of the American Society of Civil Engineers, posted today, gives the infrastructure on which America depends for commerce, defense, recreation, flight, food, water, waste — almost everything — an overall grade of D+.

From the ASCE report:

The 2017 grades range from a B for Rail to a D- for Transit, illustrating the clear impact of investment – or lack thereof – on the grades. Three categories – Parks, Solid Waste, and Transit – received a decline in grade this year, while seven – Hazardous Waste, Inland Waterways, Levees, Ports, Rail, Schools, and Wastewater – saw slight improvements. Six categories’ grades remain unchanged from 2013 – Aviation, Bridges, Dams, Drinking Water, Energy, and Roads.

The areas of infrastructure that improved benefited from vocal leadership, thoughtful policymaking, and investments that garnered results.

Scholars & Rogues has long considered addressing the nation’s infrastructure needs essential for the nation’s economic, cultural, resource, and domestic security (see here, here, here, and here). Continue reading

Large cuts to NOAA research, satellite operations will degrade weather forecasting and military preparedness

Donald’s proposed deep cuts to NOAA satellite operations will make weather forecasting less reliable and run counter to Donald’s goal of “rebuilding” the military.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

According to the Washington Post, Donald is considering deep cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as part of his proposed budget. The anonymous sources upon which the Post based their article cautioned that the exact details of which programs would get cut and by how much would likely change, but the relative magnitudes of the reported cuts provide some insight into Donald’s thinking:

Based on these numbers, we can surmise that Donald doesn’t want to impact weather forecasting (which is important to literally everyone), wants to maintain the fishing industry, but wants to cut most climate science and government-funded research out of NOAA. The problem is that it’s not going to work. Continue reading

Did Obama wiretap Trump? Here are the four things you need to know

obama-earpiece-getty-640x480President Donald wants his lapdog Congress to investigate Obama for Watergating him. Is the former president guilty?

  1. It could be true. Obama and the NSA eavesdropped on everyone – you included – so why should Donald be immune. It’s perfectly likely that there are recordings and transcripts of everything Der Orangeführer has said for the past decade.
  2. But. Did Obama and Co. tap Donald more than they did other people and did they do so for political reasons? Who knows. Maybe. Is it as bad as Watergate? Who knows. Continue reading

Michelle hearts Dubya: the well-timed rehabilitation of George Bush

Bush Michelle ObamaPresident Donald is doing a great job of making America miss George W. Bush. And now Michelle Obama and the “liberal” media are chipping in. Barf.

First there was the hubbub back during the election that nobody in the Bush family could bring themselves to vote for Donald. Then more recently it was former President George W. standing up to Donald and defending the importance of a free press. Then we saw Dubya on Kimmel laughing at Trump jokes. Dubya says he doesn’t like the racism. Former first daughter Barb is on the podium defending Planned Parenthood. And any number of former Bush aides and staffers suddenly have the knives out, like here, where a former strategist marvels at how poor the Trump team’s collective memory is when it comes to remembering all those meetings with all those Russkis.

Now the coop de Gracie: my news feed can’t get enough of the tender love affair between Bush II and Michele Obama. Continue reading

Everything you need to know about the Sessions controversy in a few short paragraphs

The Attorney General should resign – whether he’s guilty or not. Here’s why.

Jeff SessionsBy now you have probably read a good bit about Attorney General Jeff Sessions and whether or not he unlawfully met with the Russian ambassador to discuss the 2016 Presidential election. There is a great deal of lawyering on the horizon, but for the moment here’s what we need to understand.

In his confirmation hearing Sessions was asked directly about contact with the Russians by himself or the Trump campaign. At that moment, there were a couple of ways to answer.

If his goal were transparency, he’d answer something like this: Continue reading

Republican overreach will hopefully lead to massive losses in 2018

I wouldn’t have asked for single-party Republican rule, but now we’ve got it, I hope they overreach badly and get tossed out on their asses for it in two years.

republicanlogo-svgOver the years, I’ve occasionally wondered whether it would be a good idea to let the Republicans take control of both houses of Congress and the Presidency. My logic went like this: once they’re in power, they’ll overreach so badly that the next midterm and Presidential elections will go overwhelmingly to the Democrats. It’s not that the Democrats wouldn’t necessarily overreach, but rather that Democrats’ sense of fairness and general willingness to follow data to wherever it leads makes them less likely to overreach as badly. That and the fact that it’s past time for the pendulum to swing back toward the left (not just the center-right, as it did under Obama).

But I’ve always concluded that, while the Republicans taking over might sound good in theory, practically speaking it was a very bad idea for a variety of reasons. The Republicans might install a right-wing conservative onto the Supreme Court. They would probably cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare. They likely lower taxes on the rich and raise them on the poor and middle class. They might cut unemployment insurance, food stamps, and housing credits for the poor. They would be more likely to get the US into even more wars and spend even more on an already massively military-industrial complex.

So even though I’ve thought about voting Republican in an attempt to force the country back to the left in the following election cycle, my values wouldn’t let me.

Which brings me to 2017. Donald, who claims to be a Republican, is President. Republicans control the House of Representatives. Republicans also control the Senate. And while I certainly wouldn’t have wished for this to happen, it has. Continue reading

The ‘enemy of the American People’ doesn’t work at your local newspaper

It engenders anger to know the president of the United States says that what I did for a living for 20 years — and what I’ve spent 25 years teaching — represents the acts of “an enemy of the American People.”

CATEGORY: JournalismPresident Donald, titularly “the most powerful man in the world,” will eventually learn not to pick fights with people who buy ink in 55-gallon drums — and have plenty of digital and video ink to spare.

He’s awakened a slumbering watchdog. Recall journalism’s reactions to President Nixon’s overt and covert deceits. The nation’s best newspapers rose to challenge the president — and Nixon lost. Trust in the executive branch withered. Remember, too, the swell of entrants to the nation’s journalism programs (well, after “All the President’s Men” hit the big screen). Will that happen again in President Donald’s first term?

President Donald’s fortunate in the timing of his presidency. The last 20 years have left journalism in a weakened, altered state. Reasons are many — management reacting too late to the challenge of the internet, a decline in interest in the field among the young, and massive losses of revenue prompting executives to pare the workforce of daily print journalists by 20,000 positions, about 39 percent.

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Music for CPAC and America’s bigoted Administration

The organizer of the Conservative Political Action Convention (CPAC), Dan Schneider, called Richard Spencer and his cadre of white nationalists (aka the “alt-right”) a “hateful, left-wing fascist group” got me thinking about this song. Well, that and how poorly the current Administration is doing lately with respect to bigotry. You know, broadening the deportation guidelines to include pretty much everyone from south of the border, the immigration and travel ban, reversing the guidance on equal access to restrooms for transgendered men and women, and the like.


(this version was put up by TMBG themselves, BTW) Continue reading

Facebook and the “oh shit” moment when Trump supporters reveal their true nature

Trump hate cartoonBecause of what they call “political correctness” (and the normal world calls decency) conservatives have long hidden their true selves. But now, they’re emboldened by the election and thanks to tools like Facebook, we get to see who they truly are.

In January of 1979, the Shah of Iran was deposed by Ayatollah Khomeini. Like all liberal types of the time, I thought that was a great thing. The Shah had been a brutal ruler, overseen an inefficient kleptocracy and been prone to ridiculous personal excess. I seem to remember photos of the Shah at the time always involved lots of gold—gold furniture, gold clothes, etc. I didn’t know much about the Ayatollah, but he had to be better than the Shah, right? Yay freedom!

One day, I found myself in the student lounge with Amir, a quiet exchange student from Iran. Continue reading

Dear John McCain: either DO something or shut the fuck up

Profiles in Courage: the Straight Talks a Lot of Shit Express is back in town.

angry-john-mccainTough-talking Mavericky McMaverickstain is at it again, standing on his lawn and shaking his cane at Der Orangeführer like he just got caught cheating at Mah-Jong over at the home.

Senator John McCain, defending the media against the latest attack by President Donald Trump, warned that suppressing the free press was “how dictators get started”.

The Arizona Republican, a frequent critic of Trump, was responding to a tweet in which Trump accused the media of being “the enemy of the American people”.

“If you want to preserve – I’m very serious now – if you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press. And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That’s how dictators get started,” he continued.

“They get started by suppressing free press. In other words, a consolidation of power. When you look at history, the first thing that dictators do is shut down the press.

Ummm. Are you talking about anybody in particular, Senator? Continue reading

Trump’s Mainstream Media Accountability Survey will leave you speechless

fauxnewsThis methodological tour de force is a triumph in honesty, objectivity and good faith. Bigly. You should reply in kind.

I’ll keep this brief. Donald has a poll up asking for your honest opinion on a series of  completely fair, unbiased and objective questions about “the media.” The Mainstream Media Accountability Survey asks questions like:

10: Do you believe that the mainstream media does not do their due diligence fact-checking before publishing stories on the Trump administration?

And:

13: Do you believe that political correctness has created biased news coverage on both illegal immigration and radical Islamic terrorism?

Here’s the best one, though: Continue reading

Sebastian Gorka has no business being in government, never mind on NPR’s Morning Edition (updated)

Sebastian Gorka is fantastic as a spokesman for Donald – Islamophobic, apparently proud of his family’s association with an organization that collaborated with the Nazis, and a proven liar.

UPDATE: I changed the header sentence to remove a reference to Gorka’s ancestors as being Nazi collaborators. The fact remains, however, that the Vitezi Rend was associated with the Nazis during WWII, so I’ve reworded the header accordingly.
gorka_trumpI’ve listened to Rachel Martin interview Sebastian Gorka – a Bannon hire and former Breitbart national security editor who is an Islamophobe with a documented history of lying and who wore the uniform of a Nazi-affiliated Hungarian organization on air during Donald’s inauguration – twice now on NPR’s Morning Edition. Yesterday’s experience was not pleasant. He’s an expert at dodging questions and staying on message even when Martin breaks in to stop him from dominating the air time with bullshit.

There was more slime coming out of my speakers when Gorka was talking than in all of the Ghostbusters films combined. Continue reading

After Michael Flynn’s resignation, Donald will be out for blood

Donald doesn’t lose well. I doubt he’ll ignore the role of the media and FBI leaks in Flynn’s resignation

Michael Flynn (image credit: Politico)

Michael Flynn (image credit: Politico)

Michael Flynn, Donald’s now former National Security Advisor, resigned from his position this evening. In a statement, Flynn said he “misled” Vice-President Pence about a phone call Flynn had with the Russian Ambassador to the United States in which the two discussed having Donald lift sanctions imposed on Russia after the invasion and annexation of Crimea.

Flynn’s contacts with Russia had been under investigation by the Justice Department since Donald took office, if not before then, and the fact that Flynn was being investigated had been widely reported in the media. In fact, the Washington Post reported just tonight that the FBI considered Flynn a blackmail risk due to his lying to Pence.

Continue reading

Four charts that prove Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank has no idea what he’s talking about

Kevin Plank is a successful businessman with strong opinions. The data, though, suggests he places ideology above facts.

Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank

Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank

If you’re a huge sports merchandise brand, you never want your marquee superstar endorser going after you in the press. But that’s what happened this week when Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank told CNBC that “[t]o have such a pro-business president is something that is a real asset for the country.”

The aforementioned marquee superstar, 2014-15 NBA champion and reigning MVP Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors, took a shot:

“I agree with that description, if you remove the ‘et.'”

The two have now apparently gotten on the same page after some top-speed backpedaling by Plank, who has taken great pains to clarify that he only meant his praise in a strictly business sense. It’s fun when CEOs get hauled out to the woodshed.

The problem is that even the business-specific comment illustrates what a fact-resistant barking fucktrumpet Plank is. Continue reading

A question for Senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins

Murkowski-Collins.jpgDear Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine),

On February 1st, you both announced that you could not vote to confirm Betsy DeVos as Secretary of the Department of Education. As a result, your majority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, was forced to hold the DeVos vote while Jefferson Sessions was still the senior senator from Alabama. If the vote had been held after Sessions was confirmed and had resigned the Senate, but before his replacement could be named to the Senate, then the Senate would have had one fewer Republican senator. Instead of a 51-50 vote to confirm Secretary DeVos with Vice-President Pence casting the deciding vote, we would have had a 50-49 vote not to confirm without the need for a tie-breaker. I imagine that it would have been easy enough to convince the majority leader to vote on Sessions prior to DeVos, especially given the recent legal wrangling over the President’s Executive Orders.

So my question to you is this: Continue reading

Why our anti-Trump marches matter: the counterintuitive lesson of Africa’s “big men”

trumpRecent anti-Donald protests are hugely important, although maybe not for the reason you think.

I keep wanting to write an article on how similar Donald is to the Big Men of Africa, and I keep losing the will to live whenever I start … After all, the South African Truth Commission final report is a public document. If you want to know how this ends, go read it.

However, don’t think that he’s starting a new fascist state. This is about ties of blood.

If you look to Zimbabwe, Kenya, Nigeria … any of the places ruled by Big Men … they work with what they have to create a support base. The best way to do that is tribalism. Create an in-group derived from your own tribe. Then bind that tribe to you. And you do that through violence.

The in-group must be told they are superior to the out-group. Change the law to subject the out-group to brutal discrimination and suppression. Ensure that there is real violence.

Let it simmer. Continue reading