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2017-06-24 11:55 am

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT JAMES

Lots of high-profile shootings in the news recently. Or as we call it, another day in America. It says a lot when CNN has to break away from its coverage of a mass shooting to cover another mass shooting.

So let’s get the obvious out of the way:

1. I don’t have a lot to say about the Philandro Castle verdict that I haven’t already said about similar verdicts for similar cases. Executive summary: If you support the verdict (and yr not an immediate member of the officer’s family), you basically support the legal right of the police to shoot people dead on live video not for what they did, but what the officer thought they were going to do. You may not think that’s what you support. You may think yr sticking up for law enforcement or respecting court decisions, etc. And that’s fine. But the outcome of the verdict is justification for what Jeronimo Yanez did. So own it. Call it what it is. And if that’s the law enforcement you want, that’s the law enforcement yr going to get.

2. As for the UPS shooting and the GOP baseball shooting, I don’t expect either to change anyone’s attitudes about gun control. As the saying goes, if 20 dead schoolkids didn’t convince you, neither of these really raise the stakes.

3. For my money what’s more important about the GOP shooting is that thanks to James Hodgkinson, suddenly we’re having a discussion about the consequences of taking hateful political rhetoric too far. And it’s a discussion we need to have – although not necessarily for the reasons that conservatives now want to have it all of a sudden.

For them, of course, it’s a chance to play the victim about how liberals say all kinds of mean horrible awful things about conservatives, and between Kathy Griffin and Shakespeare In The Park, it was only a matter of time before people started getting hurt. Which is jaw-droppingly disingenuous, given the state of the GOP today and who they elected POTUS. Also, the dithering over Shakespeare In The Park’s current version of Julius Caesar is just stupid, not least because it shows they have no idea what the play is actually about.

On the bright side, it’s convinced Ted “I’d Totally Rape Hillary with an M-16” Nugent to tone it down. So there’s that.

4. While I would agree that now is as good a time as any to take a long hard look at the state of angry batshit political rhetoric and where that particular road leads, unfortunately the current “discussion” seems mired in the “But THEY started it” stage. 

(Or, if yr Erick Erickson, the “I want to tone down my rhetoric but the Left is so evil I have no choice but to double down SECESSION!” stage.)

That needs to change, because insane violent rhetoric isn’t exclusive to one side of the aisle. My FB and Twitter feeds illustrate this every day. We can’t address the problem until both sides admit it’s a problem in their own camp too. It doesn’t matter at this stage who started it or who does it more. This isn’t a 1st Grade playground.

Look, I get that people get passionate about politics and when they get angry, they say stuff they don’t really mean, etc. And most of the time that doesn’t result in a mass shooting. On the other hand, when you reduce the Other Side to demonic subhuman stereotypes who are evil and dangerous and must be defeated permanently at all costs, and on top of that you actively advocate punching people for simply expressing opinions you don’t like, you can't be too surprised when people who have psychological problems go extreme with that sentiment and decide, why stop at a sucker punch?

5. Does that mean the average Bernie Bro is directly responsible for Hodgkinson? Of course not. But I don’t think the proper response should be to shrug and say, “Well, he’s just a kook, nothing to do with us,” and carry on the angry hate rhetoric as though there’s no connection.

What I’m saying is that everyone on both sides needs to stop, take a breath, take a long hard look at themselves and how they talk about The Other Side, and give some serious thought as to how far they’re willing to take it and the consequences of letting it get out of control. Because once you demonize an entire group of people as being evil and subhuman, it gets easier to justify just about anything you decide to do to them.

6. Also, the violence is really just one of several consequences of the angry batshit rhetoric that dominates sociopolitical discourse. It doesn’t just result in the occasional crackpot shooting up a baseball field – it also fuels a winner-take-all attitude to the democratic process that replaces intellectual thought with raw dumb emotion, makes compromise impossible and rips apart families and communities. Put simply, there’s no real upside to it that I can see. And I don’t see how it leads to a better place from where we are now.

The downward spiral,

This is dF
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2017-06-19 09:41 pm

BATMAN IS DEAD, LONG LIVE THE BATMAN

As you know, Adam West is gone.

Like a lot of people, West was a pop culture icon of my childhood thanks to the syndication of Batman. And whatever his qualities as an actor, he was perfect for the role – too perfect, perhaps, although West was able to reconcile himself with it. And that’s good.

Also, like a lot of people, he was my first Batman experience – in my case, it was the TV show that led me to read the comic books, rather than the other way round. And of course there will always be debate about how “authentic” West’s Batman was – after all, the whole show was meant to be ironic camp fun for 60s hipsters who laughed at Batman’s ultra-square demeanor.

And yet it wasn’t. While the show was essentially conceived as a sort of superhero sitcom, they were serious about Batman’s squareness, if only because he was meant to be the sane centerpiece of an insane crooked world of flamboyant supervillains, and a counterpoint to Robin’s youthful impulsiveness to do what feels right vs what is right – even if it’s a detail like pedestrian safety or being too young to legally enter a nightclub.

Here’s one way of looking at it – college-age hipsters watched it in the 1960s and laughed at Batman’s goody-two-shoes squareness. Primary school kids in the 1970s like me watched the reruns and saw Batman as the ultimate role model – the guy who stands for justice, defends the defenseless, obeys rules and laws (apart from the ones against vigilantism, of course, but who thinks of that when yr eight?), and generally does the right thing for the Greater Good of society.

In other words, we didn't see the irony – we saw the superhero we thought Batman was supposed to be. And we aspired to that. As you do when yr a kid.

Of course we grew up, and in my case I did see the goofy, hokey side of it all (and as Mark Hamill has pointed out, it says a lot that West was able to play the role for laughs and seriously at the same time).

By that time, too, we had The Dark Knight and characters like Wolverine, the first of many bad-ass superheroes who were perfectly fine with killing bad guys and delivering snappy one-liners while doing it – which Adam West’s Batman would never have done in a million years.

Don't get me wrong – gritty realism and graphic violence has its place in comics. I liked Frank Miller’s take on the Dark Knight, and it’s an aspect of the character worthy of exploration, and one that has been explored well, possibly to the point of ad nauseum. But it’s just one aspect of a multifaceted and contradictory character. And West’s Batman is arguably at the core of the character – he may be an orphan who dresses up like a bat to punch the crap out of criminals, but he is also grounded in a very clear sense of right and wrong, and there are lines he will not cross.

Naïve and oversimplistic? Probably. But why not? For my money, superhero stories don’t have to be “realistic” in order to be entertaining or meaningful. They also work as basic good vs evil stories where good generally wins, eventually – and does so on its own terms rather than stooping to the level of evil. And the “terms” can be generally defined as what we think of as ideals of morality, citizenship and justice – where crime never pays and the bad guys never get away with it, but ensuring that without breaking the confines of a fair and impartial justice system. The fact that the real justice system is neither fair nor impartial – to say nothing of the fact that vigilantism technically is by definition extrajudicial – is beside the point. Classic superheroes tended to operate according to the principles of that system regardless of whether the system itself did or not.

We need stories like that, just as we need stories that focus on what happens when the system fails us. Because I don’t think you can really appreciate the significance of the latter without appreciating the aspirations of the former.

Also, as Neil Gaiman intimated in a Riddler story, the former is just more fun. And it’s evident we’re starting to see a backlash at least in DC films that have gone for gritty realism vs Marvel’s lighter approach. I personally love the Nolan Batman films, but that was a specific cycle of films. There’s no need to make the whole universe like that. Anyway, you know you’ve gone too far with the Dark Knight angle when the Lego films are making fun of you.

I suppose some might point to Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin as proof that light-hearted cartoony Batman doesn’t work. I don’t think it’s a fair comparison, partly because Schumacher went against the expectations of franchise fans at the time who expected Tim Burton’s version, but also because the problem with Batman and Robin wasn’t the one-liners, overacting villains and cartoon sound effects – it was a bad story, too many supervillains, a very clumsy and forced attempt to shoehorn Batgirl into the franchise and Robin basically acting like a petulant jerk.

So, anyway, respect to Adam West for helping create a square, straight-edge Batman that we could look up to and yet not take too seriously, all at once.

Go West,

This is dF
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2017-06-10 11:45 am

COMEY ON DOWN

I considered writing something about the UK elections, but what is there to say that hasn’t already been said here?


That article was written before the election, but it’s great explanation as to where it all went wrong for Theresa May. Or, if it’s tl;dr for you, there’s always this tweet:




Speaking of tweets, there’s the James Comey mini-series that everyone’s been talking about, which can also be summed up in a tweet:


I didn’t watch, of course. The highlights are good enough for me.

The big question for everyone is, of course, what will the outcome be? A lot of people are hoping the answer will be “IMPEACH THE F***ER!”

Ha ha. No. Not with Paul “Hey, go easy on the new guy” Ryan leading the House. And not with all those GOP senators apparently more interested in Loretta Lynch and the Hillary Clinton email case than what Trump may or may not have said about Russia and obstruction of justice blah blah blah.

As I’ve said, impeachment is about politics, not law and order, and the GOP is simply not going to impeach one of its own. Sure, it won’t cost them the White House – Mike Pence will get the job – but that’s not the point. No party wants it on record that one of their guys was a bad enough POTUS that impeachment was the only option. And Trump has been proving over and over the old political axiom that when YOUR guy does it, it’s at worst an honest mistake that’s being overblown in the press, and when the OTHER guy does it, it’s basically treason. “Obstruction of justice? C’mon, he didn’t order Comey to do anything, he made a simple request and he didn’t know it might be taken as inappropriate, I mean he’s only been President for a few months, you can’t expect him to know everything …”

Put bluntly, the GOP ain't impeaching Trump until he's hurting their reelection chances. And we're not there yet. 

So was Comey’s testimony a complete waste of time?

It depends. If your sole desired outcome was locking Trump and his entire family away in Gitmo forever (or deported to Siberia), then yes, probably.

For me, I think it’s good to have on the official Congressional record that Trump actively tried to convince Comey to back off on the Russia investigation – whether he has something to hide or he simply can’t stand people thinking that the only reason he won is because Russia gamed the election on his behalf (or quite likely both). It may also spell trouble for General Jeff Sessions, who has his own Russia problems, and who at this stage seems far more likely to leave the stage than Trump.

Result!

Of course, all this assumes that (1) Comey told the truth and (2) you believe what he says. And if yr a Trump apologist, you probably don’t. But that’s where we are now – completely separate politically defined alternate realities. Everyone I know – liberals and conservatives – is convinced that Comey’s testimony absolutely vindicated their side and decimated the opposition.

Which may not make Comey’s testimony pointless, but it probably makes this whole post pointless. But the same could be said for this entire blog, so I’ve learned not to worry too much about that.

Testify,

This is dF
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2017-06-04 03:42 pm

I LOVE PARIS IN THE SUMMER WHEN IT SIZZLES

As you know, D.Trump is pulling the US out of the Paris Accord.

Official reason: he wants to renegotiate a better deal that suits America’s interests and protects Americans.

Unofficial reason: climate change is a Chinese hoax and admitting anything else would be tantamount to admitting that Al Gore was right about something, and frankly most of the GOP would rather let the world roast than do that.

(Okay, I may have made some of that up. Except for the part about the Chinese hoax, although Nikki Haley claims Trump doesn’t really believe that, like that’s supposed to make me feel better about him.)

So I have thoughts, sure. And I have links for most of them.

1. The best starting place, for my money, is the basic fact that almost everything Trump said to justify his decision is inaccurate, misleading (intentionally or otherwise) and just plain wrong.

2. The renegotiation angle is typical of Trump, who basically views the world in terms of business deals – not the kinds of deals where both sides get what they want, but where the other side gets what they think they want while your side gets the far better end of the deal and basically just screwed the other guy and he’s too stupid to know it, ha ha loser. Which is also why Trump and some of his staffers – like the head of the EPA, for example – are convinced the only reason the rest of the world applauded when the US joined the Paris Accord was because it gives them an economic advantage over us.

3. That said, I suspect Trump cares a lot more about the political act of withdrawing from the accord than he does about renegotiating better terms. In his own words: “We will see if we can make a deal that’s fair. And if we can, that’s great. If we can’t, that’s fine.”

Which suggests to me that Trump doesn’t really care one way or the other what happens because he figures the US is better off out of the accord anyway, so if he can’t have it his way, who cares? It’s not like we need those other losers. The US – as leader of the free world – is the center of the universe and the rest of the world can accomplish nothing without our participation.

4. He’s wrong about that, too. Trump and the GOP may think climate change is bogus. The rest of the world doesn’t see it that way, and is determined to get together and do something about climate change, and if they have to do it without the US, so be it. Many have already resigned themselves to the fact that the Trump admin is going to treat them at best like business rivals in a zero-sum game rather than allies and partners, and more are deciding that it’s better to keep working together without the US than play the game Trump’s way – not least because his policy decisions are based on how he thinks the world works as opposed to how it actually works.

5. Some people are responding with the usual hyperbole: OMG THE PLANET IS FUCKED NOW! Well, no, not really. By many accounts, the US dropping out of the Paris Accord won’t make a huge difference in terms of the overall effort to reduce greenhouse gases and keep the Earth’s temperature from rising, etc. It won’t help, but it won’t make the accord completely pointless, either.

What it could do is put the US at a tremendous disadvantage as the rest of the world invests in clean, renewable green energy technologies that are going to be the future of the global energy industry. Europe and Asia – and in particular China – are going to be leading that growth wave, while the US under Trump will still be futzing around with coal mines and Arctic drilling.

6. On the other hand, it seems we unexpectedly have a Plan B – namely, all these US states and cities stepping up to say, “We’ll back the Paris Accord ourselves” – to include, amusingly, the mayor of Pittsburgh.

That’s an interesting aspect in itself – the idea that states and cities will uphold an accord that the federal govt has rejected. It’s not unanimous, of course, but maybe that’s the antidote to all of Trump’s antics. I love the idea of state and municipal governments deciding that if the federal govt is going to reject progress in favor of some alt-reality, there’s no reason why they have to go along with it. States Rights, indeed!

7. Another bright side is that, legally, the US can’t actually start the withdrawal process officially until 2019, and it will take until 2020 to complete the withdrawal. So it’s reversible – at least for now.

But yes, overall, it’s the latest in a distressingly long list of terrible and badly informed decisions by this admin.

8. One other point worth mentioning – one of the long-standing criticisms of the Paris Accord from Trump and the GOP is that it won’t work anyway. All it does is punish the US economically and we won’t even get cleaner air or climate stability in return.

I smirk at such statements, not least because they’re basically criticizing the accord for failing to fix a problem that they firmly deny exists in the first place. And it’s hard to take that criticism seriously when conservatives not only have no alternative plan to tackle climate change, but have shown zero interest in proposing one (again, because that would contradict the talking point that there is no problem to fix).

Is it hot in here or is it just me,

This is dF
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2017-05-30 03:08 pm

SHAKESPEARE IN THE WHITE HOUSE

ITEM: Ron Charles, editor of WaPo’s Book World, has written an interesting column that argues that if you’re going to go with a literary analogy to describe the Trump era, forget 1984 – it’s really a lot more like King Lear.

It’s a good argument, and one we perhaps need, if only because it’s kind of lazy – not to mention inaccurate – to compare the Trump Dynasty to 1984, or The Handmaid’s Tale, or The Man In The High Castle, which are the usual analogies I see.

(And I suspect the latter two are more because of the recent TV adaptations than the books on which they’re based – I can’t prove this but I’d bet five bucks that at least half the people who watch those shows and apply them to current events haven’t read the books.)

I realize many of these people are not saying that America has been literally transformed into the worlds described in those books – it’s a metaphor, a literary term which here means “a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them”. When people point to books like 1984, The Handmaid’s Tale, or The Man In The High Castle, they’re usually referring more to the mentality they perceive within the Trump admin and the GOP in general than any literal establishment of actual functioning totalitarianism (although some will argue that too, and they’re wrong, of course).

And sure, the books themselves are metaphors for the same mentalities that the authors were encountering at the time. But that doesn’t mean the metaphors translate seamlessly from one era to another. The Handmaid’s Tale and The Man In The High Castle take those metaphors to extremes as a way of saying, “Beware – this is how far these attitudes will take us if we let them.” And frankly, as bad as the Trump admin is, and as awful as some of his biggest fans are, we’re just not anywhere close to those worlds.

As for 1984, that’s been the go-to comparison for fascism probably since the book was first published. Yes, sure, as Ron Charles writes, we have Kellyanne Conway’s alternative facts and Sean Spicer’s Ministry of Truth, perpetual war with an invisible overseas enemy that we are required to hate, etc. The key difference is that Oceania made it work through strict and absolute order. Look at the shambling chaos of Trump’s first few months in office – and the fact that at least half the country is perfectly aware of this – and the analogy falls apart.

King Lear, on the other hand, seems a much better fit:

The most prominent characteristic of our era is not the monolithic power of one party, but the erratic personality of one man. Every morning, all sides of the political establishment — his family and friends, along with “the haters and losers” — must contend with Trump’s zigzagging proclamations, his grandiose promises, his spasmodic attachments.

It's a good argument – so good you wonder why more people didn’t think of it.

The most likely answer, I would guess, is that far more people in the US have read 1984 than King Lear, or indeed anything by Shakespeare.

(DISCLAIMER: I’m not pointing fingers here – I’m guilty of that too. I have read Shakespeare and liked him, but I'm not a huge fan, and I generally preferred his comedies to his tragedies. And Lear is a tragedy. Much like the Trump admin. Forsooth!)

While we're at it, if you want a better non-Shakespearian literary metaphor for the Trump era, I would recommend It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis, which also gets mentioned from time to time, though not nearly as much as the others, possibly because there’s no TV series or Hollywood film version of it. There, you’ve got Buzz Windrip, an authoritarian candidate and con man who wins the presidency on a campaign of fearmongering, xenophobia and a return to traditional American values and prosperity, and proceeds to turn the country into a fascist dictatorship – not in the name of ideological purity but simply to secure the power he desires to run the country the way he wants.

Obviously Trump hasn’t done that, and two reasons It Can’t Happen Here couldn’t happen today – not the way Lewis wrote it, anyway – is that (1) Trump has no paramilitary force to suppress dissent (sorry, white supremacist groups don’t count – they’re not paramilitary, they’re a bunch of yokels with guns, which is not the same thing by a long shot, no matter how much they may fantasize otherwise), and (2) the prevalence of mass media (to include social media) makes it impossible for Trump to fool the majority of people the majority of the time. Both of these were key ingredients to Windrip’s initial success – Trump has neither. All he has is the people who share his particular reality bubble, and reportedly that number is shrinking.

But anyway, I think It Can’t Happen Here is a better literary metaphor for current events than 1984 and the others listed above.

That said, an even better alt-metaphor to 1984 would be Aldoux Huxley’s Brave New World, which – as Neil Postman argued in Amusing Ourselves To Death – argues that the dystopian future won’t be Big Brother cracking down on dissent but pervasive mass media entertainment and trivia dumbing us down into passive egotists who care a lot more about celebrity gossip than, say, how the healthcare system works.

I’d say we’re a lot closer to Huxley than Orwell right about now. But that’s not Trump-specific, of course – we’ve been on that road for decades.

Time shall unfold what plighted cunning hides,

This is dF
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2017-05-30 02:51 pm

I’M READING AS FAST AS I CAN (MAY 2017 EDITION)

Plodding along, but still reading.

Thieves' Carnival/the Jewel of Bas (Science Fiction Double, #22)Thieves' Carnival/the Jewel of Bas by Karen Haber

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a variant on Tor’s old Doubles idea (two short novels by different authors in one volume), in which they publish one classic SF story along with a new story featuring the same characters or world. In this case, Karen Haber wrote a prequel to a famed Leigh Brackett novella about Ciaran and Mouse, a minstrel and a thief who find out the legends of the sleeping god Bas aren’t just legends. I picked this up mainly because of Leigh Brackett, who I’ve wanted to read more of since I read The Long Tomorrow, which I liked a lot (and yes, she wrote the screenplay for The Empire Strikes Back). Rather than read them in chronological order, I read Brackett’s novella first because I wanted to see how it held up on its own without Haber setting it up for me. And … well, it’s not really for me. It’s basically that particular genre of SF that’s actually more like a fantasy story with a few tech-like elements, with a married couple that snipe wittily at each other a lot – neither of which is really my thing. (Neither are stories featuring minstrels, for that matter.) The Haber story – which is about how Ciaran and Mouse met after being paired up in a contest to steal a mysterious MacGuffin – is a bit more modern in style and fleshes out the characters a bit more than Brackett was able to do writing for the pulp magazines, but still. It’s not dreadful, but I wouldn’t recommend it, either.


The Gabriel Set-Up (Modesty Blaise Graphic Novel Titan #1)The Gabriel Set-Up by Peter O'Donnell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve read many of the Modesty Blaise novels, but never the original comic strips, so coming across this was a treat. This is the first of a series of collections reprinting the original strips. This volume includes the first three Blaise adventures from 1963, as well as an origin story that appeared in 1966. The stories are pretty much what I’d expected – international espionage/adventure tales with former international crime lord Modesty and her lieutenant Willie Garvin coaxed out of retirement by British intelligence to fight bad guys. It’s good pulp fun that defies more clichés than it employs, and the art from Jim Holdaway really brings Modesty and her world to life quite well given the limited format of a daily strip. There’s also some nice bonus material on the origin of the strip, and a fascinating, rather moving essay from Peter O’Donnell about a 12-year-old Balkan refugee he encountered in Persia while serving in World War 2 that became the inspiration for the Modesty Blaise character.


The Gardener's Son: a screenplayThe Gardener's Son: a screenplay by Cormac McCarthy

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Cormac McCarthy rarely writes screenplays, but this was his first, commissioned in 1976 for a PBS TV movie that aired in 1977. It’s a Southern Gothic take about a rich family that owns a mill (the Greggs) and a poor family employed at the mill (the McAvoys). At the center of the story is young Robert McAvoy, who lost a leg at the mill after an accident rumored to be caused by James Gregg, the ruthless son of the kindly mill owner. The story ultimately builds up to a confrontation between the two. I don’t normally read screenplays – as Warren Ellis has remarked here
(quoting someone else), screenplays are usually considered to be half a piece of art, so yr not reading a finished product, and yet screenplays can take on a literary form that stand on their own. I’m not sure this is the case here. Even taking into account McCarthy’s talent as a writer and the fact that this was his first attempt at a screenplay, this didn’t quite work for me – I haven't seen the film, but I suspect it works better as a completed work of art than the half a piece published here.

View all my reviews

Better homes and gardeners,

This is dF
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2017-05-20 09:51 pm

I COME IMPEACH

Well I was going to post something about the revelation that Your POTUS apparently decided on the fly to declassify some intelligence to Russian officials and whether it would increase his impeachment chances, but it seems like we’re getting news bombshells about Trump practically every 12 hours now, and that’s a bloggery pace I can’t keep up, because I’m busy and I’m not as young as I used to be.

John Scalzi knows how I feel.

Anyway, since gambling sites are now taking bets on if and when Trump will be impeached, here’s a few things to keep in mind whenever talk of impeachment comes up:

1. Only Congress can impeach Trump, which means it’s an act of political will. And historically, no POTUS has ever faced impeachment while his own party controlled Congress.

Certainly Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have made it fairly clear they’ll put up with Trump for as long as it takes for them to repeal Obamacare, cut taxes for rich people and whatever other GOP wet dreams they weren’t able to get past Obama. My guess is that once Obama’s legacy has been erased to their satisfaction, then – and only then – they might consider dealing with Trump. But not before then – unless Trump finally does something so unbelievably stupid and/or dangerous that it endangers their ability to retain control of Congress. If they DO lose control of Congress in 2018, then yr more likely to see some action. Maybe.

2. Most Trump supporters – like Trump himself, and much of the GOP at this stage – will reject the idea of impeachment because they don’t think he’s done anything wrong. And that’s because their perception of the sociopolitical universe is completely different from the rest of us. They’re getting their information almost exclusively from the likes of Fox News, Breitbart, Infowars and conservative Facebook memes, all of which are spinning the basic narrative that Trump is doing a great job and anyone who says otherwise is fake news.

I’ve talked about this elsewhere – the idea that the Left and Right are so caught up in their own hyperpartisan media echo chambers that their perceptions of political reality are literally alternate worlds. This is why Trump gets away with so much among his fan base – they all occupy the same reality in which Obama was the Worst President Ever, America is in the absolute worst shape it’s ever been exclusively because of him, Hillary Clinton is a criminal mastermind, Trump is doing a great job and the Mainstream Liberal Fake News Media is actively lying about it because they’re all out to get him because he called them on their fake news and they don't like it.

Most if not all of that isn’t true in the universe I happen to occupy. But they don’t know that.

Donald Trump and his supporters are essentially a more paranoid and demented version of Cliff Clavin from Cheers – someone who considers himself knowledgeable about everything and is keen to share his knowledge with anyone who will listen, even though most of his knowledge is apocryphal (which he is blissfully unaware of), and if he doesn't know anything about a particular topic, he’ll bluff his way through it by applying his worldview and/or folk logic (“Why do squirrels eat nuts? At a guess I’d say it keeps their teeth from getting too sharp so they don’t bite their own tongues off in their sleep when they hibernate – seems reasonable”) because he figures if his audience doesn’t know the answer either, he won’t get called on it.

That’s fine if yr an otherwise genial postal worker in a bar. It’s less than fine if yr the leader of the biggest superpower in the world and have access to nuclear launch codes.

Anyway, between these two factors, I think a Trump impeachment is a long shot – it only seems like a slam dunk to people who already hate him.

Of course, I’m not saying it’s impossible, either. And based on the current trajectory, it seems every day is just bringing something new to add to the Trump Dumpster Fire, and it’s fair to speculate that eventually, somehow, someone’s going to produce a memo or tape or video or SOMETHING that is finally going to break through that reality schism so even his supporters will say, “Okay, fine, let’s try Pence.”

And then of course there’s the appointment of Robert Mueller as special prosecutor, which is fun. Personally I predict a repeat of the Starr/Clinton investigation – it’ll go on for a few years and if they come up with anything before he leaves office, it will be for something completely unrelated to the Russia thing.

But even if he’s impeached by the House, he could be acquitted in the Senate, which has also been the result of every successful impeachment (both of them).

So yeah. I think the only way Trump doesn’t finish his term will be if he resigns, or if his health fails, or if something horrible happens.

That said, I guess the one comfort to be had is that he’s likely going to be a one-term president. I doubt he’d want to run again, and I doubt the GOP wants him to.

Common ground!

As for a Pence presidency … well, have you noticed how absolutely invisible he’s managed to make himself? I’m sure he’s doing his best to make sure he doesn’t get any Trump on him in case he does have to step up.

Will it help? No idea. Will he be better than Trump? I think so, in the sense that he won’t be a completely unqualified egotistical man-child who seems to see the White House as a ticket to enrich his business, employ his family and punish his enemies. Other than that, I don’t have high hopes for the guy, but I’m reasonably sure that he could get us to 2020 without a tactical nuclear conflict.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We got a long way to go here.

Impeachy keen,

This is dF
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2017-05-19 12:33 am

HIS LOVE WAS LOUD

Chris Cornell is gone.

And of course I have to blog about that because the very first time I heard Soundgarden … I wasn’t that impressed.

Not that I thought they sucked. Far from it. I just didn’t quite get what they were doing.

This was 100% my problem. I was writing album reviews for the college newspaper at the time, and I was very heavily into punk and underground music at the time. The way it worked was, the local mall record store would let me take a couple of new records home to listen to, and then I would choose which one I thought made enough of an impression (good or bad) to write about, then bring them back.

One week, one of the options was Soundgarden’s Loud Love. I forget what the other album was, but I wrote about it instead, because I could at least get a handle on it. I really didn’t know what to make of Soundgarden – they were long-haired guys with no shirts on and they sounded (to me) like a heavy Led Zeppelin tribute band. I suppose they didn’t fit within my narrow punk aesthetic so I kind of blew them off.

Less than a year later, some friends turned me on to Nirvana’s first album, Mudhoney and Mother Love Bone from someplace called Seattle. I liked them a lot. Then someone else reintroduced me to Loud Love again, and I gave it another chance and THEN it clicked. I got it. And I was both amazed at the music, at Cornell’s vocals, and at myself for being so thick as to not like it on first listen.

I tended to do this a lot when I was younger. (Heck, I probably still do it now.) There was a long list of bands I didn’t really “get” the first time I heard them, but give it a year and I’d hear them again and go, “Wow, this is great, what was I thinking?”

Anyway.

Here’s a true story: I saw Soundgarden live when they were promoting the Badmotorfinger album. My best friend and I drove from Clarksville, TN to Nashville to watch them open for Skid Row. The played for something like 40 minutes and absolutely blew the roof off the dump. We danced in the aisle and as soon as Soundgarden finished their set, we got out of the building before Skid Row could get anywhere near the stage.

It’s probably the only time in my life I ever paid full price for a concert ticket just to see the opening band.



That’s Soundgarden, of course. As for Cornell himself, I admit I didn’t buy his solo stuff, but I did like the first Audioslave album – it was basically Rage Against The Machine with a new lead singer, but it blended perfectly.

Even his James Bond theme song was pretty decent. That was a surreal pop culture moment for me as well, having grown up with Bond films, where one of the big deals about any new film was who would they get to sing the theme song – at one time, it was a sort of a career signpost signaling you’d finally made it. That arguably stopped being true by the time The Living Daylights came out. Still, they didn’t give the job of singing the latest Bond theme song to just anyone. Anyway, Cornell wasn’t an obvious choice – if you were going to go with “former grunge singer does Bond theme” atall, I’d have thought Eddie Vedder would be yr go-to guy.

In any case, admit it – “You Know My Name” was arguably the best Bond song since Duran Duran’s “A View To A Kill”.

Anyway, he was one of the iconic singers of my college years, and I’m saddened and shocked to hear he’s gone so soon.

Say hello 2 heaven,

This is dF
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2017-05-13 12:17 pm

CELEBRITY APPRENTICE EPISODE 7: JAMES COMEY IS VOTED OFF THE ISLAND


Or, “Comey Don’t Play That”

Poor old James Comey.

I know it’s not socially acceptable to say this in any given political circle, but I’ve always felt a little sorry for Comey. I get that people are upset with him because he essentially contributed to Hillary losing the election and now look who we’re stuck with, etc.

On the other hand, I can appreciate the basic political dilemma he was in. If he tells everyone he’s investigating Hillary’s emails in the middle of the election – and that new potential evidence has arisen just a few days before the election – he’ll be accused of trying to influence the election in favor of Trump. If he doesn’t go public – and if Hillary wins, and then it turns out the FBI finds she did break the law – he’ll be accused of covering up for Crooked Hillary to help her win. No matter what he did, he was going to get pilloried as the villain in this election.

So on that score, I’ve never really blamed him for going public with it. Even if the outcome of a close and crucial POTUS election hangs in the balance, if the choice is transparency vs cover-up, I think transparency is the better option.

Now, if yr talking about how Comey handled that transparency, that’s another matter. It’s fair to say he didn’t handle it properly, and it’s also fair to say that – wittingly or not – he contributed to Hillary’s loss (although as Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight points out, he had help from the way the media chose to cover the story – and to be clear, it’s not the only reason she lost).

But then all of this is academic, because that’s not why he was fired, was it?

Sure, it’s the official reason. Unless you ask Trump, who now says it was because of Comey’s investigation into ties between Russia and Trump’s campaign – not that there’s anything to investigate because it’s a totally made up fake news story, so why not fire the guy in charge of the investigation that would actually prove it was made up if that is in fact the case? I mean, who in their right mind would mistake that for a cover-up?

Of everything Trump has done so far, this is by far the most serious and the most politically stupid, although some have pointed out that it’s not necessarily a major political miscalculation if yr factoring in the likelihood that the current GOP-led Congress will back Trump on this like they have almost everything else he’s done after the usual modicum of protest, plus the likelihood that the Demos won’t bother doing anything because they don’t have the votes anyway so why bother?

Put another way, for all the comparisons to Nixon and Watergate – and for once, they’re pretty decent comparisons – I would be very surprised if anyone made a move to impeach Trump over this.

I’d be equally surprised if Congress appointed a special prosecutor. Even if they do, I’m a bit wary of that because of what we went through with Ken Starr. I don’t really want an independent counsel with an open-ended mandate to keep digging until they find something to hang the guy with.

On the other hand, when you have a situation where the POTUS fires the guy who happens to be in charge of an investigation into his campaign over ties to a foreign power, what else can you do? Especially when the POTUS’ Attorney General not only has similar ties bit lied about them under oath? What are we to think? And what if, as Matthew Yglesias has suggested, the real motive was that Trump was afraid Comey might uncover something completely unrelated? 

We don't know, of course. But that's really the point.

As much as I hate to resort to alternate timelines as an argument, think of it this way – if Obama had fired Comey when Hillary’s emails were first under investigation last year, the GOP would have gone absolutely ballistic – and understandably so.

Then again, the Demos (and probably a lot of Obama’s fans) would have made excuses for it. It all really comes down to the same tired old line – it’s only a felony when the opposition does it. Or, as Hunter Thompson put it, “He may be a swine, but he’s OUR swine!”

We’ll see what happens. But the bottom line is that it’s ultimately up to the GOP-led Congress to investigate Trump or begin impeachment proceedings. I don’t see this Congress doing that – not even if the payoff is President Pence – until they have absolutely no choice. Because it is ultimately a political decision, not a law-and-order decision, and at this rate it’s going to take a smoking gun (perhaps literally) to convince them that Trump is a bigger political liability to them than doing something that would please Democrats (which is arguably the only reason they continue to back Trump).

Developing …

You can’t fire me I quit,

This is dF
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2017-05-13 11:23 am
Entry tags:

QUOTE QUIZ TIME!

Who said it: Donald Trump or Cliff Clavin from Cheers?

1. Cows were domesticated in Mesopotamia and were also used in China as guard animals for the forbidden city.

2. The smartest animal is a pig. Scientists say if pigs had thumbs and a language, they could be trained to do simple manual labor. They give you 20-30 years of loyal service and then at their retirement dinner you can eat them.

3. I wonder if you know that the harp is a predecessor of the modern day guitar. Early minstrels were much larger people. In fact, they had hands the size of small dogs.

4. Everyone is the Swiss Army owns a Swiss Army Knife. That's why no one messes with Switzerland.

5. If you were to go back in history and take every president, you'll find that the numerical value of each letter in their name was equally divisible into the year in which they were elected. By my calculations, our next president has to be named Yellnick McWawa.

6. The umbilical chord is 90% postassium.

7. A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo. And when the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members. In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells. Excessive intake of alcohol, as we know, kills brain cells. But naturally, it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first. In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine; which is why you always feel smarter after a few beers."

8. Due to the shape of the North American elk's esophagus, even if it could speak, it could not pronounce the word lasagna.

9. Speaking of sweat, here's a little known fact: women have fewer sweat glands than men, but they're larger and more active. Consequently they sweat more.

10. Early cavemen, they went out and hunted for the very food that graced their simple table. The women stayed in the cave and developed art, culture, what-have-you. Men down through the centuries have always been hunters, doers, adventurers. Cogito, it is not in man's nature to sit alone and be passive and docile.

11. With the recent strides in genetic engineering, I mean, we'll soon be faced with the possibility of producing enormous farm animals to feed the hungry millions. Now imagine one cow to feed an entire city, one egg making an omelette for an entire family. Yeah, I mean with the advances we're making today, the future is unlimited.

12. There are many theories as to why the Florida orange is far superior to it's California counterpart. I personally think it's the trace mineral elements in the Floridian water. That's obviously due to the frequency of typhoons in the nitrogen rich alligator guano.

13. Well, it's not really later in Florida. It's a popular misconception. It's Eastern Standard Daylight Time down there too. Speaking of time, boy it really stops still when you're in the Everglades. They've got huge gators, you know gators are, what we who are familiar with Florida call alligators. Yeah, they got huge gators and giant crocs. You all know what a croc is? Well, the first morning there was crystalline as I was stepping onto the hydrofoil. The captain, Bill Bob Dupree, I think his name was, asked me not to bring the beach umbrella, well, cause it got caught in the prop on the way out.

14. The word Florida comes from the language of the Okie Canokie Indians and it means, literally, place where the old people come to sweat.

15. Many scientists believe that the little finger, that's the pinky, léger de main, will one day, like the tail, disappear, you know, because it serves no purpose.

16. It's a common belief that the Tyrannosaurus Rex was the king of the dinosaurs, you know, as indicated by the palativesaurus. The smartest of the spiny reptiles was actually the Peapatroid.

17. Billiards was invented by the ancient Venetians, and it gained popularity after a group of Benedictine Monks invented felt.

18. Well, you know however, this much is true, you know there's been recent sightings of human beings being shot up into the underbelly of alien spacecraft. You know, and speaking of the Bermuda Triangle, it's not technically a triangle. It's a trapazeedarhomboid, perfect for attracting Martian spacecraft.

19. Topless waitresses – scientific fact – they can deliver drinks faster than their clothed counterparts.

20. Yorkshire Pudding was invented in the late 1770's during a beef shortage. A person could be given a little bit of beef and soak up the gravy with the pudding thereby fooling his stomach into thinking he was having a fuller dinner than he actually was.

Think before you answer,

This is dF
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2017-05-10 03:46 pm

THAT JOKE ISN’T FUNNY ANYMORE, PART 3,569


As some of you know, I don’t really buy into the meme that Donald Trump is a fascist dictator. However, I’ll admit he – or at least the people he surrounds himself with – has a tendency to hand a lot of free ammo to people trying to make the case that he is.

Two recent examples:

1. The DOJ – headed by General Jeff Sessions – prosecuted Code Pink activist Desiree Fairooz for laughing at Jeff Sessions (or, more accurately, laughing at an introductory description about Sessions during his confirmation hearing while he was in the room).


2. The FCC is pondering an obscenity charge against CBS after Stephen Colbert said “cock holster” on air in reference to President Trump and Vladimir Putin.

FCC obscenity law is one of my pet hobbies, and I find this one the least worrying of the two – pending a result, at least – for a couple of reasons.

One: I don’t think there’s any direct evidence the FCC opened the investigation because of who Colbert was talking about. The FCC generally will investigate obscenity if enough people file complaints – and between conservatives who are furious that Colbert said that about the President (an office for which they demand everyone respect as long as there’s a conservative holding the office) and liberals who are furious that Colbert said something they consider homophobic, I’m sure the FCC got enough of an earful over it that it decided to check it out. I seriously doubt Ajit Pai got a phone call from Trump telling him, “Get Colbert.”

Two: I also seriously doubt the FCC will be able to put together a case. The FCC’s own rules make obscenity very hard to prove. They might have a stronger case for indecency, except that the broadcast in question happened during safe harbor hours (under which indecency is allowed), and CBS bleeped out the offending word.

So under normal FCC procedures, I would be very surprised if the FCC found a case for obscenity. Granted, these are not normal times, and this particular FCC could potentially come up with an off-the-cuff interpretation of what counts as obscenity that suits the purpose of penalizing Colbert via CBS. But again, I think it's more likely that the FCC will decide there’s no case.

The Sessions/Fairooz case is more troublesome.

It’s worth stating a few facts about the case up front:
  • Fairooz was officially charged with disorderly conduct and “parading or demonstrating on Capitol grounds”
  • That included the laughing bit, as well as her allegedly shouting a few slogans and holding up a sign while she was being escorted out by the police
  • Fairooz was convicted, but not for laughing – a couple of jurors have said anonymously that they did not accept the argument that her laughing constituted disorderly conduct. But as she was charged with the other actions as well, they had little choice but to convict her.
So technically, if Fairooz goes to jail (and she hasn’t been sentenced yet), it won’t be for laughing at Sessions.

However, the fact remains that it was her laughing that got her arrested in the first place – and the prosecutor argued that the laugh counted as disorderly conduct, even though by most accounts (including actual video of the hearing) her laugh didn’t interrupt or disrupt the hearing in any meaningful way. So she may not have been convicted for laughing, but she was certainly arrested for it. And rather than just settling for escorting her out of the room – which essentially solved the alleged disruption problem – the DOJ opted to spend taxpayer money charging and prosecuting her to the fullest extent of the law.

Just think of it.

Of course, we don’t know for a fact to what extent Sessions personally had to do with any of this. We know he didn’t have her arrested because he wasn’t AG at the time. We don’t know whose idea it was to prosecute her, but clearly by then Sessions was AG, and surely he at least was aware of the case. If so, he could have ordered the case dropped, if only because any idiot could see that prosecuting a case like this wouldn’t look good. Maybe he figured the law is the law and we can’t let politics or appearances influence how we carry out law and order. And he’d technically be right. Or maybe he knew who Fairooz was – and her political activities – and decided to make an example of pinko protesters who hate America, and if it takes the equivalent of jailing Al Capone for spitting on the sidewalk, then so be it.

I don’t know.

Still, the fact remains that Fairooz is facing a jail sentence because she LOLed at a speech praising the guy who was about to become AG.

Which is perhaps a significant development in the context of a POTUS administration that is reportedly looking at ways to alter libel laws as a way to deal with “fake news”and holding media accountable for reporting fake news. Let’s remember that libel laws already protect public figures from false statements about them – the problem is that you have to prove they’re false, which presents a problem for Trump since his operational definition of “fake news” is “anything that questions anything Trump says or makes Trump, his cabinet, his family and friends look bad in any way whatsoever”.  Also, Trump tends to make all kinds of accusations without offering a shred of evidence to back it up. That's not going to cut it in a libel suit. 

Some people will tell you that all this is evidence that the fascist crackdown on dissent has begun. But most of the same people have been saying that since Trump won – heck, some have been saying that since Reagan won – so I don’t take them too seriously. I don’t think the Colbert case is that serious (yet), and the Fairooz case may be a one-off. It’s not like we’re seeing liberals rounded up and stuck in re-education camps or anything. As Reason points out, whatever designs Team Trump may have on the 1A, there’s a huge (YUGE) gap between WANTING to alter/abolish the 1A and actually doing it. It’s not a unilateral action, and the courts have already demonstrated in no uncertain terms that they will not stand for the POTUS telling them what they can and cannot decide.

And, as Reason also points out, the desire to unilaterally decide what counts as free speech and enforcing it with laws, constitutional amendments, overturning court decisions or – in extreme cases – a sucker punch to the face isn't exclusive to right-wing fascists (see: Citizens United, hate speech, whistleblowers, speaking gigs at UC Berkeley, Richard Spencer, etc).

In fact, coming back to Colbert, the cock-holster joke is an interesting example of both conservatives and liberals getting bent out of shape over the same speech for entirely different self-serving reasons: liberals think Colbert should lose his job because he said something homophobic (which is debatable, but I’m running out of space here), and conservatives think he should lose it because he disrespected the President (also debatable, not to mention disingenuous given the respect many of the same conservatives afforded Obama).

Of course, criticism is not censorship, no matter how often Fox News commentators claim it is. But when the criticism includes the proposition that you should not be legally allowed to say what you just said, then yr basically endorsing the same principle that Team Trump is pushing with the whole fake news/libel laws meme – you just have different criteria.

So while I don't think Trump ordered the FCC to punish Colbert, there are an awful lot of people who would fully support such a notion. That’s important. One of the biggest dangers to the legal concept of free speech isn't chumps like Trump who want to change the law so they can suppress speech they don’t like, but ordinary schmoes who cheerfully support such efforts under the delusion that it will only be used against their enemies and not themselves.

One other point – it’s interesting that both the Colbert/Fairooz cases have one key element in common: humor.

So maybe Patton Oswalt was right.

Don’t make me laugh,

This is dF
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2017-05-01 09:34 pm

HAPPY LOYALTY DAY, AMERICA




DISCLAIMER: Satire.

PRODUCTION NOTE 1: BTW, for everyone having a cow over D.Trump declaring Loyalty Day as if he came up with the idea? He didn’t. May 1 has legally been Loyalty Day since 1958, and every POTUS from then to now has recognized it as such.

Still …


PRODUCTION NOTE 2: If yr wondering, that video is meant to demo the fact that there were two soundtracks recorded for Flash Gordon – one by Queen and a more traditional one by Howard Blake. This one shows a scene with the Blake version.

PRODUCTION NOTE 3: In case yr thinking George Harris’ voice sounds different than on the Queen soundtrack album, yr right – the album version is Harris’ real voice. This is the overdubbed version. Contrast and compare here.

BONUS TRACK: Everywhere else in the world (i.e. outside of America) it’s Labor Day. So here’s yr Labor Day song.



Possibly topical!

Without measure,

This is dF
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2017-04-30 11:58 pm

I’M READING AS FAST AS I CAN (APRIL 2017 EDITION)

Well, I sure didn’t get a lot of reading done this month, did I? Blame it on the fact that I was on the road for the first half of the month, and the fact that I was often too tired at night to do much reading, and I didn’t get much reading done on the flights there and back either.

Oh well, here’s what I have for you.

Mortal EnginesMortal Engines by Stanisław Lem

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an anthology of selected robot stories by Lem that had not yet been translated into English at the time the volume was compiled. Most of them are from Lem’s Fables for Robots, and indeed they’re written as fables – foolish kings, noble knights, duplicitous court advisors, damsels, monsters, quests, etc, but all of them set in robot worlds. There’s also two robot-themed stories featuring two recurring Lem characters (Ijon Tichy, who visits a sanatorium for insane robots, and Pirx the Pilot, who gets roped into a mission to hunt a rogue robot on the loose somewhere on Luna), and a surrealistic story about a shapeshifting insectoid robot assassin that falls in love with its target. It’s all good, really –highly imaginative, satirical and often funny. I like Lem a lot, and I really enjoyed reading this.


Wind/ Pinball: Two NovelsWind/ Pinball: Two Novels by Haruki Murakami

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Technically this should count as two books towards my Reading Challenge, but then Haruki Murakami’s first two novels kind of go together as a single unit – partly because they predate what he considers the start of his pro career with A Wild Sheep Chase, and partly because they both follow the same trio of characters – the nameless narrator, the Rat and bar owner J. What readers make of them may depend on whether they prefer Murakami’s magic realism novels (Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, for example) or his relatively normal novels (like Norwegian Wood). These two are mainly the latter type, and for my money, Pinball, 1973 is the more satisfying of the two, mainly because of the pinball angle (though disappointingly there’s far less pinball than the title suggests). Hear The Wind Sing is alright but it's mostly the narrator and the Rat feeling alienated, drinking beer and talking about pop culture, with a doomed love affair mixed in. It’s hard to be too critical, since he was just starting out, and even then Murakami had style. But I tend to prefer his weirder books, and while Pinball, 1973 offers some surrealism by the third act, it’s such a shift in tone that it seems to come out of nowhere. Overall both books are okay, but I think they work better as bonus tracks than as an introduction to Murakami’s work.

View all my reviews

Sure plays mean pinball,

This is dF
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2017-04-20 12:46 pm

THE MEME INTERVIEWS (HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL EDITION)

Haven’t done one of these for awhile, and it features questions I haven’t answered before, so why not?

Senior year of high school

The year: 1983

1. Did you know your spouse?
No. 

2. Did you carpool to school?
If the school bus counts as carpooling, then yes.

3. What kind of car did you have? 
I had no car. I occasionally borrowed my mom’s AMC Rambler station wagon with unreliable brakes and required a screwdriver to open the doors.

4. It's FRIDAY night football, were you there?
No. And why is Friday in all caps?

5. What kind of job did you have?
I didn’t. I was generally unemployable. I mostly mowed lawns for pocket money.

6. Were you a party animal?
No. I was never invited to parties, and probably wouldn’t have gone if I had been.

7. Were you in band, orchestra, or choir? 
None of the above. I was in the Drama Club.

8. Were you a nerd?
Let’s just say I got beat up behind the portables a lot.

9. Did you get suspended or expelled? 
No.

10. Can you sing the fight/school song?
I don’t remember what it was. I’m not 100% sure we even had one.

11. Where did you eat lunch?
The cafeteria.

12. What was your school mascot? 
A commando.

13. If you could go back and do it again, would you?
Never.

14. Planning on going to your next high school reunion?
I haven't been to any of them, so why start now?

15. Are you still in contact with people from high school?
I’m in contact with a couple of people who I knew while I was in high school, but they didn't go to the same school as me.

16. Do you know where your high school sweetheart is today?
No idea.

17. What was your favorite subject?
Art.

18. Do you still have your High School Ring?
I never got one. That was for kids with money. Also, I’ve never been one for jewelry.

19. Do you still have your yearbook?
I don’t know. If I do, it’s in storage in my mom’s house somewhere, gathering dust, cobwebs and mold. I’m not in any hurry to dig for it.

School’s out completely,

This is dF
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2017-04-15 07:56 pm

TEAM FROG WHIRLWIND STATESIDE ROAD TRIP 2017

We just wrapped up the Team Frog Whirlwind Stateside Road Trip, which was a quicker-than-usual drive through the usual stops (Chicago! Carbondale! Paducah! Nashville! Maryville-Alcoa! Knoxville! Erlanger, Kentucky!) due to some tighter than usual work schedules at home. Random thoughts follow:

1. Be in my welcome video

I flew to Honolulu last January, about ten days before the inauguration, so Obama was still POTUS at the time. While I was standing in the passport control line, I noticed the TV monitors playing a welcome announcement from Presidente Obama welcoming visitors to the US. As I watched, I thought: “I wonder what the new video will be like?”

So I kept an eye out for it this time when I arrived at passport control in Chicago.

There was no welcome video.

Which speaks volumes, perhaps. Granted, D. Trump has been busy his first 13 weeks, what with making America great again and his busy golf schedule, so maybe he hasn’t had to film one. Still.

2. Signs O’ The Times, Side 1

I saw an awful lot of “now hiring” signs this trip. Seems just about every restaurant, café, retail store or any other place of business I entered was looking to hire more help. Which is surprising, considering what terrible shape America’s economy is supposed to be in, according to D. Trump. Guess he fixed it?

3. There’s only one thing worse than being talked about …

Naturally, it was tough to have a conversation without D. Trump coming up. I’ll qualify that by adding that (1) almost every state I drove through was a state he won (the exception being Illinois), and (2) I did not meet a single person who voted for him or even liked him – and I’m including Republicans. Even my mom – who adored Reagan and Thatcher in the 80s – literally couldn’t bring herself to address him as President Trump, saying (and I quote): “He doesn’t even deserve the mentioning of that title.”

Anyway, while the topic of Trump was inevitable, it was interesting that I didn’t hear a lot of extended rants about him. Most people agreed that the country was still in a state of shell-shock – the reality hasn’t quite settled in that this guy is actually in charge of the country and is making bad decisions about important things almost daily. It’s almost like everyone’s waiting for the episode where he finally gets voted off the island or something.

4. Signs O’ The Times, Side 2

Apart from the “Now Hiring” signs, once I got down to the Kentucky/Tennessee areas I also saw a lot of signs that were pointedly in support of the police. Sample billboard: “Welcome to [town name], where we fully support our police”. Which I guess is the 21st Century equivalent of “N*****, don’t let the sun set on you here.”

Okay, that’s unfair. But it’s pretty obvious that it’s intended as a statement against #BLM and a veiled warning for anyone who supports that movement, based on the false assumption that to support #BLM is to NOT support the police, because as we all know, Law And Order depends on supporting law enforcement 100% at all times no matter how many unarmed black guys they kill. Anyway, I didn’t see any signs like that when I drove through the same places in October 2015, and Trump happened between then and now, so it’s clear some of them felt the need to make that statement to the point of paying for billboard space (and that’s assuming the billboard owner didn’t waive the fee).

5. With the radio on

Our rental car was blessed with a free satnav this time around, but not free satellite radio. Which meant station-hopping from city to city again, and it seems the state of commercial radio programming hasn't improved in the last year and a half – at least not on our route. Granted, neither has the state of commercial music. So, as college radio is also dying, we kept it either on NPR or classic rock stations.

One thing I can confirm: Boston is still terrifically popular in the heartland.

6. Come McKay with me, punker

As usual, I stocked up on books, although not as many as I might have, since we skipped Books-a-Million this year (membership isn’t all it’s cracked up to be), and a couple of other places we usually hit have closed.

Still, there is always McKay’s, and we hit the ones in Nashville and Chattanooga. Here’s my haul from both.







Nice, eh?

Okay, that’s all I have.

There and back again,

This is dF
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2017-04-03 09:53 pm

I’M READING AS FAST AS I CAN (MARCH 2017 EDITION)

Late again, but you would be too if you flew 17 hours to pull off a five-city road trip in America. Which I am doing. The jet lag just wore off, so:

Very Good, Jeeves (Jeeves, #4)Very Good, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is my second time reading Wodehouse’s Jeeves stories, and the experience this time was pretty similar to the last one – it’s lightweight but fun. The stories are pretty formulaic – upper-class twit Bertie Wooster and his friends or relatives are presented with some sort of social dilemma (“social” as in high society), sometimes of their own making, to which Bertie’s valet Jeeves usually provides a clever solution that no one else thought of. But as the saying goes, what a formula! And really, it’s not about the formula so much as the presentation – in this case, vivid dialogue-driven characterization and fast-paced wit generously spiked with not-so-subtle social satire. I really should read more Wodehouse than I do, and this may inspire me to do so, although I’d like to try some of his other books besides the Jeeves stories next time out.


Why Is This Night Different from All Other Nights? (All the Wrong Questions, #4)Why Is This Night Different from All Other Nights? by Lemony Snicket

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the fourth and final installment of Lemony Snicket’s All The Wrong Questions series, in which 13-year-old Snicket wraps up his mission in Stain’d-by-the-Sea to stop the mysterious villain Hangfire and his equally mysterious plot – although as usual, things don’t go as planned. In fact, they take a pretty dark turn here – partly because it’s a locked-room murder mystery (on a train!) and partly because Snicket typically laces his stories with darkness. In this case, he’s been hinting throughout the series that he’s been asking the wrong questions – and here we find out just how wrong he was, and how much a wrong decision can cost, no matter how good yr intentions. Despite leaving a couple of loose ends, overall it’s a consistent conclusion to a consistent series – a dark yet entertaining adventure.


For Your Eyes Only: James Bond 007For Your Eyes Only: James Bond 007 by Ian Fleming

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the eighth Bond book and the first to be an anthology of short stories rather than a full-length novel. I tried revisiting the Bond books with Casino Royale and I found it didn’t quite work for me, but I came across a clearance-sale copy of this and thought I’d try Bond in a short-story format to see if it worked better. Result: yeah, kind of. Fleming still manages to spend too much time on detailed descriptions of people, places and stuff, and the frankly imperialist/misogynist mindset of Bondworld doesn’t play well in 2017 (not with me, anyway – others may find it refreshingly non-PC). On the other hand, Bond is more thoughtful in these stories as he ponders the nature of his job. Still, it says a lot that the two stories that work best are the ones that actually mess with the formula, particularly “Quantum Of Solace”, a Somerset Maugham tribute in which Bond listens to his host tell the story of a doomed marriage. Fleming knew how to tell a tale, but I can’t say I was inspired enough to revisit Bondworld again.


The SundialThe Sundial by Shirley Jackson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my third time reading Ms Jackson, and at this rate I’d be forgiven for assuming that all of her books take place in elaborately large houses. However, there the similarity ends. This one is owned by the eccentric Halloran family, whose even more eccentric Aunt Fanny gets lost on the grounds one day and receives a prophetic vision from her late father: the world is going to end soon, and only those who stay inside the Halloran mansion will be spared. Once her sister, the matriarch Orianna Halloran, decides to take Fanny seriously (albeit for self-serving reasons), the novel essentially builds up the suspense around the central question (is the prophecy real, or is Aunt Fanny crazy?), but the real focus is on how the Hallorans, their two main servants – Essex and Miss Ogilvie – and a small number of houseguests make plans for the end, and how they relate to each other, as well as to the people in the nearby village. This being a Jackson novel, they don’t relate well. At all. It’s slightly confounding yet very compelling. It’s also unexpectedly funny, which helps to lighten what might otherwise be a grim family drama. Good characterization, good set-up, good suspense hook to keep you reading – I enjoyed it, yes.


The DoubleThe Double by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It’s been a long time since I last read Dostoyevsky, and I’ve seen some quotes of his floating around enough that I decided it was time to read some more of him. The Double may not have been the best place to revisit him – it’s a short but surreal tale about a government clerk named Goldyakin who is going mad (which here also seems to mean he’s a complete social maladroit whose tendency to commit faux pas is getting worse). As the title suggests, he encounters his doppelganger (also named Goldyakin) who is everything he’s not – confident, extroverted, etc – and ends up working in his department, and steadily taking over his life. That’s a simple synopsis of a scattered, jumbled narrative from the scattered, jumbled point of view of Goldyakin, which makes it a real challenge to read and understand – indeed, plenty of essays have been written about the book discussing what actually happens, what it all means, and whether the double is even real. Yet at the center of it all is a very strong character in Goldyakin – he may be crazy, but I ended up feeling sympathetic to him by the end. So while this was hard work, I didn’t come away empty-handed.

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Double down,

This is dF
defrog: (mooseburgers)
2017-03-18 02:06 pm

THE ONLY ART THAT MATTERS IN AMERICA IS THE ART OF THE DEAL, AMIRITE?

Undoubtedly you know by now that Presidente Trump has proposed his first budget – and the NEA, the NEH and CPB ain’t on it.

The usual freakout has ensued, which I will now pointlessly attempt to calm with numbered comments.

1. Nothing has been defunded yet. It’s just a budget proposal (and a “skinny” one at that, which means it’s vague on details), and Congress still has to approve it.

2. The GOP has issues with this budget. The actual budget is expected to look much different by the time Congress gets through with it, and Trump won’t have the option of vetoing the budget they do pass. So even with the current balance of power, I wouldn’t say it’s a fait accompli just yet.

3. One key thing missing from all the ZOMG meme rhetoric is actual consideration and evaluation of the argument in favor of defunding the NEA, NEH and CPB that conservatives have usually advanced over the last 20+ years.

This piece in the NYT runs through them, and interestingly, it’s not ALL about Alleged Liberal Bias. There are also questions about why the federal govt should be funding arts, humanities and public broadcasting in the first place; the potential politicization of art funded with govt money; the quality of the art produced (political biases notwithstanding); and whether or not Middle America is getting as much bang for their buck as the art hubs in New York and California, say.

4. That said, let's not pretend that liberal bias isn’t the main motivation for conservatives. The NEA, NEH and CPB are easy low-hanging fruit for conservatives who whine about how unfair it is that artists use tax dollars to pick on them exclusively. If PBS and NPR were churning out stuff that Fox News churns out now, I seriously doubt funding them would be an issue for conservatives (though it almost certainly would be for liberals). Sure, they also claim it’s about wasteful govt spending, Small Govt® and budget deficits, but come on, even conservatives know that as a percentage of the budget, it’s chump change. 

5. The big question, of course, is what would happen to art and public broadcasting if Trump gets his wish? Can the free market preserve the status quo as effectively?

My own take: it’s probably worse news for public broadcasting than art.

Art is something artists are generally compelled to do, regardless of whether they can quit their day job or not. And there will always be people willing to fund art, whether it’s via Bill Gates or a Kickstarter-type model. Not everyone could find a patron, but that’s true now.

Public broadcasting could also turn to a Kickstarter model, perhaps – the problem is that running a TV station is a lot more expensive than the average art project. Without the CPB, a lot of smaller PBS affiliates will likely have to shut down. Or join The CW or something.

I suppose an argument could be made that in an age where the internet makes both funding and distribution easier than ever, YouTube and Vimeo are just as likely to create the next Sesame Street as PBS – so maybe CPB mattered more when there were just three TV networks on the air. Then again, most of the good programming is behind a paywall.

6. All of this raises the even bigger question framing the issue: is there a compelling government interest in subsidizing art and non-commercial broadcasting?

It’s an old debate, but I tend to side with the argument that culture, society and even the economy benefits from a thriving art community that isn’t purely driven solely by popular taste, the mass market, and what sells. I think that’s even more true for public broadcasting. It’s worth having television and radio programming that doesn’t have to concern itself with ratings or offending potential sponsors. When you listen to the homogenized formatted commercial radio landscape in America these days, the need for a non-commercial option seems pretty obvious to me.

And I don’t have a problem with tax money contributing to that effort, even if it results in art or TV shows I may not care for (or may never even see). It’s silly to defund the NEA just because artists are producing stuff you don't like or can’t use, just like it’s silly for me to demand that the government defund the entire military because I think Iraq War 2 was stupid, useless and counterproductive.

7. Which brings me to this article from FiveThirtyEight about the Trump budget, which points out that the proposal isn’t a solid blueprint of what the government will spend money on in the coming years – it’s more like a wish-list at this stage. Consequently, it’s a useful indicator of Trump’s priorities as POTUS.

Put simply, his priorities are hard power, a big-ass military and The Wall.

So if the budget is a reflection of what a given govt considers to be important foundational elements and values for the country, then in Trump’s America, the values that truly matter are bigoted xenophobic immigration policies and the ability to kick the ass of every single other country in the world combined with minimum conversation or negotiation. And not much else.

Artful dodger,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
2017-03-03 08:51 pm

I’M READING AS FAST AS I CAN (FEBRUARY 2017 EDITION)

I’m late, I know. I have an original excuse, though: I was sequestered in Barcelona all week committing acts of tech journalism pretty much from dawn to midnight for four straight days.

A Crime in Holland (Maigret #8)A Crime in Holland by Georges Simenon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is one of the earlier Maigret novels, in which Maigret travels to the tiny Dutch town of Delfzijl to unofficially investigate the murder of a local professor, as one of the suspects is a French national. Maigret is handicapped not only by the fact that he speaks no Dutch, but also the town’s tight-knit community that looks after their own. In a way the story is somewhat pedestrian in terms of the small-town trope and the eventual solution to the crime (and a rather sexist one at that, although this was written in the early 1930s). And yet the way Simenon tells it that makes it captivating, with Maigret – always a fascinating character for me to watch – keeping it interesting as he tries to figure out what’s going on. It’s a bit slow at first, but once it kicks into gear it’s a page-turner.


The Case of the Counterfeit Eye (Perry Mason Mysteries)The Case of the Counterfeit Eye by Erle Stanley Gardner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve read Erle Stanley Gardner once before but I’ve never read his Perry Mason books – which is remarkable since (1) I liked the TV show, and (2) my mom had a bunch of them on her bookshelf when I was a kid. Now that (somewhat hilariously) the American Bar Association is reprinting the Mason series, I decided it was time to try one. This is one of the earlier ones, which starts with a one-eyed client who claims someone stole his glass eye and he wants Mason to provide him with insurance in case the eye should be used to frame him – which is exactly what happens when wealthy businessman Harley Bassett is found dead with a glass eye in his palm and three guns near the body. The style is somewhat pulpish and occasionally cornball (such as when Mason introduces himself to people as “I'm Perry Mason, the lawyer”), and sometimes it’s unintentionally funny (honestly, almost everyone who comes to seek Mason’s services in this book seems to expect him to help them without confiding anything to him). And yet it’s pretty entertaining if you like dialogue-driven mysteries and courtroom drama (which I do) – it’s a fast-paced page-turner with solid characters, and while Mason’s strategy to win the case is pretty over-the-top, it’s an entertaining enough tale that it seems churlish to complain.


In the WetIn the Wet by Nevil Shute

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

My experience with Nevil Shute is limited to his post-apocalytic On the Beach, which I read ages ago and remember liking. So when I found this second-hand, I thought I’d try it. The jacket synopsis sounded promising: mysterious old man on his deathbed tells another man his life story which impossibly takes place 30 years in the future (circa 1983). But after about 100 pages I’d had enough. The “future” turns out to be concerned mainly with the political development of England and Australia and their subsequent relationship – and that’s it. It’s so mundane that if not for the jacket synopsis, at first you’d never know he was talking about future events unless you’re fairly well versed in Commonwealth political relations and democratic structures. And even then, you might think he was merely making things up, not talking about the future – it’s not until he mentions specific years that you realize something is up. And Shute’s fascination with political evolution comes at the expense of everything else – apart from democratic processes, societal norms and technologies seem to be the same in 1983 as they were in 1953. It doesn’t help that the old man – who is of mixed-race heritage – deliberately goes by a nickname that’s also a racial epithet (ostensibly to throw it in the face of anyone who might have a problem with his racial background, which is interesting, but still, it doesn’t translate well in 2017). Other people might get something out of this, but as speculative fiction goes, I found it both tedious and unconvincing.


The Moon Is DownThe Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This short novel from John Steinbeck was actually written as WW2 propaganda for the victims of Occupied Europe. Which might normally be a turnoff for me, as I don’t have much patience for propaganda. But this is Steinbeck, who characteristically eschewed blatant patriotic stereotypes and guts-and-glory action in favor of a subtle humanist story about a small unnamed town taken over by an unnamed occupying force, and the psychological impact on both sides. There’s little action (most of it is “offstage”) and the basic message is two-fold: (1) when you take over a free country by force, the locals won’t thank you for it (apart from opportunists and traitors), and will inevitably fight back however they can, and (2) conversely, it’s no fun for the soldiers subjected to the paranoia of living in a town full of civilians that hate them and want to kill them. Steinbeck was pilloried by some American critics for the latter – what kind of propaganda portrays the enemy as humans with feelings? – but it's precisely what makes the story work, both as propaganda (it was a major underground success in occupied Europe, and even occupied China) and as a story that transcends its propagandist intentions with some uncomfortable truths about war, fascism, occupation and human nature. Which is also why the book (at least to me) resonates today. Most war propaganda is mired in the time and circumstances that produced it – at its core, The Moon Is Down is as relevant in 2017 as it was in 1942. I’d recommend this edition of the book, which includes an afterword about the backstory, the controversy and how it inspired underground movements throughout occupied Europe.

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Do the propaganda,

This is dF
defrog: (onoes)
2017-02-25 01:16 pm

NO PRESS BRIEFING FOR YOU


And of course right after I post about Trump’s War On Media, he goes and escalates by having Sean Spicer cancel a scheduled press briefing and replace it with an informal off-camera briefing – for select media only. Among the not-invited: CNN, the New York Times, Politico, Buzzfeed and the BBC.

And of course everyone’s freaking out about the 1A and free press and democracy, and as usual the reaction – while understandable – seems overblown to me.

This Vox article has a good explanation of what’s going on here – namely, there’s a definite strategy in play here, but it may not be the one you think.

To sum up:

1. Informal off-camera press briefings with select media is nothing new.

2. Furthermore, while access is important, what those media outlets are mainly missing out on is an hour of Spiceworld spinning answers and saying something ridiculous. It’s not exactly the same thing as putting journalists in jail for reporting bad things about you (which is what actual dictators do).

3. That said, you don’t usually change from an official briefing to an informal one at the last minute – unless perhaps yr trying to make a point. Which is what Trump seems to be doing.

4. Trump’s war on the media is motivated by a number of things, starting with the vast number of leaks in his own admin. NO POTUS likes things leaking – President Obama didn’t like it either, and he was pretty harsh on whistleblowers – but Trump is taking it personally, and instead of blaming the leakers, he’s blaming the media – partly to discredit negative stories (or as Spicer calls them, “false narratives”), but also because he thrives on fighting with the media anyway. His fans eat it up and he enjoys giving them what they want. He needs a punching bag, red meat for the base, a distraction from his admin’s problems and someone to blame for them.

5. As Vox points out, the real problem with this strategy is that while it might help Trump please the fans, it won’t help him get anything done:

Picking random fights with the media won’t help the White House get anything through Congress. It won’t make FBI investigations go away. And it won’t help the administration’s arguments in the courts.

Another problem is that if the administration destroys its own credibility by waging a war on the press, it could have a hard time getting its message out later when it truly needs to — say, during a major crisis of some kind.

6. One thing I’d add is this: if the strategy of barring certain media outlets is intended to stop the “false narratives” and “fake news” that upset Trump, it’s kind of a stupid strategy. Those stories are already being written outside of the official-briefing context. Put another way, if these stories literally were “fake news”, then banning media outlets wouldn’t matter because they could just stay home and make up whatever crap they want – which he has already accused them of doing.

7. For all the dithering of this being the beginnings of dictatorship, I think that’s going to depend on what happens next. As I’ve said before, lack of govt transparency with the media has been a problem for a long, long time, and access to a spin-doctoring govt official isn't the same thing as access to the truth. And there’s no actual legal requirement for the POTUS to talk to the press. The real problems will begin if the Trump Dynasty starts actively pressuring media outlets not to run stories, or puts them in jail for doing so. The latter is a grey area when it comes to publishing classified material, but the former is a direct violation of the 1A. 

And sure, we don't want to wait until it comes to that, so it’s good to put pressure on the White House and warn people of where this could lead. I just think it’s important to explain the situation factually rather than resort to OMG hysterics. That’s just me.

I hear you knockin’ but you can’t come in,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
2017-02-24 04:05 pm

THE RETURN OF THE VERTEBRATE PRESS

I can safely say that I have never seen a POTUS call up a press conference for the sole apparent purpose of telling the press that they suck.

Until now.

Anyway, between that, Sean Spicer’s debut briefing, the hilariously deranged online poll and Trump’s opening rally for his re-election campaign in Florida, it’s pretty clear to me what's going on here:

1. Trump’s criteria for “fake news”, apparently, is “any media report that criticizes him or anyone who works for him, or asks any question that he doesn’t want to be asked, or corrects him when he or someone in his admin says something that turns out to be not true”. In other words, any news story that doesn’t stick to the script or alternate reality in his head.

2. Trump is basically throwing red meat to the base that got him elected, because he knows they have the same criteria as he does for “fake news”, and that they hate the Biased LameStream Media as much as he does. I’m sure Trump fans absolutely love the spectacle of gathering all the media in one place just to have a go at them because they would totally do the same thing if they had that kind of power.

3. Trump has decided that if the media is just going to “lie” about him (even if that means reporting what he actually says and does, and correcting him when he says things that are false), then he’s going to do a workaround and talk to the American People™ directly without relying on the media as a go-between.

This one is actually kind of understandable in the sense that he’s not the first POTUS to prefer direct communication to get his ideas out to them, especially in the age of mass media. Sometimes Presidents want to get in front of the people and talk unedited, especially for major policy announcements, whether it’s a live TV broadcast, fireside chats, or town-hall meetings. Trump’s preferred communications media just happens to be 3am batshit tweetstorms and ego-fueled campaign rallies.

4. But it’s pretty clear there’s more to this than Trump wanting people to hear what he has to say without reading/seeing it second hand in the news. Trump’s real beef with the media is that he has no control over them and what they write about him, and it’s clearly driving him crazy – partly because his ego can’t stand it, and (I suspect) partly because – like his supporters (and, to be fair, a lot of his detractors) – he is convinced that his worldview is well-informed and correct and therefore only he knows The Truth About Everything, and therefore anything that deviates from that viewpoint is not only “fake”, but maliciously so.

Which might be less of a problem if Trump didn’t consider Fox & Friends, Hannity, Breitbart and Infowars to be good examples of objective and factual reporting –because of course they support his worldview rather than question it. Which is what he wants.

5. In a way, on a subconscious macro level, this is a public debate on the role of media in a democracy. Is it supposed to be the Fourth Estate – an unofficial extra set of checks and balances that curbs government power and corruption by exposing, questioning and criticizing government policies? Or is it meant to be a glorified steno pool that reports whatever politicians say without question?

Personally, I think it’s the former. There are people (like Trump, at the moment) who will argue the latter – that “objective” media should report the facts in front of you and nothing else. But I’ve noticed the people who support this view only tend to do so when it’s their party in control of the govt.

It doesn’t mean the media isn't above criticism when it does a bad job, and Trump fans may argue that Trump is doing exactly that. I could take that argument seriously if Trump was up there pointing out specific examples of where a news report outright made up a story or quote and then pointed out exactly why they’re false. But so far, all he’s really done is whine about how everyone is obsessed with unimportant off-message distractions – like Michael Flynn, other alleged Russia connections, the presence of Steve Bannon and his relations with white nationalist/supremacist/anti-Semitic groups, Trump’s tax returns, possible conflicts of interest involving his business dealings, Kellyanne Conway pimping Ivanka products, etc.

If Trump et al want to make the case that media is fake news, they need a better argument than “If they were doing their job, they wouldn’t report negative things about us, they would just report what we say” – especially when “what we say” tends to include things that literally did not happen (see: Bowling Green, Sweden).

6. But again, I don't think Trump is trying to make a case. He’s just saying what he thinks and playing to the base that already buys into both his “alternative facts” worldview and the Mainstream (i.e. Liberal) Media Lies About Everything meme in general – the same base that got him elected.

7. As for that rally in Florida, I’m sure Trump thought the purpose was to bypass the media and go direct to the people. But I’m also sure another purpose is so Trump can finally be in a room full of tens of thousands of people who love him and agree with everything he says. It’s pretty obvious he enjoys running for POTUS more than actually being POTUS – not least since part of the POTUS gig involves putting up with the media.

8. Speaking of which, it’s noteworthy that the major media outlets – NYT, WaPo, CNN, etc – have noticeably gone out of their way to call Trump on false statements in their ledes and even their headlines. Which is arguably what they should be doing as part of that role as the Fourth Estate.

That said, I think one reason it’s noticeable is because they haven’t done it for a very long time. I’m convinced that one of the reasons Jon Stewart became a more trustworthy source of news than actual news media was because part of his act was pointing out when politicians and “expert” media pundits were lying, passing on false information or contradicting their own statements. He did that primarily for comedy purposes, but the point was clear: the news media should be doing this (and was certainly capable of it – if a team of comedy writers had the resources to fact-check statements and dig out video clips to back up the jokes, surely CNN does), but isn’t.

Well, they’re doing it now. Here’s hoping they keep doing it long after Trump leaves office in just 47 more months.

Found my spine,

This is dF