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I don't know who will win in court over Jim Acosta's press pass, but I'm pretty tired in general of lawyers fractally parsing our laws into incomprehensible gibberish. "Legal analysts" quoted by the media are predicting that CNN will win the lawsuit, but it's pretty obvious they shouldn't. The First Amendment says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It's obvious that no individual person has a right to a press pass to the White House. Jim Acosta is free to continue writing and saying whatever he wants. He has no right to have access to the President, either at the White House or anywhere else. If I applied for a White House press pass I'd be denied, and no one would be up in arms about it. Jim Acosta has no more rights than you or I do.

What's more, his employer, CNN, has dozens of press passes for its employees. To the extent that the First Amendment should be understood to protect corporations, CNN has plenty of alternatives to Jim Acosta. Even if you think CNN has a right to access the White House (which would be absurd) there's no reason they have to send Jim Acosta.

President Trump is obviously correct to assert that he is under no obligation to let any journalists into the White House.

Donald Trump sought Wednesday to land a massive blow in his long-fought battle against the news media, with administration lawyers asserting in court that the president could bar "all reporters" from the White House complex for any reason he sees fit.

The sweeping claim, which came in the first public hearing over CNN's lawsuit to restore correspondent Jim Acosta's White House credentials, could have a dramatic impact on news organizations' access to government officials if it is upheld in court.

Politico's characterization is dramatic and overwrought. Public officials don't talk to reporters because they're forced to by the Constitution, or merely because the reporters have physical access to a certain location. They talk to reporters when they want to. The relationship between a president and the journalists who cover him really depends on the whims of the president. Here's some data on the number of press conferences held by recent presidents:

By president: Total / average per month:

Obama - 163 / 1.72
George W. Bush - 210 / 2.18
Bill Clinton - 193 / 2.01
George H. W. Bush - 137 / 2.85
Reagan - 46 / 0.48
Carter- 59 / 1.23
Ford - 40 / 1.36
Nixon - 39 /0.59
Lyndon B. Johnson - 135 /2.18
JFK - 65 /1.91
Eisenhower - 193 /2.01
Truman - 324 / 3.48
Franklin Roosevelt - 1,020/ 7.0
Hoover - 268 / 5.58
Coolidge - 407 / 6.07

President Trump talks more than any past president -- directly to citizens via Twitter even if not to the media. He's under no Constitutional obligation to talk to anyone.


Project Veritas is performing a public service by giving politicians and their staffers an opportunity to reveal their true political beliefs. Veritas is a rightist group that is targeting leftist politicians, and what they've uncovered about Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill and Tennessee Senate candidate Phil Bredesen is enlightening.

Here's McCaskill speaking with the undercover journalist:

Senator McCaskill revealed her intention to vote on various gun control measures in undercover footage:
MCCASKILL: "Well if we elect enough Democrats we'll get some gun safety stuff done. They won't let us vote on it, we've got 60 votes for a number of measures that would help with gun safety, but McConnell won't let 'em come to the floor."

JOURNALIST: "Like bump stocks, ARs and high capacity mags...?"

MCCASKILL: "Universal background checks, all of that... But if we have the kind of year I think we might have I think we could actually be in a position to get votes on this stuff on the floor and we'd get 60 [votes]..."

JOURNALIST: "So you would be on board with the bump stocks and... high capacity mags."

MCCASKILL: "Of course! Of course!"

And here are some Bredesen staffers who claim to know the candidate's true position on the Kavanaugh nomination.

Maria Amalla and Will Stewart, staffers in Bredesen's campaign, both say on hidden camera that if he were in the Senate, Bredesen would not actually have voted to confirm then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh. They explained that the statement Bredesen issued in support of Kavanaugh was a political ploy to gain the support of moderate voters in Tennessee.
JOURNALIST: "Like he wouldn't really vote yes [for Kavanaugh,] would he?

AMALLA: "No, it's a political move... He thinks that like we're down like half a point right now. It's like really close and we're losing by a point or two. So he thinks that if like by saying this he's appealing to more moderate republicans and he'll get more of them to vote for us."

JOURNALIST: "I was so confused because I just can't believe he would actually vote [for Kavanaugh.]

STEWART: "He wouldn't. But he's saying he would... Which I don't know if it makes it worse or better. No, it makes it better... "

[snip]

JOURNALIST: "So he'll lose voters if he says yes [to not confirming Kavanaugh?]"

STEWART: "Oh, straight up, yeah."

JOURNALIST: "Are the people of Tennessee that ignorant?"

STEWART: "Yeah."

This is all valuable information for voters, especially with public trust in our politicians at a record high!

Unfortunately Project Veritas only targets leftist politicians. It would be valuable if a similar group were to stage undercover interviews with rightist politicians.


New York Times has hired Sarah Jeong, who apparently doesn't like white people very much.

Jeong.jpg

Jeong can like or hate anyone she wants, and the NYT can hire anyone it wants... but this is an example of why trust in the mainstream media is at an all-time low.

The NYT says that Jeong "regrets" her previous "approach" to social media but... does she still think the same things that she thought from 2013 to 2015? There's no indication that she has changed her mind, only that from now on she intends to write hateful things in a less forthright manner.


John Hinderaker points out a great example of AP reporters Ken Thomas and Jill Colvin intentionally missing the point Trump is trying to make.

Tuesday night's freewheeling rally lasted more than an hour and included numerous attacks on the media, as well as one glaring false claim. Trump was railing against the idea of noncitizens voting and advocating stricter voting laws when he claimed that IDs are required for everything else, including shopping.

"If you go out and you want to buy groceries, you need a picture on a card, you need ID," he said at the event at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa. "You go out and you want to buy anything, you need ID and you need your picture."

A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to questions about when the billionaire president last bought groceries or anything else himself. Photo IDs are required for certain purchases, such as alcohol, cigarettes or cold medicine.

Is the point about groceries? Is the point about who does Trump's shopping (or Hillary's, or Obama's)? Obviously the argument Trump is making is that requiring identification to vote is reasonable, since identification is already required for many mundane transactions (like buying groceries with a credit card or check). Journalists may or may not agree with his proposal, but they should at least engage with the President's proposal in good faith rather than pretending that it's incomprehensible.


Roger Simon says that modern journalists depend more on leaks than on investigative ability.

After all, this was the Golden Age of Journalism. That was what should have been emphasized. Look how Donald Trump was being so bravely exposed.

What a crock! It's the Golden Age of Leaking, not Journalism. The fantastic success of Woodward and Bernstein during Watergate has brought us to that. Blame "Deep Throat." A journalist is now someone who answers the phone from a leaker, takes down what he or she says, and spits out the innuendos and lies to win a Pulitzer. You don't have to be Hemingway to do that. You just have to have a decent digital rolodex and be a good kiss-ass.


Adam O'Fallon Price writes lovingly about the em dash, which I also love. (Although I like to put spaces on either side of them, which appears to be entirely wrong.) I'm sure I overuse them -- but why shouldn't I? They're awesome. I'm going to write a poem about em dashes -- stay tuned.

It might be useful to include an official definition of the em. From The Punctuation Guide: "The em dash is perhaps the most versatile punctuation mark. Depending on the context, the em dash can take the place of commas, parentheses, or colons--in each case to slightly different effect." The "slightly different" part is, to me, the em dash's appeal summarized. It is the doppelgänger of the punctuation world, a talented mimic impersonating other punctuation, but not exactly, leaving space to shade meaning. This space allows different authors to use the em dash in different ways, and so the em dash can be especially revealing of an author's style, even their character.


Paula Bolyard lists out numerous media outlets who refuse to count an unborn baby as a "real" victim.

Take, for instance, the Chicago Tribune, which wrote, "Kelley shot and killed 25 people at the church. Authorities have put the official toll at 26, because one of the victims was pregnant." The newspaper didn't want to get caught recognizing the humanity of the unborn baby, so they deferred to "authorities." There wasn't a deceased baby, there was a pregnant victim, according to the Tribune.

CNN wrote that "the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs will reopen its sanctuary as a memorial on Sunday, one week after a gunman killed 25 people and an unborn child." In other words, 25 real people and one blob of tissue.

At USA Today, they didn't even try to cloak their hostility toward unborn babies in clever wording. "The memorial ceremony was a block away from the First Baptist Church, which is slated for demolition after the massacre during Sunday services Nov. 5 that killed 25 people including a pregnant woman and wounded 20," an article declared.

And many more.

Obviously if an unborn child can be a victim of a shooting, he can be a victim of an abortion.

That "plus one" baby had a name: "Carlin Brite 'Billy Bob' Holcombe." John Holcombe, who was shot in the leg but survived the shooting alongside two of his children, wrote on Facebook that the name "includes [his wife] Crystal's pick for a girl, a boy and the nickname the kids gave the baby." Holcombe lost a total of eight family members in the shooting.


I gotta say, I not only love all these examples of retro 90s-style web design, but many of them are easier to navigate than modern "optimized" sites. Click all the links.

To navigate the website for Arcade Fire's coming album, "Everything Now," users need to click through a cluttered cascade of Windows 98-style pop-ups.

Balenciaga's new website looks as stripped down as a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, with plain black boxes and no-frills Arial font.

And the D.I.Y.-looking home page for Solange resembles the desktop of a candy-colored iMac, complete with QuickTime windows and rows of blue folders. ...

One way is to create a website the old-fashioned way: by enlisting a friend who knows basic HTML. That is what Billy Silverman, 40, a restaurateur, did in the harried final days before opening Salazar, his acclaimed Sonoran barbecue restaurant in Los Angeles.

He tapped his buddy Zack McTee, who runs a small production company in New York, to slap together something quick. The two decided that, if they didn't have the time or money to make the website good, they would at least make it fun.


In a bizarre turn of events, CNN has threatened to dox an anonymous internet GIF artist who made fun of the network.

CNN reporter Andrew Kaczynski opted not to identify the user "because he is a private citizen who has issued an extensive statement of apology, showed his remorse by saying he has taken down all his offending posts, and because he said he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again."

But Kaczynski then added that "CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change," seemingly indicating that CNN would identify the user if he repeats his "ugly behavior" on social media. That sentence was widely interpreted as a threat.

CNN's meltdown continues.

Update:

Now CNN is claiming that their victim has assured them that he doesn't feel threatened. Do they not see how bad this looks? What else would the victim say, with CNN holding him hostage?

Kaczynski also said the Reddit user had been made aware of the ongoing Internet kerfuffle and had gotten in touch with him again.

"FYI 'HanA**holeSolo' just called me. 'I am in total agreement with your statement. I was not threatened in any way,'" Kaczynski wrote.

Kaczynski initially said the user "posted his apology before we *ever* spoke" to him, calling KFile afterwards to apologize again. But after further questions, Kaczynski said the initial apology didn't come until CNN had contacted the user and asked to talk to him.

And of course, now there are a million more GIFs mocking CNN.


Poet Sara Holbrook describes how questions about her writing in a standardized test are completely nonsensical. When I was in school, I always suspected that the teachers were making up stuff about the "intent" of the various authors we studied.

Only guess what? The test prep materials neglected to insert the stanza break. I texted him an image of how the poem appeared in the original publication. Problem one solved. But guess what else? I just put that stanza break in there because when I read it aloud (I'm a performance poet), I pause there. Note: that is not an option among the answers because no one ever asked me why I did it.

These test questions were just made up, and tragically, incomprehensibly, kids' futures and the evaluations of their teachers will be based on their ability to guess the so-called correct answer to made up questions.

Then I went online and searched Holbrook/MIDNIGHT/Texas and the results were terrifying. Dozens of districts, all dissecting this poem based on poorly formatted test prep materials.


Jack Shafer writes that fear of the effects propaganda is excessive and elitist. If anyone was deceived by "fake news" this year, it would seem to have been the elites.

In this sense, the shrillness of the propaganda debate reveals a deep distrust of citizens by the elites. The Ignatiuses and Stengels of media and government don't worry about propaganda infecting them. Proud of their breeding and life experience, they seem confident they can decode fact from fiction. What they dread is propaganda's effect on the non-elites, whom they paternalistically imagine believe everything they read or view. But they don't. The idea that naïve and vulnerable audiences can be easily influenced by the injection of tiny but potent messages into their media feedbag was dismissed as bunk by social scientists as early as the 1930s and 1940s. According to what academics call the hypodermic needle theory (aka magic bullet theory, aka transmission-belt model), there is little evidence that the public was the defenseless prey of mini-doses of propagandists. Larger doses don't seem to be very effective, either.


Will Rahn of CBS correctly identifies the media's problem: hubris.

The audience for our glib analysis and contempt for much of the electorate, it turned out, was rather limited. This was particularly true when it came to voters, the ones who turned out by the millions to deliver not only a rebuke to the political system but also the people who cover it. Trump knew what he was doing when he invited his crowds to jeer and hiss the reporters covering him. They hate us, and have for some time.

And can you blame them? Journalists love mocking Trump supporters. We insult their appearances. We dismiss them as racists and sexists. We emote on Twitter about how this or that comment or policy makes us feel one way or the other, and yet we reject their feelings as invalid.

It's a profound failure of empathy in the service of endless posturing. There's been some sympathy from the press, sure: the dispatches from "heroin country" that read like reports from colonial administrators checking in on the natives. But much of that starts from the assumption that Trump voters are backward, and that it's our duty to catalogue and ultimately reverse that backwardness. What can we do to get these people to stop worshiping their false god and accept our gospel?


Donald Trump is responsible for his own vulgarity, but it's obvious that the media (including NBC, his former employer) is conspiring to maximize the damage to Trump's campaign. The tape is certainly newsworthy, but the decision to delay its release demonstrates why Americans don't trust the media.

NBC execs had a plan to time the release of the Donald Trump audio to have maximum impact on both the 2nd presidential debate and the general election ... sources connected with the network tell TMZ.

Multiple sources connected with NBC tell us ... top network execs knew about the video long before they publicly said they did, but wanted to hold it because it was too early in the election. The sources say many NBC execs have open disdain for Trump and their plan was to roll out the tape 48 hours before the debate so it would dominate the news cycle leading up to the face-off.

As we reported, Billy Bush was bragging about the tape -- in front of NBC execs at the Rio Olympics -- in early August. NBC says it's only known about the tape for a little more than a week.


Hillary and the media have a shared goal: defeat Trump. Do they pass each other notes and hold conference calls to coordinate their attacks on Trump? That's just a crazy conspiracy theory! Oh wait...

Over the weekend, several major American newspapers printed a variation of the same article pointing out instances, ion their view, when Donald Trump has lied to the American people during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Hillary posts pages of "documented Trump lies" and holds a conference call with members of the media detailing the same theme [on Friday] and within 48 hours [on Sunday] major publications print articles following along with Hillary's prescribed narrative.

Hillary and the media are on the same side. Are they "coordinating"? Yes -- at the very least they watch each other for cues about how to advance against their common opponent. But sometimes they send each other notes or pick up the phone. Does this obvious coordination help or hinder Hillary?


Twitter has suspended the account of @Instapundit, a.k.a. Glenn Reynolds, for recommending that people trapped by rioters use their cars to escape and protect their own lives. Here's the offending tweet:

instapundit twitter.jpg

Perhaps Professor Reynolds should have written "keep driving", or something less intemperate. Of course it would be illegal and immoral to use deadly force against a peaceful protester, but the protests in Charlotte have been quite violent.

It's both lawful and moral to use deadly force to protect your life and property.


This picture of a gaggle of journalists waiting for Hillary is hilarious and embarrassing. Just look at the eager anticipation on their faces. It's obvious to everyone by now that the media loves Hillary and hates Trump, no matter what either of them say or do.

media fawns on hillary s.jpg


Interesting that almost all of the journalists covering Hillary's campaign are women. Do you think the composition of the press corps is affecting coverage? Hillary and the press corps don't.

The change seems to be a combination of more women doing political reporting in general, and many more being drawn to Clinton's potentially historic candidacy. It's made for an unusual atmosphere, with a female candidate sparring with a nearly all-female corps of reporters. It hasn't brought Clinton more positive coverage, according to those both inside the campaign and outside it. But reporters and press aides alike note that there's a different vibe nonetheless, punctuated by occasional expressions by the candidate herself of camaraderie for fellow pioneers.

But Hillary is intentionally reaching out to female reporters. Presumably she thinks their gender will affect their coverage.

Clinton has also chosen a disproportionate number of female reporters for her first extended interviews. ...

"I don't think that's by accident. It's by design and that's obviously a part of her campaign strategy," said NBC's Clinton embed, Monica Alba.

No one raises an eyebrow if mostly male journalists cover a candidate, so maybe there's nothing to see here.


If you're looking for a new science fiction book or author then check out the 2015 Hugo Award finalists. This year they're guaranteed to make puppies happy!


I recently received a review copy of "Healing the Heart of Democracy" by Parker J. Palmer and I learned from its perspective, but I fundamentally disagree with Dr. Palmer's main thesis. The book is a high-minded appeal to heal the divisions that polarize American democracy, and although it's inspiring perhaps I'm too much of a cynic to buy in.

Dr. Palmer lays out his thesis best in the introduction:

But these days, "We the People" have a great deal of trouble talking across our lines of difference about the common good -- so much trouble that many of us doubt the very concept of a "common good." Deformed by a divisive political culture, we're less inclined to differ with each other honestly than to demonize each other mercilessly. That's why it's so seductive to gather with folks who share our view of what's wrong and do little more than complain about all those "wrongdoers" who aren't in the room.

If we want to "create a politics worthy of the human spirit," [the book's subtitle -- MW] we must find ways to bridge our differences, whether they are defined by age, gender, class, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or political ideology. Then we must seen patches of common ground on the issues we care most about. This is more than a feel-good exercise. If we cannot reach a rough consensus on what most of us want, we have no way to hold our elected officials accountable to the will of the people.

Whew, there's a lot there! Where to begin? First, let me applaud Dr. Palmer for his aspiration. At the micro-level, no one would want a family, church, or workplace as fractured as the American citizenry as a whole. So wouldn't it be nice if we citizens could agree more with each other? However, even this aspiration immediately undercuts Dr. Palmer's thesis: we get to choose our church and workplace, and we get to politely avoid controversial topics when among family. As a result of these choices, we "gather with folks who share our view of what's wrong" in order to create a more pleasant environment for ourselves.

Reading the book (and having just searched the index), it appears to me that Dr. Palmer neglects to consider the impact of the median voter theorem on America's two-party political system. This impact is two-fold (at least) as it relates to his thesis.

  1. The median voter is defined based on one or more issues that are not accepted as part of the "common good".
  2. The two parties will always be fighting for the median voter.

In the first case, any issue for which there is common ground among voters will not be the deciding factor for the median voter. The two parties may disagree on this issue (even vehemently), but the voters with strong opinions will have already gravitated to their chosen sides and will not be the median voter. Alternatively, an issue which is accepted by a sizable majority of the population will simply not be in the political spotlight. No one fights over common ground, so it's easy to ignore it. Dr. Palmer appears to do so, and makes no allowance for the huge shifts in common ground that have occurred over the past century. Issues that were once contentious are not anymore: alcohol prohibition, women's suffrage, entering World War 2, capitalism vs. communism, engagement with China, civil rights for black Americans, no-fault divorce, tolerance of homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, contraception (and for unmarried women). The list goes on and on. Within the past century these issues were politically divisive, but now our political system has successfully settled them -- many people still disagree with the majority consensus, and they're free to do so, but the divisions have few political implications. The "common ground" of American politics is huge.

As for the second implication, conflict over the median voter is not a sign of sickness, it's a sign that our democracy is working as intended. It's great for everyone to remain civil and on-topic, but the two parties should vigorously contest the issues that matter to the median voter. Eventually one position will convince enough people that the dividing line will shift and the issue at hand will no longer be a concern for the median voter. This is how the system is supposed to work.

For example, Dr. Palmer makes a brief mention of abortion but focuses entirely on a personal emotions surrounding the issue without considering the underlying political environment. The primary reason that abortion is so divisive is that Roe v. Wade undermined the normal political process by decreeing that abortion is a Constitutional right -- the Supreme Court basically took the ball away from the game and thereby prevented the citizenry from gradually reaching consensus. This was a dangerous precedent, and one way that we Americans can help improve our political climate is to strongly prefer that our differences be resolved by legislation rather than by the courts.

Finally , Dr. Palmer's list of differences is mis-aimed: "age, gender, class, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or political ideology". This list accuses the American citizenry of harboring deep divisions due to surface-level bigotry -- a severe misdiagnosis. It's true that some Americans are unreasoning bigots, but for the most part our disagreements are due to significant, substantial differences in our goals and beliefs. Dr. Palmer throws in the word "ideology", which in modern usage is an epithet, to discredit the legitimacy of the political disagreements. Some divisions do line up around the characteristics Dr. Palmer lists, but it's not the characteristics per se that cause the differences; cause-and-effect may run the other way entirely, or the characteristics and underlying beliefs may simply be coincident.

Ultimately, "Healing the Heart of Democracy" is a well-meaning book, but it rings hollow by relying on an underlying belief in the inherent goodness of mankind. I don't history bears out that belief, and I think that our competitive two-party political system with its separation-of-powers is a brilliant approach to mitigating our inherent selfishness. Disagreements should be civil and purposeful, but contentious politicking is not a new thing -- it's been around for millennium and isn't going anywhere. Rather than attempting to fix the surface-level symptoms of our divisions, America would be best-served by strengthening our separation-of-powers, increasing transparency, eliminating politicization in the bureaucracy, and ensuring clean elections.


I love buying used books from Amazon for $0.01 each. Sure, most sellers charge $3.99 for shipping, but I can easily find 10 books from the same seller and combine the shipping costs. Here are the books and series that are currently in my cart:

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