Still Calling

On the media

Obligatory Mark Felt post

After a long couple of weeks learning how to live stream, I’m back on the animation beat. Usually I like to grab some event in history that has relevance today, and boy is the next video like holding up a mirror to 1972.

Some days, you just can’t.

This has been, overall, a rotten day. It’s allergy season here in Tennessee, so my head is already fogged up. The Republicans, who are liars and cheaters of the worst kind, put Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. Trump pretty much guarantees we’re going to war in Syria. And Don Rickles fucking died. Here’s today’s video.

Philly Daily News editor Sandy Shea has tantrum

This is rich: As night follows day, I knew Monday’s sentencing of Congressman Chaka Fattah to 10 years in prison would generate a firestorm of comments implicating the Inquirer and Daily News in Fattah’s betrayal of the public trust. Sure enough, when Fattah’s sentence was announced, the commentariat declared that both news outlets should…

My Dilemma

I love my job at Raw Story. I mean, would I prefer to be paid thousands of dollars a week to be a rock star? Sure. But it’s a pretty sweet gig that allows me to work from home (wherever home may be), pays well, and gives me benefits like vacation and healthcare, and oh…

Cutting through the bullshit

If you follow me on Facebook -and if you read this blog, the odds are you do- you’ve been seeing me growing a lot more hostile to many of Bernie Sanders’ supporters. I’ve pissed off a lot of people by being utterly dismissive, often contemptuously so, of the more radical (and often downright damaging) claims his base is making about his opponent Hillary Clinton.

Some background about myself: I’m a 45 year old guy, low-income since 2012 or so, after one of the aftershocks of the Great Recession. I’ve been voting since 1989. I’ve been a political blogger for years, although I don’t do it as much anymore (Facebook has been the worst thing to ever happen to my output here at the blog). My original site, Brendan Calling From the Underground dates back to 2003, and wound up getting me a column at the Philadelphia Weeklym where I was the reliable fire-breathing liberal for a minute or two. I then moved to Brendan Calling, but in the aftermath of my breakup, I wound up in an awful depression, didn’t write for a hella long time, changed emails, and forgot to pay my annual bill to GoDaddy. Now my old site is a real estate marketing thing. Luckily, I still have the database on a Mac, and thus all the later material; unluckily, the video card died, so I can’t get to it easily. I need to do something about that. I will. I digress.

BCFTU is a little embarrassing in some ways: if you look back to some of the earlier posts, I’m just a bundle of rage over the Bush presidency and the war. For example, here’s 33 year old me praying that Jesus would give cancer to everyone who supported the PATRIOT Act and the Iraq war. Here’s a REALLY good one I lobbed at ol’Rick Santorum back in the day that elicited a signed response I still have somewhere. Sample:

“Hello, Senator Santorum’s office.”

“Hi there!. My name is Brendan Skwire. I’m a Republican living in Pennsylvania and a constituent of the Senator. I voted for Senator Santorum before, and I plan on voting for him again, but I need his advice on a matter of some importance.”

“Sure, what can I do for you?”

“Well, I’ve read his comments to the AP about the homosexuals, and I’m sure there’s lots of food for thought there. And I understand his distinction between homosexuals and homosexual acts. While
I’m not gay, my wife and I are nevertheless concerned, because… well, I think we’ve been practicing homosexual acts. I just want to make sure that we’re not homosexuals ourselves, and that we’re not doing anything my Senator would disapprove of. Could you tell me what specific sex acts Senator Santorum endorses?”

“[chuckle] Well, uhh.. the Senator hasn’t given us a list of approved acts and he was only commenting on..”

“Like, sometimes my wife and I have anal sex, which is something I know the homosexuals do. Both my wife and I enjoy this, and I don’t want to give up putting my penis in her rectum and thrusting until I ejacualte in her bowels. I guess I didn’t consider that this was a homosexual act until it was brought to my attention by the senator. Is it OK for me to keep putting my penis in my wife’s anus?”

I’ve mellowed out a bit since then I like to think, even if some people might beg to differ. Like the Sanders supporters I’ve begun to ruthlessly criticize and factcheck.

A few months ago, I started noticing an uptick in really ugly attacks getting lobbed at Hilary Clinton. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to criticize her over, especially when it comes to foreign policy, and to a lesser extent her relationship with banks. But when I see someone on the LEFT post something like this…


… it sets off my radar, and not in a good way. Not because, as many of my friends seem to believe, I’m some kind of rabid Clinton fan. Far from it: I voted for Bill in 92, but by 96 I was a solid Nader supporter. In 2000, I wavered briefly about who to support but ultimately stood with Gore: Nader’s claim that things would have to get really bad before they got better never sat well with me: and George Bush was clearly the front man for some pretty evil shit. When Nader’s supporters started parroting the line that “both parties are the same,” I was off the bandwagon.

For some time now, Nader has made it perfectly clear that his campaign isn’t about trying to pull the Democrats back to the left. Rather, his strategy is the Leninist one of “heightening the contradictions.” It’s not just that Nader is willing to take a chance of being personally responsible for electing Bush. It’s that he’s actively trying to elect Bush because he thinks that social conditions in American need to get worse before they can better.

Nader often makes this “the worse, the better” point on the stump in relation to Republicans and the environment. He says that Reagan-era Interior Secretary James Watt was useful because he was a “provocateur” for change, noting that Watt spurred a massive boost in the Sierra Club’s membership. More recently, Nader applied the same logic to Bush himself. Here’s the Los Angeles Times’ account of a speech Nader gave at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., last week: “After lambasting Gore as part of a do-nothing Clinton administration, Nader said, ‘If it were a choice between a provocateur and an anesthetizer, I’d rather have a provocateur. It would mobilize us.’ “

Sound familiar?

Oddly enough, Nader was almost right: sure, we had to lose our civil liberties, trillions of dollars and thousands of dead and broken bodies in Iraq, two or three unpaid for wars, and an economic collapse that wiped out our nest eggs (especially among black families HOW PROGRESSIVE, RALPH), but we got over the past 8 years, with the full support of both Clinton and Sanders we had a President who:

1) passed the (imperfect) ACA, a progressive goal for DECADES, including a Medicaid expansion for the poorest (partially blocked by the SCOTUS)
2) Passed the Economic Stimulus, which saved jobs and took the economy out of a tailspin. It should have been bigger, but you can blame [still-dead] Arlen Specter for insisting it be whittled down.
3) Passed Wall Street Reform, including Dodd-Frank and the CFPB. (Coulda been stronger, but without a doubt a progressive accomplishment.)
4) Ended the Iraq war, officially.
5) Repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, HUGE progressive goal for years.
6) Increased fuel efficiency standards
7) Signed the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act, which to be honest is simply sort-of fixing something that the Democrats and Republicans passed in 2005.
8) Put two liberal-leaning justices on the SCOTUS.
9) Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009

Now, putting aside for a moment that much of this was Obama cleaning up the Republicans’ mess, and even putting aside the big things like health care reform and the SCOTUS, are things better than the status quo ante Bush? I’m not seeing it. What I AM seeing are the same statements from 2000. “There’s no difference between the parties”? “Clinton’s on the side of the wealthy”? “Clinton’s owned by oil companies”? It’s fucking crazy, it’s verkakte, it ignores all the hard work that’s gone into turning the ship around, and it’s paving the way for Trump.

Worse, I’m seeing a LOT of voters (typically younger voters, but quite often people old enough to know better) reflexively passing along news articles and memes attacking Clinton (and the Democrats generally) from the left without even bothering to check if what they’re spreading is even true. Given that for the past year or so it’s been an open fact that the GOP is trolling Sanders supporters:

For months now, America Rising has sent out a steady stream of posts on social media attacking Mrs. Clinton, some of them specifically designed to be spotted, and shared, by liberals. The posts highlight critiques of her connections to Wall Street and the Clinton Foundation and feature images of Democrats like Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, interspersed with cartoon characters and pictures of Kevin Spacey, who plays the villain in “House of Cards.” And as they are read and shared, an anti-Clinton narrative is reinforced.

America Rising is not the only conservative group attacking Mrs. Clinton from the left. Another is American Crossroads, the group started by Karl Rove, which has been sending out its own digital content, including one ad using a speech Ms. Warren gave at the New Populism Conference in Washington last May.

“Powerful interests have tried to capture Washington and rig the system in their favor,” intones Ms. Warren, as images of Mrs. Clinton with foreign leaders flash by.

…that’s troubling. It shows the tactic is working. For a recent example, here’s a piece by Doug Schoen I’ve been seeing many of my Sanders-supporting friends post all over Facebook this week, arguing that Clinton might not be the nominee after all:

The worries about Mr. Sanders’s strength have stirred the beginnings of a capitulation to him—by the Clinton camp, in league with the Democratic National Committee—at the convention. To placate him, they have already granted Mr. Sanders greater influence over the party platform. Two divisive figures, Cornel West and Rep. Keith Ellison, have been added to the platform committee, ensuring that the party will be pulled further left. In addition to putting Mr. Sanders’s socialist nostrums on display, the platform negotiations are likely to spur an ugly fight over the U.S. relationship with Israel.

Mrs. Clinton also faces growing legal problems. The State Department inspector general’s recent report on Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state made it abundantly clear that she broke rules and has been far from forthright in her public statements. The damning findings buttressed concerns within the party that Mrs. Clinton and her aides may not get through the government’s investigation without a finding of culpability somewhere.

Never mind that the email “scandal” is a big nothing-burger, especially after Rove’s missing emails and Colin Powell’s admitted use of personal email services. Let’s look at the fact that NOT ONE SINGLE PERSON POSTING THIS “EXPOSE” BOTHERED TO LOOK INTO SCHOEN’S BACKGROUND. Because if they had they’d know that even though he’s putatively a Democrat, he’s also a Newsmax and Fox News contributor, who holds the following positions:

Schoen said that President Obama should not seek reelection in 2012. He has stated that the President has divided the country along partisan lines, and said that the Affordable Care Act had been a “disaster” for the Democratic Party.[3][4]

Schoen has been critical of the Occupy Wall Street protest movement. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, he wrote, “President Obama and the Democratic leadership are making a critical error in embracing the Occupy Wall Street movement—and it may cost them the 2012 election.”[3][10] He believes that the protesters represent “an unrepresentative segment of the electorate that believes in radical redistribution of wealth, civil disobedience and, in some instances, violence,” and that their common bond is “a deep commitment to left-wing policies.”[3][10] Schoen believes that the Democratic Party should not appeal to voters who support taxing oil companies and the rich, but rather to voters in the middle who want lower taxes.

Now, there are certainly arguments to be made about Clinton’s relationships with the ultra-wealthy, but Schoen isn’t exactly a fellow traveller with the left. He’s about as neutral an observer as an Eagles fan at a Cowboys game. Everything he stands for, Clinton generally opposes. Clinton is not only a supporter of the ACA, but wants to expand it with a public option, a position she’s held since Obama first proposed to reform health care. And her tax plan raises taxes on the rich. As for fossil fuels, FactCheck says Sanders’ supporters claims (and Schoen’s) are WAY overblown.

Now, anyone with even basic journalistic ethics would know to fact check Schoen’s claims, and to do some background research into Schoen himself. But most people aren’t journalists, even though the Internet and Facebook make us feel like we are. As a result, bad actors like Schoen get low-information left-wing voters to do his dirty work for him. Clever, eh?

But it’s not just right-wing trolls getting in on the act. We can also always count on friendly fire from (and I hate myself for using this term, because it used to make me so angry until I realized it was true) the professional left. Here’s Michael Moore, being very helpful:

moore obama

I’m not even going to put aside the fact that a few months prior Moore had BEGGED the president come to Flint, I’m going to highlight the fact that when Obama indeed came to Flint, Moore (elected by who, again? Representing who, again?) pretty much took a giant shit all over the man:

President Obama, thank you for responding so quickly to us in Flint. To have you declare a Federal State of Emergency for Flint after our letter to you — and to do it while we were all gathering for our rally in Flint today — that was a big boost of hope to everyone present.
Until, that is, we all got home and actually read your Order.

It turns out you are sending only $5 million in aid — and you are not sending it to Flint, you are sending it to the corrupt Governor Snyder who triggered the poisoning of Flint in the first place! Your Order says you’re invoking FEMA — and ONLY FEMA’s –help for just 90 days, and that all FEMA is to do is ship in bottles of water and filters. No EPA being sent to Flint. No CDC. No Army Corps of Engineers! Are you kidding me? Do you have any idea of the catastrophe that has taken place here?

Of course, Moore had some pretty serious demands, that are listed in the fine print at the end of his open letter:

We, the undersigned, call upon you to investigate and, if warranted, arrest and prosecute the Governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, for violating the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations in cutting off clean drinking water to the city of Flint and making the citizens, instead, drink polluted water from the Flint River; for fraud and political corruption; and for covering up the criminal actions of his administration.

Yes, that’s just what America needs: a President who can have sitting Governors arrested by fiat. And even if the president COULD arrest the governor, do you think that would be good for the country as a whole or would that be considered drastic federal and presidential overreach, the kind of action that could legitimately lead to impeachment? I don’t like what the governor did either, but removing Snyder is Michigan’s job, not Obama’s. Maybe that’s why the President didn’t respond to Moore instead of an 8-year old child: the child’s request was a hell of a lot less hysterical and a lot more reasonable.

It’s also worthwhile to point out that Moore is full of fucking shit. Obama gave Flint $80 million, not $5 million. That’s more than $30 million more than the Mayor of Flint estimated:

The president said Flint should still push forward with an effort spearheaded by Flint mayor Karen Weaver to remove lead service lines across the city. Weaver has estimated the city needs $55m to complete pipe replacement, and only about $2m has been appropriated for the effort so far – enough to remove roughly 500 lines in a city estimated to have about 15,000.

So when it comes to budgeting, I’m gonna go with the actual city administrator over the liberal gadfly filmmaker. Just me.

But hey, who cares who Moore slimes. What matters is he’s probably added a few thousand more names to his mailing list. So what if the cost is vilifying with his readers the only party that even gives half a shit about what happens to Flint, Michigan? Thanks pal.

So where am I going with all this? Well, two three places I guess.

First: It would be great, I agree, if we had a parliamentary party with all sorts of options. But we don’t, not nationally at least. We have Democrats and we have Republicans. Those are your choices. That is what the kids call #realtalk. The work to change that, which I support wholeheartedly, will take decades and will play out at the state level first.

But you don’t get there by tearing down the only party the kind of sort of has your back because the better organized nominee with the better name recognition and the more distinguished career in public service and more votes isn’t to your liking. You just don’t. I think it’s pretty fucking evident that, contrary to Ralph Nader’s fever dreams, things didn’t get better after they got worse. They just got worse and worse and stayed worse, by pretty much every metric from 9/11 through the security state through the failure in Iraq through the Great Recession, all of which haunt us nearly twenty fucking years later. You know when things got better? When the fucking Democrats got elected. Barring something extraordinary happening, Hilary Clinton is probably the nominee, and yet some dumbfucks on my side of the aisle seem to think that if we just bet one more time on Worse-to-Get-Better, THIS time that broken old mare is gonna win, place, AND show all at once. It’s not a good bet. Go home, you’re drunk.

Second: I’ve written about this before, most likely on Facebook. When I was a young English major, my Comp 101 professor had an enormous bug up his ass about critical reading. He’d have us study advertisements to look for suspicious claims. We’d read opinion columns, and later straight news articles, looking for bias. It was a skill I used throughout my all-too brief academic career, and a skill I’ve used throughout my adult life (anyone who’s read my phone call transcripts can see, for example, how I play games with context and semantics). As a news and media consumer, it’s probably the most important skill a reader can develop. If you are not a critical reader, LEARN THIS SKILL. Who is the writer, and what is his or her background? What are the claims? Are they presented in neutral terms and can they be fact-checked, or are they surrounded with words and phrases chosen to evoke an emotional response?

That’s why I am such an uncompromising and downright mean bastard about sites like usuncut, occupydemocrats, and addictinginfo, none of who I will link to here. Poke around their sites: you may find all sorts of questionable factishness about politics, but one thing you won’t find is a masthead. No sign of the editorial team, the publisher, or who’s behind the enterprise. It’s a blank. I challenge you to find any of the editorial or leadership team members at these enterprises. It is troubling to me that a site with 1.5 million Facebook likes (as of my last visit) is able to put out such questionable material that is then spread virally through the internet without even a modicum of accountability. The National Enquirer may be a pointless tabloid rag, but at least there’s a face behind it. And unlike the Enquirer, which everyone knows is trash, usuncut et al. represent themselves as actual news outlets, even when they are often completely wrong. I’ve never seen a retraction either.

The unfortunate result is that a lot of the younger voters I know -many of who have never voted or don’t have a long political memory- are being fed the kind of bizarre shit about Hillary Clinton that used to be the provenance of the dingdongs who listen to Dennis Prager for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but from a position of… I don’t even really have the words to describe it. Pseudo-millenial purist pseudo-outrage is close enough. And the unfortunate result of that -and this goes back to the fact that most people don’t get taught critical reading- is that these same voters get caught up in the same kind of epsitemic closure that movement conservatives have been stuck in for years. So an article by a shithead like Doug Schoen gets passed around like gospel truth, instead of as an example of something to be scorned. Michael Moore derides the president that helped his city, and everybody applauds.

Third: before you go slamming the Democrats, the candidates and the President for this, that, or the other betrayal (imagined or otherwise) it might be a good idea to learn how your government functions. You know why Michael Moore has 600,000 plus signatures of his petition? Because evidently 600,000 plus people don’t have any fucking clue how the the government runs, are completely ignorant of the system of checks and balances, and have no real knowledge of how the House works and how that’s different from the Senate. It’s the political equivalent of saying the Super Bowl is rigged because you don’t know what an offside or an audible is, and then calling your friend, who does know the game, condescending and mean when he tries to set you straight.

None of these pictures is good for our republic, in the short term or the long term.

Hillary Derangement Syndrome

I couldn’t get through this recent piece of shit at Common Dreams without throwing things at the wall. I couldn’t even finish it.

“Pro-Clinton Democrats join Big Pharma and state Republicans in fighting to defeat first-in-the-nation ballot measure for statewide single-payer plan”

Colorado was not first in the nation to propose a single-payer system. That was Vermont in 2011. And before that there as MAsscare and other experiments. Oh sure, play semantics SORRY YOU’RE WRONG.

“Most Americans support replacing Obamacare with a single-payer system, and Bernie Sanders has made his support for universal healthcare a central pillar of his presidential campaign. His rival Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, continues to support the least popular position of maintaining the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with only incremental and modest changes.”

Like many people, I support single payer. I have more skin in the game than most because I am on Medicaid now -essentially single-payer health care- due to my long-term unemployment. It is superior in every way to my previous Obamacare Silver plan. THAT SAID. I was an actual sort-of serious reporter during the healthcare debates and was deep in the weeds of the research. It is, frankly, unbelievable that anything passed at all and now that the ACA is here, it’s not going away anymore than the TSA or the NSA. The Sanders idea of starting over just isn’t realistic. What IS realistic, and which WAS popular about Obamacare, is the Public Option. The insurance companies opposed it tooth and nail, because it’s basically “Medicare for All”. Obama backed down. But Clinton is on the record as saying she wants to revisit the public option, which she has vocally supported since day one.
It is interesting that the writer keeps using phrasing like “Pro-Clinton Democrats join Big Pharma and state Republicans” and “Clinton’s position is echoed by establishment Democrats in Colorado, including Clinton supporter and former governor Bill Ritter” and “John Hickenlooper, the state’s current governor another prominent pro-Clinton Democrat”. Clinton, to the best of my knowledge, has never represented Colorado in any form: she was first lady in Arkansas, First Lady in the White House, Senator for New York, and Secretary of State. There is no reason at all to believe that the preferences of Colorado Reps Ritter and Hickenlooper have anything to do with Clinton’s preferences: in fact it’s absurd. By the writer’s logic, Clinton must also be in favor of legal marijuana, since both of these Clinton-supporters represent America’s marijuana playground.

The writer -IMO- has now proven him or herself full of shit three times, tying Hillary Clinton to issues she has nothing to do with, in an effort to make the candidate look bad. I had to stop reading.

Is there any reason, as a critical reader, to take anything this person writes at face value again?

David Brooks shouts at the wind

David Brooks watches Donald Trump’s inexorable march to the nomination One of the first things you learn as a writer -going back as far as basic high school composition- is to keep your audience in mind. Who are you writing for? What are you trying to impart to them? What does your audience need? What…

Lie Down With Dogs…

… wake up with fleas. And apparently, Joe Scarborough (a man who’s quite the dirty dog himself) is surprised to find himself covered in tiny bites, so he’s running to the pages of the Washington Post in hopes of a good flea dip:

Scarborough, who has been repeatedly criticized for his apparent on-air coziness with Trump, wanted to know how the billionaire real estate mogul couldn’t know who Duke was.

“The first question is why would Trump pretend to be so ignorant of American history that he refused to pass judgment on the Ku Klux Klan before receiving additional information?” he asked. “What kind of facts could possibly mitigate a century of sins committed by a violent hate group whose racist crimes terrorized Americans and placed a shameful blot on this nation’s history?”

This is laying it on a bit thick, especially coming from Scarborough, who was last seen throwing softball questions to his preferred candidate:

The embarrassing part starts when Brzezinski compliments Trump on his campaign stagecraft. She comments that it was a “wow” moment when Trump invited onstage two meatheads who tossed a protester from one of his South Carolina events…

“You know what I thought was kind of a wow moment, was the guy you brought up on stage,” Mika says.

“We played it several times this morning!” adds a breathless Scarborough.

An approving Trump here verbally extends his ring to be kissed. “I watched your show this morning,” he says. “You have me almost as a legendary figure, I like that…

Joe went on to apologize to Trump for having called the South Carolina debate wrong (he thought Trump lost). Next, Brzezinski thanked Trump for being on the show. Trump jokingly replied that he gets nothing out of their relationship, while she will get “great ratings and a raise.”

Trump goes on to say, “Just make us all look good.”

“Exactly,” says Scarborough.

In another moment, someone in studio suggests a question to ask Trump through Scarborough’s earpiece. “That’s a great question,” Scarborough says.

“What, the China?” Trump says. Trump had just been talking about China, so naturally he assumed that when Scarborough used the word “great,” he was referring to something he’d said.

“No, they’re telling me what to ask you,” Scarborough explains. He then pretends that the prospect of a tough question scares The Donald.

“Look at you. I see, he’s shaking,” Joe says.

“Yeah. Whatever,” Trump answers, with humorously obvious sincerity.

So now Scarborough wants to throw Trump down the Memory Hole, just like he threw that poor intern who died under a desk in his office. “NOTHING TO SEE HERE EVERYONE”, yells good ol’ Joe, picking frantically at the scabs covering his hide. “HE IS IGNORANT AND STUPID. PLEASE IGNORE THESE FLEAS, I SWEAR THE MEDICATION IS WORKING.

SIGH. As our host quipped on the Face book earlier today “On the bright side, I never really thought I’d have a chance to vote against the Ku Klux Klan in a presidential election. Kinda excited.”

When a Non-Apology Is Even Less So

As most of us already know, Christine Flowers isn’t a serious columnist. She is a professional troll. Chris Sawyer’s got the shots where she pretty much admits it openly.

mischievios delight
“Mischievous delight

rainbow poster inadvertent
“When a rainbow poster gets annoyed, an angel gets its wings.”


She’s not an opinion writer, and she’s certainly not provocative. She is the official troll of the Daily News, and a troll is as a troll does. She’s a commenter with a platform. Meanwhile, seventeen hardworking staff at the Daily News, and countless others at and the Inky, summarily get the axe. Real reporters like Regina Medina and Dana DiFilippo shoved out the door, while this barking mad troll remains. And she has the nerve to claim “To anyone that I offended, I apologize. And I mean it.” You don’t mean it. That’s clear as day. And may I just add that it wasn’t just the “Jewish community: that Hitler slaughtered. It was also the gay people that Flowers takes so much pride in trolling.

What an embarrassment. What a shame.