Posted tagged ‘New York Times’

09.04.17 I’m 98% anti antifa

September 4, 2017

I almost giggled the first few times I heard that right-wingers were using terms like “extremist left” and “alt-left.” Of course, it wasn’t just the people every progressive could identify as right wingers doing this. Rather it was the New York Times and The Washington Post showing how not in thrall to the left they were. In pursuit of mainstream credibility, they were shy about refusing a platform to the GOPs anti-science freaks and pushed a general narrative of (false) equivalence: if the right was increasingly extreme, then surely the left was equally so.

All the while, anyone who paid attention knew that the lest vestiges of a violent left disappeared from the US in early ’70s.

I have my own extremist conspiracy theories and violent fantasies. I believed in the aughts (and still suspect) that if the corporate elite suspected elections might actually reform the system, elections would be canceled and tanks would roll in the streets. Obama’s election certainly didn’t disprove this: after all, Obama proved himself to be the ultimate Wall Streeter at the same time that he was among the worst civil liberties presidents in history (particularly in his full backing for the NSA).

I do think that armed revolution is probably the only way our political and economic systems could be pried completely from the grips of the selfish wealthy and their amen corner in hard-right churches across the country. Further, I think the “low information” nature of the United States is at least partly due to purposeful conspiracy on the right: the use of consumer baubles, cultural icons, and religion to create a dumbed down education system with TV as the opiate (now add opioids to that mix).

Yeah, 2% of me wants that armed revolution and would like to see all the corporate elite begging for food, while (by-then-former) GOP officials swing from trees.

But here’s a fundamental reason why I don’t embrace violence and revolution: what comes next?

This is the same reason why I have turned against the philosophically justified “responsibility to protect,” the international doctrine under which great powers like the United States have a duty to intervene to stop moral atrocities around the world. A quick survey of US international interventions – even those with some portion of noble intent – reveals that almost every single one has left things worse than they were before we got there. It is horrific to stand back while Assad and Putin slaughter millions. But if the US were to send in the Marines, would the bloodletting cease or would who is doing the slaughtering simply change for a time, with no reduction in carnage? And if we took the place over, how long would before our main purpose there became enriching General Dynamics and Apple?

So, you say you want a revolution (the classic Beatles song is going through my head)? It would be nice to see the bad guys dead or deposed. But do you really think the poor, women, and people of color would end up better off? At a very basic level, what if all the violence shut down those nasty coporations, which – until now – have been getting food from farms to tables all over the country and kept the water running? (Look at Venezuela! Yes, some poor are better off then under the oligarchs, but now there’s starvation on every corner and the health care system has collapsed.)

Or to get even more basic: When systems of order collapse, the power of the powerful becomes absolute.  I’m not a woman, but if I were, I might rather be out and about where there are imperfect institutions of order – even ones that abuse equal rights every day – than if the local strongman got to determine by himself whether I became his sex slave or made it home.

I hate unfettered capitalism. I hate institutionalized racism. I hate the Trump Regime. But, to replace them, there has to be a plan to replace them. There needs to be very careful thinking about the proverbial “day after” and it damn well better be better than the day before. Will there be a way to measure who has benefitted from violent overthrow and how the overall balance works out (in order to calculate whether the greatest possible good has been achieved for the greatest number of people)?

It may not be satisfying, but change within our deeply flawed system is the only means to try to help those who need it most to get at least something. Destroying the entire system at once means blood in the streets. Are you positive whose blood it will be?

As I have written, I believe the only chance to stop our current slide into fascism and dysfunctionality will be by electing folks who believe in democracy and will replace those who don’t. And it won’t – in our two-party system – be the Greens who get elected. It will be Democrats. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they are our only path to progress, however unsatisfying the pace may be.

In this complex world, we don’t get to choose exactly what we want. The unjust system might be overthrown and replaced by something even less just. I might elect Democrats and they might disgust me. But if the result they produce is less bad than that produced by the GOP, it is good.

And now it appears the violent left has sprung back to life. The Antifa’s black-hooded, club-wielding, anti-free-speech goons aren’t going to launch or “win” a revolution. What they are already doing is grabbing headlines from the Nazis, the KKK, and the racist GOP. Since Charlottesville, the word “antifa” is suddenly everywhere (are there now more mentions of it than there are of Confederate statues?). So far, the newspapers of record that are reporting breathlessly on the phenomenon are reminding us in some of this coverage that the crimes of the right are far worse. Who thinks that Fox and the Wall Street Journal are being so careful? And how long until the Times and the Post re-embrace false equivalence in all its glory, by sowing fear of the left to match fear of the right?

The Antifa is discrediting Bernie progressives and moderate liberals at the same time. Two-thousand-eighteen is around the corner. The forces of reaction are already making the TV ads that will capture the hearts of low-information voters everywhere.  You can bet those ads will be full of Berkeley fires and DC property damage. If the left draws a single drop of blood these coming months, it will be smeared across the living rooms of the nation. You will see the face of some moderate Democratic senator morph into that of a communist hoodlum and that Democrat could lose because if it, keeping Congress in GOP hands.

Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi proved the value and moral rightness of nonviolence. In the current US political environment, though, violence on the left is not only morally condemnable, it is just plain STUPID.

Progressives and the “liberals” they dislike so much need to stand up together NOW to denounce the Antifa. Like me, you may at times silently cheer the injuries inflicted on those who so richly deserve it. But what we must do publicly is to develop Democratic candidates and bench strength (including some Dems we don’t much love) and win some goddam elections. It may be mildly nauseating to join hands with Nancy Pelosi to condemn the (left) mob, but it’s what we have to do.

I am scared, though, that the Antifa cannot be crushed and holds too much righteous anger to collapse on its own. If that is true, woe unto us, for now we face enemies on both sides.

©2017 Keith Berner

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03.01.17 An awful day

March 1, 2017

My stomach for reading the news has been getting queasier by the day over the past week. I already assumed — before Trump’s big speech last night — that I would have to avoid my daily diet of the New York Times and Washington Post today. I assumed that the daily horror would be some new policy announcement. No such luck.

Today was the day when NYT and WaPo, along with much of the rest of the media (I assume — I can’t bear to read it) decided to normalize the Trump regime. “How presidential!” they declared. “What a respectable tone,” they pointed out.

Yes, February seemed bad. But there was a certain amount of Schadenfreude during the month, as we witnessed the regime’s utter incompetence. There was hope — as day after day of temper tantrums and mismanagement played out — that the GOP might eventually tire of the antics and decide that enriching the 1% might work out better under President Pence.

But, with the cheerleading of our supposed newspapers of record today, we know that this regime is in it for the long haul, with full, enthusiastic GOP support from now ’til kingdom come.

Normalization of bigotry, incompetence, and corruption was the shoe left to drop. It has now fallen. I may never be able to read a newspaper again.

©2017 Keith Berner

10.31.16 Fire James Comey (on November 9)

October 31, 2016

See this outstanding article by Richard W. Panter in the New York TimesOn Clinton Emails, Did the F.B.I. Director Abuse His Power? Even if Comey did not commit an illegal act, his credibility is too compromised to continue serving as the nation’s top law-enforcement officer. While I would like Obama to act on this promptly, the damage that has been done to our electoral process cannot be reversed and firing Comey prior to November 9th would fan right-wing rage without a clear benefit.

©2016 Keith Berner

07.06.16 Apology to Bernie Sanders + Don’t trust NYT

July 6, 2016

On May 29, I wrote about the hypocrisy of the Sanders campaign’s having opposed the superdelegate system in principle, while turning to superdelegates as the the last hope for overturning the will of the voters. While I stand by the my post, as a whole, it included these unfortunate words: “his supporters. . .throw things.” This was an oblique reference to an incident that was widely reported as taking place at the Nevada state convention in May. I should never have made that reference and hereby apologize for it.

As it turns out, there was no chair throwing in Nevada. According to the myth-busting website, Snopes.com, the incident was completely made up by a Nevada journalist by the name of Jon Ralston and then further propagated by such liberal bastions as Rachel Maddow and the New York Times.

Your blogger was gullible enough to take Maddow’s and NYT’s reports at face value. Dear Reader, as an one-person opinion blogger, I cannot promise you that I will engage in the kind of fact checking that I would expect of professional journalists and the institutions they work for. I find it outrageous that Maddow and NYT (not to mention hundreds of other media outlets) didn’t do their due diligence on this. I have learned a new lesson about relying on them and will try harder to verify controversial items I see in the mainstream media.

Ultimately, I don’t think this particular piece of misreporting changed in any significant way the outcome of the race: Bernie Sanders pretty much had no hope of victory by then. But it certainly contributed to greater hostility between the Clinton and Sanders campaigns, which has not been good for anyone (except Trump and the GOP).

So, what of the Bernie claim that the media was horribly unfair to him from the moment he got in the race. I certainly saw clear evidence of this from the Washington Post, which is a consistent pro-corporate rag with no line between editorial and reporting. But I again failed to notice New York Times’ irresponsibility. This outstanding piece by Bill Moyers sheds good light:

Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone wrote a scathing takedown of The Times’ most egregious offense: a March article by Jennifer Steinhauer on how Sanders functioned as a legislator. Headlined “Bernie Sanders Scored Victories for Years Via Legislative Side Doors,” as originally published, the article recounted how effective Sanders was at attaching amendments to pieces of legislation, both Republican and Democratic, and forging coalitions to achieve his ends. The piece was bandwagon stuff.

But then something happened. The original article, already published, underwent a transformation in which Sanders suddenly wasn’t so effective a legislator. Even the headline was changed to “Via Legislative Side Doors, Bernie Sanders Won Modest Victories.” And this paragraph was added: “But in his presidential campaign Mr. Sanders is trying to scale up those kinds of proposals as a national agenda, and there is little to draw from his small-ball legislative approach to suggest that he could succeed.”

Responding to angry Sanders supporters, The Times’ own public editor, Margaret Sullivan, asked why the changes were made and wrote, “Matt Purdy, a deputy executive editor, said that when senior editors read the piece after it was published online, they thought it needed more perspective about whether Mr. Sanders would be able to carry out his campaign agenda if he was elected president.” Yeah, right.

Moyers also reports the numbers:

On CNN, Clinton got more than 70,000 of the Democratic-candidate mentions, while Sanders got just under 42,000. On MSNBC, Clinton got more than 93,000 mentions to Sanders’ roughly 51,000. On Fox News, she got more than 71,000 mentions to his more than 28,000. The numbers are similar on the Lexis-Nexis database of newspapers.

Moyers’s conclusion about why all this happened, though, contradicts one part of the conspiracy theory held by many Bernie supporters. According to Moyers, media bias against Sanders was not the result of a corporate, right-wing cabal to defeat the left, but rather resulted from a self-reinforcing echo chamber. That is, the media assumed from the start that Sanders couldn’t possibly win against Clinton. Therefore, they under-covered him and denigrated him to justify their firm conclusion that he was and would be a loser. Writes Moyers:

. . .this isn’t just what the MSM think of Bernie Sanders. It is what the media think of losers. They don’t like them very much, and they seem determined to make sure that you don’t like them either — unless they beat the press’s own odds and become winners.

Do I suspect anti-left bias in the media? To some extent. But in some ways it’s even more alarming to learn that the news sources we rely on are just so completely irresponsible that truth and balance simply don’t matter. If you can’t rely on the New York Times, whom can you rely on?

©2016 Keith Berner

02.21.16 BREAKING NEWS: WaPo is a right-wing rag

February 21, 2016

The fact that the Washington Post’s editorials are right wing does not, in itself, make the newspaper a rag. And, to be fair, this supposed bastion of the “liberal media” is not all right wing. On social policy, from capital punishment to gay rights to reproductive freedom, WaPo is reliably progressive. It’s all the other topics that get under a progressive’s skin:

  • On foreign policy, the paper is almost always hawkish neocon, ala W, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz
  • The paper is virulently anti-labor
  • Its coverage of the local region is wearyingly pro-corporate/pro development.

What makes the paper a rag is mostly the lack of a firewall between its editorial opinions and its news coverage. Two recent instances come to mind.

On January 20, the Post covered Maryland Republican Governor Larry Hogan’s budget under a headline including the words “tax relief.” Last time I checked, the objective term for lower taxes was “reductions” or “cuts.” The moniker “relief” comes directly from Grover Norquist: taxes are ipso facto bad and any reduction in them is about alleviating a burden on the suffering populace.

Another example is on the front page of today’s Metro section (no link provided, because I’m referring to the hard copy), where a headline declares: “Hogan learns to lead his way: Governor finds success while foiling foes’ attempts to vilify him.” On the continuing internal page, the headline reads “Hogan’s moderate agenda leaves Democrats little to attack.”

Neither of these statements is objectively true. First, one can hardly call Hogan’s record a success, when the Democratic legislature just overturned six of his vetoes. Reacting to the last veto override – restoring voting rights to ex-felons – the governor threw a temper-tantrum, unleashing a barrage of hard-right attacks and threats against Democratic lawmakers. Since that outburst, Hogan has taken to name-calling and assaults on legislators’ integrity that have embarrassed even the GOP.

Second, “moderate” is clearly in the eyes of the beholder. Many of us would not consider a refusal to allow citizens to vote moderate at all. (One can disagree with me on this, but the very point I’m making is that the Post is stating its opinion as objective fact.)

Further evidence of the WaPo’s “raggishness” comes from the decreasing quality of its reporting and writing. The newspaper has nearly given up covering the metro area at all. There is a single political reporter (Bill Turque) assigned to 1-million strong Montgomery County, for example, and his writing is usually superficial and vapid. (A county politician I discussed this with yesterday called Turque “lazy.” I think it’s the publication’s fault for allowing him to be.)

I have seen the lack of a firewall between opinions and reporting in the Post for years: consider the decades-long refusal to acknowledge now-County Councilman Marc Elrich’s very existence in print, because they didn’t like his stand on growth (slow it down!) and unions (support them!).

Many, see a recent decline in overall quality since Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post two-and-a-half years ago. The bottom line is that WaPo has gone from being irritating and unprincipled to being an outright embarrassment.

Sadly, there is only one quality daily newspaper left in this country of over 300 million: the New York Times. And even the NYT hardly matters, when most of the country gets its news from Fox, comedy shows, and internet conspiracy theorists. Seeking explanations for the Trump phenomenon? The decline of quality journalism is certainly one of them, with WaPo as Exhibit 1.

©2016 Keith Berner

04.19.14 “This thing is working” (or, why you need to write a check to the Democrats now)

April 19, 2014

President Obama was spot on when he said this week that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is working. Eight-million enrolled. Thirty-five percent of them under 35 years old. Millions with health insurance who wouldn’t have it, otherwise. Millions more who will be covered in coming years, people whom our convoluted health care system would have left to die impoverished. It’s hard to be more successful than that.

Writing in the New York Times, columnist Charles Blow noted today that the president’s words came across as more defensive than triumphant.  Indeed. And the president and Democrats are largely to blame. Obama’s lies (yes, that’s what they were) about no one’s having to change plans,  and nearly incomprehensible mismanagement of the site’s rollout, took the country’s mind off of the GOP government shutdown last October and directed it back to the screaming “death panel” liars on the right. No matter that the ACA is now working — the majority of the country still opposes it and the GOP have staked their entire campaign on portraying its (made up) horrors. (Note that the GOP, as usual, has neither proposed any alternative to the ACA nor positive plans to fix any other problem the country faces.)

As Blow points out, this vapid GOP tactic should fail. Why might it not? Because the spineless, inarticulate Democrats are refusing utterly to shout (or even gently mention) the truth: THIS THING IS WORKING. Even without Obama’s help, the Democratic Party has a long history of trying to seem Republican, because they are t0o scared or too bought off by corporate power to stand for a fucking thing. GODDAM IT, YOU LOSERS: STAND UP AND BE COUNTED!

Midterm elections following a president’s reelection always go badly for that president’s party. The deck is further stacked against the Democrats by a supreme court that is deeply hostile to democracy. If someone doesn’t stand up and fight, “badly” will end up being “disastrously,” making 2010 look pretty. GET THIS, YOU STUPID DEMS: YOU COULD LOSE THE SENATE!

I have written plenty about Obama’s flaws. This is hardly the first time I have characterized the Democrats as misguided losers. My disgust with the president and his party is overwhelming. (It is not by accident that I am not referring to the Dems as “us” in this post.) If you are a progressive civil libertarian and support economic justice, you no doubt agree with at least part of my critique. But, here’s the thing we can’t forget: we may be critics, but we are critics from the left. The Koch brothers are real. The Supreme Court’s persistent evisceration of democracy is real. There is unmitigated evil on the right and it must be stopped.

I gave up on the Democratic Party, per se,  years ago. But, this is the year to choke back moral queasiness and write a check to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. There isn’t a chance in hell the Dems will take back the House in 2014, so forget about it. But we must, must, must stop the Koch brothers and company from owning the Senate. Even though Democratic elected officials are failing to do their job — hell, because they are failing to do their job — we must stop the right-wing behemoth by any means necessary, including by writing checks to a bunch of losers whose only redeeming characteristic is being less evil than the other guys.

PS. For readers in Montgomery County, Maryland: Don’t forget that Hans Riemer is a liar. Do not reelect him to County Council. (Just as Gail Collins in the NYT reminded us in nearly every 2012 column that Mitt Romney once strapped his dog to the roof of the car on a trip to Canada, I will proudly remind voters in every post between now and the June primary about Mr. Riemer’s persistent problem of pretending that he has done things he hasn’t and is something he isn’t. We owe it to future generations to stop Riemer’s political career here and now.)

©2014 Keith Berner

 

12.02.12 Red state blues: a retraction

December 2, 2012

My post-election post suggesting that we kick out all the red states generated more disagreement than anything else I’ve posted. I was really just blowing off steam and expressing my feeling of utter alienation from what I might call “red state thinking.” Now I realize I was entirely wrong.

This insight stretches back at least a dozen years, to the first time I saw a map of national election results in the New York Times, broken down by district or county. I saw then that, even in blue states, the blue in them was heavily concentrated just along the coasts or in big cities. The only exception to this was in New England, where entire states were blue. I paid somewhat less attention to the counter-case: even in red states, there were blue pockets for cities, albeit less in the south than elsewhere.

Nonetheless, I was aware that the political split in this country is only partly regional, but is mostly urban vs. rural. I ignored this phenomenon when I called for dispensing with the red states once and for all.

Now comes a fascinating piece of analysis in the Atlantic, titled Red State, Blue City: How the Urban-Rural Divide is Splitting America. I didn’t realize that even Dallas and Houston — in (nearly fascist) Texas — have voted blue in two consecutive elections. So have cities like Birmingham, Tucson, Little Rock, and Charleston, S.C. In fact (quoting from the article), “the only major cities that voted Republican in the 2012 presidential election were Phoenix, Oklahoma City, Fort Worth, and Salt Lake City.”

I have seen some other recent analysis (that I cannot put my finger on right now) that living in close quarters makes people blue: there is a need for more common infrastructure and regulations to keep life civil and flowing in large population centers. The Atlantic article, while not getting at root causes, makes that point: “The voting data suggest that people don’t make cities liberal — cities make people liberal.” It’s not that lefties move to cities because of arts, restaurants, and creative jobs, but rather that city life makes people need government in a way that rural living doesn’t.

Of course, there are some regional differences: a given city in a given southern state is less likely to be blue (or likely to be less blue) than a similar city elsewhere. And, as I mentioned previously, New England is the only part of the country where even rural areas are blue. But still, it is abundantly clear that population density trumps regionalism when it comes to voting.

So, can anybody think of a  way to get rural America to secede?

©2012 Keith Berner