chutzpah

Something Going On (Asymetrically Intriguing)

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton laughs before speaking to supporters at the Human Rights Campaign Breakfast in Washington, October 3, 2015. (Photo: Reuters/Joshua Roberts)

This is the thing: While it is easy enough to get lost in the spectacular noise and bluster, the breathtaking incoherence and disbelief, something does seem to have happened. Jonathan Chait dove in last month, noting, “The most important substantive problem facing political journalists of this era is asymmetrical polarization”. And to a certain degree, Chait is vital, here, because of something else he wrote, all of several days before:

I had not taken seriously the possibility that Donald Trump could win the presidency until I saw Matt Lauer host an hour-long interview with the two major-party candidates. Lauer’s performance was not merely a failure, it was horrifying and shocking. The shock, for me, was the realization that most Americans inhabit a very different news environment than professional journalists. I not only consume a lot of news, since it’s my job, I also tend to focus on elite print-news sources. Most voters, and all the more so undecided voters, subsist on a news diet supplied by the likes of Matt Lauer. And the reality transmitted to them from Lauer matches the reality of the polls, which is a world in which Clinton and Trump are equivalently flawed.

Nor need one be any manner of confessed media elitist; outside the circles where people perpetually complain about the media, news consumers are more than a little puzzled―indeed, some or maybe even many are alarmed―about what they are witnessing.

Part of the problem, of course, is asymmetrical polarization; Chait considered the question―

Political journalism evolved during an era of loose parties, both of which hugged the center, and now faces an era in which one of those parties has veered sharply away from the center. Today’s Republican Party now resides within its own empirical alternative universe, almost entirely sealed off from any source of data, expertise, or information that might throw its ideological prior values into question. Donald Trump’s candidacy is the ne plus ultra of this trend, an outlier horrifying even to a great many conservatives who have been largely comfortable with their party’s direction until now. How can the news media appropriately cover Trump and his clearly flawed opponent without creating an indecipherable din of equivalent-sounding criticism, where one candidate’s evasive use of a private email server looms larger than the other’s promise to commit war crimes?

Liz Spayd, the New York Times’ new public editor, dismisses the problem out of hand in a column that is a logical train wreck. Spayd specifically addresses a column by Paul Krugman that lambastes two news investigations into the Clinton Foundation, one of which appeared in the Times. Both reports dug deep and found nothing improper, but instead of either walking away from the dry holes or writing an exculpatory story, dressed them up with innuendo. These stories supply a prime example of the larger critique often grouped under the heading of “false equivalence”―journalists treating dissimilar situations as similar, in an attempt to balance out their conclusions. Spayd dismisses false equivalence as liberal whining, without in any way engaging with its analysis.

―in the wake of a New York Times dispute between public editor Liz Spayd and columnist Paul Krugman.

(more…)

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The Netanyahu Way

Detail of cartoon by Dave Granlund, 25 February 2015, via Cagle Post.There is a lot going on, but in terms of our House of Representatives meddling in the Israeli election, there comes a point when one no longer wonders at the character of this Prime Minister. Mr. Netanyahu is beset by scandal, increasingly viewed as a bully with nothing left but to whine about how everybody should feel sorry for him, and apparently in need of foreign intervention in order to secure a new term. In other words, Benjamin Netanyahu is a disgraceful coward and, as such, perfect company for the likes of our House Republicans.

• Should we be surprised that Netanyahu’s speech before Congress is such a bad idea that he kept his own National Security Advisor in the dark? (Tikkun Daily)

• Nor should we be surprised that Netanyahu and his supporters disdain rule of law in favor of cheap politicking. (Haaretz)

• Here’s a proposition: Netanyahu undertakes cynical politics, but won’t do anything to dispel that appearance because it would be too political. (msnbc)

• Remember that no matter how much Netanyahu wants to insist that criticizing Israel crimes against humanity in Palestine is some form of anti-Semitism, Israel does not equal Judaism, and Judaism does not equal Israel. (Tikkun Daily)

And one other thing. It sometimes occurs to wonder why so many non-Jewish Americans are so interested in maintaining a Judeosupremacist state and protecting war crimes. This, perhaps, is the sickest of ironies; that support comes from our evangelical Christian sector, where many believe in something akin to premillennial dispensationalism. They need Jewish people to control Israel and Jerusalem, so that when Jesus comes home, He can kill them.

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Image note: Detail of cartoon by Dave Granlund, 25 February 2015, via Cagle Post.

A Different Disgrace Out of Mississippi

The Great Seal of the State of Mississippi

“It’s as if you gave me a car, I took off the wheels and refused to put gas in the tank, and then blamed you when the car doesn’t go anywhere. In this case, Bryant is blocking the law’s full implementation and whining that the law isn’t working effectively. Under the circumstances, shouldn’t the governor be bragging? He is, after all, getting the results he set out to achieve.”

Steve Benen

There is not, really, anything to add, except perhaps to remind for those inclined toward disbelief that this is, after all, Missouri, where they have a nasty tendency toward self-destructive blatancy such as skipping the pretense about patient health and crowing that they are trying to violate the constitution, or explaining the need for the return of coat-hanger abortions.

It’s an interesting trick, isn’t it? Bryant has done as much as he can to sabotage the ACA in Mississippi, and by standing in the way of Medicaid expansion, among other things, the governor has largely succeeded in hurting his state on purpose. As “Obamacare” sharply reduces the uninsured rate elsewhere, Mississippi is being left behind, by its governor’s design.

And so he’s blaming the White House.

In other words, no matter how stupid Gov. Phil Bryant might sound in trying to blame his successes on the president in order to denounce Obama for their damaging effects, it is, after all, Mississippi. When conservatives remind you of “Middle America” and “family values”, these are the “values” they are invoking.

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Benen, Steve. “Chutzpah Watch, Mississippi edition”. msnbc. 29 July 2014.

—————. “Mississippi lawmaker: Coat hanger abortions might come back. ‘But hey …'”. msnbc. 6 September 2013.