The New York Times Receives a Little Feedback

I’ve still got a digital subscription to The New York Times but am limiting myself to the International section, the Arts section and Paul Krugman’s column. Our president is in England, so the International section wasn’t safe today. 

The Times headline says: 

Trump, on His Best Behavior, Heaps Praise on May as ‘Tough’ and ‘Capable’

I was moved to submit the following comment (with inflation, it might be worth two cents to somebody):

“Trump on his best behavior” suggests the White House Press Office is writing headlines for The Times. One British paper, The Guardian, describes Trump’s presence as “the visit from hell” and refers to “Trump’s oily and obnoxious personality” and “towering lies”.

Regarding today’s press conference with Prime Minister Theresa May, a British journalist writes:

Then he went into overdrive. Sure, Boris Johnson would make a great prime minister. Why not? He was a great guy who had said some nice things about him. May looked as if she might throw up at that point. It was a while since a prime minister had been publicly insulted in her own back garden. Even when Trump went out of his way to praise her – “She’s doing a great job. The greatest job” – he somehow managed to sound patronising and condescending.

No, he wouldn’t take a question from CNN because they were more fake reporting. But, hell, he knew about nukes because his uncle had been a professor of nukes. He was now full-on delusional, repeating lies about events and meetings that had never happened. A masterclass in uncontrolled narcissism made orange flesh.

Perhaps the reference to the president’s “best behavior” was a moment of sarcasm? I doubt it, because the American establishment continues to treat this monster with undeserved respect.

“The Slime Factor Was Overwhelming”

T—p slithered into the offices of The New York Times this week for an on-the-record chat with the paper’s publisher and a few editors, reporters and columnists. Times columnist Charles Blow didn’t attend. He explains why:

I will say proudly and happily that I was not present at this meeting. The very idea of sitting across the table from a demagogue who preyed on racial, ethnic and religious hostilities and treating him with decorum and social grace fills me with disgust, to the point of overflowing. Let me tell you here where I stand on your “I hope we can all get along” plea: Never.

Mr. Blow concludes:

No, Mr. Trump, we will not all just get along. For as long as a threat to the state is the head of state, all citizens of good faith and national fidelity — and certainly this columnist — have an absolute obligation to meet you and your agenda with resistance at every turn.

I know this in my bones, and for that I am thankful.

Amen to that and thank you, Charles Blow.

His column, which deserves reading in its entirety, is here.

From the Ridiculous to the Sublime: Maureen Dowd and Brian Wilson

NY Times columnist Maureen Dowd may have written her most embarrassing column yet. And she’s written more than her share of embarrassing columns.

The thing is: Dowd likes Donald Trump. They’ve had personal conversations. So it makes a bit of sense that she wants to give him the benefit of the doubt. Still, her latest column, “Trump in the Dumps”, is quite surprising. 

Trump jumped into the race with an eruption of bigotry, ranting about Mexican rapists and a Muslim ban. But privately, he assured people [apparently including Dowd] that these were merely opening bids in the negotiation; that he was really the same pragmatic New Yorker he had always been; that he would be a flexible, wheeling-and-dealing president, not a crazy nihilist like Ted Cruz or a mean racist like George Wallace. He yearned to be compared to Ronald Reagan, a former TV star who overcame a reputation for bellicosity and racial dog whistles to become the most beloved Republican president of modern times.

After cataloging what she sees as the pros and cons of his candidacy, she ends with a bang:

Now Trump’s own behavior is casting serious doubt on whether he’s qualified to be president.

Now? As in this week?

Could it be that Dowd likes Trump so much and dislikes the Clintons so much that she’s seriously considering Trump’s strengths and weaknesses? And she’s still on the fence a year after Trump began campaigning?

But then it occurred to me that maybe her conclusion was ironic, a bit of understated humor. I usually don’t read Dowd’s column these days, given the silly stuff she writes, but she can be funny in a nasty sort of way. Perhaps she was merely having fun at Trump’s expense? I’d like to give her the benefit of the doubt, but I really don’t know.

In other news, Pet Sounds turned 50 last month and Brian Wilson turned 74 today. In case you don’t know, he’s the tall one with the Beatles haircut on the album cover. So, in his honor, here’s “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” a few times.

First, the instrumental backing track:

Next, just the voices (right after the opening notes):

Finally, the finished product:

I said it was from the ridiculous to the sublime.

Collected Commentary on the Hot Topic

The New York Times is America’s leading newspaper. I read it every day. Sometimes I read the comments. Sometimes I write one of my own. Has doing this had any effect on the course of human events? Well, every journey begins with a single step, right? Even if you never reach your destination.

In roughly chronological order:

Re: Hillary Clinton’s Dishonesty

Let’s see. A possibly misleading statement about financial transactions almost 40 years ago. Being involved in firing White House employees who were not protected by civil service rules and served “at the pleasure of the President” 20 years ago. Exercised bad judgment in some cases. Changed her positions in some cases. Perhaps criticized a political opponent unfairly.

You may dislike her intensely, but you haven’t made your case that she is especially dishonest, certainly not especially dishonest compared to many other successful politicians. We will see whether she seriously tries to deliver on her campaign promises when she is President. That’s the kind of honesty that will matter most.

The expert you cite is an independent blogger who has self-published two books and specializes in conspiracy theories. A look at his blog suggests he thinks every election we have is rigged. According to his “About Me” page, he’s focused on President Kennedy’s assassination since 2012 and produced a spreadsheet that shows “absolute mathematical proof” of a conspiracy. According to comments he’s left on other sites, he also denies that we know the truth about 9/11.

What his “analysis” has to do with whether Hillary Clinton is more or less honest than other successful politicians escapes me. The most important test of a politician’s honesty is whether they try to deliver on the promises they make. By that standard, I predict President Hillary Clinton will turn out to be more honest than many of her predecessors.

Re: A Conversation with Trump

This is the first Maureen Dowd column I’ve read in years. It shouldn’t have been a surprise that what she’s done here is what so many interviewers do with Trump: ask him a question and then let him have the last word. over and over again. It would be more productive and informative if she and other interviewers pinned him down instead of moving on to the next question.

If that’s too challenging, how about giving Hillary Clinton equal time? Trump says a bunch of crazy stuff. Report that. Hillary meets with some voters. Report that. Trump insults someone. Report that. Hillary makes a boring speech. Report that.

Giving the two presumptive nominees equal time wouldn’t be as entertaining, but it would help give the electorate a more balanced view of the campaign. This is serious business. It’s time for the news media to get serious too.

Re: Two Performers Refused to Appear on a Talk Show When They Learned Trump Would Be on the Same Program

If only more people refused to have anything to do with Trump. Shame on anyone who supports him, treats him with respect or does anything to imply that he is just another candidate for President, rather than, as one rich Republican donor said, “an ignorant, amoral, dishonest and manipulative, misogynistic, philandering, hyper-litigious, isolationist, protectionist blowhard”, i.e. a danger to our country and the world.

Re: Pro-Nazi Tweets from Trump Supporters

One of the important issues Mr. Weisman raises is how news organizations should be dealing with Trump. The First Amendment gives Trump the right to say all kinds of nonsense (either hateful or simply stupid), but it seems wrong for people in “the news business to find and write up both sides of [this] story, with respect and equal time to all opinions”.

I’m not a journalist or a journalism professor but it seems to me that we’re in a situation now that presents a “clear and present danger” to our country and the world. Trump has a right to speak, and since he’s the nominee, we need to know what he says and does, but it seems wrong for anyone, especially reporters, to treat him and some of his supporters with respect, reporting what they say without comment, as if Trump is simply another candidate for President.

Re: The State Department Inspector General’s Report on Hillary Clinton’s Email

Are editorials like this meant to show that the NY Times is treating all the candidates equally? America is hanging on a precipice, facing the real possibility that an incredibly dangerous person will become President, and we get another demand that Clinton utter some magic words about her email that will satisfy the press. How about you ladies and gentlemen come up with a confession for her to sign: “I screwed up. I wanted to insure my emails were private. It was a serious mistake. I should have been more forthcoming about the details. I apologize. It certainly will never happen again.” Then we could get back to doing whatever we can within the bounds of legality to stop Trump from becoming our President. If the people who speak for the NY Times don’t think they have a responsibility to help stop Trump, they are tragically mistaken.

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This Editorial Would Have Made a Good Blog Post

Editorials in the New York Times tend to be rather restrained, befitting the dignified nature of the place (the Times still refers to Vladimir Putin as Mr. Putin and Nancy Pelosi as Ms. Pelosi, for example). But in an editorial called “Center Ring at the Republican Circus”, they’ve finally had enough, adopting a level of scorn and sarcasm befitting angry bloggers everywhere. Good for them!

Quote:

The hottest competition in Washington this week is among House Republicans vying for a seat on the Benghazi kangaroo court, also known as the Select House Committee to Inflate a Tragedy Into a Scandal. Half the House has asked to “serve” on the committee, which is understandable since it’s the perfect opportunity to avoid any real work while waving frantically to right-wing voters stomping their feet in the grandstand.

They won’t pass a serious jobs bill, or raise the minimum wage, or reform immigration, but House Republicans think they can earn their pay for the rest of the year by exposing nonexistent malfeasance on the part of the Obama administration. On Thursday, they voted to create a committee to spend such sums as may be necessary to conduct an investigation of the 2012 attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The day before, they voted to hold in contempt Lois Lerner, the former Internal Revenue Service official whom they would love to blame for the administration’s crackdown on conservative groups, if only they could prove there was a crackdown, which they can’t, because there wasn’t.

Both actions stem from the same impulse: a need to rouse the most fervent anti-Obama wing of the party and keep it angry enough to deliver its donations and votes to Republicans in the November elections. For a while it seemed as if the Affordable Care Act would perform that role, but Republicans ran into a problem when the country began to realize that it was not destroying American civilization but in fact helping millions of people.

The entire editorial is here.

Do You Know What a Photocopying Machine Is?

In the spirit of the History Channel, which interprets “history” as “anything that happened, might have happened, could possibly happen or is complete baloney”, the New York Times has begun a new feature called “Verbatim”:

This marks the debut of a new series, presented by Op-Docs, that transforms verbatim (word for word) legal transcripts into dramatic, and often comedic, performances. Here you will find re-creations of actual events from the halls of law and government. You, our readers, can help us find material for future episodes. Have you come across court trials, depositions or government hearings that you think are surprising, bizarre or baffling — and lend themselves to performance? We especially seek original, publicly available transcripts, along with details about the source.

In this week’s episode, actors perform a scene from a lawsuit that went to the Ohio Supreme Court a few years ago. A lawyer tries to get someone from the Cuyahoga County Recorder’s Office to answer the question: “Do you know what a photocopying machine is?”.

Watching the video, which is 7 minutes long and actually pretty entertaining, you’ll probably form some opinions. Maybe that justifies including this brief play in the “Opinion” section of the Times. I’m not a journalism purist, but it’s definitely a sign of the times when the New York Times starts sharing videos like this.

Moving ahead, it may not be long before the Times and other newspaper sites present dramatizations of more recent, more newsworthy events, whether or not a “verbatim” transcript exists. It will all be a modern version of the old You Are There program, in which CBS News correspondents pretended to interview historical figures like Thomas Jefferson (“Just a quick question, Mr. Jefferson! When will you be finished with the Declaration?”).

Even better, the “Opinion” section will be the perfect place to present videos in which actors portray “what probably happened” yesterday in the Oval Office or at an Exxon board meeting. A left-wing columnist can present a video that shows the Koch brothers conniving with Republican politicians to destroy democracy (which actually happens all the time). A right-wing columnist can offer President Hillary Clinton plotting to implement sharia law (probably during her second term).

The future is coming and it’s going to be (fill in your own adjective)!