Author Archives: Nunzia Rider

reporters

Uncommon sense

I must apologize to my inside-the-Beltway colleagues. Yes, I have maligned you unfairly. For years now I’ve been bemoaning your inability (unwillingness) to be actual journalists and actually commit journalism instead of the cheap and tawdry brand of stenography you so clearly prefer. But I see now the error in my ways.

It’s not just you. It’s our whole damned profession.

My first inkling of this new revelation came during the Newtown shooting coverage, when so much false and/or speculative information was presented as the gospel truth that it could have filled its own Wiki. And now, after the Dorner manhunt in California, my eyes are open, at long last.

My colleagues, you’re a bunch of lazy-assed wannabes wanting to be first so bad that you’ve lost sight of what journalism actually is.

And don’t blame this on social media. It’s true that Twitter and Facebook can get something around the world and on the smart phones of millions before you can bat an eye. But this drive to be first, to forget the dictum “Get it fast, but get it right,” really must be laid right at the feet of the 24-hour cable news networks, who can’t bear to spend even as much as five minutes saying “We just don’t know right now,” especially if one of the other networks is grabbing some scurrilously sourced information and running with it as if their lives depended on it.

What’s missing? Critical thinking. Or, in many cases, any thinking whatsoever. I found my jaw on the floor last night watching my colleagues running each other over to report, from anonymous sources of course, that Christopher Dorner’s body had been pulled from the charred embers of the cabin where he’d taken refuge from police. This, while the damn cabin is still fully engulfed in flames. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon to be skeptical of that source’s information, but apparently, it is over the heads of journalists.

cabin-fire

THE CABIN IS STILL BURNING. I CAN SEE IT ON LIVE TV. I CAN HEAR ON THE POLICE SCANNER OFFICERS SAYING THEY’RE NOT GOING IN UNTIL THE FIRE’S OUT AND THE FIRE DEPARTMENT SAYS IT’S SAFE. But never mind, a source who wants anonymity and is in some office somewhere says they got Dorner’s body out and that’s enough to go to air.

My favorite part, of course, is that this anonymous source was universally described as being from the Los Angeles Police Department, which was not on the scene. And that is until the Riverside Police chief, also not on the scene, said the same thing, which is even dumber than trying to be anonymous and talk about things you don’t know anything about.

But never mind, those reports went on the air. And then when actual public information officer from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office on the scene said things like, “The cabin is burning. It’s too hot to go in so we haven’t gone in, and I have no idea who is telling you otherwise,” what do the so-called journalists do? Why, they say “conflicting reports!” Just wouldn’t do to admit they were being complete idiots by rushing to air, or Twitter, or the website or anywhere else with unconfirmed information that they seriously should have questioned based on simple common sense.

The cabin is burning. It’s very hot. Nobody’s going in there until the Fire Department says it’s safe, and you really don’t need a police spokeswoman to tell you that. Nor do you need a police spokeswoman to tell you that even when they get in, should they find a body, it will be a while before they can positively identify it, because, you know, fire.

I actually heard from one reporter that she’d overheard officers talking about getting dental records to do the identification at the cabin. Really? Seriously? They’re going to, what? Compare the X-rays with a charred body? It didn’t cross her mind that, oh, I don’t know — maybe she misheard?

So no, once again, just like in Newtown, this barrage of false information isn’t the fault of social media. Sure, it spreads like wildfire on social media, but these reports were first broadcast on television. Every.Single.One.Of.Them. Look at the Twitter streams. They all say “CBS is reporting,” “CNN is reporting” or whatever.

Part of the problem is depending on anonymous sources, which, once upon a time, was reserved only for the most extreme cases, like, for example, “I’d rather you didn’t use my name because if you do, I’ll probably be killed.” “Because I’m not authorized to talk about it” is a shit reason, and it really means “because I don’t know dick but you think I’m important.”

So here’s a few tips to become better journalists.

STOP USING ANONYMOUS SOURCES. If your source doesn’t want to be attached to the information, leave it out. It’s questionable, seriously questionable. And half the time it’s pure speculation, what they hope is true.

That was the case with Dorner. The cops all hoped they had him. They even felt fairly certain they did. But they didn’t know for sure. Not a single one of them. Anybody saying they did know for sure was an ass.

That means, DON’T CONFUSE WISHFUL THINKING FOR TRUTH. You know the LAPD confused enough people with Dorner before this. They even shot up a couple of pickup trucks they thought might be driven by Dorner, even though neither of the drivers looked anything like him. Make them prove it. And besides, the LAPD was waiting at an airport for San Bernardino County to call them in. SBC never did.

And finally, THINK. Take notes, make sure the story makes sense. Make sure you have the complete story. For a while yesterday, journalists thought Dorner had hostages in the cabin. He had hostages in another cabin, where yesterday’s fun started. This didn’t take too much to figure out, but for hours reporters were conflating the two. Same thing with the report that Gov. Jerry Brown was going to attend the funeral of an officer allegedly killed by Dornan. They reported that it was the SBC deputy whose funeral Brown would attend when in fact it was a Riverside deputy whose funeral was today.

I just cringe anymore when any big story like this kicks off because I know what’s gonna happen. My chosen profession will fall several more notches down the list of “trusted people.” And why not? By and large, we just ain’t very trustworthy anymore. Because we’ve got to be first.

Some of us belong to an organization called the Society of Professional Journalists. The SPJ has a code of ethics, and the main headings are these: Seek truth and report it. Minimize harm. Act independently. Be accountable. 

Far too many of us don’t even approach those standards, and frankly, nobody’s holding our feet to the fire. But then, we shouldn’t need anybody to do that, because that’s what journalism really is.

Common sense. It’s really not that hard.

arabspring

Carvin out a niche

Maybe you’ve heard of Andy Carvin, maybe you’ve not. I’m going to tell you about him. Actually, I’m going to tell you what I think about him and the “job” he does, which is absolutely antithetical to what I think should happen, which is that he should be confined to the proverbial dustbin of history and promptly forgotten.

But I have some pretty words, some strong words, that I’m just dying to see in the stark black of computer print on white, so you’ll have to bear with me. Or just pass this little diatribe on by.

But whatever you do, don’t try to say I’m just jealous of the name Andy Carvin has had made for himself. I’m not the least bit jealous of him. Arwa Damon, maybe. Or Harry Fear even. But Andy Carvin? Hardly.

Why do I have so much vitriol for a man I’ve never met? It’s easy really. It’s because he’s a pretender, a fake. He’s Walter Mitty with a boring job at National Public Radio that has nothing to do with journalism. But he retreated to a life on Twitter and became a fake superhero.

arabspringHe even wrote a book, Distant Witness, and that’s as good a reason as any for my dislike. The title, not the writing of the book. He called it that because he believes he witnessed the Arab spring from his desk in Washington. He didn’t, any more than I did from my desk in Atlanta.

What he did was stay up till all hours retweeting all the tweets he could find out of the various Arab spring protests, adding his own indignation and outrage at what he “witnessed.” Of course, not all that much of what he retweeted was true, but Carvin thinks it best to throw it out there and let the “crowd” settle it.

Doesn’t work that way. Whenever somebody starts retweeting everything, then the real journalists have to work that much harder to find out what’s real and what’s not. As some of my relatives would say, “If you throw enough shit at the barn door, some of it’s gonna stick.” But most of it’s gonna leave a big pile of shit on the ground, and either way, somebody’s gonna have to clean the whole mess up.

That somebody will never be Andy Carvin, because that would get in the way of his being a hero to the poor downtrodden activists fighting for freedom in Arab countries and elsewhere. Honestly, I cannot understand why NPR, normally a bastion of decent journalism, allows it.

It’s why so many people have such a hard time trusting what’s found on the Interwebs. How could you blame em? If somebody who’s supposed to be the be-all-and-end-all of the Arab spring is tossing everything out there — even if he’s adding a cute little “is this true?” on the end — it’s just gonna confuse the matter. Especially when he adds his own unsupported speculation. Then he’s no better than any other “citizen journalist” out there with a viewpoint.

Ah, but what do I know. I haven’t even been a journalist for a quarter century (next year I will reach that milestone). And my current job is to separate the wheat from the chaff that pretenders like Andy Carvin throw out there. My colleagues and I painstakingly go through all those tweets, all those videos, all those Facebook posts to figure out what’s real and what isn’t, what is the truth and what might be even a well-intentioned lie.

Carvin finally got to go to Egypt, to Cairo. He went down to Tahrir, but when the tear gas came out, he retreated to the safety of his hotel room to check his Twitter stream, where, he said, he understood what was going on much better.

Maybe.

I’ve never been to Cairo, to Benghazi, to Aleppo, to Gaza. I’m pretty sure, though, if I ever were, I wouldn’t be there to meet my Twitter friends. I’d be there to report, because that’s what I do. And if that meant walking into a cloud of tear gas, then give me a wet rag and get out of my way.

Looking at videos from Syria is painful, but it’s necessary. It’s our job to verify them, to know that they were shot where the uploader says they were shot and that they show what the uploader says they show. That means seeing bodies, destroyed homes, lost children, everything, in detail, gory detail. We don’t watch them once and pass them on. We watch them trying to glean everything we can out of them so that we can say with authority if it’s real. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it is hard on every level imaginable.

I’m not a witness to the horrors in Syria, though. I’m a curator, a documentarian. A fact-checker. I’m not superhero, or even a not-so-superhero. I’m just doing a journalist doing a job with a slew of pretty nifty technological tools that help me do that job with more confidence than before. I don’t have to be there, but there’s a lot I miss by being here.

But it’s a good job and I’m proud of it, proud of my colleagues, one of whom once used Google maps to plot where in a particular Syrian city a video of an explosion might have been shot based on the speed of sound and line of site. It was a thing to behold. That’s verification.

It’s easy to fake things on the internet. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube — they can all be gamed. It takes hard, precise work to make sense of it all, to get at the real story. Any less is a disservice to readers, viewers, other journalists and especially the story.

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Dead horse at the OK Corral

ok_corral_picture1000

I do hate to beat a dead horse — or a live one, for that matter — but there was a shooting today at Lone Star College, a community college near Houston.

That’s in Texas, in case you didn’t catch the “Lone Star” bit.

This wasn’t your typical “crazy guy with an AR-15 walks onto campus and starts shooting” kind of shooting. This was two idiots getting into some kind of idiotic argument and at least one of them deciding shooting was the best way to resolve it. One bystander, a school maintenance man, was wounded, as well as one of the arguers. Another person apparently had a heart attack.

Nevertheless, Rep. Ted, Poe, RWNJ-Texas, immediately hit the airwaves to explain how “defenseless” the poor students at LSC were and how students should be allowed to carry concealed weapons so they can defend themselves.

But apparently, that’s exactly what happened.

Reports now indicate that at least one of the two idiots arguing was a student, and at least one was illegally carrying an concealed weapon. By Rep. Poe’s reasoning, if other students had been carrying concealed weapons … well, I don’t know. If more students had been carrying concealed weapons and started shooting, I’d guess more people would have been hit, maybe even killed. But that’s just a guess, y’know. Has no basis whatsoever in reality and is probably just a bunch of fallacious reasoning to boot. Because it’s certainly not logical to think that if two idiots arguing equals three wounded people, then, say, four people shooting at each other might equal six wounded people. And how many wounded people before you get one dead? Two dead?

Of course, maybe ole Ted is right. Say there was only one guy with a gun, and the guy he started shooting at was a student. But the student didn’t have a gun, so he got shot, along with the maintenance man, who also didn’t have a gun, while the shooter ran off into the woods, where he was later found by police.

If only that student and the maintenance guy had had guns! Then it woulda been the OK Corral all over again … well, maybe not. Some of those guys were law enforcement, hired to back the businessmen of Tombstone, Arizona, against the Evil Rancher Cowboys and … oh, never mind. That’s more than 100 years ago. The only reason I brought it up at all is that those nine guys who’d been feuding with each other for a very long time back in 1881 fired about 30 shots in about 30 seconds, and in the end three were dead, and three were wounded. Of course, they were all shooting at each other, and in a narrow lot between a couple of buildings (not the OK Corral at all), which probably prevented any bystanders from being hit.

These guys at Lone Star College were out in an open courtyard.

My point, and I do have one, is just this: Think it through, people. We don’t live in Deadwood. We don’t live in the Tombstone of the 19th Century. There’s a reason they called it the Wild West. And the Earps and Clantons didn’t have AR-15s.

Once upon a time, in a whole ‘nother life, I owned a gun and frankly wasn’t a bad shot. But I’ve grown up some since then, and my owning a gun just isn’t something I want for myself or for anyone who comes in contact with me.

But in case you’ve not heard me say it before, I don’t favor banning guns. I favor humanity willingly putting down the damn things because we finally understand that killing people is a bad thing to do, whatever the reason. And no, I’m not some whacked out idealist who actually expects this to happen anytime soon — but it will, eventually, provided we don’t blow up the planet first.

There are no good reasons, however, to block some kind of regulation. If you want to own a gun, you do not need to own an AR-15 or armor-piercing bullets unless you plan to kill people wearing armor, and if you plan to do that, I’d suggest psychiatric help. Oh, and NRA, children in elementary schools aren’t usually wearing Kevlar, although I suppose that is something you think would be a good idea.

And one more thing. Some folks like to blame violent video games for the crazy people who go out shooting other poeple, but I think they’ve got it backwards. It’s the whackos who think that arming everybody on the planet will end gun violence are the ones inspired by video games. Think about that one for while, until I find another dead horse, possibly in the OK Corral.

It’s a joke, right?

kidswithguns

Sadly, no, but British news had to remind its viewers of that tonight as they played clips from Wayne LaPierre’s news conference, if by news conference, you mean “insane ramble about turning our schools into armed fortresses because the world is a scary place filled with bad guys just waiting to kill all our children.” Or something like that.

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And why would they need to do that? Read it here, if you like. Or, if you’ve the stomach for it, watch it:

By the way, the National Rifle Association has more web sites than the US government. OK, that’s an exaggeration. But their web site is really confusing, and finding any one particular piece of information is next to impossible without Google. Just sayin.

And if you’ve tried to read and/or watch some of LaPierre’s nonsense by now, you can go ahead and stop. Just read this instead.

I suppose the irony of all this is that the news conference was held today, of all days — December 21, the supposed end of the world. Obviously that didn’t happen, since I’m sitting here typing, and I never expected that it would.

But maybe, just maybe, this blatant display of pure mind-boggling insanity will help push us toward an end of the world as we know it — an end to the fear-based, insular ideology that so much of the fearful right insists that we all live under.

Oh, I know, plenty of people will buy such clever lines as “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” hook, line and sinker. Or maybe the correct analogy in this case is “lock, stock and barrel.”

LaPierre blames the media and the “political class” for all these shootings, and I’d actually agree with him, at least partly, if he didn’t say it’s because journalists and politcians are “so consumed by fear and hatred of the NRA and America’s gun owners.” And right after that he notes that “a lone, unarmed school principal” died to protect the children of Sandy Hook School from “evil monsters.”

See, that’s another thing. Adam Lanza wasn’t an evil monster. Adam Lanza was a sick kid, living in a gun-obsessed house in a gun-obsessed community. It’s not his mom’s fault either, although she really shoulda been thinking about having all those guns in a house with a son like that. But she was a single mom who probably really didn’t know how to deal with the situation — because as a culture, we stigmatize mental illness to the point that we’re all at least a little bit mentally ill.

But to Wayne LaPierre, the mentally ill are evil monsters, and it’s horrible that we don’t have a national database of mentally ill people because, you know, all mentally ill people are potential killers.

Think about that for a minute. And then think about Wayne LaPierre’s little speech. I have to give it to his speech writer. It was calculated to reach the most unevolved and fearful of us, to strike terror into our hearts, much in the same way George W. Bush et al did after 9/11, and, of course, using a lot of the same kind of lies, exaggerations, debunked theories, misquoted statistics and outright fabrications Bush et al used back then too.

“Incomprehensible loss.” “Unspeakable crime.” “For the safety fo our nations children.” “Insane killer.” “Utterly defenseless.” “Monsters and predators.” “Genuine monsters — people so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons that no sane person can possibly ever comprehend them. They walk among us every day.” “Add another hurricane, terrorist attack or some other natural or man-made disaster, and you’ve got a recipe for a national nightmare of violence and victimization.” “Copycats.” “Killers, robbers, rapists and drug gang members who have spread like cancer in every community.” “Vicious, violent video games.” “Blood-soaked slasher films.” “Ever-more-toxic mix of reckless behavior and criminal cruelty.” “Moral failings.” “Demonize lawful gun owners.” “If we cherish our kids more than our money or celebrities.”

And then, he said, because you’re terrified and can’t be bothered to actually think and discuss whether or not anything he actually said is true or even makes any sense whatsoever:

There’ll be time for talk and debate later. This is the time, this is the day for decisive action.

We can’t wait for the next unspeakable crime to happen before we act. We can’t lose precious time debating legislation that won’t work. We mustn’t allow politics or personal prejudice to divide us. We must act now.

People, being this scared just isn’t necessary. We don’t live in Deadwood. But if you think we do, by all means, arm yourselves to the teeth. But please, stay out of our schools, our malls, our churches, synagogues, mosques and temples, our doctors’ offices, our post offices and anywhere else sentient beings go.

Because you’re not one, and you haven’t been for a very long time.

Guns don’t kill people

bushmaster

More than 60 people have been killed this year by “deranged” gunmen in America — nearly half of them today — and there’s still a couple weeks left to raise that number. I’m talking the kind of shootings where someone walks into, say, a school, and starts shooting. Not counting the deranged assholes who decide to shoot their whole family up because, I don’t know, maybe they lost their jobs and are about to lose their houses. Or the ones who get the bright idea to rob a store, then freak out and start shooting when it doesn’t go the way they think it ought to. Or the ones who just thought it was a good idea to shoot somebody to death.

If I were counting those, the number would be well over 10,000. The number of firearm related homicides comes to about 3 for every 100,000 in population, which ranks the United States behind such peaceful countries as El Salvador, Jamaica, Swaziland, Colombia and Mexico but well ahead of such uncivilized countries as Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Belarus, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, Poland, Japan, Qatar and Chile.

Of course, what makes today’s senseless bullshit more painful is that 20 of the victims were children. Actual children, in elementary school. None older than 10. But ultimately, that won’t mean a thing. Because it was just some crazy guy, y’know. A crazy evil guy.

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And besides, and former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee reminded us, if you take away all the guns, somebody will just use a bomb.

If only those teachers had been carrying. Then it wouldn’t have happened. Just like in Aurora, Colorado, where if only theatre-goers had been armed, they could have shot down the black-clad, semi-automatic weapon carrying, kelvar dressed whack-job who opened fire on them in the dark. I can see teachers whipping out their guns in a classroom, can’t you?

Unfortunately, owning guns didn’t help Nancy Lanza. She owned three. The three her son Adam used to kill her and then go to Sandy Hook Elementary, where he killed those kids and a few more adults.

There oughta be a law.

I’m not stupid enough to say we should outright ban all guns, although I do agree with the sentiment. I’d rather we as a species would realize the futility of living in an armed culture and just.plain.stop. But that’s not gonna happen. Sadly. We’re just too enamored of our guns, and too scared to live without them, not realizing we’re scared because it’s too damn easy to get a gun.

It’s also too easy to decide that killing people is the answer to our problems, and too easy to pretend we don’t have any problems that might lead us to make that decision. Or that our neighbors don’t. Or our friends. Or our children.

We’ve got quite a volatile mix here. Mental illness is a stigma (or evil), getting decent medical care for it is next to impossible and guns are for sale at Wal-mart, while our politicians pretend that the National Rifle Association isn’t a bunch of crackpots with thick ties to gun manufacturers and regressive racists who fear we’re headed toward a New World Order. Hell, the NRA opposes legislation to require gun owners to report it if their weapons are lost or stolen.

Meanwhile, our children are targets in their schools, teenagers going to the movies are targets in their theater seats and mothers who own semi-automatic weapons are the first ones to go down.

I’m sure we’ll see a rash of metal detectors and armed guards in schools now, because that’s such a better answer than actually looking at the very real problems we have in this country. We’re awfully good at the bandaid method of problem solving, which is to say we never actually solve the problem because we never actually address it. That would require much deeper thinking, much more painful soul-searching than we’re willing to do.

Like, for example, why the United States, with less than 5 percent of the world’s people, owns nearly 50 percent of its guns. And to what “well-regulated militia” Nancy Lanza belonged that she had those guns her son so easily confiscated for his own use.

Now there’s a culture war at which we really should be taking a closer look.

Loser

Here’s why Republican pollster Glen Bolger says Mitt Romney lost the elections:

Mitt Romney put together a coalition that just eight years ago would have won the presidential election (hence the data comparisons to George W. Bush). However, instead of whites being 77% of the electorate, they were 72% of the electorate. Instead of Republicans and Democrats being equal, Democrats far outnumbered Republicans, and washed out Romney’s advantage among Independents. Bush kept it close with younger voters (under age 40), while Obama won them decisively….Underscoring that there are considerably more Democrats than Republicans, Romney was the first national candidate in exit polling history to decisively win Independents and lose the election (John Kerry won Independents, but by just one point).

Thus, to have a chance, Republicans have to appeal to Hispanics. It’s simple math, but it’s hard to do. We have to start today.

The Fix’s Chris Cillizza says he’s right. But they’re both wrong.

They’re both stuck in what I like to call “Dualistic Thinking.” Either/or. It’s doomed as an advanced society since Adam and Eve. Either Adam, or Eve.

It’s just not about demographics, which is the only thing pollsters understand, or think they understand. It’s the only thing politicians understand. Saying the right thing to get the right group of people to touch the box by your name on the electronic voting machines.

I have a better idea. How about we get our dualistic, either Republicans or Democrats to think about saying the right thing to get a human being to vote for them.

I know, I know. Wishful thinking. But focusing on demographics is so short term. What’s changing right along with the make-up of the electorate is how that electorate thinks. And THAT, my friends, is something Republicans have absolutely no clue about (and Democrats have only a slightly better clue about).

I will give you that both sides do it. But there’s a difference. Just to give you an example, here’s a little sampling of a political disagreement between a conservative and a liberal, from the comments section of an article on Politico.

E Be Rose · Top Commenter
Isn’t it interesting, how easily everyone over on Fox lies? As if people will not call them out on it, especially a real journalist like Ricks? Not an “on-air personality.” Right now, Baier, Celmente, Klinghoffer, Ailes & Murdock are all working on a response. It will be brilliant, for sure. It will somehow blame Ricks for making Fox lie in the first place. It’s never their fault.

Brett Richard · Top Commenter
ROFL! Like it’s NEVER obama’s fault!! His little, pointy blame finger must be getting worn down to a NUB by now!!!

E Be Rose · Top Commenter
People like you amuse me

Brett Richard · Top Commenter
Glad to be of service!
People like you disgust me…

Just so you know, the conversation was about a journo who was on Fox who said that Fox was an arm of the Republican Party and the Fox exec who said that said journo apologized for saying it, except the journo said he didn’t.

My point is found in the last two comments. “People like you amuse me” and “People like you disgust me.” If you see no difference in those two comments, you might be a Republican. I’m just sayin.

Or you might be like the dumbest of dumb Republicans, Erick Erickson — who runs RedState and sometimes spouts his idiocy on CNN — who wrote an entire column about how Republicans just needed to convince 6 percent or so of the population to vote for them in order to win. Of course, he used the wrong figures, beginning with the population of the United States.

Excuses, excuses. These guys all thought Mitt Romney was gonna win in a landslide. He didn’t. It wasn’t even close, and he even ended up with 47 percent of the vote. How’s that for a sign?

What these guys really need to understand is that they’re being left behind by the steady march of progress. Get on the clue bus, boys, or think long and hard about Neanderthals.

 

Gimme

Dontcha just love it when all the Republicans pile on Mitt Romney over his “gifts” gaffe?

Wait, y’know, I’m sick of this “gaffe” thing. That wasn’t a gaffe, any more than the 47-percent-of-us-are-moochers thing was a gaffe. A gaffe is when you say something utterly stupid that just didn’t come out right. What Mitt Romney said came out just the way he wanted to — and just the way a whole damn bunch of conservatives wanted it to.

So when Bobby Jindal says Mitt’s comments were “absolutely wrong” or when Newt Gingrich says they were “insulting and profoundly wrong” or any number of other GOP notables spouting similar sentiments, they are lying. Just plain lying.

If they weren’t lying, they’d be saying the same thing about Rush Limbaugh (“People are not going to vote against Santa Claus, especially if the alternative is being your own Santa Claus”), Bill O’Reilly (Romney was “right on the money”), Eric Bolling (“people voted to continue to get free stuff”) and the rest of the conservative media elite. But they’re not. Listen. Crickets. That’s all there is. Just crickets. But it’s good to pile on the guy who just got his ass whupped by the black guy.

What’s “wrong” isn’t what Mitt said, but that he said it at all. This batch of Republicans has spent billions selling the ignorant masses on the complete and utter bullshit that they and only they will make sure they get to the top of the heap, leapfrogging over all those heathens who just want a handout.

But those rich assholes running things know full well that the ignorant masses they convince to buy their putrid snake oil are really the ones who get the most handouts. Oh, they’ll say they don’t, but that’s because they don’t count things like student loans or small business loans or mortgage tax credits or, god forbid, Medicare. Handouts only go to the lazy, good-for-nothing poor who won’t do anything to help themselves.

Seriously, people believe this crap. Interestingly, of course, it’s those “red states” that eat up the most federal money. The five or six states with secession petitions got 23 percent of all federal money last year. Amazing, eh?

I won’t even point out … oh, yes I will. The folks who believe the bull are by and large the ignorant white masses, and folks who are the targets of the bull are everybody else. It’s not just about race, of course. It’s also about religion and creed and national origin and sexual orientation and education and whether you listen exclusively to Fox News and the radio repugnants or actually get your information from a variety of sources.

Just so you know, here’s what Mitt told donors after the election:

What the president’s campaign did was focus on certain members of his base coalition, give them extraordinary financial gifts from the government, and then work very aggressively to turn them out to vote, and that strategy worked.

Um, I kinda thought that was the strategy for most elections … promise folks shit and then get them out to vote. But this thing about “extraordinary financial gifts from the government” …

Yeah, the only moochers I know are the rich folk who don’t want to pay their share of taxes and go to extraordinary lengths to avoid it, who lie through their teeth telling us how they are the job creators when the truth is they sock all that cash into off shore bank accounts and cut employees’ salaries when they think they might have to treat them like actual human beings. Those guys are the moochers. As Andy Serwer put it:

Political parties reward their constituencies, and Romney would have pursued goodies for GOP backers had he been elected. Financial institutions would have been very happy with a Romney administration that repealed Dodd-Frank, military contractors would have been delighted with Romney’s plan to raise military spending to astronomical levels, and Romney’s wealthy donors would have been delighted with his tax cuts for high earners. These are all “extraordinary financial gifts,” and unlike student loans or health care coverage, they do nothing to help ensure that being born into a family of modest financial means doesn’t prevent a person from succeeding. Help with student loan debt doesn’t mean you didn’t have to work hard to get good grades. A better example of an unearned “gift” is being born the son of a wealthy, famous politician so that you’ll never have to worry about student loan debt.

Yeah, these folks get rich off everybody else’s backs, and we’re too damn scared to point out that they are the cultural and political descendants of the robber barons and the plantation owners from the 19th and 20th Centuries.

And by we I mean my colleagues in the “mainstream media,” really just the Washington press since media long ago forgot that anything outside the beltway actually exists.

If that weren’t true, we’d all know what these Republicans know: that they prey on gullible people who want desperately to believe that some day they, too, can be rich and powerful, and that for the vast — and I do mean vast — majority, it’ll never happen.

But here’s the real kicker. We don’t have to be rich and powerful to be happy, or even comfortable. There’s more to life than amassing material wealth, and life is much more satisfying when we work to bring us all closer together rather than push us further apart with unrealistic fantasies.

Too many of us have forgotten that the American Dream was never about bank accounts.Wrong

 

The Delusional Party

A Facebook friend of mine — a young man I once thought was bright and thoughtful for a Republican — turned out to be a drama queen on Wednesday, when he posted this:

With a heavy heart, I announce that I will be shutting down my family’s 32 year old small business. We have suffered plenty under an Obama economy and it’s not fair to my young family for me to expect them to endure another 4 years of struggling to keep our heads above water. I close up shop with zero debt and a new job waiting, so I have plenty to be thankful for, but I am sad. I love what I do. What I did. God help us all.

I wanted to reply, I really did. Plenty did, most telling him they knew God has a plan for him. But I just couldn’t. I wanted to say

I’m really sad that you’ve drunk the bullshit Koolaid the conservative media’s been laying on you all these years. It breaks my heart to see you blame Obama for the economic downturn that has screwed with your business instead of Republican policies, starting with the Reagan administration, that finally came into their own during the GWB administration. I remember, you see, your talking about the drop in business you were suffering six years ago, a bit before Barack Obama came into office. I’m sorry you don’t.

I didn’t say it though. I just didn’t want to get into it with another delusional conservative. And so many of them are very, very delusional. Karl Rove, for example, had a meltdown on Fox News when their decision desk called Ohio for Obama. He later said Obama won  because he suppressed the vote. Mitt Romney waited way too long to concede, and he actually already had his transition website live when the voting started on Tuesday. It was taken down late Tuesday night, but I guess he just liked seeing himself called “President-elect” online.

[blackbirdpie url="https://twitter.com/politicalwire/status/266656693885227008"]

A sucker punch? Yeah, I guess when you’re completely deluded, it would come across that way.

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Haley Barbour announced before the election that Hurricane Sandy cost Mitt the election, but if you ask me, conservatives need to re-think that one. If God uses hurricanes to express his wishes, then She was endorsing Obama with this one. Others have been a little less celestial about it, blaming New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie because he dared to compliment Obama’s handling of Sandy. And then there’s Donald Trump.

[blackbirdpie url="https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/266672542935306243"]

I remember way back in 2008, when Obama/Biden beat John McCain and that paragon of political perfection Sarah Palin, the Republicans weren’t quite so shocked. They did, however, immediately jump into a very short round of soul-searching, trying to figure out what they did wrong and how to fix it. When no answers came, they stopped trying.

They’re doing that again. The tea party is again saying that Romney wasn’t conservative enough. The Donald Trumps and Steve Forbeses are saying Romney didn’t push his business acumen and the free market enough. The punditocracy says the Republicans need to emulate the Democratic election “machine.”

Liberals were certain the Republican Party would split in 2008. It didn’t. Quite a few are certain that’s gonna happen now. It might. It will, sooner or later. Because here’s the thing: The one constant in this world is change. Conservatives, by their very definition, are all about the status quo, not changing, and, if possible, reversing any change that has happened.

It’s a fear-based ideology. The future is scary. Change is scary. The unknown is scary. A black president is scary. It’s also an unrealistic ideology. And if one insists on holding fast it it, it’s a delusional one.

Change happens. I like thinking of myself as progressive because it’s about, well, progressing. Anything else is regression. Change isn’t always good, but it’s only not good when it’s resisted and altered in a vain attempted to keep it from happened.

More women than ever will serve in the Senate this next term. One of them is a lesbian. And for the first time, voters supported same-sex marriage — not in one state but in four. Hell, Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana, although that promises to run afoul of federal drug laws.

So, in the social realm, Republicans need to ditch the conservatives. If they want to have any chance of enacting any of their fiscal policies (not all of which are terrible, by the way), they must jettison the crazies. Quit pandering to them. Let them go. If they want to form their own party, let them. They’re pretty damn delusional themselves, thinking that the rest of the world revolves around their narrow world view.

And yeah, that probably means the Republican Party will be a little smaller for a while. But it can grow once it drops the dead weight that is holding it back from the 21st Century.

Democrats, you should probably stop counting on your crazies too. You remember them — the ones who voted for Ralph Nader and gave us George W. Bush for eight years. They’ve been hatin’ on Obama almost as long as the racists have. He isn’t liberal enough, y’know, as if a president can just waltz into office and completely change the mindset of Washington by waving his Jedi hands in front of the faces of all the politicians. Doesn’t work that way. I’d love it if it did, but reality is quite different from idealism.

Sergey Brin, one of the co-founders of Google, had a great idea. On election day, he posted on Google + a call for all election winners to abandon their parties and govern as independents. Damn, that’d be swell. That’s idealism. Not gonna happen. That’s reality. I think I’ll just hate all the politicians for not doing that. That’s crazy.

House Speaker John Boehner is promising to cooperate with Obama. He says immigration reform is “long overdue” and Obamacare is “the law of the land.” It won’t be long, though, before we’re right back to business as usual politically. And if John Boehner keeps yacking like that, his tea party colleagues will pick somebody else as speaker. Maybe Michele Bachmann, since Allen West lost his re-election bid.

I just don’t have much faith that the Republicans will do any kind of useful soul-searching. Too many of them are just too far afield from reality. Republitarians are threatening revolt in a variety of manners, from secession to shunning Democrats to armed insurrection. Brit Hume is still spouting that “America is a center right country.” No, it’s not. America is progressing, slowing and steadily. It’s progressing toward adulthood, a country where the people don’t take all their toys and run home when things don’t go their way. A country where people who believe different things don’t believe the others are anti-American, traitors or worse.

One day, we may progress into something that I’ll find too hard to grasp and then I’ll dig my heels in and try to prevent change. But this is a progressive country. Just like life.

And the earth is more or less round.

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It’s delusional to deny it.

 

We’re sorry, you’ve been disconnected

At least that’s how it feels to me. Everywhere I turn, I’m hearing my colleagues talk about the momentum of Mitt Romney, up until today, that is, when Haley Barbour said that Hurricane Sandy put a stop to it.

My colleagues can’t get enough of it. The polls are getting closer. Romney’s on a roll. The race is a toss-up. Obama’s losing ground.

There’s just one problem.

I don’t see it. Not anywhere.

There’s this one crazy poll that has Romney up six points in Florida, and maybe that one’s right — but it’s the only one.

It’s like the whole “Obama hasn’t created any jobs” thing. Well, presidents don’t actually create jobs, any more than governors do. But the facts get in the way of what they mean when they say that. Somewhere around 750,000 jobs have been added to the rolls so far under Obama, compared to a loss of more than a million in the same time under George W. Bush, whose policies, by the way, Romney wants to bring back, only worse.

I can’t tell you how many conservatives I’ve seen utterly convinced Mitt Romney is gonna win this thing in a landslide, presumably because all the polls are conducted by liberals and biased toward Obama. That the polls may be biased toward Obama could be true, but not because they’re conducted by liberals. It’s all in the samples. It’s just as possible the polls are all biased toward Romney, and it’s Obama who’s gonna win in a landslide.

Frankly, that he isn’t likely to win in a landslide says nothing good about our electorate and probably is as strong an indictment of the criminal neglect given to our education system as is possible, not to mention the perfectly lousy job my colleagues do covering elections of any kind.

And that brings me to Nate Silver. Unless you’re a political junkie, you may not have heard of him. But Nate is a numbers junkie who has concocted a mathematical way of prognosticating the presidential election using all the polls and a few other things. He is a liberal, but that’s the thing about numbers — they’re not particularly political. And unless it really is true that all the polls are hopelessly biased against Romney, Obama is highly likely to win re-election.

Romney has a chance to win. About a 15 percent chance — but that is a chance. It could happen.

Right now, Nate Silver forecasts Obama will win 307 electoral college votes (270 are needed to win), and that number has gone up 11 votes in the past week. Romneymentum? Where?

The popular vote, overall, is still looking pretty close, but it’s not the national popular vote that counts, now is it? No, it’s not. It’s the vote in the states, and which states. And that, my friends, doesn’t look like a toss-up. Here’s what Nate said yesterday, when Obama was leading in 19 of 20 swing state polls and Romney still had a 16 percent chance of winning the electoral college:

My argument, rather, is this: we’ve about reached the point where if Mr. Romney wins, it can only be because the polls have been biased against him. Almost all of the chance that Mr. Romney has in the FiveThirtyEight forecast, about 16 percent to win the Electoral College, reflects this possibility.

Yes, of course: most of the arguments that the polls are necessarily biased against Mr. Romney reflect little more than wishful thinking.

Nevertheless, these arguments are potentially more intellectually coherent than the ones that propose that the leader in the race is “too close to call.” It isn’t. If the state polls are right, then Mr. Obama will win the Electoral College. If you can’t acknowledge that after a day when Mr. Obama leads 19 out of 20 swing-state polls, then you should abandon the pretense that your goal is to inform rather than entertain the public.

But the state polls may not be right. They could be biased. Based on the historical reliability of polls, we put the chance that they will be biased enough to elect Mr. Romney at 16 percent.

That’s 16 percent (now less than 15 percent) likely that the polls being biased toward Obama is little more than “wishful thinking.”

But go ahead and listen to my colleagues, all of whom are pundits at election time. It’s just too close to call.