LET US NOW PRAISE FAMOUS JOURNALISTS

Posted March 29, 2017 on 11:26 pm | In the category Politics, Press, TRUMP, Uncategorized | by Jeff

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We are living at a time that might very well be when the American press discovers the way to overcome the nonsense and craziness that floods the internet and forces America to recognize that good journalism costs real money and requires real independence. The 2016 election illustrated what has happened with the turn away from paid news to free internet news – much of the latter turning out to have come to us via Russian and East European internet hacks aimed at the too susceptible Americans seeking easy negative answers and drinking the Kool Aid.

In 1973 I lived outside of Washington DC and worked in the city. It was a tedious bus ride made easier by the Washington Post and its daily dose of Watergate news. There is something about getting up in the morning to the news of the next step in the demise of a cheap, petty politician whose psychology placed him on the path to political demise that makes it easer to roll out of bed at 6 AM.

It was easy to despise Nixon for his shameless duplicity on Vietnam which had led to an additional 25000 American deaths along with literally countless deaths of Cambodians and Vietnamese in the name of my country. To see him go down was the pleasing result of the courage and commitment to truth of the mainstream American press. The fact that they let Henry Kissinger get away remains an unpleasant footnote but we took what we could get.

Now we have a similarly damaged president – psychologically unfit, intellectually deficient, and thoroughly dishonest – and the mainstream press is on the case. It is early to count on a particular ending but the signs are there. A Republican Congressman heading the Intelligence Committee and being slowly sucked into the morass of dishonesty that distinguishes a cover up of massive proportions. But there is a hope that we will see Trump get what he deserves – perhaps an early retirement, maybe even an impeachment, but minimally a recognition of what a waste he is as President. We shall see…

What many Americans have discovered is that there are serious journalists who work hard – with integrity – to bring to them the facts that add up to truth over time. So let’s recognize the work of the Washington Post, the New York Times, CBS News, even lately CNN, and those others who are out there giving us the raw data that wise people can use to understand what is being done to them under the guise of a phony American populism. These media outlets have each been criticized in tweets (tweets? Good God). Big American media does not typically pose a threat to power – but they did it in 1973 against a dishonest and mentally ill president and they are doing it again.

Trump has been critical of that part of the press that is doing its job and he has done everything he can to cow them. It is not working – he is being called on every falsehood, lie, fantasy that he calls up and it is the main stream, serious media that is doing it. As a newspaper junkie it is fun to watch it unfold and to put my money on the press to win this one as they did in 1973. It was essential for the truth to be told in 1973; it is as essential now when there are fantasists, crazy conspiracists and just plain liars out there trying to persuade us that facts don’t matter, that science is irrelevant, that kleptocracy is the way to go, that oligarchy is a good thing, that fascism is acceptable. Yes, a free press is our vaccination and our protection from the worst instincts of ourselves. Buy a newspaper.

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TRUMP IN CONTEXT

Posted March 10, 2017 on 5:24 pm | In the category Europe, Germany, Politics, Press, TRUMP, Turkey, Uncategorized | by Jeff

“Liberalism itself has failed, and for a pretty good reason. It has been too often compromised by the people who represented it.”
― Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72

So, is Donald Trump just the tip of the iceberg? Elections coming up in Europe might help tell us whether the age of Western liberal democracy is heading towards the exit.

While we rightly pay a lot of attention to the national disaster known as Trump it may be that he is only the first among many. The first clue that the West was heading into stormy weather was the UK’s Brexit vote – a vote that forced the Prime Minister out of office, replaced him with a pale imitation of Margaret Thatcher and has proven to be a first crack in the European Union. Then came Trump’s surprise win which has produced the beginnings of a major make-over of America’s economic and social reality, and not for the best.

But obsessing on Trump allows us to ignore a trend that has been developing for some time. Recent or upcoming elections in France, Hungary, Turkey, the Netherlands, and Poland have all indicated that Western liberalism is in decline. Poland now has a nationalist government with a shaky relationship to the EU; NATO member Turkey has effectively eliminated a free press while it heads toward a major policy conflict with the U.S. over Turkey’s unwillingness to accept American collaboration with Kurdish fighters in Syria; France is looking at a national election in which the National Front’s right-wing candidate Marine Le Pen is almost surely going to be one of the two finalists for President with a serious opportunity to win; The Netherlands’ parliamentary election this month is very possibly going to hand a victory to Geert Wilders’ extreme right-wing Freedom Party; and Hungary has already elected a Prime Minister who has turned the country against much of what have been Western values. Add to these, the strong arm tactics of Netanyahu in Israel, the rise of Russian influence in Serbia, and the rising risk to Merkel’s reign in Germany and we have the approach of a new world order.

There has been considerable press discussion of the role of Russia in all of this but the press might better put its efforts into exploring the failures of the West to develop and maintain working economies that provide jobs and benefits to restless, discouraged populations. There are exceptions – notably Germany and Canada – but by and large the West has produced an environment in which the gap between the rich and everyone else is growing, the opportunities for high quality lives have diminished for most people and economic growth is almost non-existent.

While Trump’s electoral victory no doubt hinged on many issues, in the states where it was decided, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Michigan and Wisconsin – the economy rose to the top. Whether Trump has the solution is highly questionable but a moot point. Probably he does not, but the Clinton campaign managed to largely ignore the issue and the people who felt it the most. This issue may also be playing out in France, the Netherlands, the UK and the rest of Western Europe. “It’s the economy, stupid” was the mantra that Bill Clinton ran on successfully in the 90’s; it may still reflect the dominant issue that affects the most people throughout the world and that determines the winners and losers of elections. So investment in defense grows while investment in production declines and the quality of the lives of the people our defenses protect remain in the background. Go figure.

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