Civil discourse and truth are needed – letter sent to the editor

I sent this letter into the editor of my newspaper yesterday. I hope they publish it. Please feel free to adapt and use.

It continues to trouble me that too many Americans are following the lead of extremists and committing violence when they don’t agree with something. It also troubles me that we are letting sources of disinformation and propaganda like QAnon, InfoWars, select politicians, et al inflame our opinions. Please ignore these folks as they are doing our nation a disservice.

As an independent who leans progressive on some issues and conservative on others, I can assure you neither party has all the good ideas and both have some bad ones. We must have civil discourse and bipartisan agreement to move important solutions forward. And, we need to use facts and speak truthfully or the solutions will miss the mark.

Politicians owe us the truth. If they cannot shoot straight with us, they need to resign or not run for office even if they happened to have served before. Full stop.

Failing to shoot straight with network viewers

In an article in Business Insider by John Dorman called “Ex-Fox News editor Chris Stirewalt says network viewers would’ve been more prepared for a Trump loss in 2020 if they’d been given ‘a more accurate’ view of the race: book,” the title of the piece tells the reader what happens when pseudo news networks do not shoot straight with its viewers. The same can happen on the more progressive sources, which is ample reason why we should focus on getting our news from more reputable sources.

Here is the gist of the article, with a link available below. Let’s start with summation at the beginning:

  • “Chris Stirewalt in his forthcoming book wrote of coverage lapses he noticed during his time at Fox News.
  • In the book, “Broken News,” Stirewalt was critical of how the 2020 election was covered by the network.
  • Stirewalt was part of Fox’s decision desk, which in 2020 called Arizona for Biden before other major news outlets.

Former Fox News political editor Chris Stirewalt in his forthcoming book said viewers would have been more prepared for former President Donald Trump’s loss in the 2020 presidential election had they been given a ‘more accurate’ assessment of the race through the network’s coverage.

In the book, ‘Broken News: Why the Media Rage Machine Divides America and How to Fight Back,’ Stirewalt — who was fired from Fox in January 2021 — said that over his 11 years at the network, he increasingly saw coverage that didn’t fully capture what viewers needed to hear.

Stirewalt said that such coverage became commonplace during Trump’s White House tenure, and pointed to the ‘rage’ that he encountered after the Fox News decision desk called the pivotal state of Arizona for now-President Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.

‘Amid the geyser of anger in the wake of the Arizona call, Senator Kevin Cramer, Republican of North Dakota, called for my firing and accused me of a cover-up,’ Stirewalt wrote.

He continued: ‘Covering up what, exactly? We didn’t have any ballots to count and we didn’t have any electoral votes to award. Had viewers been given a more accurate understanding of the race over time, Trump’s loss would have been seen as a likely outcome. Instead of understanding his narrow win in 2016 as the shocking upset that it was, viewers were told to assume that polls don’t apply (unless they were good for Trump) and that forecasters like me were going to be wrong again.'”

One of the misconceptions that is played upon by news networks is polls are not accurate citing what happened in 2016. Of course, polls are only a prediction, so we must start from that premise. Yet, what too many fail to do is look only at the median likelihood and not the range of what could happen. Using the 2016 election as an example, Hillary Clinton led Donald Trump in the polls ten days before with a full standard deviation of outcomes showing she was likely to win.

After the infamous James Comey announcement about possible emails on Clinton’s aide computer at home which was also used by the aide’s husband who resigned his seat for sexual misconduct, the polls’ lead shrank so that the median expectation was still in Clinton’s favor, but a Trump win was now easily within one standard deviation meaning it could happen. All it took was to get a solid number of Clinton voters to stay home or vote for Jill Stein of the Green Party.

I was not surprised by the Trump win in 2016 nor was I surprised by his loss in 2020. I was disappointed in the former and quite relieved in the latter. I was also not surprised by Trump making a stink about the election results as he had been preparing to do so for at least six months hiring so many attorneys and belittling the mail-in process, while hobbling the mail governance. I wrote a post about this in September 2020 and Senator Bernie Sanders told talk show viewers with eerie accuracy what Trump would do on election night a month before it happened. What has consistently surprised me is sycophants who do not have the spine to tell the former president repeatedly and loudly he lost so get over it.

Our country was divided before the 2016 election, but is now more so because of the last seven years of Donald Trump as a candidate, president and former president. His greatest skill is marketing getting people to fear the other and think he is the solution. So, he took advantage of this divide and pitted folks against each other, which he does as a manager as well. This is why this strategy works in marketing, but is a horrible management approach. This was the conclusion of business analysts who covered the Trump organization well before 2016 – great marketer, poor manager.

News networks must remember that first word and give us the truth. And, when they offer opinion, I would prefer it to be broadcast in a banner below the talking head – the above is the opinion of the speaker and it should not be considered as news. This should occur whether the network is Fox News, MSNBC or Sinclair Broadcasting who requires its many local TV news stations to air the same opinion at the end of each show. And, if you get your news from a QAnon, InfoWars, or social media, stop. These are not news sources. The first two are propaganda and the latter is opinion

What I have shared with Congresspeople, Senators, and pseudo news people dozens of times is you owe us the truth. Readers and watchers believe what you say, so you need to be the best steward of that trust as possible. When I see these folks lie on purpose, it is very frustrating as they know they are lying and choose to do so anyway. That is Machiavellian. It matters not if the liar is a Democrat, Republican, Independent, Libertarian or Green Party candidate. What is even worse is when they know you know they are lying. That is just inane.

A few this and that’s – August 11, 2022 edition

In no particular order, a few random musings about elected current or past leadership in the news. Elected may be correct in some cases, but strong-arm tactics were involved with a couple.

Vladimir Putin invades another country and now blames the US as the major reason for the Ukraine war. Does he really expect people to believe his BS? Putin is one of the few leaders in the world that is more untruthful than Donald Trump. Your best course of action is to start out not believing what he says and add back the occasional truth that slips out.

Back in the US, Trump pleads the 5th in court refusing to answer questions. This may be in large part due to he can’t remember where the truth stops and the lies begin. An attorney once deposed the former president and got him to recant 30 lies during one deposition. As I read in a couple of credible books about Trump, his attorneys do not ever want him to testify for this reason. They also know it would look bad if he got up and left. The best course of action in dealing with Trump’s comments is the same as noted for Putin.

Apparently, Boris Johnson is coasting into his departure. Given the mess he has made during his tenure, Brits should not complain about his doing nothing. We Americans did benefit that Trump did not work that hard, otherwise he would have made an even bigger mess than he did. Trump tended to spend most of his time tweeting to alter any bad press he received or change the topic. As for Johnson, some of his unforced errors were definite head-scratchers.

Nancy Pelosi may be a lightning rod for Republicans, especially now that Hillary Clinton is not in politics. Her trip to Taiwan was equal parts courageous and foolhardy. But, even many Republicans supported it. However, it may have been an unforced error of a trip, even though other members of Congress have recently gone. Let’s hope all the chest beating by China will subside.

Viktor Orbán of Hungary came to America to speak to CPAC. It takes one extremist to recognize other extremists. If these CPAC attendees lived under Orbán’s tutelage, they just may not appreciate the lack of freedoms, especially if they look or worship differently or work for the press. What bemuses me is our freedoms for all is a key strength of America, so arguing to take away freedoms for some groups is a horribly slippery slope. Why? Your freedoms might be next.

What is interesting about these five people is I am not a huge fan of any of them, even Pelosi, although she is not as low on the totem pole as the others. I have felt she has tended to grandstand too much on occasion. Yet, she deserves credit for knowing how to do her job and get stuff done, which is more than could be said for the other two-Anglo-Saxon leaders noted above.

Fox News political analyst Bret Baier adds to Trump criticism

An article in Business Insider by Mia Jankowicz called “Fox News anchor Bret Baier slams Trump, saying January 6 hearings made him look ‘horrific'” adds to the editorials criticizing the former president from conservative publications such as The Wall Street Journal and New York Post, also owned by Rupert Murdoch.

Here are a few paragraphs, with a link to the article below.

“Baier said that the hearings highlighting criticism by former Trump supporters and members of his administration — such as former Deputy National Security Adviser Matthew Pottinger and former Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Matthews — was especially persuasive.

‘All of these people who have been testifying at one point or another wanted Trump to win,’ Baier said. ‘They served under his leadership. They wanted him to be a success.’

Whether it changes the view of Republican voters is another matter, Baier said.

‘The charges are that it’s just not balanced,’ he said, in reference to the ongoing criticism that the hearings are one-sided. (A congressional committee hearing is supposed to publicize already-established findings, and Republican leaders boycotted involvement in the committee.)*

Baier also called for more information on exactly what Trump said about mobilizing the National Guard in advance of the riot. If Trump had taken such action, Baier said, ‘it kind squelches or downplays the thought that he wanted this insurrection.'”

Unlike the opinion entertainment hosts, such as Hannity, Ingraham, Carlson, et al, that still echo support of the former president, Baier is part of Fox News’ news organization. It should be noted that even Fox News management threw Carlson under the bus in a defamation trial noting what he says should not be considered as news.

People have asked if these criticisms are making a difference? From what I read they are, but those questioning are correct that it is likely not reaching the hardcore MAGA fans. One thing Trump is good at is marketing and people close to him have noted he realizes he is screwed. He should be as the only person who is largely responsible for all of this is the guy looking back at the former president when he shaves.

*Note: Republicans who offer this criticism should note that at least two of the representatives offered up by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy were people of interest in the investigation. They were denied by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, rightfully so. McCarthy then pulled the rest of the nominees. Yet, Pelosi did appoint two Republicans Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger who have performed well on the committee.

Conservative Wall Street Journal headline: “The President Who Stood Still on Jan. 6”

In a RawStory piece on a recent The Wall Street Journal editorial, “Donald Trump has lost the confidence of both of the major newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.” The RawStory piece is called “‘Incitement by silence’: Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers blister Trump after J6 hearings” and can be linked to below.

Under the headline, “The President Who Stood Still on Jan. 6,” The Wall Street Journal editorial board harshly criticized the former president.

‘No matter your views of the Jan. 6 special committee, the facts it is laying out in hearings are sobering. The most horrifying to date came Thursday in a hearing on President Trump’s conduct as the riot raged and he sat watching TV, posting inflammatory tweets and refusing to send help,’ the editorial board wrote.

‘The committee’s critics are right that it lacks political balance,’ the newspaper wrote. ‘Still, the brute facts remain: Mr. Trump took an oath to defend the Constitution, and he had a duty as Commander in Chief to protect the Capitol from a mob attacking it in his name. He refused. He didn’t call the military to send help. He didn’t call Mr. Pence to check on the safety of his loyal VP. Instead he fed the mob’s anger and let the riot play out.’

The editorial concluded, ‘Character is revealed in a crisis, and Mr. Pence passed his Jan. 6 trial. Mr. Trump utterly failed his.'”

There is really not much more to say except this is the paragon of conservative leaning publications in America and many of the folks who have testified under oath are, in fact, Republicans. Now, why would these folks do that, especially knowing they would be vilified by the former president and his sycophants?

Disturbing survey result – we cannot condone violence

I read yesterday of two alarming results from a University of California survey of 9,000 people. 1 in 5 said violence to promote a political cause would be appropriate and 7% said they would be willing to kill someone toward that goal. Really? Have we sunk that low believing the divisive rhetoric of too many that so many would commit capital offenses for a politician’s gain?

The majority of these folks have felt empowered by the former president to be more public. I guess all the folks who are pleading guilty or being convicted for an insurrection on our Capitol building at the behest of the former president are not evidence enough that this is a poor path forward. Maybe when the former president is charged with sedition for his apparently more active role in the insurrection these folks will be given pause.

And, just because the right has its extremists who are promoting violence and even death, that does not give any extremists on the left a hall pass to do the same. Civil discourse and peaceful protest are more than fine. Violence is not the answer, unless your question is when can I go to jail?

One of America’s key tenets is the peaceful transition of power. We are more divided than before because a former president’s ego is so fragile, he cannot admit he lost and per his niece will “burn it all down to avoid losing an election.” It is only our democracy – we must hold it dear and ignore those sycophants who are aiding and abetting the bogus claims of the former president. I was delighted to see a bipartisan Senate bill pass to better protect the electoral process to prevent a demagogue from trying what the former president did – an insurrection.

Taking the former president at his word is a fool’s errand. Listening to his allies and sycophants who are holding cans of white paint to whitewash history is also such. But, so is taking the word of so-called leaders of any movement that condones and promotes violence. That is inane. It is also criminal. If your group promotes this, find the door before it is too late.

Fox News legal analyst calls out the former president about the insurrection

“‘Breathtaking’: Fox News analyst says latest Jan 6 hearing ‘should shock everyone’” by Gustaf Kilander reveals an increasing number of folks who are calling the former president out on his role in the insurrection. A few paragraphs will provide a few key points of just the latest condemnation on Fox News, of all places.

“Fox News legal analyst Jonathan Turley said that the seventh hearing of the January 6 committee was ‘breathtaking’.

Mr Turley shared his sense of shock at the revelations concerning former President Donald Trump and his December 18 2020 meeting at the White House discussing how to overturn the election with his allies.

‘It’s … damaging,’ Mr Turley said in reaction to the pre-recorded deposition with Trump White House Counsel Pat Cipollone. ‘The account of that meeting in the [Oval] Office is really breathtaking. It’s very disturbing.’

‘At one point, there was a suggestion that there might be fisticuffs,’ he noted. ‘It’s almost like this is Dr Strangelove and the president is saying there is no fighting in the war room. It was just a bizarre moment.’

‘You’re in the Oval Office and people seem to be actually chest pounding. So this is very disturbing. All of these details should disturb everyone,’ Mr Turley said.

A major focus of the hearing was Mr Trump’s 19 December tweet about a ‘big protest’ at the coming joint session of Congress: ‘Be there, will be wild!

Florida Representative Stephanie Murphy said the tweet ‘served as a call to action and in some cases as a call to arms’. She said the president ‘called for backup’ as he said Vice President Mike Pence and other Republicans didn’t have enough courage to try to block President Joe Biden’s win at the January 6 joint session.

The tweet ‘electrified and galvanized’ Mr Trump’s supporters, said Maryland Representative Jamie Raskin, especially ‘the dangerous extremists in the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys and other racist and white nationalist groups spoiling for a fight’.

Mr Raskin said Mr Trump emboldened the groups around a common goal. ‘Never before in American history had a president called for a crowd to come contest the counting of electoral votes by Congress,’ he said.

The committee spliced together video clips from interviews to describe a meeting from December 18, in the hours before Mr Trump’s tweet, in almost minute-to-minute fashion.

Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who testified live before the panel two weeks ago, called the meeting between White House aides and informal advisers pushing the fraud claims ‘unhinged’ in a text that evening to another Trump aide. Other aides described ‘screaming’ as the advisers floated wild theories of election fraud with no evidence to back them up, and as White House lawyers aggressively pushed back.”

The words I focus on are “disturbing” which is used several times and “unhinged” which is even more descriptive. Unhinged is a word that best describes a toddler when he is doing a hissy-fit. The toddler did not get his way and so he has flung himself on the floor in front of everyone and is screaming bloody murder. Think of this visual, when you see or hear the words of the former president. “I didn’t lose. They stole it from me. I won by a long shot.”

We just need the House Select committee and the Justice Department to send Donald to his room. And, while unhinged is more colorful, another apt word is more repulsive – seditionist.

Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit against Fox News allowed to proceed

In a telling article called “Fox News in real trouble for spreading ‘pure bunk’ about Trump’s loss — and OAN could be ‘wiped out’ by lawsuits” by Travis Gettys in Raw Story, a judge has ruled to allow the defamation lawsuit brought forward by Dominion Voting Systems to proceed. Per select paragraphs:

“A judge ruled last month that Dominion Voting Systems could move forward with its lawsuit against Fox Corp., the conservative news network’s parent company, for amplifying bogus claims that it rigged the election for Joe Biden, and Judge Eric Davis made clear the $1.6 billion suit was not frivolous, reported The Guardian.

Dominion has a very strong case against Fox News – and against OAN for that matter,” said Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, a constitutional law professor at Stetson University and a fellow at the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice. ‘The reason Dominion is suing is because Fox and other rightwing news outlets repeated vicious lies that Dominion’s voting machines stole the 2020 election from Trump for Biden. But all of these conspiracy theories about Dominion’s machines were just pure bunk, and Fox as a news organization should have known that and not given this aspect of the big lie a megaphone.

What’s particularly bad for Fox is [that] Dominion asked them to stop and correct the record in real time,’ she added, ‘and Fox persisted in spreading misrepresentations about the voting machine company.’”

The entire story (which can be linked to below) tells of inappropriate contact between the network and the former president who has continued to make unprovable claims of election fraud. He has lost over 65 court cases, winning one small one in PA, and has lost every recount, audit and review of election results. What Fox is learning late in the game is folks that fly to close to the former president usually get burned. The truth matters, especially if you report to be a news agency. This one may come with a hefty price tag, if proven liable.

A few contradictions about the 4th

Today, folks in the US are celebrating the 4th of July which is known as Independence Day. It is an important day, but what it meant was an idea of independence from Great Britain. We still had to fight for it. And, we should not forget there were many in our country who remained loyal to the crown and did not want indpendence.

I think this last point gets forgotten, but it is a precursor to what makes this construct created by our founders so lasting. Our citizens consistently disagree with each other on issues. This disagreement is not new, nor is it always civil. And, it has been violent on occasion. But, most of the arguments have been traceable back to power.

We argued about slavery from the outset which led to a civil war. When a landowner’s human assets are his most valuable possessions, it is hard to tell him he cannot have them.

When women wanted to vote, men did not want to share power saying women did not have the smarts or temperament to understand voting. I wonder if we went back in time and said more than 50% of college students are now women would we be believed?

When the KKK had a growing influence in Congress with 25 Senators and over 100 Congressmen with some ties, it took their misstep of openly condemning Jews to make their power lessen. This was not Nazi Germany, this occurred in the United States.

When Jim Crow continued for much too long, it took pictures, horrific events and courageous souls to make people take notice. It was an uphill fight that cost many lives, but men with names like Martin, John, Medger, Malcolm, Lyndon and women with names like Rosa, Billie, Coretta, Shirley, et al made us take notice.

When a populist from Wisconsin used television and his Senate pulpit to make things up to cause Americans to fear communism, people lost their jobs, reputations, and some their lives. It took a concerted effort and time from newspeople with gravatas and a few witnesses to reveal the evil nature of Senator McCarthy. Even President Eisenhower had to tread carefully with this mean spirited and untruthful acting person.

When a more quiet movement called the “Lavender Scare” occurred, men and women who were perceived or known Gays and Lesbians were fired from their government jobs. Many of these folks were loyal, diligent and proficient public servants, but they were let go. This movement continued from the end of the 1940s throughout the fifties.

When we moved hundreds of thousands of Japanese Americans to camps during WWII, we violated their rights as citizens. We took away their possessions, livelihoods and homes. The communities they served with commerce were malserved. There had to be a better way than the cold-hearted decision that was made.

Now, we have a too divided union resulting from purposeful misinformation and disinformation. We had a populist president who has used similar tactics to that of McCarthy. Make things up, sow seeds of division, blame someone, rinse and repeat. We are more at odds because a former president with a shallow ego is not man enough to admit he lost an election. So using his own niece’s phrase, he is burning it all down to avoid losing.

Folks, it is OK to disagree. Even couples and siblings disagree. But, we should listen to each other and not take their heads off. We should not demonize their opinion as that is the worst form of name calling, which is simply not a good argument. When people name call, especially if they have clout, dig deeper. Ask questions. That is what finally got McCarthy to back down. He did not have answers to questions and sweated on camera when you asked good ones.

To say it simply, our country has survived a lot because we asked questions and showed spotlights on bad behavior. We should not let our democracy crumble because of name callers who per Pulitzer Prize winning author Thomas Freidman said “Do not have a second paragraph.” Civil discourse. Civil questions and answers. Fear sells and wins elections, but it does not govern well over time or sometimes from the outset.

Happy Independence Day. Let’s keep that flame alive.

Republican icon Senator Alan Simpson urges Trump to ‘stop the squeal’

In a Mediate article this week entitled “Wyoming GOP Icon Rips Into ‘Spoiled Brat Trump,’ Urges Him to ‘Stop the Squeal’ After Taping Ad For Liz Cheney,” the headline tells you as much as you need to know. In a MSNBC headline called “This former Republican senator just called Donald Trump a ‘spoiled brat'” the following is noted in the first few paragraphs:

“Former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson isn’t a big Donald Trump fan.

In an interview with NBC News, Simpson called Trump, among other things, a ‘spoiled brat’ and said that ‘this guy is so full of himself that he would overturn every kind of rule of law or Constitutional process because of his own ego, which is twisted.’

Simpson, a Republican, acknowledged that he voted for Trump in 2016 but noted that ‘I’ll never vote for him again – that’s for goddamn sure.'”

This is the kind of push back the Republican party should have been giving Donald Trump all along. It is sad that this former president instigated a seditious act on a branch of government and his Big Lie and other lies have further divided our country. We need more folks like Simpson in the GOP and government and less of those like the former president. Maybe we could get back to more normalcy.

Please note, I hold Simpson in high regard. His opinion matters, at least to me. He collaborated with Democrat Erskine Bowles to lead the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Committee formed by President Barack Obama. Their ideas had merit and should have been given more consideration than they were. Now, the debt and deficit is far worse.

I mention this example as what Simpson-Bowles did is what we need more of in Congress and country. People coming together to solve problems. This tribal BS we have in our country serves no one if problems do not get addressed or, worse, problems are created.