Trump’s ‘fake news’ awards put him in dictator territory (UPDATE)

Who will win Trump’s dubious “fake news” awards? Who cares?

The undisputed king of fake news has been bragging about holding his own “awards” show: Giving out “THE MOST DISHONEST & CORRUPT MEDIA AWARDS OF THE YEAR.”

Too bad a real group beat him to it. Now Donald Trump has been given a new title of his own in one of the “Press Oppressor” categories from the Committee to Protect Journalists. Trump has won the competition in (drum roll, please):

“Overall Achievement in Undermining Global Press Freedom.” Congratulations, America.

The CPJ announced the awards in advance of Trump’s giving out his fake news awards, if he ever gets around to it. Since Trump is so bad at follow-through, he has already postponed his fake news “awards ceremony.” He first tweeted (how else?) that his “awards” would be given out on Jan. 8. Then, for no apparent reason except that he likely had an overload of “executive time,” the awarding of the dubious honors was postponed until Jan. 17.

To paraphrase Hamilton, tweeting is easy; governing (and award shows) are harder.

So the U.S. president, who is always so willing to throw the First Amendment in the dumpster, has joined the ranks of some of the world’s worst despots and dictators in tamping down journalistic freedom. That’s Trump—he always finds new ways to lower the bar. I guess #MAGA really means “Make America Goose-step Again.”

As described on its website, the Committee to Protect Journalists is an “independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide. We defend the right of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal.” Its 40-person committee is composed of journalists and experts on five continents. When a reporter is threatened, the committee mobilizes correspondents “who report and take action on behalf of those targeted.” For more than 35 years, the committee has kept track of journalists who are imprisoned, kidnapped, and killed. Nearly 1,300 journalists have been killed since 1992, and 44 were killed in 2017.

Trump and some of his fellow “Press Oppressors.”

In the wake of Trump’s announcement about his “fake news awards,” the CPJ published a blog post to announce its own “Press Oppressor” awards. Trump is now in such non-august company as Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, and China’s Xi Jinping.

All the winners of the CPJ awards are “world leaders who have gone out of their way to attack the press and undermine the norms that support freedom of the media,” said the committee in its announcement. “From an unparalleled fear of their critics and the truth, to a relentless commitment to censorship, these five leaders and the runner-ups in their categories have gone above and beyond to silence critical voices and weaken democracy.”

Erdoğan was a winner in two categories: “Most Thin-Skinned” (Trump was the runner-up), and “Most Outrageous Use of Terror Laws Against the Press.” “Turkey is the world’s worst jailer of journalists, with at least 73 behind bars,” the committee said in its explanation of its choices for Erdoğan.

Here’s the reason why Trump was chosen for “Overall Achievement in Undermining Global Press Freedom.”

The United States, with its First Amendment protection for a free press, has long stood as a beacon for independent media around the world. While previous U.S. presidents have each criticized the press to some degree, they have also made public commitments to uphold its essential role in democracy, at home and abroad. Trump, by contrast, has consistently undermined domestic news outlets and declined to publicly raise freedom of the press with repressive leaders such as Xi, Erdoğan, and Sisi. Authorities in China, Syria, and Russia have adopted Trump’s “fake news” epithet, and Erdoğan has applauded at least one of his verbal attacks on journalists. Under Trump’s administration, the Department of Justice has failed to commit to guidelines intended to protect journalists’ sources, and the State Department has proposed to cut funding for international organizations that help buttress international norms in support of free expression. As Trump and other Western powers fail to pressure the world’s most repressive leaders into improving the climate for press freedom, the number of journalists in prison globally is at a record high.

What Trump is doing is dangerous and despicable, but it’s nothing new. While the 2016 election was awash in actual fake news on social media, much of it spread by Russia, Trump criticized attempts at legitimate reporting at every turn and brainwashed his Trumpinista followers into believing him.

Elections in other countries such as France, the United Kingdom, and Germany also were on the receiving end of actual fake news electoral assaults, again mostly sponsored by Russia. In response, French President Emmanuel Macron plans to introduce a law to ban online fake news during French election campaigns. According to a story in The Guardian:

New legislation for websites would include more transparency about sponsored content. Under the new law, websites would have to say who is financing them and the amount of money for sponsored content would be capped.

For fake news published during election seasons, an emergency legal action could allow authorities to remove that content or even block the website, Macron said. “If we want to protect liberal democracies, we must be strong and have clear rules,” he added.

It’s unclear how that idea would fit into U.S. law, but it will be interesting to see how it affects French elections if the proposal is enacted. Another way to combat actual fake news is to use one of the many tools to sniff it out, such as this field guide by publicdatalab.org. The guide “explores the use of digital methods to study false viral news, political memes, trolling practices, and their social life online,” and can be downloaded for free. The Poynter Institute for Media Studies calls it a cookbook for investigating fake news.

In the meantime, Trump will keep touting his fake news claims. Late-night comedians in the U.S. decided to nominate themselves for Trump’s dubious honors, and get in a little fake news trash-talking at the same time. Stephen Colbert of The Late Show took out an actual “For Your Consideration” billboard in New York’s Times Square, just as movie studios advertise for film honors during awards season:

Who wouldn’t be proud to earn the “Eric Trump Memorial Award for Disappointment”? “Best Sound Mixing”? “Best Chex Mixing”?

Colbert labeled these awards #TheFakies. “Nothing gives you more credibility than Donald Trump calling you a liar,” he said in one of his monologues.

Well, take that, Colbert. Trevor Noah of The Daily Show launched a fake news awards campaign of his own with a full-page ad in The New York Times:

The Daily Show also touted itself as “Fake News You Can’t Believe In.”

And what does Samantha Bee of Full Frontal have to say about all of this?

A story on Vox about Trump’s fake news awards also described the reaction from ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel.

“The ‘Stupid People’s Choice Awards’ is what they’re calling it,” Kimmel said. “This is a real dilemma for the president, because on the one hand, he loves awards and trophies, but will he be physically able to give a trophy to someone other than himself? I don’t think so.”

Added a story from Slate: “After all, what could be a greater honor than being crowned the best liar by the world’s most famous liar of all?”

UPDATE: As expected, we might not have #TheFakies after all. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the fake news awards have been downgraded to a “potential event.” What is there to say but — Sad!

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Jan. 14, 2018.

Dear world: We apologize for this shithole of a president

Just when you think Donald Trump can’t go any lower, he always finds a way.

There has been swift and worldwide condemnation of Trump’s remarks questioning why the U.S. should accept immigrants from Haiti and other “shithole” countries — you know, where black people come from — and why America doesn’t take more from countries like Norway — one of the whitest of the white. Trump was meeting with congressional leaders on immigration issues, once more see-sawing between “signing whatever you put in front of me” (his words earlier in the week) and his descent into the shithole in the latest meeting.

Condemnation of Trump’s racist remarks came from all corners — except from congressional Republicans. Only four members of the GOP criticized him, while the others kept silent, blamed his incendiary words on political naivete, or dragged out the old chestnut of being “not politically correct.” (House Speaker Paul Ryan finally was forced to weigh in, saying only that the Trump remarks were “unfortunate and unhelpful.” That’s not nearly good enough, you wuss.)

Trump tried to tweet back his racism, claiming that the shithole remark “wasn’t the language that was used,” but acknowledged that the language was “tough.”

(Not that we should ever believe anything the shithole-in-chief says — we’re not quite a year into his presidency, and he’s already told more than 2,000 lies, according to the running count of falsehoods and misleading statements from Trump by The Washington Post. It’s also worth noting that the White House has not denied the remarks, even suggesting that they might help with Trump’s base.)

Trump’s hate speech was confirmed by Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, who was in both immigration meetings. In an account from NBC News:

“(Trump) said things which were hate filled, vile, and racist,” Durbin told reporters.

“The most disheartening thing to me is my belief that that was the first time words that hateful had been spoken in the Oval Office of the White House,” Durbin added. “I think back at presidents throughout history and I cannot imagine a moment where a president sunk to that depth, that’s what breaks my heart.” …

“He said, ‘Haitians? Do we need more Haitians?’ And then he went on when we started to describe the immigration from Africa that was being protected in this bipartisan measure. That’s when he used these vile and vulgar comments, calling the nations they come from ‘shitholes,’ Durbin said. “The exact word used by the president, not just once, but repeatedly.”

You know who has been silent about Trump’s language? The Republicans in the room.

That’s actually six, but the point is the same. Durbin added that South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham did call out Trump during the meeting for use of the vile words. But Graham has been silent since.

Nothing about Trump’s racist language is new:

  • Trump’s history as a real estate developer includes settling with the federal government over his racist and discriminatory housing practices.
  • He continued to favor convictions for the Central Park Five, the black and Latino young men accused and later exonerated for a brutal rape in New York City after DNA evidence showed that they were not guilty. Trump continued his hate campaign even after another man confessed to the crime.
  • When Trump descended his Trump Tower escalator in June 2015 to announce his candidacy, his remarks were filled with hate speech about Mexicans and other non-white immigrants, claiming that Mexico was sending rapists, drug dealers, etc.
  • Trump’s entire 2016 presidential campaign was based on appealing to the racism of angry whites, especially men, with his constant calls for a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Despite his campaign promise that Mexico would pay for the wall, he’s requesting $18 billion from Congress (and thus U.S. taxpayers) for its construction.
  • After the white supremacists’ march in August 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia, at which one of the alt-right participants killed a protestor with his car, Trump refused to condemn the alt-right marchers, saying there were good and bad people on “both sides.” Remember, these were NAZI supporters we’re talking about.

We could go on and on, but it’s just too disheartening. The candidate who received 26 percent of the vote from all eligible voters, lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million, and yet somehow eked out a win in the Electoral College, with the help of Russian influence on social media, is proving to be the most hate-filled president ever to sit in the Oval Office. As the poet Maya Angelou said, which Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton repeatedly reminded us during the campaign, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan truly is a wish to “Make America White Again.”

So to the rest of the world: We’re sorry. Most of us didn’t want him, and we wish the rest of you didn’t have to face the hate that we hear daily.

We’re stuck with him, but the rest of the world has had enough. Multiple countries issued letters of condemnation. The U.S. ambassador to Panama resigned, saying he could no longer work for this administration. The UN human rights office condemned the remarks. According to a story from The Guardian:

“There is no other word one can use but racist,” the UN human rights spokesman, Rupert Colville, told a Geneva news briefing. “You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as ‘shitholes’, whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome.”

The African Union said it was “frankly alarmed” by Trump’s language. “Given the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves, this statement flies in the face of all accepted behaviour and practice,” AU spokeswoman Ebba Kalondo told the Associated Press. “This is particularly surprising as the United States of America remains a global example of how migration gave birth to a nation built on strong values of diversity and opportunity.”

Tweeted former Mexican President Vincente Fox, who has never been shy about criticizing Trump’s racism:

More and more, we’re stuck with a hateful, foul-mouthed racist who not only is lowering the level of public discourse but also is lowering America’s status in the world. Trump was forced to cancel an upcoming trip to the United Kingdom to dedicate a new U.S. embassy. His nonsensical reason was to blame President Barack Obama, but the real reason was the fear of widespread protests. Tweeted London Mayor Sadiq Khan:

In a way, it’s too bad the visit is cancelled, because some British comedians had a somewhat (ahem) cheeky reception planned:

Women’s March 2018 is all about voting and seeking office

One of my favorite signs from the Women’s March in Chicago. We’re all with each other now.

It’s time to get out the pussy hats again. And make sure you pair them with voter registration cards.

Last year’s Women’s March, held Jan. 21, 2017, the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration, drew an estimated 4.2 million protestors in more than 650 marches around the country and even more around the globe. It has been described as the largest single-day demonstration in U.S. history. The marches provided an outlet for people across the country to vent dissatisfaction with Trump, to express extreme disappointment in the election results, and to launch a new nationwide movement to energize people (especially women) to take action.

The 2018 marches, scheduled for the weekend of Jan. 20 and 21, might be even bigger.

Besides the rise in grassroots interest and action, consider what’s happening on the election front:

  • A record number of women—49 Democrats and 30 Republicans—are running or “seriously considering running” for governor in 2018 races. In all of U.S. history, only 39 women have served as governors, and there are currently only six women governors right now.
  • As of mid-December, there were already more than 600 women registered to run for federal and statewide offices across the country, according to figures from the Rutgers University Eagleton Institute of Politics and its Center for American Women and Politics.
  • More than 26,000 women have reached out to EMILY’s List for 2018 election help. (That same total from the last election cycle was 960 women.) Those 26,000 represent all 50 states, and about half are under 45 years old.
  • The group She Should Run aims for 250,000 women running for elective office by 2030.
  • Successes by women candidates in Virginia in November 2017 are prompting even more women to seek office, at all levels—from school boards to county judges to state legislatures to Congress. As an ABC story reported: “I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List. “Every day, dozens more women come to our website, come to our Facebook page and say, ‘I am mad as hell. I want to do something about it. What should I do now?'”

The theme of this year’s marches will be running for office—and voting. Organizing for the 2018 marches started after last year’s march and has been going on for weeks and even months in cities across the U.S. This year’s marches are going by a variety of names: Women’s March 2.0. Reclaiming Our State. Persisting 2.0. Look Back March Forward. Women’s March to the Polls. Sister March. Raise Your Vote. Women’s March on Washington (or fill in the name of whatever city is participating). There’s no doubt that marchers nationwide will be joined by many women candidates.

One way or another, there’s gonna be a whole lotta marching goin’ on—some of it right into elective office. Women will show the country at the ballot box that they’re taking the #PowerToThePolls.

After the Senate confirmed Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1991, despite law professor Anita Hill’s credible testimony about Thomas’s sexual harassment and creepy behavior, women responded by running for office, and 1992 became the “Year of the Woman” in electoral politics. Two dozen women were elected to the House, and the number of Democratic women in the Senate rose from one to five.

I have a feeling that 2018 is going to leave 1992 in the dust.

As feminist author Marianne Schnall wrote in a recent CNN piece with the headline, “2018 will be the year of women”:

In response to these attempts to diminish our power and silence our voices, women are harnessing their outrage. They are more engaged, energized and resolute than ever. Issues that were long ignored are finally coming to the surface, and women are beginning to speak up and use their voices and influence to demand real change. …

Women are running for office in record numbers, there has been a dramatic increase of women donors funding campaigns, and more and more strong women leaders are emerging. Parity for women in politics is being rightfully reframed as an essential component of a reflective democracy, and the need for women’s input and voices in government has never been more clear. …

Although 2017 has been full of obstacles, we can’t deny that it has also emboldened women and girls. This is a potential tipping point, if we constructively use it and harness this energy. It requires that we all stay vigilant and address the issues we care about.

Besides countering Trump’s policies, women have become energized by the #MeToo movement addressing sexual assault and sexual harassment that emerged in the second half of 2017. The resignation or retirement of several lawmakers, some of whom were affected by the #MeToo scandals, also opens up several seats that at least some women candidates are seeking.

Most organizing for women’s marches is being done at local levels. Local media outlets are now just getting around to publicizing details of local groups’ organizational efforts for local marches. Details about one national coordinating effort can be found at the Women’s March website, which also directs people to various actions on issues such as gun violence, domestic violence, fossil fuel divestment, and (of course) registering to vote.

Las Vegas is the center of one such effort during its march, which is planned for Jan. 21. Its “Power to the Polls” event is framed as the start of a “national voter registration tour” ahead of the midterms.

A story on Quartz Media describing the 2018 Women’s March explains that efforts for this year’s marches started soon after last year’s activities. Katherine Siemionko, head of last year’s march in New York City, formed the Women’s Alliance, the nonprofit that grew out of last year’s team of march planners. The site lists participating cities that are planning their own marches, and the group’s Facebook page casts a much wider net and offers a way to indicate interest or to get free tickets. That page shows that dozens and dozens of American cities are planning marches (the number grows daily), with more events planned in cities worldwide: several Canadian cities, Munich, Rome, and more. Check the Facebook page to find a march or event near you.

Many groups are asking for marchers to register to help with planning and logistics—thousands upon thousands already have done so. Participants also are invited to volunteer and to make donations. The Chicago group, March to the Polls, is organizing under the auspices of the nonprofit Chicago Foundation for Women. It has its own closed-group Facebook page, and its Feminist Boutique is coordinating businesses selling “Merch for March” products to raise money for the march, such as books, T-shirts, buttons, candles featuring an image of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and more. A percentage of profits from these sales will go to cover expenses for the March to the Polls.

All marches are stressing voting and voter registration. Many groups around the country are pairing publicity about the marches with registering people to vote, including training voting registrars.

Here’s a stylish and warm way to show your voting preference. (copyright Katy Grass/Ravelry)

What could throw a frigid wrinkle into all of these plans is the weather. Since much of the eastern part of the country is sitting under a mass of polar air and digging out from a major winter storm, temperatures and conditions might not be too comfortable for spending much time outside. But the longer-term forecast is for more normal January temperatures nationwide by the weekend of Jan. 20. So even if you have to wear layers over long underwear, it will be important to show those in power that women mean business once again.

And in case you’re thinking of a new look for 2018, instead of a pink pussy hat, consider a new “Blue Wave” hat by Donna Druchunas designs. The new knitting pattern is available from Ravelry, a free social networking site for knitters and crocheters. The hat says “Blue 2018,” with wave designs along the sides and back, and the knitting pattern is available to download for free.

On the same page as the description of the Blue Wave hat are links to other groups offering ways to take action, such as:

The Sister District Project: If you live in a blue state or district, you can help elect Democrats in red districts near where you live.

Swing Left: Helps you find and commit to supporting progressives in your closest Swing District so that you can help ensure we take back the House in 2018.

Postcards to Voters: Write and send postcards to voters in dozens of key, close elections.

Indivisible: Has local groups in every district and holds call and text banking sessions to help get out the vote. You can work locally or in districts in other regions and states.

Vanity Fair took a lot of deserved grief for a ridiculous video advising Hillary Clinton to go away and perhaps take up knitting. Here’s a way to turn that “knitting” advice on its head—literally.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Jan. 7, 2018.

6 reasons for media’s obsession with Trump voters


The nation’s media seem to think they must personally interview every single Trump voter. How about talking to a Clinton voter instead? There were more of them, and they don’t wear threatening T-shirts.

Ever since the 2016 presidential campaign and election, some media outlet somewhere in America is publishing, posting, printing, or airing an interview with a Donald Trump supporter.

It could be an NPR host calling one of the many Trump voters they must have on speed dial (Googling “NPR Trump voters” gives you story after story of the endless supply of Trump-voter interviews the radio network has aired). CNN regularly airs focus group interviews of Trump supporters, asking them about everything from Trump’s remarks about the Charlottesville white supremacist rally to his condemnation of the NFL kneeling protests to the Alabama Senate election to how they trust Facebook feeds more than traditional news outlets. CNN obviously believes that ignorance sells.

Take the latest entry from The Washington Post, which published, without a trace of irony or apology, “In a pro-Trump town, they never stopped saying, ‘Merry Christmas.’” You could basically sum up the story in five words: They like saying, “Merry Christmas.”

Hey, WaPo, 83.4 percent of the voters in my town of Oak Park, Illinois, turned out to vote in November 2016, and 85.6 percent of us voted for Hillary Clinton. And just like every other place in America, we’ve always wished one another, “Merry Christmas,” along with “Happy Holidays” when appropriate. That goes with our 42 houses of worship, including a Jewish temple, a Buddhist center, a Chinese Bible church, an Orthodox Syrian church, a Unitarian church designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and so many other denominations of Christianity, from Pentecostal to Catholic. I’m sure anyone here would be glad to give you an interview.

As John Pavlovitz, a North Carolina pastor and blogger of “Stuff That Needs To Be Said,” put it:

I’m a Christian. When someone says “Happy Holidays” to me I simply smile and reply, “To you as well.”

I don’t lecture them or insist they acknowledge Christmas in a way that makes me comfortable and them uncomfortable. I don’t use the moment to feign persecution or to get in a little jab in the name of Jesus.

Because I’m a Christian — and not a jerk.

I’m not sure why the media, especially those inside the Beltway, are so dedicated to the idea of leaving no Trump voter un-interviewed, but here are some theories.

It’s Trump country now! AP has an entire series on Trump Country, now numbering 27 (!) stories. Inevitably, these Trump-supporter stories start in a small-town diner, barber shop, or beauty parlor, thus furthering the stereotype of small-town America. If it’s an audible radio piece, there is often a mention of the clinking of coffee cups. (Note to NPR: Most diners use mugs, not cups.) The reporters’ attitudes come off as patronizing, as if they’ve made a major discovery in a foreign land. “It means God, guns, patriotism, saying ‘Merry Christmas’ and not Happy Holidays,” reads the latest AP entry. Hey, didn’t Barack Obama get skewered in 2008 for claiming that voters “cling to guns and religion”?

Of course, AP is not alone. Writes Ryan Cooper in The Week:

From The New Yorker, we learn how Trump won over West Virginia, how rural Coloradans are picking up his vicious mannerisms; from The New York Times, we learn that Trump voters were mad, that unemployed coal miners had high hopes for Trump, that some in Oklahoma didn’t like his budget cuts but still supported him; from The Washington Post, we learn that in a tiny Trump-supporting Tennessee town, they never stopped saying “Merry Christmas.”

If America is now “Trump country,” why did Hillary Clinton get 3 million more votes? Trump received 46.1 percent of the vote to her 48.2 percent. And he only got 26 percent of the votes of all eligible voters anyway. HOW IS THIS TRUMP COUNTRY?

Editors feel guilty that they ignored “real” America. Look, I thought we settled this in 2008, after Republican VP Candidate Sarah Palin got lambasted for claiming that “the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America … very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation.” In actuality, real America ranges from the southernmost tip of Florida to the northernmost tip of Alaska to the islands of Hawaii and everything in between (and let’s not forget Puerto Rico, either). We’re all real, and our points of view are valid, even if those on the other side of the political spectrum think we’re dumb. No one has a monopoly on “realness”—or patriotism. But apparently J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy convinced plenty of journalists to set up a permanent base in rural America.

The Week’s Ryan Cooper also says that journalists were so blindsided by Trump’s win that they are doing a group mea culpa, even if it’s a shallow one.

So reporters broke out their biggest gun — the long, textured, deeply reported, indulgent profile — and trained it on the people they supposed were responsible for Trump: the white working class. …

But in the process, they missed the people right next to them: the professional class Republicans who mostly went for Trump too, and the Wall Street goons who make up most of his Cabinet and have written all of his policy. Since the election, journalists have obscured the significant erosion in his support. And for the whole time, they have largely ignored the black and brown working class who never fell for Trump’s nonsense.

Reporters think they’ll get the ultimate “a-ha” story. Trump’s approval numbers have gone nowhere but down. So reporters figure that somewhere out there has just got to be the ultimate “See? See? They don’t like him anymore” story. Too bad real life doesn’t work that way. Voters are loath to admit they made a mistake.

In cognitive science, this is known as choice-supportive bias. A simple Wikipedia definition is “The tendency to remember one’s choices as better than they actually were, where people tend to over-attribute positive features to options they chose and negative features to options not chosen.” This holds true whether it’s for a car or a candidate. Thus, when voters pick the winning candidate, those voters pick and choose what to believe about that officeholder’s actions and traits, stressing the positives and ignoring the negatives. They don’t want to admit that they might have voted the wrong way. It’s only been 14 months since the presidential election. Sure, people have soured on Trump. But you’re not going to get many voters abandoning their man—yet. And even if a voter has denounced Trump, do you think that voter wants to be exposed on national media for falling for a con man in the first place?

News outlets think they’ll pick up conservative viewers or readers. Sorry, not gonna happen. While all of us, whatever our political persuasion, are in our own self-selected “bubbles” to some degree, conservatives who watch nothing but Fox News, listen only to talk radio, and get online information from social media and Facebook feeds that have identified them as conservatives are in the most sealed bubbles of all. Do editors at The New York Times honestly think they’ll pick up more subscriptions just because a reporter traveled to a small town in Pennsylvania? And why do you think those small-town folks are so willing to talk to them, anyway?

As commenter Scoe Jarborough tweeted, “If you’re without family and depressed this holiday season, just tell a news outlet you voted for trump and they will send a reporter to talk to you.”

It’s the new version of lazy journalism. Throughout campaigns, most stories focus on polling; any change in who’s up and who’s down creates a major narrative. It takes a lot less effort to spew out new poll numbers than it takes to explain candidates’ policy positions to readers and viewers. It also takes a lot less effort to interview a Trump voter than to explain the GOP tax scam law.

The subjects of Trump country voter pieces are mostly white. And mostly male. Despite the fact that black voters, and especially black women, carried the day for Democrat Doug Jones in Alabama, CNN spent time with a focus group of Trump voters. Most were white, and most were male. Although some of the voters had changed their minds about Trump, many were still staunch supporters.

CNN interviewed no black women as part of the segment. Of course, few of them voted for Trump in the first place. But how about a little balance about what actually drove the Doug Jones victory?

Many have pointed out that media didn’t spend an inordinate amount of time in 2009 interviewing Obama voters about “what they thought of Obama now.” Of course not—reporters were too busy interviewing tea-party activists.

Who were mostly white. And mostly male.

I doubt that media will stop with the “all Trump voters, all the time” emphasis. But some within their ranks are passing snarky judgment. Consider this from Alexandra Petri of The Washington Post, describing a fictitious scene at (where else) a diner:

Their waiter is David Mattress, a sentient robot who will be shut down if Trump’s budget is put into practice. He loves Trump, insofar as love is possible for him. When asked “Don’t you realize the contradiction of this position?” the other regulars leap up and shout at me because the last time this question was posed to him, David short-circuited and emitted large quantities of smoke. “First that magazine writer,” Linda scolds me, gesturing to a table in the corner where six other journalists sit writing versions of this same article, “now you.

Don’t worry. In 2018, besides covering the midterm elections, the media will feature endless stories about the 2020 presidential race. And they’ll focus on how Trump supporters feel about that.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Dec. 31, 2017.

What was the worst Trump holiday gift?

Still searching for that perfect gift for the progressive who has everything? Yes, it’s Trump toilet paper.

It’s probably a good thing that the time for gift giving is over. Otherwise, someone might give you one of these items that feature Donald Trump in some way. And you couldn’t pay to give these suckers away at a White Elephant gift exchange.

Those “Make America Great Again” hat ornaments are so 2016, but you can still get ‘em all over the internet, at prices as low as $9.99, no doubt being unloaded by disillusioned Trump voters. Some of the ones sold through Amazon, trimmed with 24-karat gold, are much more pricey at $59.99. The Amazon reviews are as caustic as ever:

  • “I put this on my shelf next to my Russian nesting doll ornaments.”
  • “This ornament keeps tweeting at 3 a.m.”
  • “I think it tried to deport the figures in our nativity scene.”
  • “Damn … I have to go. There’s a group of carolers in white cloaks on my lawn.”

Would YOU want to open a gift wrapped in this?

There’s no shortage of political swag on Etsy, no matter your political leanings, and you can search for it all over 120 pages. Mugs saying “Wake up and smell the covfefe,” mugs saying “Don’t blame me, I voted for Hillary,” T-shirts, Trump voodoo dolls, pink pussy hats, and much more.

Zazzle also has lots of politically-related items for any political taste on nearly 7,000 pages. There are buttons and T-shirts that proclaim “Super Callous Fragile Racist Sexist Not My POTUS.” You can get a “Make America Great Again” sticker — in Russian. But to give your gifts that extra certain something, you can wrap everything in Donald Trump wrapping paper. If you don’t like what’s pictured, you can order wrapping paper with images of Trump riding a “Rocket Man” nuclear missile or snowflake-patterned wrap also proclaiming that it’s “Mueller time.”

Let’s see what else we shouldn’t buy.

No. Just — no.

There’s apparently a cottage industry of Trump ugly Christmas sweaters. A Pinterest page offers up a whole slew of them, from sweatshirts that proclaim “Make Christmas Great Again” (seems to be a favorite theme in Trumpland), to a sweater that says “All I Want for Christmas is a New President” with an image of Trump in a circle with the universal diagonal slash indicating NO, to a Trump-adorned sweater that says “May All Your Christmases Be White.” Sorry, we’ll keep shopping.

There are still sweaters with an anti-Hillary Clinton theme (aren’t they ever going to drop that?), and several making fun of Trump’s tiny hands and hair (“Do You Hair What I Hair?” is one repeating favorite). There’s even one with an image of Trump proclaiming a “White Trash White House.”

Such an attractive gang of miscreants.

Also available from Etsy is an array of Trump-themed matryoshka dolls. You remember these Russian nested dolls, right, where each wooden figure opens to find a smaller image inside? They keep opening until you reveal the smallest one? Pairing Trump and his BFF, Russian President Vladimir Putin, is just too easy to resist. I thought the one pictured was especially choice. (There are also matryoshka doll sets with Trump and his three wives or sets with Trump, Melania, and the whole Trump family, but those just looked too scary to share. It is Christmas, after all. Peace on Earth.)

Did you know that there’s an official White House Gift Shop? It’s in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House. Past administrations have kept the merchandise general, without offering items that were obvious commercial products of a particular president. You could buy flags, coins, and baby gifts, such as bibs that said “Future President.” There are several items with the presidential seal, such as pen and pencil sets, Christmas ornaments, and the like. So surely there wouldn’t be anything as tacky as Trump-related merchandise, right?

Who would pay $24.95 for this?

Yes, that was a joke. OF COURSE there’s Trump-related merchandise. There’s all kinds of merch with his ugly mug, from mugs to shirts to calendars to bobble-head dolls. There are leftovers from the poorly-attended inauguration (on sale, of course, since so few people wanted them in the first place), GOP elephant-adorned swag (because why shouldn’t they try to sell the image of a political party in what’s supposed to be “the people’s house”?), and (of course) a red “Make America Great Again” hat. The hats with the presidential seal are proudly labeled “USA made.” Not true of the MAGA hats, though. Sad!

You can even get a refrigerator magnet with a photo of Trump, Melania, and Barron, which is pretty special since Barron was left out of the official White House Christmas card. (Barron was also missing from the Trump family photo that supporters were asked to sign, even though Uday Don Jr., Qusay Eric, Ivanka, and even Tiffany came out of hiding to make an appearance. This all caused #WheresBarron to start trending on Twitter.)

If you really want to toss your Christmas cookies, head over to the official Donald J. Trump Store. Apparel, hats, signs, stickers, a MAGA pet leash (no dog would have such bad taste) — it’s all there. Signs proclaim, “Buy American, Hire American,” even though Trump family products are produced overseas. Items are described as being “Decorated in the USA” rather than “Made in the USA.”

The worst, most over-the-top gift (it is real, despite looking like a Saturday Night Live spoof) is Trumpy Bear. It’s a 22-inch stuffed bear with orange combed-over hair to look like you-know-who. If you reach in a slit in the back, you pull out a U.S. flag blanket (doesn’t that violate the flag code?). The “limited edition” bear is currently unavailable from Amazon. Sad! And the video, whether it’s a spoof or real, is frightening all on its own.

Actually, here’s a holiday gift we can all get behind:

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Dec. 24, 2017.

Alabama Senate upset pushes predictions of 2018 Democratic wave

Doug Jones and his supporters had every right to celebrate. Let’s repeat their hard work in 2018.

What a difference one election makes. Except it’s not just one election.

Sen.-elect Doug Jones of Alabama (don’t you just love reading that?) came from behind to win over accused sexual predator Roy Moore. Although media were saying the race was too close to call, they were all expecting a Moore win.

A thin plurality of the people of Alabama didn’t buy into that narrative. Neither did Doug Jones, and neither did Democrats. Most important, neither did the grassroots groups who got voters to the polls.

Media have been slow to notice a trend in Democratic wins, focusing on a handful of close legislative losses in districts that are lopsidedly red, such as Jon Ossoff’s failure to win a House seat in Georgia. Now, that’s changing. The list of Democratic wins and competitive races is impressive and growing:

  • Two gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey.
  • State legislative race victories all over the map, many of them flipping seats from red to blue: Virginia, Oklahoma, Georgia, Pennsylvania—heck, I can’t even list them all. There have been 33 flipped seats in 2017, two dozen seats just on Nov. 7.
  • Even when seats failed to flip, the margins of loss are cut severely. In Iowa, for example, seats that used to be won by Republicans by 30-plus points are narrowing to 10-point margins.

A story from McClatchy summed up Democrats’ growing confidence:

“There’s no other way to argue it to except for the objective fact that our people are voting in droves, and their people are staying home in droves,” said Gov. Jay Inslee, governor of Washington and chairman of the Democratic Governors Association. “And when that happens, you have massive swings toward the blue part of the spectrum.”

Inslee’s group is targeting dozens of governor’s mansions held by GOP incumbents next year.

No one’s feeling cocky. Democrats still face an uphill battle nationally, with 26 Senate seats to defend (Minnesota is the added race after Al Franken’s resignation) and far too many House districts gerrymandered by the GOP to keep those seats in Republican hands. But more races are being contested, and continued victories are providing growing confidence for Team Blue.

CNN’s Chris Cillizza delivered his analysis on “8 numbers out of Alabama that should terrify Republicans.” Basically, this was about how voting skewed:

  • Moore won only older voters. Moore got 54 percent of voters 45 and older while Jones got 61 percent of those 18-44.
  • Women with children voted for Doug Jones, especially mothers with children under 18.
  • Moderates went heavily for Jones.
  • Trump approval-disapproval numbers were even at 48 percent.
  • Moore and Jones were basically even on the question of “who shares your values.”
  • The Democratic Party is more popular than the Republican Party, 47 percent to 43 percent. In Alabama.
  • Moore’s support was primarily rural (much lower population) while Jones’ support was urban (big voting numbers).
  • Black voters were energized and made the difference.

Cillizza’s conclusion:

There’s a lot of reasons for Republicans to be very nervous. Obviously Alabama is not the US and Moore is not every Republican candidate running in 2018. Still, there are lots of warning signs in the Alabama data for the GOP heading into next year.

Even the usually cautious FiveThirtyEight sees signs pointing to a wave election for Democrats:

But Moore’s defeat is part of a larger pattern we’ve seen in special elections so far this year, one in which Democrats have greatly outperformed expectations. If history holds (and, of course, it may not), the special election results portend a Democratic wave in 2018. …

In a neutral environment, we’d expect each special election result to match the partisan lean of that state or district. Instead, Democrats have outperformed the partisan lean in 74 percent of these races.

Many observers see increased suburban voting for Democrats as pointing to more wins in 2018. As an analysis in the Los Angeles Times put it after the big victory in Virginia:

The trend extended beyond Virginia: In suburbs outside New York City and Philadelphia, for example, Democrats won local races that in some cases have belonged to Republicans for decades, even generations. Although the offices were local, the Democratic candidates in several of those races campaigned explicitly as opponents of Trump.

The view from the suburbs is key because it points to the central problem for Republicans in 2018: Control of the House will be decided in large part in districts similar to those that retaliated against Trump on Tuesday. In California, for example, Democrats hope to win several Republican House seats in the suburbs of Los Angeles and Orange County.

Republicans in many of those races next year will face the same conundrum that befell the losing Virginia gubernatorial candidate, Ed Gillespie: The racially tinged, culture war themes that appeal to Trump loyalists provoked a giant backlash among moderate suburbanites and nonwhite voters.

California’s Ted Lieu is predicting even more.

To get this predicted Democratic wave (tsunami, perfect storm, whatever), Democrats need several factors to coalesce:

Candidates—good ones, and lots of ‘em. Groups such as Run for Something, She Should Run, and EMILY’s List are all reporting eye-popping numbers of people running for office at every level, from school boards to House races to gubernatorial contests. EMILY’s List alone reports contacts from more than 22,000 women interested in running for office in all 50 states. Of those, half are under 45. For the first time in 25 years, every House district in Texas will have a Democratic candidate.

Well-run campaigns. A major reason Doug Jones won in Alabama (besides the obvious fact that he’s a superior human being to teen stalker Moore) was that he visited every corner of the state and talked to voters about issues such as health care, closure of rural hospitals, and technology jobs while Moore was heading off to the Army-Navy game the weekend before the election. You’d never know it from the lack of coverage the Jones campaign received from the media before the election, but Jones’ campaign was a model in how to win.

Overcoming gerrymandered districts. Former Obama Attorney General Eric Holder is leading the charge with the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which is partnering with Organizing for America in fighting for fairer legislative districts, including taking states to court. But the big changes will come when districts are redrawn after the 2020 election, which is why it’s so crucial to retake state houses and governors’ mansions. The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee has a 2018 Roadmap and an Advantage 2020 program to do just that, using better data analytics and better training for field organizing. The DLCC had a record fundraising year and aims for candidates to be competitive in all 50 states.

Fighting voter suppression. States have passed voter ID laws, cut early voting, closed driver’s license facilities in majority black districts, and thrown people off voting rolls for being “inactive voters.” And that doesn’t even address the damage that could still occur from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s voter suppression panel, which is going after the non-existent problem of voter fraud. While all these efforts must be fought, Alabama proved that if enough people show up to vote, that outweighs voter suppression efforts.

Getting out the vote. Black voters in Alabama overcame voting impediments by getting to the polls and standing in line, sometimes for hours. There were grassroots GOTV groups throughout the state. They drove people to polls, registered people to vote, and went door to door. The Alabama NAACP had its district offices call registered voters who did not vote in 2016. As a result, black voter turnout not only exceeded expectations but also delivered Jones’ winning margin of victory. And not just African-American voters, but specifically (as is always the case with Democrats) black women.

Here’s one final factor that will do nothing but help Democrats: Donald Trump’s tanking approval ratings, the latest being a record-low 32 percent.

Think we’ll ever get tired of all this winning?

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Dec. 17, 2017.

Doug Jones’ Alabama Senate victory: Black voters, honesty, and shoe-leather campaigning

Alabama Senator-elect Doug Jones.

When you’re on the winning side in an election, you’re happy. If your candidate lost, you’re casting around for someone to blame. Media love to issue morning-after political analyses, assigning winners and losers. Let’s see if we can’t do the same.

Winners

Doug Jones. Obviously, the victor in the contest belongs at the top of the list in a race in which he was not expected to prevail. He’s got a great record: The former U.S. attorney racked up a big win against the Ku Klux Klan in the 1963 Birmingham church bombing that killed four girls. He was involved in the successful prosecution of abortion clinic bomber Eric Rudolph, the 1996 Olympic bomber. Throughout the campaign, he talked about issues that matter to Alabama: jobs, technology development, health care, the closure of rural hospitals.

Here’s what he said at his victory rally:

“At the end of the day, this entire race has been about dignity and respect. This campaign has been about the rule of law. This campaign has been about common courtesy and decency.”

Congratulations, Alabama, you picked someone who deserved to win.

Black voters. They make up 26 percent of the population of Alabama, but they were 30 percent of the special election electorate. Black men supported Doug Jones to the tune of 93 percent. Black women backed him with 98 percent of their vote. A majority of white voters backed Moore.

Maybe now the Democrats won’t take black voters for granted, and maybe now the media will treat them with a little more respect, interviewing them at least as often as they interview their favorite voter du jour, the white working class voter. From a story in The Root:

Black people saved your ass again, America. Because of black people, senators might be able to stop Congress from making it rain on the top 1 percent with the GOP billionaire tax plan. Because of black people, we might be able to stop Donald Trump from appointing Simon Cowell to the Supreme Court (Donald is a fan of the judging on American Idol, and Paula Abdul has that filthy Muslim name). Because of black people, we might finally be rid of the only white man in history suffering from acute ashiness—Steve Bannon. …

Somewhere, above the clouds, four little girls whose souls left their bodies 54 years ago are smiling. Maybe Denise McNair, Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley looked down at what another monster had done to other 14-year-olds and said: “Don’t worry, we got y’all.”

Mixed bag

The media. Kudos to The Washington Post for its dogged and thorough reporting on the women who were teenagers when they received unwanted sexual attention from Roy Moore when he was in his 30s. After Moore won the GOP primary, all media declared him a shoo-in until the sexual predator story broke.

But media basically ignored Doug Jones, and the coverage they gave his campaign was mostly slipshod. They kept repeating the mantra that his campaign wasn’t attracting enough black voters; that it was a lackluster campaign; that “Roy Moore has already won.” They were more interested in quoting Moore voters who were still backing the Republican candidate in the same way they can’t get enough of interviews with white voters who are still supporting Donald Trump. The day after the election, media were forced to scramble for stories with headlines like “Meet Democrat Doug Jones, Alabama’s senator-elect.”

Let’s take a look at Jones’ “lackluster campaign,” in a story from AL.com:

Over the past several months, Jones has visited every corner of Alabama and worked hard to earn people’s votes. He built a strong coalition of canvassers and phone bankers, deploying a strong get-out-the-vote operation such that Alabama Democrats haven’t seen in decades. He was willing to speak to any Alabamian, no matter their income, their faith or their race.

His victory speech showed his admirable desire and ability to embrace all Alabamians. Jones’s voter base represents the future of Alabama: an emerging coalition of black voters, LGBT activists, women and young voters. He won by offering these groups a vision that can help our state assert itself in the 21st century. …

And as we saw from Moore’s few campaign appearances, the Alabama Republican Party may be taking its voters for granted. We would all benefit from a better exchange of ideas, from politicians who court the broad center of the electorate rather than build a base that divides Alabama’s people. Jones offered a new path for Alabama’s leaders, Republican and Democrat. They should all walk it.

Here’s a message for the rest of the media: Egg, meet face. Next time around, how about a little more substance in the campaign coverage?

Losers

Donald Trump. Are you tired of all the losing yet? You plucked Republican Jeff Sessions from a safe Senate seat in Alabama to make him attorney general, a position where he lies and plays politics instead of upholding the law. You backed his appointed successor, Luther Strange, who lost to Roy Moore in the primary. Even after the Moore-as-teen-stalker stories, you went all in, exhorting supporters at a Florida rally to vote for Moore and recording a robo-call to remind voters that Republicans needed Moore’s vote for your agenda.

Like everything else this egotist does, the call was more about Trump than about Moore.

Republicans. After the Post stories broke, some in the GOP kept their distance, but the shameless quest to keep the Senate in Republican hands forced many to return to the fold. The Republican National Committee was back with funding — how’d that investment work out? Republicans’ backing of Moore and their reluctance to disown him will be hung around their necks in the 2018 midterm election.

Roy Moore. Talk about running an incompetent campaign. Moore was unfit for office even before he was kicked off the Alabama Supreme Court — twice. Add the sexual misconduct allegations; his questioning of all constitutional amendments after the 10th (meaning women and blacks couldn’t vote); his statements that families were better off when they took care of each other, even under slavery; and so much more. So instead of debating Jones or actually campaigning, he took time off the campaign trail, thinking he could coast to victory. He even took the weekend off before the special election to take in the Army-Navy game. Just concede and fade away, but don’t ride your horse into the sunset — Sassy deserves better.

Steve Bannon. New York Republican Peter King called on the Breitbart chief and former White House chief strategist to get out of national politics, saying he looked like a “disheveled drunk that wandered on to the national stage.” The media used to credit Bannon with being the brains behind Trump (talk about an oxymoron) or call him “President Bannon.” Oh, how the mighty white nationalists have fallen.

White evangelicals. Media, just drop this line of coverage. Black voters are also people of faith, as are LGBT folks, liberal Democrats, etc., etc. White evangelicals don’t own morality, and it’s time you started saying so out loud. They got so hung up on abortion that they were willing to excuse an alleged child molester.

So welcome to the Senate, Doug Jones. Let’s hope a few Senate Republicans have enough spine to scuttle the scam of a GOP tax bill before it can become law and Congress can take a more thorough look next year to do things the right way.

We need more women in power. In media, government, entertainment…


Remember what a complete jerk Matt Lauer was at this 2016 candidate forum supposedly about military and security issues, interrupting Hillary Clinton constantly and badgering her about emails while tossing softballs to Donald Trump?

It’s not about sex. It’s all about power.

Matt Lauer is out at The Today Show after what NBC called a “review” of sexual misconduct at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. His actions were a “clear violation of our company’s standards,” says an NBC story.

Details about Lauer’s behavior — the alleged sexual assault of a co-worker — are still emerging. There are now accusations from several women and a report from Variety that Lauer, once he had a potential conquest in his office, pushed a button under his desk that let him lock his office door without getting up. The now-former NBC star says he is “truly sorry” and that he feels “embarrassed and ashamed” (ya think?). Lauer is just the latest man to be fired for inappropriate behavior, although at the rate these sexual predators are being uncovered, he may soon be yesterday’s news himself.

And — like clockwork! — hours later, the next man to be accused and fired was humorist Garrison Keillor, longtime host of “A Prairie Home Companion” on Minnesota Public Radio and a writer who became a columnist for The Washington Post News Service and Syndicate. MPR dropped him over alleged “inappropriate behavior” without detailing what that behavior was. Keillor later claimed that the incident in question, in which he touched a woman’s bare back underneath her shirt, was accidental. Ironically, Keillor’s latest op-ed in the Post stated that Minnesota Sen. Al Franken shouldn’t resign because of his reported indiscretions. After the Keillor news, the op-ed was removed from the Post’s online front page.

Before that same day was over, there was also a report that a senior producer at CNN, Teddy Davis, was dismissed over allegations from three women about inappropriate behavior. David Sweeney, the chief news editor at NPR, resigned one day earlier over similar allegations by at least three female journalists.

At the same time, Donald Trump, who admitted sexual assault in the Access Hollywood tape (although he apparently is delusional enough that he thinks he can now deny it was him on the tape), is still president. Roy Moore, with his history of stalking and allegedly assaulting teenage girls, has retaken the lead in polls in the Alabama Senate race, although some new polls have him tied or even behind Democrat Doug Jones. And still in office are the aforementioned Franken and Rep. John Conyers, although there were reports that the Michigan congressman, while not resigning, may not run for re-election after numerous sexual harassment claims.

This problem of sexual harassment and assault is systemic, and not just in media, government, or the entertainment world. It’s because too many men in power think basic rules of decency shouldn’t have to apply to them anymore. They earn salaries in the millions and receive applause and adulation in public, often based on ratings or election wins. Matt Lauer looked out on his fan base every morning through the glass window of The Today Show studio.

Because most of my work experience has been on newspapers, I’m going to concentrate on media.

I’ve worked in newsrooms for most of my career, from my college paper to a suburban weekly to dailies in medium-size and large cities to a national weekly. Work environments certainly have improved from the days on my first full-time job, when I was forced to write wedding and engagement notices while a male college friend who started the same day I did covered the police beat. But there wasn’t one workplace where some kind of sexism wasn’t present. Somewhere in all of these organizations, there was sexual harassment from male bosses and male co-workers. (I do feel the need to add that I’ve worked with many men who have always acted professionally and never crossed any line.)

I’m fortunate in that I never experienced direct assault or serious harassment at work. But there were often crude jokes. Teasing that went way too far. Comments from bosses about the appropriateness of women’s apparel. Ogling and “rating” women journalists by their male colleagues, either in the newsroom itself or loudly in bars after work while those same women were present. Reporters who refused to take no for an answer when the young female intern wouldn’t go out with them. Guys in the composing room (yes, it was a long time ago) who stood a little “too close” while you were checking a page. And reports of one male colleague rubbing his naked penis across surfaces that he knew women would be touching next (how juvenile can you get?).

The situation didn’t really start changing until more women started becoming the bosses. And it won’t change completely until there are more women editors, producers, anchors, and more.

Longtime journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner Ann Marie Lipinski, former editor of the Chicago Tribune, has written several pieces about the issue of sexual harassment in journalism in Nieman Reports, a website and quarterly print publication about leadership in journalism. Lipinski serves as curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. Her latest has the headline, “When Women Stand Up Against Harassers in the Newsroom: We don’t need more training — we know what to do.”

The reason it is so easy for women to believe the avalanche of accusations about harassment and sexual abuse is that most of us are members of a reluctant sorority. We don’t need to have suffered the worst to have seen that men can abuse with impunity. And it is not coincidental that our industry — where harassers recently have been toppled at National Public Radio, CBS, Fox, NBC, The New Republic, and elsewhere — employs so few women in the most senior roles. The fix is not sexual harassment training, but more people in leadership who already know better.

The trouble is, too many men don’t know better. Along with the Lipinski piece, Nieman Reports had another story, headlined, “The News Industry Has a Sexual Harassment Problem. #NowWhat? How newsroom leaders can create workplaces that truly support women.”

The issue facing journalism is not simply about preventing sexual harassment; it’s about also acknowledging that this behavior is often a part of a sexist and unequal work environment. Newsroom cultures need to change in ways that both stop sexual harassment and foster supportive work environments for women. …

While the press has rightly focused on the misdeeds of prominent men in the media industry, the news industry must also address the less high-profile forms of belittlement, sexism, and harassment many women have come to experience as routine. …

Part of the solution: Put more women in newsroom leadership positions. … The value of women at the top is not only to shape coverage, but also to shape culture.

Makes perfect sense. So how are newspapers and networks doing in putting more women in positions of leadership? As it turns out, not too well.

The Women’s Media Center was started in 2005 by feminist activists Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan, and Gloria Steinem. This is how it describes its mission:

The Women’s Media Center is a progressive, nonpartisan nonprofit organization working to raise the visibility, viability and decision-making power of women and girls in media and, thereby, ensuring that their stories get told and their voices are heard. To reach those necessary goals, we strategically use an array of interconnected channels and platforms to transform not only the media landscape but also a culture in which women’s and girls’ voices, stories, experiences and images are neither sufficiently amplified nor placed on par with the voices, stories, experiences and images of men and boys.

In March 2017, the Women’s Media Center published its latest report — its fifth — on “The Status of Women in U.S. Media.” While there has been progress, the number of women in positions of power in media is still low and has actually dropped in some areas.

Men still dominate media across all platforms—television, newspapers, online and wires — with change coming only incrementally. Women are not equal partners in telling the story, nor are they equal partners in sourcing and interpreting what and who is important in the story.

Most certainly, we salute media advances toward gender and race parity that are noted in this report. Yet, we are deeply concerned about areas where the media lurched backward. …

At 20 of the nation’s top news outlets, men produced 62.3 percent of news reports analyzed during a studied period while women produced 37.7 percent of news reports. … Additionally, in the broadcast news sector alone, work by women anchors, field reporters and correspondents actually declined, falling to 25.2 percent of reports in 2016 from 32 percent when the WMC published its 2015 “Divided” report.

Is it any wonder why coverage of the 2016 election was so slanted against Hillary Clinton?

As Ian Millhiser of Think Progress tweeted, “I’m not the first or the tenth person to say this, but I can’t help wonder how different and how much better the last year would have been if Hillary Clinton hadn’t been covered by men who share Donald Trump’s view of women.”

When men hold all or most of the power, too many of them see no downside to doing whatever they want, because they don’t fear consequences. “When you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump said on the Access Hollywood tape. “You can do anything.”

As a friend wrote on Facebook:

As a heterosexual male I am completely dumbfounded by this behavior on the part of otherwise incredibly intelligent, talented people. I think I agree it’s a power thing. Some men just think rules stop applying to them in a certain level of power. And I’ll bet it begins with them being treated differently by the people around them. Then they think they are somehow special and they lose their normal self controls.

Maybe we should stop treating men at the top like they’re special. And let women run things for a change.

Originally posted on Daily Kos, Dec. 3, 2017.

Join a peace vigil to mark Sandy Hook’s five-year anniversary. Then demand action.

Hardly a week goes by without news of a mass shooting somewhere in the United States. But a mass shooting five years ago still leaves a hole in our hearts and anger in our souls.

It was Dec. 14, 2012, when Adam Lanza used an assault rifle and a semi-automatic handgun to kill 20 6- and 7-year-olds and six adult staff members at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. He had shot his mother to death earlier, and he killed himself after the shooting.

We all remember the horror of that day. We wept along with President Obama, both immediately afterward and during his poignant and heartfelt remarks to the Newtown community. We waited for lawmakers to do the right thing and pass common-sense gun laws.

We’re still waiting.

Even while the details of Sandy Hook fade as our attention turns to other acts of gun violence, it will forever remain fresh in the minds of those affected in Newtown, Connecticut. They started Newtown Action Alliance, a national grassroots organization formed after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings and based in Newtown itself. Newtown Foundation is the charitable arm of Newtown Action Alliance. The group’s mission, as described on its website, is “to achieve the steady and continuous reduction of gun violence through legislative and cultural changes.”

We haven’t seen that gun violence reduction or those legislative changes. So Newtown Action is joining with many of the nation’s gun safety groups by inviting people nationwide to participate in peace vigils and to keep demanding action.

Many had hopes that the death of 20 first- and second-graders would be enough to move lawmakers to pass common-sense gun laws that are favored by a large majority of Americans. Public support for gun safety always rises immediately after a mass shooting, then fades somewhat. Just as in this recent poll by Politico, taken after the Las Vegas shooting on Oct. 1 that killed 58 people, there always remains a big percentage in favor of:

  • Requiring universal background checks (88 percent).
  • Preventing gun sales to those reported as dangerous to law enforcement by a mental health provider (87 percent).
  • Making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks (84 percent).
  • Preventing gun sales to people convicted of violent misdemeanors (83 percent).
  • Barring gun purchases by those on no-fly or watch lists (82 percent).
  • Banning bump stocks, used by the Las Vegas shooter to increase his rate of fire, turning his semi-automatic weapon into an automatic weapon (79 percent).
  • Banning assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines (72 percent).

The list goes on and on. Yet lawmakers still resist passing even a minimum piece of legislation, fearing retribution from the National Rifle Association. But in response to the shooting at a Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, which killed 26 people, there are two new attempts.

Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson of Texas introduced a bill called the “Gun Safety: Not Sorry Act.” It would require “a 7-day waiting period before a semiautomatic firearm, a silencer, armor piercing ammunition, or a large capacity ammunition magazine may be purchased or transferred ownership.” As Jackson said in describing her bill:

The “Gun Safety: Not Sorry Act” will not abridge the Second Amendment, take away gun rights, nor impose greater restrictions on gun ownership, BUT it would significantly reduce gun homicides. According to an October 2017 Harvard University study, the adoption of a national waiting period, from 1994 to 1998 under the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, led to a 17 percent drop in gun homicides.

Handgun purchase waiting periods in 17 states, Texas not being one of them, prevent about 750 gun deaths each year in the United States. An estimated 910 gun deaths could also be avoided if those policies were adopted nationwide.

On the Senate side, a bipartisan group of four senators—Democrats Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Republicans John Cornyn of Texas and Tim Scott of South Carolina—introduced their own bill to strengthen reporting to the national background check system. The bill, which has four co-sponsors, two Democrats and two Republicans, “would require states and agencies to produce plans for sending records to the National Instant Background Check System (NICS) that would show if an individual is prohibited from buying a gun and verifying that the information is accurate,” according to a story in The Hill.

As Cornyn said in introducing the bill:

For years agencies and states haven’t complied with the law, failing to upload these critical records without consequence. … This bill aims to help fix what’s become a nationwide, systemic problem so we can better prevent criminals and domestic abusers from obtaining firearms.

It’s clear that this bill to strengthen background checks is needed. The NICS lacks information on more than 25 percent of all felony convictions, according to a 2013 report by the nonprofit National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics, because too many states don’t turn in reports. Even the NRA admits that about 7 million records aren’t in the system.

There’s always a call for action after every mass shooting. After Columbine. After Virginia Tech. After the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. After Sandy Hook. After Orlando. After Las Vegas. After Sutherland Springs. There is a never-ending litany of names of towns and people affected by gun violence. Yet it never stops.

There will be a national vigil in Washington, D.C., at St. Marks Episcopal Church near Capitol Hill on Dec. 6 to mark the fifth anniversary of Sandy Hook. Among the organizations joining the Newtown Foundation and taking part in the Dec. 6 event in Washington:

  • The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence
  • Everytown Survivor Network
  • Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence
  • Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America
  • Organizing for Action
  • States United to Prevent Gun Violence
  • Women’s March on Washington

The organizers of the Washington event originally invited family members who have lost loved ones to gun violence and survivors to attend. They even offered travel assistance and hotel rooms. But 500,000 people have been killed or injured by gun violence since December 2012. Each year, more than 30,000 people die through gun violence.

That’s an awful lot of people for one church. So Newtown Action Alliance is asking others around the country to hold their own candlelight vigils. Communities across America are invited to hold their own events anytime between Dec. 6 and Dec. 17. Newtown Action is calling these vigils the Nationwide Vigils to #EndGunViolence.

Last year, on the fourth anniversary of Sandy Hook, there were 330 such events in 43 states. Newtown Action is hoping for more than 500 vigils this year in all 50 states.

To host a vigil or event, Newtown Action offers a tool kit to facilitate planning and to coordinate a collective gun violence prevention message. You can find more information on the Newtown website.

To find an event near you, visit Newtown Action’s Facebook page describing the events or the still-growing list of the many vigils planned. They are spread throughout the dates of Dec. 6-17 and in all areas of the country, although many are planned for the anniversary date of Dec. 14. Besides the candlelight vigils, at many of these events, participants will receive educational materials on gun violence prevention. Some will collect materials for care packages for the families of gun violence victims. Others will invite attendees to participate in social media campaigns and sign pledge cards.

On Dec. 14, churches nationwide are invited to ring church bells in remembrance of the 26 Sandy Hook victims at 9:35 a.m., the time the deadly attack in Newtown started. Maybe the sound of church bells ringing will remind lawmakers that we haven’t moved on from the issue of gun violence, even if some of them have.

Let’s not let legislators off the hook. Do it for these children and the brave adults who died trying to save them.

And for the 150,000 people who have died from gun violence ever since.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Nov. 26, 2017.

I’m ready for a world with women in charge

Not a day goes by without a new revelation of sexual assault or harassment by some man in a position of power.

Men in politics. Men in the entertainment world. Men in business. Men in media.

Famous comedians. Senators and congressmen. Little-known legislators. Otherwise-well-respected reporters, and some who weren’t so respected. Top executives at top companies. Political candidates. Campaign officials. Church pastors.

It goes all the way to the top, as the infamous Access Hollywood tape showed us when Donald Trump bragged about “grabbing women by the pussy.” That wasn’t enough to stop him from eking out a win in the Electoral College, even though he lost by 3 million votes. See — even when a woman gets the majority, she still loses.

The Harvey Weinstein bombshells were hardly the first stories of Hollywood and the casting couch. But the eye-opening revelations opened the floodgates. For decades, women were afraid of speaking out — afraid that they wouldn’t be believed, afraid that their complaints would cost them a job, afraid that they would be blamed for someone else’s misdeeds.

Men have always abused women, from prehistoric times on. History abounds with tales, from biblical accounts (Christianity Today has a story with the provocative headline, “David Was a Rapist, Abraham Was a Sex Trafficker“) to stories of the depravity of Roman emperors. Many women branded as witches in the Middle Ages were healers or those attempting for some kind of power in their own right.

No one is claiming that all men fall into the category of those committing serial sexual abuse. But the sheer number of women coming forward, not to mention those using the #MeToo hashtag to describe or at least to acknowledge past humiliations and hurts at the hands of too many men, shows that this problem is widespread and worldwide.

In France, the #MeToo hashtag became #BalanceTonPorc, translated as “rat out your pig” or “snitch your pig.” In Italy, it’s #quellavoltache, or “the time that.”

The United States has had more than its share of sex scandals involving men of power. Thomas Jefferson fathered six children by his slave Sally Hemings. Does anyone honestly think that was a co-equal relationship? As a recent piece in The Washington Post put it, “Sally Hemings wasn’t Thomas Jefferson’s mistress. She was his property.” Remember that Sally Hemings was 14 when she accompanied Jefferson’s daughter to live with Jefferson in Paris and he began a sexual relationship with the slave. Jefferson was 44.

Fourteen, of course, was also the age of the first (of nine!) women accusing Roy Moore, the GOP Senate candidate in Alabama, of sexual assault or unwanted sexual attention when they were in their teens and he was in his 30s. Moore even may have gotten banned from the Gadsden Mall because he was known to target teen-age girls (Snopes reports many anecdotal stories from Moore contemporaries from that time confirming the account, but the shopping mall says it didn’t keep those kinds of records).

Then there are the comedians, who often turn crudity into popularity. Louis C.K. had a mostly male fan base. No one will accuse the boys’ club at Comedy Central of having good taste. The talented Samantha Bee, shut out of the big desk on The Daily Show, had to go to TBS to launch Full Frontal.

There’s a long list of those at the top of the political world who took advantage of women, including presidents, governors, mayors, senators, and congressmen. Congress has paid more than $17.2 million in settlements over 20 years for “violations of employment rules,” including sexual harassment, according to another story in The Washington Post.  Although — by design — the details of those settlements are confidential, that’s a lot of taxpayer money paid out because of legislators acting badly.

So maybe it’s time to put some other people in charge. Maybe a whole different gender.

As columnist Rex Huppke wrote in the Chicago Tribune:

I believe we need more women in charge, and fast. Men have had their chance to run things for … well, for forever, and if the present waves of revelations about sexual harassment and sexual assault by powerful men show us anything, it’s that men have royally screwed things up. …

I believe the problem we have in this country with men who have power sexually harassing or sexually assaulting women has nothing to do with politics or ideology or religion. It has to do with male dominance and entitlement.

And I believe these revelations of swinish male behavior, revelations that will undoubtedly continue, signal one thing: Lascivious behavior stemming from male dominance and entitlement is no longer going to be ignored or begrudgingly accepted.

So, women, next time you buy a product, turn on the TV, go to a movie, or cast a ballot, think who deserves your dollars and your votes. Is it a man, or is it time to give women a chance to run things for a while? Over 70 countries have been led by a woman, mostly in Europe, even if the U.S. still is short of breaking that final glass ceiling. At every electoral level, you’ll have plenty to choose from: There are record numbers of women running for office now, backed by groups like Emily’s List and She Should Run, which has the goal of 250,000 women running for elected office by 2030 to achieve gender parity. So far, since Trump’s election, 20,000 women have contacted Emily’s List and 15,000 have contacted She Should Run.

What do you say, ladies? I’d say it’s past time that it should be our turn.

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