BREAKING: Amtrak welcomes entire staff!

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 2014

On secret northbound excursion:
We're off on a mission of national import. No posts until tomorrow.


BRAVE NEW VOICES: They’re everywhere!

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2014

Part 4—Rachel’s latest tale:
Brave new voices are everywhere in the rapidly changing media landscape.

The world of American journalism is changing before our eyes. Consider the report in yesterday’s New York Times about the storied New Republic, whose owner says it’s no longer “liberal,” or even a “magazine.”

The New Republic is now one hundred years old. Yesterday, Jennifer Scheussler reported some of the changes which have occurred under Chris Hughes, “the Facebook multimillionaire who bought the magazine in 2012.”

The new owner is 30 years old. The New Republic isn’t going “lowbrow,” he was quick to assert:
SCHUESSLER (11/19/14): Eyebrows were raised last year when Mr. Hughes, a former organizer for Barack Obama, introduced the redesigned magazine with an editor's letter that omitted the words ''liberal'' or ''liberalism.'' These days, while he says he remains committed to print, he is also ready to jettison ''magazine.''

''Twenty years ago, no question, it was a political magazine, full stop,'' Mr. Hughes said in a joint interview with Mr. Vidra in New York. ''Today, I don't call it a magazine at all. I think we're a digital media company.''

Mr. Hughes (who gave up the editor in chief title but remains publisher) and Mr. Vidra dismissed speculation that they wanted to take the magazine in a more lowbrow, BuzzFeed-like direction. But they did say there was room to increase the digital audience to as much as ''tens of millions'' of unique monthly visitors by focusing on a broader range of topics and on new forms of digital storytelling that ''travel well'' on the web.
Hughes doesn’t want to go lowbrow! He just wants “to increase the digital audience…by focusing on a broader range of topics and on new forms of digital storytelling that ‘travel well’ on the web.”

All around the media world, a lot of people are refusing to go lowbrow in precisely this fashion. At the new Salon, they keep adding kid reporters who churn reports of this type:
WEDNESDAY, NOV 19, 2014 10:19 AM EST
The year of the rear: A thorough history of 2014 in butts
From "Anaconda" to Kim Kardashian, a look back at the posteriors that got us to where we are today
ANNA SILMAN
Silman graduated from McGill in 2012. Today, as Salon’s new “deputy entertainment editor,” she’s engaged in that sort of digital storytelling.

A lot of storytelling is being offered as the new media grow. Consider the story Rachel told at the start of last night’s program.

Rachel’s story took us almost seven minutes into her program, depending on when you want to stop counting. The storytelling started like this:
MADDOW (11/19/14): Good evening, Chris. Thank you. Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

Do you remember a guy named Randy Scheunemann? Randy Scheunemann, he was the top foreign policy adviser to the McCain-Palin campaign in 2008. That’s him, the guy with the beard there.

He doesn’t have that memorable a face. I don’t mean that in a bad way. I just mean, he doesn’t— You don’t see him and instantly know who he is.

He also has a name that is kind of hard to pronounce, definitely hard to spell. Honestly, Randy Scheunemann has never been a super famous guy in politics.
Randy Scheunemann’s name is hard to pronounce. It’s definitely hard to spell!

He doesn’t have that memorable a face. With that, we were off to the fair.

To watch the whole segment, click here.

As noted, Maddow’s story wound on for a rather long time. Soon, she was discussing the story of the ski lift fight which, she said, The Daily Beast had broken this very week:
MADDOW: John McCain did not win the presidency and Randy Scheunemann went back to being a standard Washington foreign policy guy. And you don’t hear much about him anymore.

You haven’t heard much about him since then. Until this week.

Until this week, a really, really weird story about Randy Scheunemann was broken by The Daily Beast.
It turns out Randy Scheunemann belongs to a private skiing club in Montana.

I did not know there was such a thing as a private skiing club.
I thought like, you know, you buy a lift ticket, then you go ski on a mountain with other people who are skiing on the mountain and that’s skiing! I—

Apparently, there are places you can do it privately, without the riff-raff. And Randy Scheunemann apparently belongs to one of those.

And on the ski lift, at his private skiing club, The Daily Beast and a number of other outlets now report that Randy Scheunemann got into a fight.
You won’t be surprised to learn that Maddow’s chronology was already wrong.

In fact, The Daily Beast didn’t break this story this week, a claim Maddow kept repeating. Maddow’s web site didn’t provide the link, but you can read the Daily Beast report here.

It’s dated October 18, 2014. That was a month ago.

In truth, that doesn’t enormously matter. But as Maddow continued to entertain us with her thoughts about private ski clubs, her storytelling continued to struggle and flail.

Her first six or seven minutes were devoted to this dreck. With apologies, here’s how her story continued:
MADDOW (continuing directly): And on the ski lift, at his private skiing club, The Daily Beast and a number of other outlets now report that Randy Scheunemann got into a fight. He got into a fight on the ski lift with a white supremacist, specifically with this guy, who is sort of America’s foremost white supremacist.

This is a guy named Richard Spencer. He was recently forcibly deported from Budapest when he tried to organize an international white supremacist conference and the nation of Hungary caught him trying to sneak into their country even though they had banned him. He calls for the creation of a white homeland. He runs an organization called the National Policy Institute, to try to advance the goal of a white homeland. His group is based in Whitefish, Montana.

He’s also founded a few online white supremacist magazines and Web sites, including this one, which is called Alternative Right.

And apparently, making a career as a white supremacist leader these days is a pretty remunerative thing. At least the dude is making enough money to belong to the same private ski club that Randy Scheunemann does in Montana.

Who even knew there were private ski clubs? Anyway, there are! And apparently, the two of them got into a fight on the ski lift.

Insults were exchanged. Punches were threatened.
And the reason it all broke out in the news this week is because that private ski club in Montana, it’s called the Big Mountain Club, they apparently at some point in this fight between two of their members felt they had to decide between them, which of these two guys was going to be allowed to stay as a member of their private ski club:

Randy Scheunemann, Washington policy adviser guy, adviser to John McCain? Or the Aryan Nation white supremacist guy who’s trying to build a homeland for the endangered white race from his home base in Montana?

The Big Mountain Club in Whitefish, Montana, decided they’d go with the white supremacist. They kicked Randy Scheunemann out and kept the Ku Klux other guy! Yeah!

And so now, in the wake of that, you have Whitefish, Montana city council meetings that have suddenly gotten very crowded. They look like this, totally packed with local residents who apparently now realize they have the leader of a white nationalist movement living in their town, getting in fights on their ski lifts.

A local anti-racist effort has sprung up in Whitefish. They’re trying to figure out basically some way to force this guy out or at least maybe pass an anti-discrimination ordinance of some kind that maybe would annoy the guy enough that he might leave on his own.

It’s turning into this big to-do in Montana.
That’s enjoyable storytelling. It’s also largely inaccurate.

According to the Daily Beast, the incident which kicked this thing off occurred “in early 2013.” That was almost two years ago.

According to Scheunemann, it involved a brief argument as he and Spencer got off the ski lift. There never was a fight.

According to The Daily Beast, the story jumps ahead to the ski club’s annual Christmas party last year, in December 2013. According to Scheunemann, he and Spencer briefly argued again that night. According to Scheunemann, he told the leaders of the club that Spencer had to leave the club or that he, Scheunemann, would.

Spencer didn’t leave the club. For that reason, Scheunemann did, almost a year ago.

This story didn’t break “this week.” That’s clear from The Daily Beast report, to which Maddow provided no link.

Maddow did link to a recent news report about that city council meeting in Whitefish. According to the news report, the jam-packed meeting had nothing to do with any “ski lift fight,” or with the ski club at all.

Back to the Daily Beast:

In the (month old) Beast report, Spencer is quoted saying that Scheunemann’s account of the incidents in question involves “a gross mischaracterization of events.” Leaders of the club refused to comment to the Daily Beast.

Last night, there was no sign that Maddow or anyone on her staff had tried to speak with anyone concerning what actually happened in the two-year-old “ski lift fight.” She simply embellished Scheunemann’s account, jumbling her chronology in major ways as she did.

Increasingly, that's how Maddow performs storytelling of a weekday night.

Maddow’s is a Brave New Voice. As with Hughes’ version of The New Republic, she’s deeply involved in “storytelling.” On the other hand, she’s partisan to the point of being a propagandist.

Why did Maddow waste everyone’s time with last night’s embellished, inaccurate story? Largely, because it set up a scary framework with which she was shouting boo at her viewers.

That said, Maddow’s entire program last night was a tribute to propaganda. There are numerous ways to dumb the world down. Maddow is working on hers.

Much of Maddow’s propaganda involves the omission of facts. Persistently, she simplifies the world to make you feel politically scared and morally extra good.

Last night, she clowned her way through a denunciation of the “schizophrenic” American public, based on responses to a recent NBC poll. She then feigned ignorance concerning decisions by the broadcast networks to avoid televising presidential speeches.

To be clear, we assume she was feigning ignorance. With Maddow, it’s increasingly hard to tell.

Our media are changing before our eyes. Increasingly, Maddow is getting wealthy and famous by dumbing the world way down.

To our ear, her Brave New Voice sounds a lot like Sean’s. It's hard to believe that a modern nation can actually function this way.

Supplemental: What you can read in the New York Times!

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 2014

Maddow versus the world:
You can read things in the New York Times you won’t likely see on TV.

Yesterday morning, on the front page, a news report carried this headline: “Immigration Has President Altering Stand.”

Michael Spear reported the various times in recent years when Obama has said that he can’t legally go where he now seems to be going on immigration.

What are the merits of this case? We aren’t sure—and you won’t likely see that explored on The One True Liberal Channel.

That was yesterday’s New York Times. In this morning’s New York Times, Ashley Parker performs a twofer.

On page A15, she offers a lengthy report under this headline: “In Immigration Fight, Republicans Explore Alternatives to a Shutdown.”

Parker quotes a string of Republican office-holder and machers who are arguing against a government shutdown in response to Obama’s upcoming moves on immigration. In Liberal Land, we’re still being told, in various ways, that the Fox News Channel is beating the drum in search of a quickie impeachment.

Out on page A1, Parker goes a bit further. She co-authors a lengthy report about yesterday’s vote on the Keystone pipeline.

This is where Maddow comes in.

Last night, for at least the third time, Maddow opened her program with a shrieking segment about the lunacy of allowing yesterday’s vote on the pipeline. She continued to wail and moan about the way the Democrats aren’t going to rush the nomination of Loretta Lynch through the lame-duck session.

Maddow’s angst was exhaustive last night, as was her isolation from the rest of the world. To all appearances, she had interviewed no one about these matters; she had spoken to no one. She gave no indication that anyone on her staff had spoken to anyone about the matters under review.

Instead, Our Own Rhodes Scholar just wailed away, damning the Democrats all to Hell for their wayward conduct.

We would have quoted from this meltdown, except MSNBC hasn’t gotten around to transcribing it yet. Other news channel transcribe in good time. The One True Liberal Channel does nothing in regular fashion.

If you can stand it, go ahead: watch Maddow’s opening segment last night. After that, read Parker’s front-page report.

(Warning! Maddow’s segment has been broken into three parts, the better to make you watch three commercials with. The videotape starts here.)

Increasingly, the Maddow show is a solipsistic banshee scream from a hyperbaric chamber. Increasingly, “the liberal world” is a veil of tears, much as the world of the Fox News Channel has been for these many years.

Increasingly, it’s tribal narrative all the way down; it’s a culture of bumper stickers. We liberals put Maddow on each night to learn the words to ours.

BRAVE NEW VOICES: Kristof decrees!

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 2014

Part 3—The nation’s racial scold:
This morning, we punished ourselves.

We forced ourselves to reread all four parts of Nicholas Kristof’s series of New York Times columns, “When Whites Just Don’t Get It.”

(Yes, that headline has appeared at the top of each column.)

The analysts wept in their carrels, sensitive to the punishments they knew we were absorbing. For ourselves, we were somewhat surprised:

Upon rereading, Kristof’s columns were even less impressive than we would have supposed. We were struck by how little he had to say about race that can’t be memorized.

Don’t get us wrong! Kristof possesses strong technique. In two of his columns, Part 2 and Part 4, he kicked things off by scolding readers who were rejecting his vision.

Those whites! Headline included, this is the way our racial scold started his second column:
KRISTOF (9/7/14): When Whites Just Don’t Get It, Part 2

In my column a week ago, “When Whites Just Don’t Get It,” I took aim at what I called “smug white delusion” about race relations in America,
and readers promptly fired back at what they perceived as a smugly deluded columnist.

Readers grudgingly accepted the grim statistics I cited—such as the wealth disparity between blacks and whites in America today exceeding what it was in South Africa during apartheid—but many readers put the blame on African-Americans themselves.

“Probably has something to do with their unwillingness to work,” Nils tweeted.

Nancy protested on my Facebook page: “We can’t fix their problems.
It’s up to every black individual to stop the cycle of fatherless homes, stop the cycle of generations on welfare.”

There was a deluge of such comments, some toxic, but let me try to address three principal arguments that I think prop up white delusion.
Nils and Nancy were at it again, exhibiting white delusion! Other white comments were toxic!

Last Sunday, Kristof started Part 4 in this endless series with a similar set of jibes aimed at delusional readers. We can think of few approaches which are less likely to be helpful about such a difficult topic.

Kristof is full of scolding remarks, seems to have few proposals. For ourselves, we’re always most struck by his vacuous comments about the nation’s schools, which he says should be improved, possibly even fixed.

Few people are going to say that our public schools shouldn’t be improved. On the other hand, Kristof never seems to have much to say about the ways we could do this.

Last Sunday, he offered his latest discussion of the public school problem. More precisely, Kristof said this:
KRISTOF (11/15/14): The inequality continues, particularly in education. De jure segregated schools have been replaced in some areas by de facto segregation.
That was the whole discussion! Oh sorry: a bit later on, Kristof added this:
KRISTOF: We all stand on the shoulders of our ancestors. We're in a relay race, relying on the financial and human capital of our parents and grandparents. Blacks were shackled for the early part of that relay race, and although many of the fetters have come off, whites have developed a huge lead. Do we ignore this long head start—a facet of white privilege—and pretend that the competition is now fair?

Of course not. If we whites are ahead in the relay race of life, shouldn't we acknowledge that we got this lead in part by generations of oppression? Aren't we big enough to make amends by trying to spread opportunity, by providing disadvantaged black kids an education as good as the one afforded privileged white kids?
If we’re reading that correctly, Kristof was suggesting that we should “provide disadvantaged black kids an education as good as the one afforded privileged white kids.”

We think that’s an outstanding idea! But how should we accomplish that task?

Having wasted space by scolding those whites, the Buddha didn’t say. Through the years, the truth has become rather plain—the Buddha doesn’t know.

In truth, Kristof doesn’t seem to have any real ideas about our public schools. (There’s no reason why he should.) This was his discussion of public schools in the first column in this series:
KRISTOF (8/31/14): All this should be part of the national conversation on race, as well, and prompt a drive to help young black men end up in jobs and stable families rather than in crime or jail. We have policies with a robust record of creating opportunity: home visitation programs like Nurse-Family Partnership; early education initiatives like Educare and Head Start; programs for troubled adolescents like Youth Villages; anti-gang and anti-crime initiatives like Becoming a Man; efforts to prevent teen pregnancies like the Carrera curriculum; job training like Career Academies; and job incentives like the earned-income tax credit.

The best escalator to opportunity may be education, but that escalator is broken for black boys growing up in neighborhoods with broken schools. We fail those boys before they fail us.
That was the whole discussion! Kristof seemed to say we should fix those “broken schools.” But he forgot to say how!

(By the way: Does Head Start really have “a robust record of creating opportunity,” whatever that means? We favor universal free early education. But as it’s been practiced down through the years, does Head Start have such a record?)

In his second column, Kristof started by scolding Nils, as shown above. Soon, though, he extended his discussion of schools:
KRISTOF (9/7/14): Slavery and post-slavery oppression left a legacy of broken families, poverty, racism, hopelessness and internalized self-doubt. Some responded to discrimination and lack of opportunity by behaving in self-destructive ways.

One study found that African-American children on welfare heard only 29 percent as many words in their first few years as children of professional parents. Those kids never catch up, partly because they’re more likely to attend broken schools. Sure, some make bad choices, but they’ve often been on a trajectory toward failure from the time they were babies.

These are whirlpools that are difficult to escape, especially when society is suspicious and unsympathetic...

So instead of pointing fingers, let’s adopt some of the programs that I’ve cited with robust evidence showing that they bridge the chasm.
We need to get rid of those broken schools, the cock said, crowing again. He seemed to think that he had listed “programs with robust evidence showing that they bridge the chasm.”

We’re not sure what those programs are. We didn’t see all that evidence.

In the third column in his series,
Kristof focused on the justice system. He said we need our own Mandela, even saying, somewhat oddly, that “Bryan Stevenson may, indeed, be America’s Mandela.”

It’s strange to think that we the people have never heard of our own Mandela, but that’s the way this series tends to work. Late in his column, Kristof briefly complained about underfunding for “public schools serving disadvantaged children.” He linked to an earlier column by Eduardo Porter to provide some sort of support.

Last Sunday brought Part 4 in the series. Once again, Kristof started by scolding whites for their white delusion. He proceeded to s scatter-shot series of claims, not excluding this:
KRISTOF (11/15/14): Of course, personal responsibility is an issue. Orlando Patterson, the eminent black sociologist, notes in a forthcoming book that 92 percent of black youths agree that it is a “big problem” that black males are “not taking education seriously enough.” And 88 percent agree that it’s a big problem that they are “not being responsible fathers.” That’s why President Obama started “My Brother’s Keeper,” to cultivate more prudent behavior among men and boys of color.
Our question: If 92 percent of black youth agree that it’s a “big problem” that black males are “not taking education seriously enough,” how many black males aren’t taking education seriously?

Such questions don’t occur to Kristof when he ascends his throne.

Kristof memorizes well, scolds enthusiastically. Beyond that, he seems to have little to say about race that anyone else couldn’t say.

He seems to know nothing about public schools except that we should fix them. He’s also eager to scold those whites who don’t accept his greatness.

Kristof’s columns on this topic strike us as very lazy. In the main, he provides a road map towards an angry, disjointed nation.

These columns are so easy to write that they virtually write themselves. Commenters then rush to the Times, praising our king for his greatness.

How do we fix our public schools? Kristof doesn’t seem to know.

He does know how to excite the tribes. Does this lead to progress?

Tomorrow: Another brave new voice