What Now? Can We Find Peace Amid Rising Waters, Rising Gorge?

God willing and the creek don’t rise…  I wrote earlier this week about the likely election of Hillary Clinton.

The creek rose. And now so will the seas. And now what do those of us, more than half the country, who think Trump is horrendous do to find some equilibrium? Anger shock and griping isn’t a healthy plan for living.

Donald Trump’s first act as president elect will ensure that his son Baron and Baron’s children will live in a world of horror. You think there are refugee problems now, Mr. Trump? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Wait until your know-nothing policy on global warming has its effects and tens of millions of poor people who don’t look like your voters flee the rising seas. Trump named Myron Ebel of the Competitive Enterprise Institute to head his transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency. The fox has entered the henhouse. “Mr. Ebel has asserted that whatever warming caused by greenhouse gas pollution is modest and could be beneficial,” The New York Times writes today. Bye Bye Paris climate accord. Bye Bye livable earth.

Every day there will be another outrage like this. But these won’t be like Trump’s campaign outrages. Those could have still been addressed by the voters. Too late now. Too many of these new daily outrages will become policy.

Can I stand to be outraged every day? Angry? Depressed? Clinton in her concession speech said we owe the president elect an open mind. I’ll try. I’ll have to or I’ll go crazy. Or I’ll have to go up in the hills and live alone and become a helmet, as Maynard G. Krebs said.

Perhaps this man will grow in the office. He seems not to have fixed convictions, and he’s certainly not an orthodox Republican. So I suspect he’ll sometimes pleasantly surprise us. He may push for government-supported work repairing infrastructure that was the first thing the Republicans blocked President Obama from doing eight years ago. Clips and pictures of him meeting with Obama yesterday showed Trump looking as if he’s realized what deep water he’s in. That, or he was already bored.

I can’t live in anger for four years. People who thought Obama was an abomination and that his policies were ruining the country felt every day for eight years what I’ll feel now for four. Their representatives in Congress did little but bitch and say no. That wasn’t very satisfying or useful. I don’t want to do that.

So I’ll watch and read less news. Try not to wallow in the daily transgressions. Read more books. Write more books. Watch more movies. Talk with Lisa more instead of sitting next to each other watching MSNBC. Bowl. Do something. Actively try to stop some of the worst things Trump and his backers will do. Are already doing. But I can’t be sad or angry every day or the cats will hide under the bed and Lisa will make me live on the screen porch where my black cloud won’t foul the air.

Half the country is crawling out of their cellars these last three days and looking around at what the tornado rearranged. It’s an apt cliche to say we’re in shock. Moving slow. Staring off in the distance. Wishing it weren’t so.

The dark parts of me want to say to Trump voters, “You picked him, you got him, don’t come to us when you realize he’s screwing you.” And the nasty parts of me want to say to Democratic primary voters, “You picked her, a terrible candidate, and look where that got us.” The late great Molly Ivins wrote a book about George W. Bush’s years as governor of Texas to show voters what Bush would be like as president. And he was (sort of) elected anyway and he acted just like Ivins warned he would. She wrote a second book before Bush’s reelection and said in the introduction “If y’all hadda read my first book I wouldn’t have had to write the second one.” If we’d paid attention to Carl Bernstein’s study of Hillary Clinton’s actions and character “A Woman in Charge” we would have put up someone this year who wasn’t so reviled and could have won.

But that didn’t happen. And I have to stop moaning about it all. For my own peace, and so people and small animals don’t flee from me on sight. Pick a few important causes to back and then back away from the daily deluge. Find quiet corners.

We survived eight years of Reagan (the poor didn’t survive very well as income disparity started to skyrocket under this earlier actor who played a president). We survived eight years under Bush (the soldiers and civilians killed and maimed in Bush’s endless wars didn’t survive very well under this earlier front man who didn’t know much). We can probably survive four years of Trump. But the planet and our progeny?

Get thee to a hammock, Bruce. Squeeze a cat pet a dog love the kids. Turn down the temp inside yourself. And send Elizabeth Warren flowers.

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— Bruce Benidt

 

Let’s Give Sorkin and “The Newsroom” Due Credit.

The underlying irony of Aaron Sorkin’s new HBO show, “The Newsroom”, and I’m sure he’s well aware of it, is that as much as he wants to use it to frame a discussion about the half-assed, highly compromised job so many outlets of professional journalism are doing in this country today, he too has to dilute and diminish his product to keep it commercially viable.

I had to play catch up with the three episodes that have aired so far. The first, where lovable-but-curmudgeonly cable network anchor Jeff Daniels (aka Will McAvoy), goes off on a Northwestern coed for her “let’s all reaffirm each other” question about why America is the greatest country on earth, was ripped about a hundred new ones by virtually every critic on the planet. The knives were obviously out for Sorkin. (There are even video mash-ups of “Sorkinisms”.) Having caught up … the fault I find with the main thrust of the criticism is that it gives too little credit to Sorkin’s larger ambition. The guy has ambitions beyond making another fortune. In its best moments it is plain that he wants to elevate the grade-level discourse of modern commercial entertainment from the fifth to maybe the eleventh, with a dash of college prep work here and there. Can we at least acknowledge that he has other interests than padding his bank account with yet another cop or hospital show stocked with maximum-allowable beef and cheesecake?

Gratuitous name-dropping paragraph … so I asked Sorkin over drinks in a Pasadena restaurant … why he had so consciously avoided the truly unhinged, insane levels of naked partisanship of the Clinton era while cooking up scripts for “The West Wing”? Earlier, I had asked him much the same at press gatherings. His answer remained constant. He wanted to imagine and paint a better world, a world where large-stage politics wasn’t primarily about venal rat-fucking and shameless self-aggrandizing. (He didn’t use the phrase “rat-fucking”, but I knew what he was talking about.)

My counter argument was that if he wanted the frisson of stark reality to drive audience interest (and pundit attention) how could drawing lessons from a protracted bogus scandal like Whitewater, with all the craven demagoguery and serio-comic arm-flapping involved, hurt the ratings? His basic answer was that “West Wing’s” ratings were just fine, thank you.

The commercial dilution factor of “The Newsroom” isn’t in the “speechifying” which seems to annoy both TV critics and general audiences, (but really is pretty entertaining), but rather the “personal relationship” factor. Translated: “Romantic interest” for those forced by their spouse or date to sit through McAvoy railing on about how, in actual fact, more Americans believe in angels than understand their own health insurance. Even Sorkin has said that the success of the show hinges on how much we care about the characters.

Well, dude, on that point you do have some problems. I freely admit that at my advanced age I have only limited patience with still more self-consciously whip smart post grad students agonizing over their romantic choices and failings. But then, that stuff kinda bored me when I was 24. Is life really made better by over-analyzing every remark and statement you make and is made to you? More to the point, while Sorkin’s opening dialogue in “The Social Network”, (via 50-plus takes by director David Fincher), was quite clever, let’s not forget that Mark Zuckerberg was/is trying to “out-asshole” everyone else, including nice girls who might have modified him for the better, though maybe not the wealthier.

Week Two of ‘The Newsroom” was particularly ghastly in terms of the latter-day Tracy-Hepburn ratta-tat-tat battle-of-the-genders dialogue between the kiddies. The contrast between the big, serious, fat-and-ripe news and culture story lines and the cutie-pie love stories for the masses stuff is so extreme whenever the kids come on the screen they might as well put up a card saying — “Adults Are Advised to Use the Next Four Minutes for Bathroom Needs”.

This past week’s episode, with Jane Fonda as the network boss, re-balanced the show in favor of the stuff that Sorkin, who is now 51, (so a ways past grad-school flirtation and angst) knows best, thinks most deeply about and therefore best distinguishes “The Newsroom”.

There are plenty of things to quarrel with in terms of how the newsroom in question functions. Let’s not get started again on the likelihood of any newsroom on any planet advancing the Deepwater Horizon story as far as Sorkin’s crew did on Day #1. But the larger point in Sorkin’s favor is this: At a time when both mainstream entertainment and mainstream journalism, TV in particular, tip-toe only reluctantly and fretfully into large festering cultural issues such as — how the not so bright base of the Tea Party has been radicalized to protect and serve powerful forces largely indifferent to their quality of life — Sorkin not only has identified that trend as epochal, but has the talent and industry standing to produce it as mass entertainment — America’s best form of lubricated instruction.

Were I his producer … I would strongly advise him to shift focus steadily away from the kids’, “OMG! Did he just say that to me?!” jabberings and devote steadily more energy to the conflicts inherent in trying to/daring to describe (as opposed to avoiding) the roiling ocean of dramatic material informed adults see playing out in front of their eyes every day … and night on TV news.

This century needs another Paddy Chayefsky, not another John Hughes.

The show also needs a Tucker Carlson-like character to be foisted on McAvoy as a “balancing” foil, a la the early days of MSNBC, when the network suits looked up from their demographic research and told Phil Donahue he had to book two conservatives for every liberal guest he (unwisely) placed in front of their network cameras.

A (Heavily Medicated) Live-Blog of the GOP Debate.

True, I had to have my restraints re-tightened a couple of times, and I was heavily tranquilized. But I watched the entire GOP debate from the Ronald Reagan Library last night. With the big applause line, that the state of Texas has executed 234 people, still ringing in my ears, I’ve combed back through my live-blog style comments for the highlights of the night, the moments most representative of credible, responsible, America-first, conservative messaging and marketing.


6:59
With a minute to go MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, who is working some kind of raconteur emeritus act these days tells the story of Bobby Kennedy’s pre-debate advice to brother Jack, namely, “Kick ‘im in the balls”. Good lord Chris, there’s a lady present.

7:00 Wait a minute. There are still eight of these cartoons walking around? Rick Santorum is still running? Who is giving him money?

7:03 Rick Perry gets the first question and goes right to his “jobs creator” shtick. Someone will be fact-checking that “95% above the minimum wage” business. But even if 90% of Texans are making 10 cents over the minimum wage, those are “real jobs” in the minds of The Base, not elite-y, college-trained government career-like jobs. I notice he doesn’t mention, nor does Brian Williams follow-up with the inconvenient fact that the fattest chunk of Texas’ job growth has been in … government jobs.

7:04 Mitt Romney, the guy who, to quote David Letterman, “looks like the guy who turned your dad down for a loan” doesn’t like the “buy out specialist” tag Williams puts on him. I assume Team Romney will create some new facts for a 2012 campaign that will call out the numbers of “hard-working middle class Americans” Bain Capital laid off as it stripped companies for assets and quick sales. Note to GOP: If Romney is a viable candidate why not Carl Icahn?

7:10
Rick Santorum … wait I need to Google some info on this guy … is arguing that he is someone who “has done things”, which could mean tieing his own shoes, although frankly he looks like a Velcro slip-on guy to me. He is of course saying that the path to job creation is through a zero percent corporate tax. Not that there’s anyone on the stage — other than Herman Cain — who’ll disagree with that.

7:11 Oh, here’s Herman. And yeah baby, “flat tax”. Did Godfather’s Pizza see a lot of tax-deductible business lunches?

7:12 Jon Huntsman has by far the best tan.

7:14 Our girl Michele finally gets some camera time. Watch her lay in to that fraudulent Tea Party in Name Only Rick Perry … oh wait, she’s talking about federal regulations stifling her small, family business. Is this the farm she gets federal tax support from, or her husband’s pray-the-gay-away front business, for which he’s taken government money? I won’t wait for Williams to ask her how the hub’s small business managed to make “between $50,000 and $100,000 in net income” last year and … still keep the gay away. And, uh what? The Congressional Budget Office has said “Obamacare” is a jobs killer? How did I miss that?

7:15
According to a scientific study Ron Paul makes lucid sense 41.3% of the time. It’s his 58.7% foaming street prophet thing that makes trouble for himself. I notice in this rant about federal regulations, which I guess would have pilots handling their own landing queues, he doesn’t get into the mortality rate of private industry testing out drugs on the general public until they get the formulas right.

7:17 Oh shit … I just blew a quart of high dose sedative formula out my nose. Did Newt Gingrich just give himself credit for the “bi-partisan” way HE created 11 million new jobs in the 1990s? These could not possibly be the same 1990s where a guy named Newt Gingrich obstructed every attempt at budgetary discipline proposed by Bill Clinton, withheld every vote on the budget act that set up government surpluses, threw a tantrum that shut down the entire government and then, as an elder statesman, happily fomented a witch hunt that impeached the most successful jobs creator/deficit reducer of the past hundred years over a sex fling, all while atop a desk boinking his own secretary? That has to be a different Gingrich, right?

7:25 Michele is back. I think her hair has been over-teased. But then Mitt’s looks like a non-government worker applied a quart of marine spar varnish. She is still claiming that “Obamacare” which goes into effect in 2014 has taken over one-sixth of the American economy, which can not be good news for UnitedHealth and all those other companies who struggle against great odds every day to maintain such a clean, straight unimpeded line between you and your doctor.

7:31
Santorum and Perry have just finished explaining how they’d treat poverty in America. Essentially it’s this: Stop the government from doing anything and these malingerers will show some initiative. And they make it sound like they care.

7:35 Michele’s $2 gas promise is not playing too well. But, boy does she have big numbers. I think I have this right. If we set fire to the EPA we would create 1.2 million new jobs, increase energy productions by 50%, and goose the economy by $800 billion. I’m not sure if this also involves turning North Dakota into a sludge pond and burning the homes of 5th District liberals for heating fuel, but if I’m a Tea Partier living on Social Security and Medicare I love the thought of getting the government off my back.

7:37 Huntsman is picking up some of Ron Paul’s disease. He’s talking again about the $13/gallon “true cost of imported oil”, taking into account the military we need to keep the juice flowing from the Middle East and Brunei. I think he hates the troops.

7:40 Ron Paul … in the sanctum sanctorum of the Ronald Reagan library points out that dottering old Ronnie ran up staggering deficits. But Paul stills loves his “message”, wholly bullshit though it was.

7:47 Ohhhh boy, here’s the takeaway for the group-think press herd. Perry is calling Social Security a “Ponzi scheme” again. ‘Wrong from the beginning” he says. “A monstrous lie”. Worse though, for him, he’s getting into it with Karl Rove who is connected to about as much undisclosed SuperPAC cash as the there is money in Social Security. But damn it, like W*, Perry is sayin’ it from his gut. He’s decidin’. He stickin’ to what he believes. Or at least what the Goldman Sachs lobbyist told him is a winning formula for the Americans that matter.

7:53 I am not comfortable watching any of these people talk about the HPV virus, especially the seven very weird middle-aged guys. Ron Paul tells everyone he’s an actual doctor. So why doesn’t he tell everyone how those Big Pharma sales guys — like from Merck — sweeten the pot to make their drug du jour the go-to for what ails “the people”. But really, aren’t we talking pre-marital sex? And why is Rick Santorum looking like he just had unnatural congress with some … thing?

7:59 Newt is reminding … an audience that needs reminding hourly … that “there are people out there who want to kill us”. Does anyone remember how it was back in Ronnie Reagan’s glory years, when no one did? Except those silly Russians? Only since Obama took over have the knives come out.

8:00 Ron Paul’s 58.7% batshit fever has flared up again. We’re spending $20 billion on air conditioning” in Iraq? Oh hell, close enough for debate work.

8:05
It’s really good to know that the 49,000 teachers Rick Perry laid off in Texas and his state’s Mississippi-like graduation numbers were all part of the “thoughtful reductions” he made in out of control, wasteful spending. Of course, we can all agree that the real culprit there was … Mexicans.

8:08 And on the subject of those violent brown people climbing fences to get into the better neighborhoods of Houston and Dallas, and getting the federal government off the states’ backs, Perry demands … the federal government step up and put “boots on the ground”, drones in the air and who knows, straight cash in the pockets of private contractors to seal off the Rio Grande.

8:10 Romney wants the whole enchilada, the 2600 mile fence. Does Bain Capital own a steel fabricator? He’ll have to check.

8:14
Apparently Michele didn’t hear the question. Instead of saying what she would do with the 11 million undocumented “illegals” already here, she riffs on “narco-terrorists”, completing missing her opportunity to link homocidal drug lords to the jobs creation aspects of American assault rifle manufacturers working overtime to build and smuggle heavy-duty firepower into Juarez and Tijuana.

8:17 Bi-polar Ron Paul is back on the 41.7% lucid side, talking about how our drug laws are driving narco-terrorism. BTW, where is my medicinal sensimilla?

8:23 Perry too is down on the negatory of even a 10 to 1 debt deal. He says a national balanced budget amendment would be the only way to “cut the snake’s head off” … just not until the damned pit viper sends out those boots, drones and greenbacks to stop the friggin’ Mexicans.

8:25 Bachmann invokes Ronald Reagan, without making the sign of the cross and kissing a rosary.

8:26
It’s “Malaise in America” time. Huntsman says, “we have lost our confidence as a country”. “Our core is broken … we are weak … “. Good lord man, wear a cardigan the next time.

8:28 Romney agrees. “We have a crisis of confidence … absolutely … .” Romney’s cardigan would be top dollar imported cashmere.

8:29 After complimenting, sort of, Obama for getting Osama bin Laden, “but mostly the SEALS” Perry again reminds his target audience that “government spending will not create one job”. There was a noise outside so I’m not sure if he said, “If you don’t believe me, ask the Chinese”. But before anyone takes that too seriously, get those troops and contractors on permanent patrol down in El Paso, damn it. He’s also against sending troops anywhere without a clear intent. Hear that, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama?

8:31 Michele still doesn’t like what we did in Libya. But those tyrants in Iran … now that’s a whole different story.

8:33 Rick Santorum just called someone else “indecisive and confused”.

8:35 Huntsman is toast. You DO NOT stand under Ronnie Reagan’s airplane and say Republicans lose if they’re anti-science. Ronnie flewall over the world looking for a cure for AIDS, didn’t he?

8:37 Perry won’t buy that climate change bull. And he’s got Galileo on his side.

8:39
Michele reiterates that if we drill in the Everglades “of course we’d do it responsibly”. That’s BP’s promise.

8:44 I’m glad I lasted this long. Enthusiastic, spontaneous applause for 234 death row executions in Texas. That’s one way to keep The Base exclusive.

Damn! It’s over. Screw the sensimilla. Give me a triple Everclear and an appointment for electro-shock.

Anatomy of a breaking news story

The photo at right is real.

My first thought, though, was, “There’s no way that’s real.” After all, I remember stuff like this faked photo of the infamous 9/11 tourist.

But it’s real. For posterity’s sake, and perhaps as a simple commentary on the state of news consumption habits, here’s how I absorbed this incredible story:

  • I saw a Twitter message from someone who was “retweeting” (a.k.a. forwarding, resending, sharing) this original message from an eye-witness.
  • I looked at the photo, and immediately doubted its veracity.
  • At second thought, it looks more real than most retouched or faked photos. I head to Google News and search for U.S. Airways.
  • I found this story (which will likely be updated by the time you read this) from the Associated Press, confirming what the photo told me.
  • I read two other short, in-the-works stories on the Web.
  • Then I flip on MSBNC, which stays on in the background to elaborate on the story I’ve already learned about elsewhere.
  • About half an hour later, MSNBC was about as interesting as my college statistics class, I suppose through no fault of their own. The story had been told.

So what does it all mean? I don’t know. I guess, for starters, if you’re not on Twitter, it might take a few extra minutes for you to learn about breaking news. And breaking news stories get boring quickly once the TV station gets a couple of eye witnesses and the token aviation expert on the air.

Photo courtesy of jkrums on TwitPic/Twitter