AlterNet.org: Marty Kaplan http://zwww.alternet.org/authors/marty-kaplan-0 en Why I'm Skipping the Inauguration http://zwww.alternet.org/election-2016/skipping-inauguration <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1070559'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1070559" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The peaceful transition of power is dependent on a president respecting his office.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://zwww.alternet.org/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_147037244-edited.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Many people are saying they won’t be watching the inauguration on TV.</p><p>Just putting it that many-people-are-saying way gives me the creeps. Like “believe me,” it’s Trump’s signature trick for turning lies true, the companion con to turning facts false by labeling them “fake news.”  </p><p>“I think we have one of the great Cabinets ever put together,” he <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/11/us/politics/trump-press-conference-transcript.html?partner=socialflow&amp;smid=tw-nytnational&amp;smtyp=cur&amp;_r=0">said</a> at his first press conference in nearly six months. “And we’ve been hearing that from so many people. People are so happy.” A climate change denier in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency; a Medicare bomb-thrower to run Medicare; Goldman Sachs to manage the economy; a billionaire to protect laborers; a public school adversary to advocate for education; a social justice foe to fight for justice; an “oops” to head up nukes; a neurosurgeon for Housing and Urban Development; Exxon Mobil for foreign policy; Putin for Intelligence — many people want to puke, is more like it.</p><p>Watching Trump’s press conference in real time was my trial run to see if I could stomach his inauguration. Here are the feelings it fired in me: fear, disgust, anger, shame, helplessness. Here are the ones it didn’t: respect, duty, honor, patriotism, hope.</p><p>I felt even worse when I fed my news addiction with analysis of the event. “Masterful performance,” Michael Moore <a href="http://www.mediaite.com/tv/michael-moore-tells-msnbcs-chris-hayes-that-hillary-clinton-won-the-election/">told</a> Chris Hayes on MSNBC, “He owned the day.” “Observed as spectacle, Trump came away with a resounding victory,” <a href="http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/01/at-news-conference-trump-owns-the-press.html">said</a> Gabriel Sherman in New York Magazine. To be sure, they called Trump “dangerous” and “a disaster,” but the five stars they gave his propagandizing hit me like a kick in the gut. I couldn’t help imagining color commentary at a rally — to use Trump’s <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/trump-nazi-germany-tweet-doesn-article-1.2943473">metaphor</a> for our intelligence community — in Nazi Germany. “Damn, that Hitler’s a super showman!”</p><p>I tried to put myself in the shoes of someone loving every minute of the day Trump owned. “These papers are just some of the many documents that I’ve signed turning over complete and total control to my son,” he said, pointing at hundreds of manila file folders. If his loyalists saw that the <a href="https://twitter.com/i/moments/819550757095698436">files were phony</a>, with no labels on them, and nothing but <a href="http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-trump-news-conference-scene-20170111-story.html">blank paper</a> in them, they must not have cared. If Trump seethed like <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/21/us/politics/donald-trump-roy-cohn.html?_r=1">Roy Cohn</a> taught him (“Quiet. … Don’t be rude. Don’t be rude. … Don’t be rude. You are fake news,” he told CNN’s Jim Acosta), his fans must have shared his hostility. If he BSed like a goofus (“It’ll be repeal and replace. It will be essentially, simultaneously. It will be various segments, you understand, but will most likely be on the same day or the same week, but probably, the same day, could be the same hour.”), they must have been in denial about how it would hurt them. If that’s what hope feels like, I’ll gladly go with disgust.</p><p>A presidential inauguration is a hallowed ritual in America’s civic religion. It’s a secular rite that binds our <em>pluribus</em> into <em>unum</em> and confers legitimacy on our self-governance. I get that. I also get that the presidency deserves respect, and that the day is about the office and not the office-holder. I’m mindful that, as Hillary Clinton <a href="http://www.vox.com/2016/11/9/13570328/hillary-clinton-concession-speech-full-transcript-2016-presidential-election">said</a> in her concession speech, “Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power,” and that “we don’t just respect that — we cherish it.”</p><p>But respect is a two-way street. If Donald Trump respected the office of the presidency, it could mitigate the difficulty of the majority who didn’t vote for him to respect his claim on the authority we’re about to delegate to him. As it is, his legal authority will be corrupted from the outset by his refusal to subordinate his financial interests to the interest of our nation, as the Constitution requires. He has already nullified his moral authority by his deceit, his incapacity for accountability and his sociopathic absence of empathy. He’s no more capable of respect for the sacred responsibility of his office than he is of respect for the civic responsibility of a journalist.</p><p>If our body politic had two heads — a head of state and a head of government — it might not be as hard as this to recover from a bitterly divisive election. A monarch, a premier, a chancellor: an uncontroversial figurehead removed from the factional fray has a shot at uniting a nation. But in America, as George Washington apocryphally said, the people are the king, and we entrust the eagle of our freedom to a president who is simultaneously beyond, and buffeted by, politics.</p><p>Should you watch the inauguration? If that’s what it’ll take to mobilize you to join a progressive version of the Tea Party, a movement whose <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-crowd-sourced-guide-to-fighting-trumps-agenda">handbook</a> is virally becoming “<a href="https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=3&amp;cad=rja&amp;uact=8&amp;ved=0ahUKEwifu_Duw73RAhUB64MKHZSNAlAQFggpMAI&amp;url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.indybay.org%2Fuploads%2F2016%2F12%2F16%2Findivisible-resisting-trump-agenda.pdf&amp;usg=AFQjCNE7u_TdOhfxw0AQLlb6bAyJdSBWQw&amp;sig2=vOoHe_r0msO14aiZVTEoSg">Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda</a>,” then go for it. But chances are, you’re activated enough to do that now.</p><p>I’m not going to watch. If I miss something big, someone will tell me, or I’ll read about it. I know that won’t be a substitute for the real-time experience of it. But I don’t need to experience the fouling of the nest the Founders made for us to know it would break my heart to be an eyewitness to it.</p><p>It may be in different words, but many people are saying that.</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2017 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1070559'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1070559" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Sun, 15 Jan 2017 06:59:00 -0800 Marty Kaplan, AlterNet 1070559 at http://zwww.alternet.org Election 2016 Election 2016 trumo washington republicans democrats Do CIA Revelations Mean Trump Will Be Putin's Puppet? http://zwww.alternet.org/election-2016/do-cia-revelations-mean-trump-will-be-putins-puppet <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1068698'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1068698" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The Cold War politics of left and right have been flipped.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://zwww.alternet.org/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/23975407111_69319e14fc_z.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>In 1964, when Barry Goldwater ran against Lyndon Johnson, a man named John A. Stormer self-published a book called <em>None Dare Call It Treason</em>. It accused America’s left-leaning elites of paving the way for a Soviet victory in the Cold War. The book sold seven million copies, but Johnson crushed Goldwater in the election.</p><p>Now that the CIA has determined that the Russians intervened in the presidential election to help Trump win, the Cold War politics of left and right have been flipped. If Stormer rewrote his book for 2016, its thesis might go like this:</p><p>Beware of Donald Trump. Witlessly or willfully, he’s doing the Kremlin’s bidding. Anyone who enables him—on his payroll or in the press, by sucking up or by silence, out of good will or cowardice—is Vladimir Putin’s useful idiot. This is a national emergency, and treating it like normal is criminally negligent of our duty to American democracy.</p><p>Trump as traitor: I can just imagine the reaction from the Tower penthouse. <em>Lying media. Paranoid hyperbole. Partisan libel. Sour grapes. A pathetic bid for clicks. A desperate assault on the will of the people. Sad!</em>(Note to Tweeter-in-Chief: You’re welcome.)</p><p>As a kid in a New Jersey household where Adlai Stevenson was worshipped, I thought Stormer was a nutjob, so I won’t pretend that accepting the modern inverse of his case is a no-brainer. I’m also not trying to recast my political differences with the president-elect as a national security crisis. Trump won. Elections have consequences. I get that.</p><p>I may not like it, but I’m not surprised that Trump tapped Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a crusading climate change denier and an advocate of dismantling the Environmental Protection Agency, to run the EPA, presumably into the ground. Anyone who interpreted Al Gore’s meeting with Trump as a sign of his open-mindedness on climate change got played, just like Gore got played.</p><p>Similarly, I’m cynical, but not shocked that Trump’s picks for treasury secretary, National Economic Council and chief adviser—Steven Mnuchin, Gary Cohn and Steve Bannon—are alumni of Goldman Sachs. A billionaire managed to hijack Bernie Sanders’ indictment of Wall Street and brand Hillary Clinton as the stooge of Goldman Sachs. The success of that impersonation isn’t on Trump, it’s on us.</p><p>I’m infuriated, but not startled that Trump refuses to disclose his tax returns, divest his assets, create a credible blind trust, obey the constitutional prohibition of foreign emoluments or eliminate the conflict between fattening his family fortune and advancing American interests. That’s not draining the swamp, it’s drinking it.</p><p>It’s abysmal that Democrats didn’t have a good enough jobs message to convince enough Rust Belt voters to choose their economic alternative to Trump’s tax cuts for the rich. It’s disgraceful that the media normalized Trump, propagated his lies, monetized his notoriety and lapped up his tweet porn. It’s maddening that the Electoral College apportions ballot power inequitably. But as enervating as any of that is, none of it is as dangerous to democracy as the CIA’s <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/obama-orders-review-of-russian-hacking-during-presidential-campaign/2016/12/09/31d6b300-be2a-11e6-94ac-3d324840106c_story.html?utm_term=.289f219095ac">finding</a> that Putin hacked the 2016 election on Trump’s behalf. Without firing a single shot, the Kremlin is weeks away from installing its puppet in the White House.</p><p>Within days, Trump is expected to name Rex Tillerson, Exxon Mobil’s CEO, as his secretary of state. Putin <a href="http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/12/rex-tillerson-exxon-putin-russia-ties-friend-214515">bestowed</a> the Order of Friendship, one of Russia’s highest civilian honors, on Tillerson, after Exxon signed a deal with Rosneft, the Russian government-owned oil company, to jointly explore the Black Sea and Arctic. The plan died when the U.S. and EU sanctioned Russia for annexing Crimea; Tillerson, whose Exxon shares’ value will skyrocket if sanctions are lifted, favors lifting them.</p><p>The Tillerson appointment is the latest dot in the pattern of Trump’s Putinophilia. When 17 U.S. intelligence agencies concurred that Russia was behind the hacking of Democratic emails, Trump—who’s refused most of his security briefings—<a href="https://storify.com/NotEasyBNGreen/real-peotus-vs-trump">rejected</a> their conclusion, claiming at one point that it “could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/29/well/live/a-400-pound-hacker-trump-comment-ignites-fat-shaming-debate.html?_r=0">400 pounds</a>,” at <a href="http://www.factcheck.org/2016/12/trump-russia-u-s-election/">another</a> that “it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.” I knew that Trump is a serial fat-shamer, but I didn’t know until now that being a Newarker puts me in his crosshairs, too.</p><p>It’s entirely conceivable that Russia has something on Trump. They may hold hundreds of millions of dollars of Trump debt. They may have spousally unsettling video of him—a KGB specialty, and a plausible Trump susceptibility. Surely the Kremlin has mapped his character disorder. In the third debate, when Trump said Putin had no respect for Clinton, and she shot back, “Well, that’s because he’d rather have a puppet as president,” Trump’s <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-internet-cant-get-over-donald-trumps-response-to-being-called-a-puppet/">interruption</a>—“No puppet, no puppet, you’re the puppet, no, you’re the puppet”—sounded like a third-grader. Actually, it was a confession, what clinicians call projective identification. Putin’s psy ops must know every such string on him to play.</p><p>Before the election, when both parties’ congressional leaders were secretly informed that Russia had its thumb on the scale for Trump, Republican leader Mitch McConnell <a href="http://crooksandliars.com/2016/12/mitch-mcconnell-squelched-disclosure">torpedoed</a> a bipartisan plan to decry their intervention. Now that the news is out, Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee <a href="http://www.armed-services.senate.gov/press-releases/mccain-graham-schumer-reed-joint-statement-on-reports-that-russia-interfered-with-the-2016-election">said</a> Sunday that the intel “should alarm every American,” and they called for a bipartisan investigation to stop “the grave threats that cyberattacks… pose to our national security.”</p><p>Trump’s <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-russian-government-hacked_us_584d6e91e4b04c8e2bb04382">response</a>? “I think it is ridiculous. It’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it. Every week it’s another excuse. We had a massive landslide victory, as you know, in the Electoral College.”</p><p>As we don’t know. Trump’s Electoral College margin will rank 44th among the 54 presidential elections that have been held since the 12th Amendment was ratified. Nate Silver <a href="http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/war-is-peace-freedom-is-slavery-trump-won-in-a-landslide/">called</a> Trump’s “landslide” claim “Orwellian.” The Washington Post <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2016/11/30/trumps-repeated-claim-that-he-won-a-landslide-victory/?utm_term=.43eb595a3559">gave</a> it Four Pinocchios. Why not just call it a lie?</p><p>Trump blew off the Kremlin’s intervention in our election the way Putin denied Russia’s intervention in Ukraine. Do we call that a lie, too?</p><p>Maybe there’s a better word we should dare to use.</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2016 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1068698'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1068698" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Mon, 12 Dec 2016 12:22:00 -0800 Marty Kaplan, AlterNet 1068698 at http://zwww.alternet.org Election 2016 Election 2016 trump russia Trump's Quiet Pick for Legal Adviser Shows He's Dead Set on Nuking Our Democracy http://zwww.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/trumps-quiet-pick-legal-adviser-shows-hes-dead-set-nuking-our-democracy <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1067974'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1067974" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Trump isn&#039;t draining the swamp; he&#039;s creating a reptile enclosure.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://zwww.alternet.org/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_453281713.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>When Hillary Clinton lost the Electoral College, most post-mortems faulted Democrats for failing to empathize with the anger and abandonment non-coastal Americans are feeling. But last week, when Donald Trump sucked up to the (previously dishonest, subsequently gem-like) New York Times, <a href="https://www.yahoo.com/news/trump-flip-flops-6-times-in-1-hour-nyt-interview-203417722.html">flip-flopping</a> six times in an hour-long interview, I wondered whether his backtracking might be causing some of his supporters to feel abandoned. If they are, I empathize with their incipient buyer’s remorse. I imagine they must feel a bit like Bernie Madoff’s investors did, after realizing they’d been conned.</p><p>During the campaign, Trump said that he alone understood the plight of the everyday people hurting in this economy. But he didn’t pretend to be one of them. He didn’t hide the fact that he’s a billionaire living in a Manhattan tower and a Palm Beach palace in gold-leaf-and-marble opulence suitable for a shah. Instead, he depicted his wealth as an asset: Only a royal could bring down the monarchy. He offered his gilded grandeur as proof that his attack on the corrupt political system sprang directly from inside knowledge. Only a recovering, self-funded plutocrat who had once greased the palms of pols could drive the whores from the temple of democracy.</p><p>Campaign finance reform was the one place Trump connected with me. It was the same spot Bernie Sanders connected with me, though Sanders lacked a sinner’s conversion story. Getting big money out of politics is a prerequisite for fixing almost everything else in our dysfunctional system. That’s my song, and in the primaries, Trump and Sanders sang it loudest.</p><p>I wonder how many Trump voters who were attracted by his drain-the-swamp rhetoric noticed his pick last week for White House counsel. Trump could not have announced a more in-your-face betrayal of his promise to clean up Washington than his selection of Donald McGahn. McGahn is anti-matter to Sanders’ matter. He’s like kryptonite to campaign finance reform. He’ll be the chief <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/charlestiefer/2016/11/25/new-trump-white-house-counsel-donald-mcgahn-is-a-partisan-politico-consiglieri/#2669110e3774">ethics lawyer</a> charged with telling Trump when there’s a conflict of interest, or the appearance of one, between carrying out his oath of office and jacking up his family’s wealth. When might that be? Don’t hold your breath.</p><p>McGahn’s <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/trumps-own-beltway-establishment-guy-the-curious-journey-of-don-mcgahn/2016/04/11/856229a8-fb9a-11e5-80e4-c381214de1a3_story.html">background</a> includes serving as counsel and ethics advisor to former Rep. Tom Delay, who was indicted for conspiring to launder corporate cash into campaign contributions for Delay’s PAC. In 2008, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, a veteran denigrator of campaign finance reform, urged George W. Bush to appoint McGahn as chair of the Federal Election Commission. With the possible exception of the Supreme Court, no public body has been more responsible for keeping our campaign finance system a cesspool than the FEC under McGahn’s leadership.</p><p>McGahn’s FEC <a href="http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/trumps-top-lawyer-helped-open-political-spending-floodgates">ensured</a> that the Court’s rulings for <em>Citizens United</em> and against the McCain-Feingold reforms would gut the regulation of money in politics, paving the way for super PACs and bogus “social welfare” nonprofits like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS. When a Washington lawyer <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/former-fec-chairman-donald-mcgahn-resigns-from-panel/2013/09/17/84ff1a88-1fca-11e3-94a2-6c66b668ea55_story.html">called</a> McGahn “one of the most consequential commissioners the FEC’s ever had,” Democratic FEC commissioner Ellen Weintraub <a href="http://www.prwatch.org/news/2016/11/13176/don-mcgahn-trump-transition-lawyer-has-long-courted-controversy">commented</a>, “He was consequential like a sledgehammer was consequential. He did his best to undermine the law.” Since his tenure at the FEC, according to <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/charlestiefer/2016/11/25/new-trump-white-house-counsel-donald-mcgahn-is-a-partisan-politico-consiglieri/#199861693774">Forbes</a>, McGahn worked for the Koch brothers’ Freedom Partners Chambers of Commerce, which “has given grants worth a total of $236 million to right-wing political groups like the Tea Party.” Excellent training for joining the Trump campaign.</p><p>A deeper denizen of the Beltway is hard to imagine. Yet this is the Solomon whose portfolio includes telling Trump when he and his family blur the line between the financial interest of the Trump Organization and the national interest of the United States. If you read the jaw-dropping 7,000-word <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/26/us/politics/donald-trump-international-business.html?hp&amp;action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;clickSource=story-heading&amp;module=b-lede-package-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news&amp;_r=0">lead story</a> in Sunday’s New York Times, “World of Potential Conflict for a Developer President: Many Trump Partners Have Ties to Foreign Governments as Work Spans the Globe,” you know how thick Trump’s business ties are to the governments of the Philippines, Brazil, India, Turkey, Ireland and Scotland, to name a few. If a U.S. foreign policy decision appears to favor a Trump commercial project, it’s McGhan’s job to blow the whistle on the president. And if you think that’s going to happen, I’ve got a golf course with a nice view of a wind farm that I’d like to sell you.</p><p>Eight out of 10 Americans <a href="https://www.issueone.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/issue-one-ipsos-polling-june-2016.pdf">say</a>, “the influence of money in politics is worse than at any other point in their lifetime, and 70 percent believe our democracy is at risk if we do not take immediate steps to fix the problem.”</p><p>Donald Trump tells us he’ll fix that problem. He also tells us he only hires the best people. Donald McGahn is the best person he could find to keep the money in politics that puts our democracy at risk.</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2016 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1067974'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1067974" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Tue, 29 Nov 2016 08:08:00 -0800 Marty Kaplan, AlterNet 1067974 at http://zwww.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics clinton The Prostate Presidency http://zwww.alternet.org/election-2016/prostate-presidency <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1067145'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1067145" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">What is good citizenship, what is true patriotism, at this disorienting moment in our history?</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://zwww.alternet.org/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/5440002785_7b1ed0ac3e_z_0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>In her Clinton wardrobe and hair, accompanying herself on the piano, Kate McKinnon’s <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BG-_ZDrypec" target="_blank">cold open of the Saturday Night Live</a> after Election Day was a dirge for the loss of Leonard Cohen, for the loss of Hillary Clinton and for the lost Americans now struggling for hope and direction.</p><p>“… And even though<br />It all went wrong<br />I’ll stand before the Lord of Song<br />With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah”</p><p>After the song’s last Hallelujah, eyes moist and voice husky, McKinnon/Clinton answered the plea in the hearts – “Comfort me” – and the question in the minds – “Now what?” – of more than 60 million citizens. “I’m not giving up,” she said, “and neither should you.” </p><p></p>  <a href="http://www.pubsqrd.com/" target="_blank"></a> <p></p><p>What is good citizenship, what is true patriotism, at this disorienting moment in our history? Trump’s victory speech and Clinton’s concession both called on us to come together. The day after the election, President Obama <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/11/09/transcript-president-obamas-remarks-on-donald-trumps-election/">said</a> “we are now all rooting for his success in uniting and leading the country.” Really? Who are we supposed to be uniting with? Where does Trump want to lead us?</p><p>Well, look where he’s led us so far. He’s already pissed on the presidency (vulgar words, I know, but what else is birtherism?); he’s already normalized hate (what else does his political incorrectness amount to?); he’s already sanctioned evil (what else is climate change denial, or torture?). With congressional cowards abdicating checks and balances, with a Fourth Estate little more inclined to challenge authoritarianism than an <a href="https://learcenter.org/pdf/Orwell_excerpt.pdf">infotainment freak show</a>, with global adversaries playing his ignorance and narcissism like a piccolo, it’s easy to imagine President Trump leading us straight to tragedy. Is that what we’re supposed to root for?</p><p>What’s not easy, what’s so hard about “I’m not giving up,” is uniting. Some 60 million voters, their power eccentrically amplified by the Electoral College, sent Trump on his way to the White House. Who are they? Who are my brothers and sisters in democracy? </p><p>Some are casualties of policies that have hollowed out the middle class and redistributed wealth upward, victims of representatives who have obstructed all attempts to secure their freedom of economic opportunity. Some believe that plutocrats and their Washington flunkies have corrupted our politics and taken our government hostage. Some feel ignored, disrespected and betrayed, and they see in Trump (and saw in Bernie Sanders) the detonator of a Great Disruption of the capital’s ruling class.</p><p>I’ve got plenty of cause to unite with them. If they and the president they elected want to push for the most sweeping campaign finance reform and the most ambitious anti-corruption measures ever enacted, count me in.</p><p>But other Trump voters are white supremacists, anti-Semites, Islamophobes, misogynists, homophobes – enemies of American pluralism scarily mobilized by Trump’s tolerance of intolerance. I don’t want to unite with them, I want to ostracize and disempower them.</p><p>What makes it hardest for me to root for Trump’s success is his commitment to policies I believe are inherently immoral. Undoing the Paris climate change accord and unleashing the fossil fuel industry amounts to planetary suicide. Taking women’s reproductive rights away amounts to sending poor women to the butcher. Murdering the families of our enemies is barbaric. These aren’t the kind of policy differences you negotiate, use as bargaining chips, fold into a deal or put to a vote. They’re foundational principles of a good society. </p><p>When a man is diagnosed with prostate cancer, if it’s not metastasizing, one of his options – a choice short of surgery or radiation – is “active surveillance.” You monitor the disease vigilantly. You’re prepared to excise or nuke it at a moment’s notice, but watchful waiting is the baseline.</p><p>I think that’s where we are with Trump: watching for tumors (Steve Bannon), waiting for remission (gay marriage). Since the election, Trump has hedged on campaign promises like building a border wall, banning Muslims and expunging Obamacare. I bet a lot of Clinton voters are fantasizing that Trump will reveal himself to be more of a compromiser and less of a sociopath than he’s so far given us reason to think. To encourage that, peaceful and proliferating demonstrations may be a better tactic than singing kumbaya with his supporters, and pretending he’s an avid learner may be a shrewder move than treating him like an irredeemable ideologue. </p><p>After the election, my synagogue’s leaders made a special effort to invite congregants to Friday night Shabbat services as a way for our community to console, lift and listen to one another. Some 300 people turned out, more than double what’s usual, including many children, teens and young adults. When we arrived we found a handout on our chairs: the lyrics to Cohen’s Hallelujah. We sang it at the beginning, among the psalms. In the middle of the service, after his <a href="http://www.jewishjournal.com/rabbijohnrosovesblog/item/turning_mourning_into_meaning_in_the_post_election_period">sermon</a>, our rabbi passed a microphone for people to say what they were feeling. I heard fear, I heard hope, I heard calls to action.</p><p>At the very end of the service, our cantor surprised us. She asked us to please turn to page 300-something and join in singing America the Beautiful. I didn’t even know it was in the prayer book. Nor, I suspect, did anyone else.</p><p>United in song, we staked our claim to patriotism. We took our country back. We sang to one another, in essence, I’m not giving up, and neither should you.  By the time we got to “Thine alabaster cities gleam / Undimmed by human tears,” my eyes were welling up. When we reached “From sea to shining sea,” I almost lost it. </p><p>But looking around me, I saw I wasn’t alone. And neither are you.</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2016 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1067145'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1067145" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Mon, 14 Nov 2016 11:06:00 -0800 Marty Kaplan, AlterNet 1067145 at http://zwww.alternet.org Election 2016 Election 2016 history trump King Comey Is Rigging the Election http://zwww.alternet.org/election-2016/king-comey-rigging-election <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1066331'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1066331" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Shockingly close to Election Day, James Comey’s intervention upends Justice Department policy and precedent.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://zwww.alternet.org/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/16389996032_be531d5722_z.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>I was afraid the October surprise was going to be an act of terrorism on U.S. soil. I thought that ISIS, like Putin, calculated that hothead Trump would better serve its interests than cucumber Clinton. I imagined that her response to an attack would be more like George W. Bush’s bullhorn words (“I can hear you! … And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!”), and Trump’s more like Gen. Curtis LeMay’s (“[W]e’re going to bomb them back to the Stone Age”). At a moment like that, fury can trump steely; rage, I feared, would carry him to the White House.</p><p>What I didn’t expect was that the bombshell would be dropped by the director of the FBI. Nor did I appreciate how helpless that would make me feel.</p><p>Shockingly close to Election Day, James Comey’s intervention <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/james-comey-is-damaging-our-democracy/2016/10/29/894d0f5e-9e49-11e6-a0ed-ab0774c1eaa5_story.html?utm_term=.7c7e975d19e2">upends</a> Justice Department policy and precedent. It weaponizes Trump’s propaganda. It blurs the separation of powers. It defeats due process. It puts us in Wonderland, casting Comey as consort to the Red Queen: “Sentence first, verdict afterward.” It also demonstrates how little sway any of us outside the power elite has over this race, and how disconcertingly random history can turn out to be.</p><p>It’s an illusion, a necessary patriotic fiction, that ordinary citizens shape the course of a campaign, that regular people drive the outcomes of elections.</p><p>Sure, small-dollar donors and huge crowds made Bernie Sanders’ run a national phenomenon, and it pulled the Democratic platform toward the progressive wing of the party, but that didn’t change the delegate math for the nomination, and there’s scant evidence that the swing voters in swing states who’ll decide this election will be motivated by left-versus-right positions on the issues.</p><p>Trump claims the mantle of a populist movement, but what fueled that fire wasn’t the civic energy of forgotten Americans; it was the billions of dollars’ worth of free airtime afforded to his racism, misogyny, xenophobia and character assassination, a noxious brew whose entertainment value big media corporations shamelessly monetized by maximizing the dopamine squirting in their audiences’ lizard brains. This cliffhanger is a bonanza for a media industry doing everything it can to stoke the ratings its business model demands. But it’s a total disaster — Trumpian hyperbole, I know, but in this case warranted — for democracy.</p><p>Phone-banking and precinct-walking will no doubt add volunteer muscle to Clinton’s get-out-the-vote efforts, but I worry that the shade that Comey has thrown at her will have a greater impact on late-breaking deciders than the people power of her ground game on Nov. 8. No one knows whether this turmoil will prove toxic to Clinton’s lead. Maybe she’ll win anyway, despite Comey, as Electoral College projections still show, and maybe months from now, as I think likely, the FBI will announce that they’ve found no new classified material on Anthony Weiner’s laptop, thus changing nothing about the conclusion Comey announced in July: “No reasonable prosecutor” would bring a case against Clinton. On the other hand, maybe she’ll lose, and the nation will hand its future to a morally vacuous narcissist because the FBI director threw sand in the electorate’s eyes. Either outcome, we’re the effect, not the agents.</p><p>It’s sobering how much of this is determined by chance. Imagine if therapy had put Weiner on the road to mental health, and there had been no sexting with a 15-year old girl, no reason for law enforcement to seize his laptop. Or imagine if Beau Biden’s brain cancer had not recurred, and his father had won the Democratic nomination, which would have taken unsecured servers and $153 million in paid speeches off the table. Imagine if the cast and crew of “The Apprentice” hadn’t told an Associated Press reporter that Trump was lewd and sexist on the set, or if an “Access Hollywood” producer hadn’t been prompted by that <a href="http://bigstory.ap.org/article/2778a6ab72ea49558445337865289508/ap-how-trumps-apprentice-moved-capitalism-sexism">story</a> to turn up a revolting 11-year old outtake reel of Trump and Billy Bush — tape which might well have been tossed long ago. All those counterfactuals are plausible, but they didn’t turn out that way, and American history is now hanging in the balance.</p><p>Good luck and bad luck are more important to the course of human events than it’s comfortable to acknowledge. To be sure, this presidential campaign hasn’t been propelled solely by chance. Trump’s sliming of Gold Star parents Khizr and Ghazala Khan wasn’t just a lucky break for Clinton. It was inevitable that his real nature would have been disclosed. If it hadn’t been the Khans, there would still have been his slander of John McCain, his mocking of a disabled reporter, his smear of Judge Gonzalo Curiel, his refusal to say he’ll accept the voting outcome if he loses the election. These weren’t fortuitous flukes. They are part of a pattern; they reveal a contemptible flaw in his character.</p><p>Comey’s original sin was promising to turn over the FBI’s investigative materials to Congress, despite Congress’ having no oversight role in individual criminal investigations. His gobsmacking announcement gave Trump the finale of his “Lock her up!” narrative, and he’s riding it to tightening polls.</p><p>Whether he means to or not, King Comey is rigging the election. Apparently the attorney general told him it was a terrible idea. Why did he do it anyway? Pure partisanship? I don’t think so. My guess is that Comey knew leaks were coming from some Clinton antagonists in the Bureau who were pissed at his decision not to prosecute, and whose revenge might be his post-election impeachment on trumped-up charges.</p><p>Maybe Comey jumped the shark because, trapped between his inexplicable commitment to Republican committee chairmen and his own rebellious agents, he felt, well, helpless. If that’s true, all I can say is, welcome to the club, Mr. Director.</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2016 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1066331'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1066331" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Mon, 31 Oct 2016 12:21:00 -0700 Marty Kaplan, Jewish Journal 1066331 at http://zwww.alternet.org Election 2016 Election 2016 comey fbi Have You Ever Seen a More Cynical Political Pivot Than Donald Trump Trying to Avoid Electoral Disaster? http://zwww.alternet.org/election-2016/trumps-crocodile-contrition-and-cynicism-political-pivot <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1062379'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1062379" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Pundits are oh so ready to engage in the masquerade that Trump has &quot;changed.&quot;</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://zwww.alternet.org/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/donald_trump_8567813820_2.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>If, like me, you think that a President Trump would be (not to coin a phrase) a total disaster, Hillary Clinton’s widening lead in the polls gave you about five minutes to breathe easier, until Trump replaced his campaign chairman with honchos blunt enough to admit that his ugliness was killing him with undecided voters, and pushy enough to make him pretend to almost apologize for it.</p><p>Was last week a true turning point for Trump? Did it signal a transformation from the man-baby who won the Republican primaries to someone with the temperament to be president? In the word of the moment, is this the “pivot” that Clinton’s supporters have most feared?</p><p>There are more strata of cynicism in the idea of a pivot than layers of pastry in a mille-feuille.</p><p>Start with the presumption of two kinds of Americans. Some of them – political insiders, media junkies, savvy citizens – know the score. They’re hard-boiled enough to get that candidates can sometimes lie with impunity; that everything can come down to image and optics; that in an era of post-truth politics, narratives can matter more than facts.</p><p>The other Americans are the useful idiots whose gullibility is what pollsters measure. When a candidate pivots from one message in the primaries (e.g., Blacks are scary), to a contradictory message in the general (Blacks are suffering), or when a nominee torques from bullying (smearing a Gold Star mother, say) to sensitivity (I regret causing personal pain), his or her campaign calculates that the base and the undecideds will just roll with it. They’ll bend themselves into pretzels, believe the character swings, dissolve the flip-flops in the solvent of amnesia.</p><p>So when insiders speculate whether the Trump pivot has at long last arrived, what they’re really asking is whether Trump has the discipline to maintain the masquerade that he’s changed. If he doesn’t consistently act as though he can get his id under control, too many voters may conclude that the pathological liar and narcissist they saw in the primaries – whom the elite knows is the real Trump – is in fact the real Trump.</p><p>The cynicism of the pivot ploy came into sharp focus when Trump, under the tutelage of his new chieftains — Stephen Bannon and Kellyanne Conway — <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/18/politics/trump-i-regret-sometimes-saying-wrong-thing/">declared</a> in Charlotte, N.C., “Sometimes, in the heat of debate and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don’t choose the right words or you say the wrong thing. I have done that.”</p><p>If you <a href="https://www.c-span.org/video/?414134-1/donald-trump-campaigns-charlotte-north-carolina">saw</a> him say that, you couldn’t mistake the meaning of the smirk on his face: “This is an act, people. I’m bluffing.” No wonder the crowd laughed at the preposterousness of it. “And believe it or not,” he continued, “I regret it.” Trump’s signature catchphrase is “believe me,” so when he says “believe it or not,” it’s a tell, a hostage video. “Or not” is the equivalent of blinking “I’m lying” in Morse code. The only disclaimer missing was putting air quotes around “regret.” No wonder his mea quasi culpa was met with even more laughter, and a Trump-Trump-Trump chant from the crowd; it was their way of saying they knew he was faking it.</p><p>Last Friday’s <a href="http://www.msnbc.com/morning-joe/watch/trump-reagan-and-the-1980-campaign-747250755519">Morning Joe</a> on MSNBC epitomized the media response to the Trump shakeup. The question on the table wasn’t whether Trump had truly changed; no one on the panel thought his pivot meant anything truthful about his temperament. Instead, it was all about performance, stagecraft, illusion – whether Trump’s new minders can make him stick to the new script, whether they can market it with a straight face, whether the audience will buy it. Joe Scarborough called Conway’s TV debut as campaign manager “the best pundit performance of the year.” “It was quite a performance,” agreed Andrea Mitchell, because “it didn’t have performance written all about it – it was natural.” Eugene Robinson thought Trump’s attempting a pivot would “if not gladden the hearts of worried Republicans, at least calm their night sweats.” Chris Cillizza wondered if Trump, a billionaire who managed to depict himself as a populist in the primaries, had already “damaged himself so badly, image-wise, that a change like this is not able to be sold to a skeptical electorate.” Brand maven Donnie Deutsch said no, it wouldn’t work, because “people are not stupid.” The press needs to stop setting the bar so low, “to stop giving him presidential points because he can read off a teleprompter and he’s not insulting anybody.”</p><p>Within hours of his Charlotte speech, a Clinton <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5BNzXd6080">ad</a> collected video of Trump being asked if he regretted taking shots at the Khans (“I don’t regret anything”); if he regretted denying that John McCain was a war hero (“I like not to regret anything”); if he regretted calling Mexicans rapists (“No, not at all); if he wanted to apologize for anything (“No, I don’t apologize”). Will it work? Trump’s tears may be crocodile contrition, but fact checking, even via video, sometimes can’t keep a good charlatan down.</p><p>Nor, maybe, will Trump’s message discipline stick any longer than after other reboots. Yesterday Conway <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2016/08/trump-blasts-morning-joe-227258?cmpid=sf">tweeted</a> that Trump "doesn't hurl personal insults." But during today’s Morning Joe, Trump took to Twitter to call Scarborough and co-host Mika Brzezinski “two clowns,” adding that she’s “a neurotic and not very bright mess.” So much for temperament transplants.</p><p>A political pivot is a con that wins wolf whistles from people who think they’re too smart to fall for it.  I wonder what it would take to motivate some connoisseurs of that fakery to volunteer a little time on the vice squad cleaning things up.</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2016 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1062379'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1062379" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Mon, 22 Aug 2016 11:50:00 -0700 Marty Kaplan, AlterNet 1062379 at http://zwww.alternet.org Election 2016 Election 2016 trump gop Why the Normal Rules of Politics Don't Apply to Donald Trump http://zwww.alternet.org/election-2016/why-normal-rules-politics-dont-apply-donald-trump <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1056632'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1056632" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">This transformation of the election into a soft-core reality show is also where Trump’s greatest vulnerability lies. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://zwww.alternet.org/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/25652914810_145e800686_z.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>I bet a friend dinner that Donald Trump would win the Republican nomination. Now I need to decide whether to bet a bottle of wine that Trump will beat Hillary Clinton. What I take from the tightening polls is that either side could win, a prospect that terrifies me, and not just because I’d be out a good Bordeaux. What will tip the election, I suspect, is whether Trump can make more people hate Clinton than the Clinton campaign can make hate Trump.</p><p>When Maureen Dowd asked Trump last Friday about his Twitter feud with Elizabeth Warren, his reply was, “You mean Pocahontas?” We already knew he has a black belt in bullying. His contribution to the art of negative campaigning is that it’s Trump himself – the candidate, not his running mate, surrogates, paid ads or PACs – who’s slinging the feces. His case against Crooked Hillary is the familiar right-wing trash talk of the past quarter-century, with an accent on her marriage. The only open question is how close Trump’s tone will come to the Facebook page of Tony Senecal, his faithful Mar-a-Lago butler (“Stop the LYING BITCH OF BENGHAZI, NOW---killery Clinton!!!!!! She should be in prison awaiting hanging!!!!!!!”).</p><p>The Clinton campaign has signaled that she’ll stay out of the mud and leave the daily back-and-forth to her messengers. When asked by the press about Trump’s charge that she was her husband’s enabler and is therefore herself anti-women, she frames her answer in terms of Trump’s failure to fight for issues women care about. But what if he slimes her on the debate stage? Shaming might work, if not with him, then with voters: “Have you no sense of decency?” Or she could adapt Carly Fiorina’s “I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.” She could even do a version of Lloyd Bentsen’s “You’re no JFK” to Dan Quayle: “You’re not a tenth the man that Bill Clinton is.” And if Trump tries to pull it more than once, there’s always Reagan’s debate line to Jimmy Carter: “There you go again.”</p><p>Clinton’s ads could use Trump’s own words against him, but they may not stick; that’s why Trump has been called a Teflon candidate, as was Reagan. The Clinton campaign can try to brand Trump a liar, but though fact-checkers have given him a record number of pants-on-fires and Pinocchios, people aren’t joining or leaving him because of accuracy; that’s not what a protest movement is about.  Besides, fact-checking just plays into Trump’s applause line that the media are disgusting liars.</p><p>The irrelevance of facts is part of what observers mean when they say that the normal rules of politics don’t apply to Trump. What’s also abnormal is his obliterating the boundary between campaigning and reality TV, an absorption of politics by entertainment that is abetted, and profited from, by the media. This transformation of the election into a soft-core S&amp;M reality show is also where Trump’s greatest vulnerability lies.</p><p>Reality TV is the spectacle of humiliation. So is Trump’s campaign. He won the primaries by humiliating his rivals. Now he’s unifying his party by humiliating them again.</p><p>For the audience of this campaign – the people formerly known as voters – it’s sadistically sublime to watch Marco Rubio, who called Trump a “con man,” manacled by his pledge to support his party’s nominee.  It’s delicious to watch Rick Perry, who once said Trump was a “cancer on conservatism,” now say he’s commander-in-chief material. Chris Christie called Trump a “carnival barker” whom he would never endorse; seeing Christie turn up as an apprentice butler at Mar-a-Lago is as pleasurable as watching a “Celebrity Apprentice” contestant degraded.  Early on in the campaign, Trump, who evaded serving in Vietnam, called John McCain a “loser” because he was a prisoner of war, so now there’s pathos in watching McCain masochistically endorse him. But since McCain is also the man who nearly put Sarah Palin a heartbeat from the presidency, there’s <em>schadenfreude</em> in seeing that, too.</p><p>Trump will lose if his fans figure out it’s not just his rivals who are being humiliated – that they, his voters, are a bunch of losers to him, too. The political press calls Trump’s steady abandonment of his signature positions a “pivot.” That’s too elegant. What he’s really doing is demonstrating his contempt for his base.</p><p>Trump has to believe his supporters are cowards, because they’re not screaming bloody murder now that his “self-funded” campaign has hired a hedge fund veteran to raise a billion dollars of special interest money, kicked off by a $100 million bribe from gambling mogul Sheldon Adelson.  Trump has to believe his voters are Low Energy Jebs and sad Little Marcos, 98-pound weaklings who’ll eat whatever sand he kicks in their faces, like recasting his ban on Muslim immigrants as “just a suggestion.” “I’m very flexible, “ he says. What’s next to get flexed – the wall?</p><p>Voters need to see, and the Clinton campaign needs to say, that this show isn’t a story about Trump. It’s a story about them. The challenge isn’t to reveal Trump as a liar; it’s to reveal that putting your faith in him makes you a doormat in his eyes. It’s no accident that one of the phrases Trump uses most often is, “Believe me.” If you do, what you're really telling him is, "Step on me."</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2016 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1056632'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1056632" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Mon, 16 May 2016 13:45:00 -0700 Marty Kaplan, AlterNet 1056632 at http://zwww.alternet.org Election 2016 Election 2016 trump gop election Spiritual, but Not Religious, but Not Woo-Woo http://zwww.alternet.org/spiritual-not-religious-not-woo-woo <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1055095'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1055095" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">If I hesitate today to call myself religious, it’s not because I don’t identify as a Jew; it’s because “religious” can imply, and to more than just me, dogmatic authoritarianism. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://zwww.alternet.org/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/matzohwine_539_332_c1.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Years ago, a few days before Passover and a few days after we moved into the house where our children would grow up, I ran into one of my new neighbors, Mr. M----. We’d met on moving day, but I’d been too crazed dealing with boxes to more than shake his hand, so I was glad for this chance to be more neighborly.  From his black hat, I assumed he was Orthodox. I greeted him by saying, “<em>A zissen Pesach</em>, Mr. M----,” the traditional Yiddish wish for a sweet Passover. </p><p>He looked at me as if I had three heads, or had spoken in Martian. Maybe he didn’t recognize me? I re-introduced myself, and said again, heartily, “<em>A</em> <em>zissen Pesach</em>.”</p><p>After a long stare, and stonily looking me up and down – I was in shorts and a tee shirt – he asked, incredulous, “You’re Jewish?”</p><p>I was too dim to think this was anything beyond a comical misunderstanding. “Of course I’m Jewish – that’s why I wished you <em>a zissen Pesach</em>!” I said jollily, sure this would clear everything up. </p><p>His face did not mirror my smile. He wagged his index finger side to side like a metronome, as if instructing or reproaching a simple or wicked child.  “No,” he corrected me. “<em>A koshereh Pesach</em>.”</p><p>A Pesach that strictly observed the additional dietary rules for the eight days ahead. A Pesach with two extra sets of crockery and two extra sets of cutlery reserved exclusively for this holiday. A Pesach it was obvious to him that I — the kind of Jew who wasn’t really Jewish —would not be having. </p><p>It is not uncommon for some Orthodox Jews to maintain that Reform Jews like me are as Jewish as gentiles. Drawing and enforcing boundaries is something that the world’s religions excel at.  Religious rules create identity and loyalty. Instead of the secular agony of figuring out how to live and what to do, religion offers the supreme serenity of obedience: submission to scriptural, priestly and divine authority.  This can build remarkably cohesive communities. It can also – ironically, in light of religion’s avowed spiritual aspirations – be soul-crushing.</p><p>I grew up as an Orthodox Jew, but as an adult I found the Reform Movement a more welcoming place to wrestle with meaning and purpose. If I hesitate today to call myself religious, it’s not because I don’t identify as a Jew; it’s because “religious” can imply, and to more than just me, dogmatic authoritarianism. </p><p>My neighbor Mr. M---- believes that observing <em>halacha</em> – the body of law in the Torah and Talmud – is essential to his Jewishness.  Unlike him, but like <a href="http://www.pewforum.org/2013/10/01/jewish-american-beliefs-attitudes-culture-survey/">four-fifths</a> of American Jews, I don’t think that following the halachic path is essential to the meaning of being Jewish. For that matter, like two-thirds of American Jews, I don’t think it’s necessary to believe in God to be Jewish. I approach the Torah metaphorically, as poetry, storytelling and culture-making, rather than literally, as history and divine revelation. But that doesn’t make me an atheist, or even an agnostic.</p><p>At my best, I’m spiritually gobsmacked by the mystery that anything exists. I’m not surprised by how often people tell pollsters they’re “spiritual but not religious.” <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/19/us/examining-the-growth-of-the-spiritual-but-not-religious.html?_r=0">Seven percent</a> of all Americans say they’re S.B.N.R. – a bigger group than Jews, atheists, Muslims or Episcopalians. Though more than one-fifth of Americans say they’re not affiliated with any religion, more than a third call themselves spiritual.  At the same time the share of Americans who say religion is important to them has been going down, the share of people who feel a deep sense of wonder about the universe at least once a week has been <a href="http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/01/21/americans-spirituality/">going up</a>. According to the Pew Research Center, it rose from 39 percent to 46 percent between 2007 and 2014. Among atheists, it jumped 17 points, to 54 percent. (Polling the ineffable: what a job!)</p><p>Like most American Jews, I’ll be at a seder this week. Will it be a spiritual experience? Yes, though not because I expect to fall into a mystical trance, or to be bathed by some kind of well-being woo-woo. It will be because of the people, the friends and family I’ll be with. The <a href="http://www.hollishillsjc.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/S3K-How-Spiritual-Are-American-Jews.pdf">collective nature of our celebration</a> – our communal eating, drinking, singing and storytelling – will be psychically more powerful than any of the self-conscious symbolism of the seder. When we sing “<em>Eliahu hanavi</em>” about Elijah’s return, I will feel its mournful yearning across the millennia in my bones. When we recite, “This is the bread of affliction that our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt,” my spirit will thrum – not because there’s archaeological evidence that this sentence is true (there isn’t), but because this is the sentence about the bread of affliction that my ancestors have assembled annually to say, together and aloud, since Deuteronomy was composed 28 centuries ago. </p><p>Sartre said, “Hell is other people.” He must never have been to a seder. Sometimes, other people are paradise.</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2016 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1055095'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1055095" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Fri, 22 Apr 2016 08:05:00 -0700 Marty Kaplan, AlterNet 1055095 at http://zwww.alternet.org judaism passover I've Seen Trump's Li'l Donald — Believe Me, It Was Little http://zwww.alternet.org/election-2016/ive-seen-trumps-lil-donald-believe-me-it-was-little <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1052224'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1052224" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">One man&#039;s glimpse of the Trump family jewels. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://zwww.alternet.org/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/23173091533_139e929881_z.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>"Do you like what you see?" Donald Trump asked me.</p><p>True story -- as true as those thousands and thousands of Muslims in Jersey City, New Jersey he saw cheering on TV as the World Trade Center came tumbling down.</p><p>It happened at Mar-a-Lago, not long after Trump bought the place. He wasn't asking me about the real estate, though. He wanted to know what I thought about Li'l Donald.</p><p>Back then, I could never have imagined he'd be running for president one day, or that I'd be privileged to vote for him. Or that Li'l Donald was the pet name that he'd given his d*ck, or that its size would turn out to be a campaign issue.</p><p>The size of his fortune? Sure, anyone could see that fight coming. If you don't release your tax returns, some total loser is bound to say you're stuffing a sock in your package.</p><p>But this Rubio salvo about Trump having small hands: That one took me by surprise.</p><p>You'd think Trump's answer would have put away any doubts about how he measures up. "I guarantee you there's no problem. I guarantee it."</p><p>What's not good enough about that? For millions of people during the primaries, that's worked just fine for every other issue.</p><p>Believe me, Mexico will pay for the wall. Believe me, torture works. The world is going to respect us again, believe me. I'll bring those jobs back from China, India, Vietnam and Mexico, believe me. You're going to see Merry Christmas in the department stores, believe me. Believe me, I'm a unifier.</p><p>I hate to say it, but when it comes to his size, I'm afraid "I guarantee it" just isn't going to stifle the suspicions. You know what's bound to happen: When some network offers some former arm candy of his a reality show, she's going to break the nondisclosure agreement he made her sign about Li'l Donald. Or maybe some embarrassing picture is going to go viral, and it won't matter how many times he says, "It's been Photoshopped, believe me."</p><p>America needs Trump. The only way to pre-empt attacks like that is the truth, whatever it is. And better that truth come from a supporter like me than some lying loser trying to bring him down.</p><p>When Trump bought Mar-a-Lago, it was a wreck. This was in the '80s, when I used to go there to visit my girlfriend. He'd hired her to turn it into a swanky spa, and one of his conditions -- I wasn't crazy about it, but the money was good -- was that she live on the property during the renovation. I didn't want our relationship to suffer more than it had to, so I flew down to Palm Beach every month or so and stayed with her in a little cottage on the grounds.</p><p>It was dilapidated, but tolerable, except for the plumbing. If you wanted a decent shower, forget it. In those days, I was running two or three miles a day, and the last thing I wanted to do was clean the sweat off with a washcloth and water from a kettle on the hotplate. So I took to sneaking into the men's locker room over by the tennis courts, where the pressure and the water were good and hot, and no one was ever around.</p><p>But one morning, after a good long run, when I pushed open the locker room door I found myself face to face with two guys peeling off their sticky tennis whites. I didn't recognize the big blond guy -- a tennis pro? -- but the other one was Trump. He had on a Lacoste shirt and a chain around his neck, and nothing else.</p><p>"Who the f**k are you?" he asked.</p><p>"I'm Katrina's boyfriend," I said. "Nice to meet you, sir." I almost put my hand out to shake his, but under the circumstances it didn't seem right to get any closer.</p><p>"Katrina?" the pro asked.</p><p>"My spa designer," Trump told him. "The ---- this putz is f--king." I tried to keep my eyes locked on his, but I must have glanced downward, and he nailed me. Guys don't like to admit it, but we can't help checking each other out. It's kind of an alpha thing.</p><p>"What are you looking at?" Trump asked. It was actually the whiteness that had caught my eye. No, really. It wasn't just that he wasn't spray-tanned down there. It was also hairless as a baby's butt.</p><p>"Nothing, sir." I was looking straight at him again, but I'd heard that shaving is supposed to be a way to make you look larger, and I couldn't get what I'd seen out of my mind.</p><p>"You calling Li'l Donald 'nothing,' boy?"</p><p>"No, sir, I'm not. I'm, I'm --" I stammered.</p><p>"Go ahead. Look at it."</p><p>"No, really, I -- "</p><p>"I said, look at it."</p><p>You know how, when he was asked in the debate last week what he would do if the military refused to obey an order from him to use torture, he said, "They're not gonna refuse me, believe me" -- do you remember that? That's how I felt right then. I couldn't refuse him. So I looked.</p><p>"Do you like what you see?"</p><p>They say that some guys are growers and some are showers. Trump was definitely not a shower. But it wasn't obvious that he was a grower, either. There just wasn't enough to go on to say.</p><p>"I said," he repeated, "Do you like what you see, you little ---- ?"</p><p>Talk about trick questions.</p><p>No way could I say no. But yes? Based on what was visible, yes was manifestly unbelievable. Worse, it conveyed a level of enthusiasm that could only get me in more trouble.</p><p>"Yes, sir," I lied. Double lied. "I do."</p><p>"Liar. You're lying. He's lyin', Ivan," he said to the pro.</p><p>Trump fixed me with that squinty look he sometimes has. I felt as though he were x-raying my mind. "There's only one right answer."</p><p>"Sir?"</p><p>"'I have to see all of it,'" he said. "'Show me all of it.' That's the right answer. Isn't that right, Ivan?"</p><p>"Da," Ivan said.</p><p>"Did I show you all of it?" Trump asked him. It was clearly a rhetorical question. "Tell him, Ivan."</p><p>"Da."</p><p>I should mention that during all of this, Ivan had not stopped undressing. By now I could see that Ivan had an enormous -- well, that his hands were yuge. It gave him some real standing on the topic.</p><p>"And did you like what you saw, Ivan?"</p><p>A dreamy smile suffused his face. He turned to me. "Tre-men-dous," he said, lingering on each syllable. "Belief me."</p><p>I did. It was like a command relayed from the commander-in-chief, an order I couldn't refuse.</p><p>The two presidential candidates this fall are likely to be Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. There's going to be a lot of back and forth about immigration and trade and all the other hot-button issues. But in the end, the presidential vote always comes down to, Which one of them do you believe? Do you believe she's really going to take on Wall Street? Do you believe he'll really make China roll over?</p><p>Clinton's supporters can speak to the question of her credibility. But as a Trump guy, I can't think of a better sign of his trustworthiness -- and I'm speaking from personal experience here -- than what he's been saying in this campaign about Li'l Donald. True, I may not have seen all of it, and I certainly didn't whip out a ruler to measure it. But the smile that day on that tennis pro's face is all the affidavit I need. Trump really is going to make America great again. I guarantee it.</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2016 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1052224'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1052224" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Wed, 09 Mar 2016 10:15:00 -0800 Marty Kaplan, AlterNet 1052224 at http://zwww.alternet.org Election 2016 Election 2016 The Right Wing donald trump election 2016 Mar a Largo GOP candidates Jihadism Isn't Nihilism: What Everyone Gets Wrong About ISIS http://zwww.alternet.org/world/jihadism-isnt-nihilism-what-everyone-gets-wrong-about-isis <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1046142'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1046142" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">ISIS&#039;s ideology has been called extreme nihilism. Here&#039;s why that&#039;s not accurate. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://zwww.alternet.org/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_237997351.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>In the partisan battle over describing the Islamic State, Democrats have fastened on a philosophical term from 19th century European intellectual history. They’re being too clever by half.</p><p>“Extremist nihilism” is what Barack Obama has <a href="http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/13178582.Obama__The_West_will_defeat__extremist_nihilism__of_the_Islamic_State_terrorists/">called</a> ISIS’s ideology. In the second Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/news/democratic-debate-transcript-clinton-sanders-omalley-in-iowa/">labeled</a> it a “kind of barbarism and nihilism.” John Kerry <a href="https://agenda.weforum.org/2015/01/11-quotes-from-john-kerry-at-davos-2015/">dismissed</a> it as “nothing more than a form of criminal anarchy, nihilism which illegitimately claims an ideological and religious foundation.”</p><p>This makes it sound like nihilism has nothing to do with religion. But it has everything to do with religion.</p><p>Nihilism is a consequence of losing faith. It’s a trap door that opens when a divine sanction for morality loses authority. It’s a repercussion of the Enlightenment, a cost of learning science, a risk of higher education. Whatever God you once believed in, whatever scripture you once obeyed, whatever story about a realm beyond this one that once bound you to your tribe, nihilism is the stomach-churning corollary of realizing – in the words of the philosopher most closely associated with it, Friedrich Nietzsche – “God is dead.” </p><p>People find different ways to deal with that wound.</p><p>For some, nihilism turns out to be a way station on the human journey, a stage of moral development, a rite of passage to intellectual maturity. Eventually, and not without pain, you discover that secular values can provide a durable basis for human decency. You realize you can live by biblical bywords – “therefore choose life,” “do unto others” – but without biblical theology. You can find in philosophy – in the categorical imperative of Kantian ethics, say, or in the “veil of ignorance” of John Rawls’s theory of justice – a rationale for civilized behavior. You can find in nature an inspiration for reverence and awe; in love and art, an experience of transcendence; in evolutionary biology, an adaptive advantage for family and empathy. There may be no God on high, but immanence – the godliness within us and within everything – is no less spiritually authentic, and has a lot less blood on its hands, than official organized religion.</p><p>But what is a difficult passage for some can be a life sentence for others. With nihilism can come despair, a dark night of the soul that never turns to dawn. If there is no God, then life is pointless and absurd. Culture is just a desperate attempt to evade our mortality. Values are all arbitrary; truths are all political; epiphanies are just meaningless squirts of feel-good molecules. Nothing matters, and everything sucks. </p><p>From here, there are two possible moves. One is decadence. If morality is a socially-constructed scam, then there is no sin in the deadly sins. Since the only god is Chance, you might as well make your one night in the casino a hedonic blowout. The other move is more sinister.  As Dostoevsky’s characters are prone to observe, If God is dead, then everything is permitted. Why not steal? Why not murder? Coveting your neighbor’s wife won’t send you to hell; neither will killing him if he catches you. Psychopaths don’t know the difference between right and wrong. Nihilists know the difference, but they don’t believe it makes any difference. </p><p>So nihilism is the wrong word for ISIS. Extremist jihadism is a consequence of faith, not a consequence of losing faith.</p><p>You can say the Islam of ISIS is a perversion of the teachings of Muhammad, just as you can say the Inquisition and the Crusades were a perversion of the teachings of Jesus, or that the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin was a perversion of the teachings of the Torah. You can say the Islam of ISIS is fundamentalist and extreme, just as you can say the Christianity that supports Israel to hasten the arrival of Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ is fundamentalist and extreme, or that the Judaism that supports replacing the Al-Aqsa Mosque with the Third Temple to hasten the arrival of the Messiah is fundamentalist and extreme. But what you cannot say is that the jihadism of the butchers of Paris, Beirut and Sharm el-Sheikh is a consequence of their concluding that Allah is dead, which is what calling them nihilists would mean.</p><p>Ironically, in their minds, we’re the nihilists. The sensual pleasure we take in life, they view as a sign of our decadence. Our modernity is a threat to moral order. We are infidels. It is bad enough that we do not believe in the One True God whose name is Allah. Our pluralism – our democratic refusal to embrace the notion that any God is the One True God – is to them evidence of our evil, proof we believe in no God, reason for holy warriors to have us in their sights.</p><p>Democrats may believe that calling ISIS’s ideology nihilism – or criminal anarchy, or barbarism – decouples their religion from their terrorism. That’s wishful thinking. “Nihilist” belongs to a Western narrative about a God that failed. ISIS isn’t part of that story. It’s discomfiting that ISIS’s evil is <a href="http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/six-keys-understanding-isiss-barbarism-apocalyptic-vision-and-desire-end-times-battle">rooted in the Koran</a> – the most apocalyptic, ultra-conservative, literalist reading imaginable, yet the Koran nevertheless. But it’s disingenuous of Democrats to root it in Nietzsche.  </p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2015 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1046142'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1046142" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Sun, 22 Nov 2015 07:44:00 -0800 Marty Kaplan, AlterNet 1046142 at http://zwww.alternet.org World World Isis obama religion Nihilism Is It Game Over for Jeb Bush? http://zwww.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/it-game-over-jeb-bush <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1045016'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1045016" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">It&#039;s a question GOP elders are asking this weekend. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://zwww.alternet.org/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/jeb_bush_4.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>It's the humane thing to do," said a participant following an emergency donor class conference call following the CNBC Republican debate in Boulder, Colo. "After Jeb criticized Rubio's attendance record, and Rubio broke his legs, you could just see it in his eyes," said the billionaire super PAC contributor, who did not want to be named because he never is named. "Poor Jeb's like a thoroughbred begging to be put out of his misery."</p><p>Sources close to the Bush campaign rejected the judgment reached on the call. "He's joyful, he's got 39 years of experience, he's a reformer who can get things done, he's got an 11-point tax reform plan, and the only reason he's running is because those rich bastards dragged him into the race in the first place so they'd have someone they could own," said one insider, who was granted anonymity in exchange for a better quote.</p><p>Overnight polls of likely Republican caucus and primary voters put Bush well behind other presidential contenders in answer to the question, "Which candidate is best at channeling your batshit rage?" Asked to respond to the poll results, a Bush campaign spokesperson, who declined to be named because it might jeopardize her job search, said, "Look, if the only thing you care about is beating Hillary Clinton, Jeb's not your man."</p><p>It is not yet known how the donors' verdict will be implemented, and which network will have the rights to it, but ad industry expects said rates were likely to be well above the $250,000 for a 30-second spot that was charged by CNBC.</p><p>Governor Bush could not be reached for comment.</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2015 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1045016'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1045016" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Sat, 31 Oct 2015 09:07:00 -0700 Marty Kaplan, AlterNet 1045016 at http://zwww.alternet.org News & Politics Media News & Politics Jeb! Why It's Getting to Be Damn Near Impossible to Know What Food Is Actually Healthy http://zwww.alternet.org/media/why-its-getting-be-damn-near-impossible-know-what-food-actually-healthy <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1041429'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1041429" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Corporate funding is producing oceans of questionable information when it comes to health. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://zwww.alternet.org/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_190660604-edited.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>You might think an outfit calling itself an academy would be, you know, academic.  But <a href="http://thedailyshow.cc.com/videos/fsdtvk/the-snacks-of-life">as Jon Stewart put it</a>, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is as much an academy as the “Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product” called Kraft Singles is cheese. </p><p>The last time the academy was in the news, it was for taking an undisclosed amount of money from Kraft in exchange for giving Kraft permission to put the academy’s “Kids Eat Right” logo on Kraft Singles.  When nailed for this, the academy denied that this amounted to putting a stamp of approval on Singles.  What it really was, they claimed, was an ad for the academy’s Kids Eat Right initiative. If this were true, it would be the first time in the history of the world that an advertiser <em>received</em> money for placing an ad, instead of paying for it. </p><p>The story of the academy’s smelly deal with Kraft, broken in March by Stephanie Strom <a href="http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/03/12/a-cheese-product-wins-kids-nutrition-seal/?_r=1">in the New York Times</a> and amplified by The Daily Show, the <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/eat-right-meltdown-for-kraft-singles-1427152818">Wall Street Journal</a> and <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Health/kraft-singles-1st-food-allowed-display-kids-eat/story?id=29616537">other</a> news outlets, raised such a public stink that its endorsement of Kraft Singles <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/program-to-put-kids-eat-right-logo-on-kraft-singles-ending-1427806089">was yanked</a>.  It also drew an unflattering spotlight on the academy itself, which counts 75,000 dietitians and other food and nutrition professionals among its members. </p><p>It turns out that the academy has long functioned more like a trade group than a professional society.  As detailed in 2013 by public health lawyer Michele Simon in “<a href="http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/business/AND_Corporate_Sponsorship_Report.pdf">And Now a Word From Our Sponsors</a>,” the academy’s <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/23/business/report-questions-nutrition-groups-use-of-corporate-sponsors.html">major sponsors</a> have included ConAgra, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Dairy Council, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Kellogg’s.  Andy Bellatti, strategic director of <a href="http://integritydietitians.org/">Dietitians for Professional Integrity</a>, an organization of academy members who believe Americans deserve nutrition information “not tainted by food industry interests,” <a href="http://civileats.com/2015/03/23/dietitians-fight-kraft-singles-kids-eat-right-seal/">traces</a> the long trail of taint: In 1993, the academy “teamed up with McDonald’s to develop a line of Happy Meal Toys.” In 2010, it “joined forces with the Hershey Center for Health and Nutrition ‘to educate Americans on better, balanced eating’.” In 2014, it “received a grant from Elanco, maker of livestock pharmaceuticals, to ‘teach dietitians about farming’.” The academy isn’t a watchdog of the industry; it’s married to it.</p><p>And now, fresh from the Kraft Singles debacle, the academy <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/25/health/fda-proposes-labels-that-list-added-sugars-and-do-the-math-too.html">is back in the news</a>.  This time it’s for an article about added-sugar labeling in an issue of its seemingly academic publication, the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  The article reports the findings of a survey carried out and paid for by the International Food Information Council Foundation.  Whatta name! It’s like having, “<em>We’re not lobbyists, pimps, propagandists or obfuscators – we’re legit! No, really!</em>” tattooed on your forehead.  This Foundation, you will not be shocked, shocked to learn, is funded by the food and beverage industry.</p><p>Added sugar has no nutritional value; that’s why its calories are called “empty.” It’s not the sugar that occurs naturally in some foods, like fruit.  It’s the sugar added to a product during the manufacturing process, making it taste sweet.  That sugar, along with added salt and fat, changes our brains. The more we eat, the more we crave.  It’s not a moral failure – it’s chemistry.  As former Food and Drug Administration commissioner David Kessler <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/26/AR2009042602711.html">lays ou</a>t in his book, “The End of Overeating,” we are literally addicted to sugar, and it’s killing us. </p><p>The F.D.A. recommends that added sugar contribute a maximum of 10 percent of our daily calories.  That’s a ceiling of 50 grams of added sugar per day.  Drink a big soda, eat a Cinnabon or a Milky Way, and you’ve hit the limit.  If you think that’s draconian, it’s higher than the American Heart Association’s limits (38 grams for men, 25 grams for women), and it’s double what the World Health Organization <a href="http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/notes/2014/consultation-sugar-guideline/en/">recommends</a>.   </p><p>What prompted the nice folks at the International Food Information Council Foundation (I love saying the name) to pay for a survey was an F.D.A. proposal to require packaged food and beverage labels to state not only the grams of added sugar, but also what percent of your daily max of added sugar calories is in it.  It’s sobering to read that the Venti Salted-Caramel Mocha you’re about to hoist contains 71 grams of sugar; it could be horrifying to learn that it blows past 140 percent of the F.D.A.’s daily added sugar limit.   </p><p>According to the International Food Information Council Foundation survey, consumers would be confused if food labels had to include an added sugar percentage. The label might be technically accurate, but people would believe that even more sugar had been added than actually was, and so they’d be less likely to buy the product.  In other words, what’s wrong with the labeling is that it would work. </p><p>On the heels of this news, the Times also <a href="http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/08/09/coca-cola-funds-scientists-who-shift-blame-for-obesity-away-from-bad-diets/?_r=0">broke</a> the story of Coca-Cola’s undisclosed parentage and funding of the Global Energy Balance Network. The purpose of the GEBN is to shift the blame for obesity away from bad diets – to create the appearance of scientific support for added sugar, as long as you burn the calories by becoming more active.  It’s nice to know there’s evidence that exercise is good for us. It’s not so nice to know that Coca-Cola is paying for that research as a PR strategy to take nutritional guilt out of drinking Coke.  Yep, that 20-ounce bottle is the perfect thirst-quencher while you’re shopping online for the perfect pair of sneakers for that Soul Cycle class you’ve been meaning to look into. </p><p>That PR strategy dovetails nicely with the industry’s targeting their TV marketing of sugary and salty food at the same people who should be cutting back on them.  According to <a href="http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-junk-food-advertising-racial-disparity-20150812-story.html">research</a> not funded by the industry, African-American kids in the U.S. – who have higher rates of obesity and other diet-related diseases – are more than twice as likely to see TV ads for candy and soda than their white counterparts.  Thirty-nine percent of Hispanic and Latino kids are overweight or obese, but “over two-thirds of the Spanish TV ads that are directed to [Latino children] are really pushing fast food, sugary drinks, candy and snacks.”</p><p>It’s hard enough to keep up with changing nutritional guidelines. But unless you’re an expert, it’s damn near impossible to tell the difference between independent research and research ginned up by trade groups and marketers. Not long ago, I was especially gladdened to learn that butter and eggs were back. Unfortunately, I now realize I have to go back and see whether my bliss was bought and paid for by the National Academy of Bovine Studies and the Global Galline Information Institute Foundation.</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2015 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1041429'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1041429" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Tue, 25 Aug 2015 07:21:00 -0700 Marty Kaplan, AlterNet 1041429 at http://zwww.alternet.org Media Media sugar kraft academy of nutrition and dietetics The Incredible Effect Jon Stewart Had on Society http://zwww.alternet.org/culture/incredible-effect-jon-stewart-had-society <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1038209'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1038209" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">There&#039;s something very interesting about the Daily Show&#039;s final episodes.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://zwww.alternet.org/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2015-06-22_at_2.41.29_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>What will we do without Jon Stewart?</p><p>I hear that a lot.  Of course I hope his writers will be able to make more magic with his successor, Trevor Noah.  And no matter what happens on "The Daily Show," we will still have John Oliver and Larry Wilmore, and I'm praying that Stephen Colbert will find room for political satire on “The Late Show.”  We can keep counting on the openers on “Saturday Night Live,” the closers on Bill Maher and the vicious brilliance of “South Park.” But the question remains: How will we survive the mendacity and imbecility of American politics and the media that cover it without Jon Stewart?</p><p>But as his last show approaches, Stewart himself has been turning that question inside out. We may laugh at the emperor’s nakedness, but so what? He’s still emperor. A montage of clips can eviscerate hypocrisy. Wit can slice the stuffing from a bully. Evidence can unmask ignorance; analysis can debunk deception; and sometimes a pun or a snort can kick a candidate or a correspondent in the kishkes. But really: besides a little laughter making us feel a little better, what difference does that make to our lives? With the end of his 17-year run in sight, that’s the doubt Stewart himself has been wrestling with.</p><p>To be sure, his swansong is also providing comedy. “Thank you, Donald Trump, for making my last six weeks my best six weeks,” he <a href="http://thedailyshow.cc.com/videos/gyhfub/democalypse-2016---white-house-don">said</a> when the imaginary billionaire announced his bid for the Republican presidential nomination. It seemed to surprise Stewart when the line drew a moan of protest from the audience, as if to say, No, Jon, it’s not funny that you’re leaving us. His response: “No, he’s putting me in some kind of comedy hospice where all I’m getting is just straight morphine.”</p><p>Stewart Unbound has no fear of alienating prospective guests. “Who knew,” he <a href="http://thedailyshow.cc.com/videos/h4azvj/trading-woes">said</a>, “all you had to do to fire up Harry Reid – the human equivalent of dry toast – was mention trade agreements? If I’d have known that, I’d have mentioned it earlier and kept myself from falling asleep every time I interviewed him.” The intake of breath that came with the laugh he got prompted this: “Yeah, that’s right, this is what it’s like when someone’s at five weeks left, people. Get used to it. [Bleep] it, I’m outta here.”</p><p>But twice during the last couple of weeks, Stewart has gone serious on us, and delved into what “The Daily Show” – or any political satire – is good for.</p><p>Now that he’s in the final run of shows, he <a href="http://thedailyshow.cc.com/videos/w42j6j/the-rummy-returns---learning-curves-are-for-pussies">said</a> on June 11, he’s been thinking about things he’s done right and done wrong. Among the latter: his interview with Donald Rumsfeld. Stewart had thought he could dissolve an architect of the Iraq War “into a puddle of atonement” by confronting him with “the most Socratic line of questioning.” As it turned out, Rummy easily evaded him, leaving Stewart thinking he’d never get his chance again. But when Rumsfeld told the Times of London earlier this month that “the idea that we could fashion a democracy in Iraq seemed to me unrealistic,” Stewart pounced on his retroactive skepticism: “Time for Stewart v Rumsfeld, Round 2: The Grudge Match.”</p><p>The pounding Stewart gave him was a classic “Daily Show” deconstruction. Rumsfeld ran to Fox to deny the Times of London quote; he claimed that what he’d actually said was, “I didn’t want the Iraqis to believe, inaccurately, that the U.S. intends to impose its form of democracy on their country.” And where might Iraqis have inaccurately gotten that impression? Cue Rumsfeld clips touting American-style democracy for Iraq on April 10, 2003, November 23, 2004, December 8, 2004, February 6, 2005 and March 20, 2005. Knockout. “I never thought I would say this,” Stewart crowed, “but we got you, Donald Rumsfeld, we got you.”</p><p>But as “We Got Him!” and fireworks flashed on the screen, Stewart found himself unable to gloat, calling it a “strangely hollow” win. “You know,” he said, “I placed a lot of stock in the idea” that catching Rumsfeld – or Bush, Cheney or Rice, or Douglas Feith or Judith Miller, or Richard Perle or Paul Bremer or any of the other architects or enablers of the Iraq War – “in some sort of logical trap, or forcing them to admit the errors of their ways, would be an ultimate victory. But now I wonder…. If you can get one of these guys to admit their mistakes, you may have a moment of satisfaction and catharsis. But it doesn’t mitigate the horrible consequences of the decision, and doesn’t seem to stop the next guy from repeating the mistake.”</p><p>So why do it? His answer recalls the punishment of Sisyphus, forced to push a boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down again, condemned to useless labor for all eternity:</p><p>“People of the future: Is it futile to try to pin these people down? Yes. Would it be easier to give up and let Rumsfeld go, preferably on an ice floe in the North Atlantic? Yes. Because no matter what evidence, no matter what arguments or historical facts you put in front of these people, they think learning curves are for pussies. And even if they did learn, it wouldn’t change the past, or prevent the same mistakes in the future. Which is why I want to say to you, in the future: Please, never stop trying anyway. Because there’s always hope that one day, they’ll think, just for a second, and that second will be enough time for us to shove those mother[bleep]ers onto that ice floe.”</p><p>Albert Camus said that “one must imagine Sisyphus happy.” In an absurd world, the struggle itself – the struggle toward the heights, not victory – “is enough to fill a man’s heart.” Must one imagine Stewart, like Sisyphus, happy?</p><p>Last week, on the day that nine African-Americans were slaughtered in their Charleston church by a white supremacist, a somber Stewart quieted his audience at <a href="http://thedailyshow.cc.com/videos/kb2h42/charleston-church-shooting">the show’s start</a>. I have a pretty simple job, he said.</p><p>“I come in in the morning, and we look at the news, and I write jokes about it…. But I didn’t do my job today, so I apologize. I got nuthin’ for you…. And maybe if I wasn’t nearing the end of the run, or this weren’t such a common occurrence, maybe I could get pulled out of the spiral, but I didn’t. And so I honestly have nothing other than just sadness once again that we have to peer into the abyss of the depraved violence that we do to each other, and the… gaping racial wound that will not heal yet we pretend doesn’t exist. I’m confident that by acknowledging that, by staring into it, we still won’t do jacksh--. Yeah, that’s us…. You know this is going to go down the same path.”</p><p>It’s kin to a sentiment that President Obama – another short-timer contemplating the end of his run – was criticized for voicing. I find no more reason to be optimistic about gun control or racism than they do. No evidence, arguments or historical facts, and no comedy, will defeat the gun lobby and its enablers; learning curves are for pussies.</p><p>But there are other ways to confront evil: Stewart spent the rest of the show <a href="http://thedailyshow.cc.com/videos/bdl9ix/malala-yousafzai-pt--1">interviewing</a> Malala Yousafzai, the 17-year-old Pakistani girl shot in the head by the Taliban for promoting education for girls. She survived, won the Nobel Peace Prize and launched the Malala Fund. The power of ridicule, Stewart rightly says, has dispiriting limits. But Stewart also possesses the power of attention. In the clamorous info-marketplace, nothing is more scarce, or more valuable, than attention. By giving her his platform, Stewart cleared a quiet place for us to hear her story and learn hope from her.</p><p>I know Jon Stewart has always been adamant that he’s a fake journalist, not a real one, so I’m sure he’ll like even less what these final shows leave me wanting to call him.</p><p>Teacher.</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2015 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1038209'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1038209" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Mon, 22 Jun 2015 11:31:00 -0700 Marty Kaplan, AlterNet 1038209 at http://zwww.alternet.org Culture Culture jon stewart daily show tv Republicans Who Think They Can Mau Mau Hillary Clinton Might Want to Think Again http://zwww.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/why-its-becoming-literally-impossible-take-republicans-seriously <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1036840'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1036840" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The master 2016 narrative they’re going with – dishonesty – is as dangerous for them as they want it to be for Hillary Clinton. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://zwww.alternet.org/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2015-05-25_at_3.08.13_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>We already know how Republicans will run against Hillary Clinton, because Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus is busily banging that drum.</p><p>“Hillary Clinton is, quite frankly, someone the American people can’t trust,” he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “This video proves why you can’t trust Hillary Clinton,” he wrote on his Facebook page.  “We already know from recent polls that a majority of Americans do not believe she is honest or trustworthy,” he pointed out in “It’s a Matter of Trust,” an op-ed on the party website.   </p><p>It’s a classic political tactic. A campaign for the White House must have a master negative narrative about its opponent.  That narrative needs to be about character, not positions; presidential votes are driven by gut feelings, not issue arithmetic. The narrative also shouldn’t be made from whole cloth – it should reinforce a story that already has currency in polling and media coverage.</p><p>“You can’t trust Hillary Clinton” ticks those boxes.  It’s an appeal to emotion, not an argument about policy.  It builds on the “slick Willie” narrative about her husband, who said he had “no sexual relationship with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky,” which would have been technically true if only being fellated didn’t count as a having sexual relationship.  “You can’t trust her” also builds on episodes in Secretary Clinton’s past, like the missing documents from her Arkansas law firm that mysteriously turned up in the White House family quarters, or the sniper fire she said she avoided at a Bosnian airport, an account that turned out to be “just a misstatement.”</p><p>The beauty of this tactic is that you can make any example that comes along fit into the master narrative.  The Priebus video, for example, describes a shift in her position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, from supportive in 2011 to wary in 2015, as a “flip flop.”</p><p>Flip-flopping is a garden variety accusation of pandering, but in the context of this dishonesty narrative, a change in position has been reframed as a lie. </p><p>That’s why her supporters are heartsick when she herself appears to feed the beast.  Even if nothing she did with her emails turns out to be illegal or unprecedented, and even if contributions to the Clinton Foundation are no more or less quid pros than the dark money that Super PACs contribute anonymously to both sides of the aisle, the untrustworthiness narrative draws no distinctions between a common practice and a smoking gun, between an appearance of impropriety and a flagrant breach of trust, between an inflammatory allegation and a factual explanation. Republican message discipline, amplified by billions of dollars’ worth of paid ads, ensures that every day is Benghazi day.</p><p>But this can boomerang. Consider Jeb Bush’s bungled answer to Megyn Kelly’s question about George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq: “Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion?” (Set aside the strangeness of the question; if people could time travel, no one would ever make preventable mistakes.)</p><p>Here’s how Jeb Bush defended his brother’s war: "In retrospect, the intelligence… was faulty.” This reveals the other master narrative that any campaign must deploy, a defensive story to defuse attacks – in this case, launched improbably by Fox News.  “Faulty intelligence” belongs to a master narrative about forgivable fallibility.  To err is human.  In a messy and dangerous world, the inherent difficulty of collecting and interpreting intelligence means that, inevitably, mistakes will be made. </p><p>That’s the exculpatory story that Jeb Bush and the rest of the Republican presidential field (except perhaps for Rand Paul) must tell.  But “faulty” is the wrong word. The right word is “fraudulent.”  If the intelligence justifying the invasion was later found to be unsound, well, that’s unfortunate, but people aren’t perfect.  But if the intelligence was manipulated, concocted, cherry-picked, distorted, falsified, rigged – if we were lied to – then it’s not a matter of knowing then what we know now.  It’s a matter of what we were bamboozled into believing then.  As Priebus would say, “It’s a Matter of Trust.” </p><p>So the Republicans risk being caught in a trap of their own devising. The master narrative they’re going with – dishonesty – is as dangerous for them as they want it to be for Hillary Clinton.  They want the 2016 election to turn on the question, Can you trust her? But Democrats can use jiu jitsu, and make the election turn on the question, Can you trust the people who duped you into Iraq?</p><p>Republicans may cling to the “faulty intelligence” story, but each day brings new evidence of deceit.  Michael Morrell, the former C.I.A. Deputy Director and Acting Director who gave George W. Bush his daily intelligence briefings, has now acknowledged that Dick Cheney was lying when he told us in 2003 that Saddam Hussein “has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.” Cheney and the neocons (who’ve now set up shop in Jeb Bush’s inner circle) told us there was a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda, but Morrell told Chris Matthews that’s “not what the intelligence community” concluded. From the Nigerien yellowcake and the uranium centrifuge tubes that didn’t exist, to the torture that did (check out this infuriating new Frontline documentary), the factory for manufacturing the phony case for war was headquartered in the vice president’s office.  Cheney, not W, is the real albatross around the neck of the Republican presidential field.</p><p>If untrustworthiness is the attack they themselves are most vulnerable to, why are the Republicans working so hard to sharpen that blade? “Projective identification” is the term psychoanalyst Melanie Klein used to describe how people can unconsciously split off a part of themselves and project it instead onto others.  That might be what’s happening here.  Reince Priebus looks at Hillary Clinton and sees a deceiver.  Dude must not know he’s looking in the mirror.<br /><br />Marty Kaplan is the Norman Lear professor of entertainment, media and society at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.  Reach him at <a href="mailto:martyk@jewishjournal.com">martyk@jewishjournal.com</a>.</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2015 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1036840'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1036840" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Mon, 25 May 2015 11:59:00 -0700 Marty Kaplan, AlterNet 1036840 at http://zwww.alternet.org News & Politics Election 2016 News & Politics clinton administration Does Our Cultural Programming Make Satire Impossible in America? http://zwww.alternet.org/civil-liberties/does-our-cultural-programming-make-satire-impossible-america <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1030143'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1030143" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">It&#039;s one of the most potent ways to challenge authority there is.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://zwww.alternet.org/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_-__2015-01-12_at_12.03.04_pm.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>On May 4, 1970, when 29 Ohio National Guardsmen shot 67 rounds of ammunition at a group of unarmed Kent State University students protesting Richard Nixon’s expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia, killing four students and wounding nine others, I was the president of the Harvard Lampoon, the nation’s oldest college humor magazine.</p><p>Campuses across the country erupted in protests, some of them violent.  Four million students at 450 colleges and universities went on strike.  Some Harvard students may have supported Nixon’s widening of the war, and some may have found a way to forgive the Kent State shooters, but I didn’t know any of them, and certainly not on the Lampoon.  We were furious, and since lampooning is what we did, that’s how we channeled our rage.</p><p>Though I didn’t know it then, this was the same year that Charlie Hebdo first appeared, as the rebranding of a weekly called Hara-Kiri, which had been banned by the French government for a cover mocking the effusive press coverage of former President Charles de Gaulle’s death by contrasting it with the media’s relatively restrained attention to a nightclub fire that killed 146 people the week before. </p><p>The broadsheet that the Lampoon published four days after Kent State didn’t get us banned, but it aspired to the same tastelessness.  Our format was a parody of the treatment Nixon was getting in the establishment press.  We thought the papers were bending over backwards to be respectful toward a paranoid warmonger while showing contempt for student protesters, whom they portrayed as dirty draft-dodging druggies. So we decided to out-do the sycophantic media by dialing the suck-up into the red zone. </p><p>Under the headline “Famous Dick Shrinker to Lobotomize Punks,” we reported approvingly the news that Nixon’s former psychiatrist had developed a pencil-and-paper test to screen American children aged six to eight for “anti-social attitudes and potential for hostile behavior.”  Another item lauded Nixon’s appointment of Tommy, the deaf, dumb and blind pinball wizard immortalized by the Who’s rock opera, as his top advisor, “‘who can tell me all I need to know to run the country.’”</p><p>But the story that pushed the envelope farthest was “Tricia Nixon to Wed Jew.”  Mr. Right was a nice boy from Yale studying to be a dentist.  “Asked if marrying outside her faith posed a problem, Trish cooed, ‘Not really.  The ancient Jewish custom of….’” I cringe at the words that came next; they describe the blood libel, and I won’t repeat them here.  That custom, Trish continued, “‘really differs very little from the policies Daddy advocates.  I think every girl wants the man she weds to share those special little pleasures of her Pa.’” </p><p>I can easily imagine a cartoon depicting that scene.  It would resemble any number of cartoons on the cover of Charlie Hebdo, and it would similarly polarize its audience –some finding it wicked, even blasphemous; others, hilariously on target.  If the hate-speech rules on many college campuses today had been in place back then, publishing such a story could well have gotten us hauled up before a disciplinary board. </p><p>What might our defense have been?  The genealogy of satire runs from Aristophanes to Mad Magazine, Voltaire to Colbert, Swift to “South Park,” Orwell to “The Onion” and “The Interview.” Freedom of speech must include the freedom to outrage.  If you have to fight fire with fire, you have to fight indecency with more indecency. Rudeness subverts oppression. Crudeness ventilates orthodoxy.  Laughter strips the emperor naked.  Satire is a check on power. Why else would tyrants and fundamentalists bother to ban and punish it?  “He rolls the executions on his tongue like berries,” wrote Osip Mandelstam in “The Stalin Epigram,” a poem that condemned him to exile and death.  Last month in Cairo, Bassem Youssef, sometimes called the Egyptian Jon Stewart, was fined millions of dollars for satirizing that country’s president and military leaders. Last week in Paris, imps were murdered by fanatics for making fun of fanaticism.</p><p>Of course barbarians and dictators can be just as jovial as cartoonists or college kids.  Comedy can kill.  I know there’s a line between humor that dehumanizes and lampoonery that democratizes. If nothing is sacred, nothing is civilized.  But who gets to draw that line, how do you demarcate the holy, without privileging the very authority that parody exists to challenge?</p><p>On the back page of the Lampoon’s Kent State broadside, we ran two quotes.  One is an excerpt from Mark Twain’s 1905 essay “The Damned Human Race,” as relevant to 1970 as when he wrote it, and as miserably apt today.  The passage ends with this:</p><p>“Man is the Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion – several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself, and cuts his throat if his theology isn’t straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother’s path to happiness and heaven. He was at it in the time of the Caesars, he was at it in Mahomet’s time, he was at it in the time of the Inquisition, he was at it in France a couple of centuries, he was at it in England in Mary’s day, he has been at it ever since he first saw the light… – he will be at it somewhere else tomorrow.”</p><p>The other quote accompanied a drawing of a girl kneeling over the body of a Kent State student, based on a photo by John Filo, who would win the Pulitzer Prize for it.  In that iconic image of terror and grief, her arms are outstretched in agony, her face contorted by a silent scream.  The words are from King Lear:  “Nothing will come of nothing.  Speak again.”</p><p>As long as the only animal that has the True Religion is at it somewhere else tomorrow, the obligation of satire will be to speak again.  And to speak against.</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2015 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1030143'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1030143" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Mon, 12 Jan 2015 09:52:00 -0800 Marty Kaplan, AlterNet 1030143 at http://zwww.alternet.org Human Rights Human Rights Media hebdo satire 8 Events That Have Turned This Summer into a Hellish Experience http://zwww.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/8-events-have-turned-summer-hellish-experience <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1016910'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1016910" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Gaza, Ebola, and Ferguson -- there wasn&#039;t much to be optimistic about in these last few months. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://zwww.alternet.org/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/8072543100cefdcf04b8c3670e40edbb27b360c2.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>By this point in the summer, a sane person could reasonably conclude that the world is going nuts.  Spiraling out of control, descending into darkness, making optimism a delusional last recourse – that kind of feeling. </p><p>“What fresh hell is this?” – the question Dorothy Parker asked when her doorbell rang – now applies to the news.  If you’re staying informed, you’re licking the razor.  Unfortunately, not following what’s happening in the world isn’t really an option.  These horrors seize our lizard brains; we’re hard-wired to pay attention to danger.</p><p>No wonder we’re nervous wrecks -- just look at what we’ve been processing.</p><p>In June, we learned that 10,000 immigrant children a month, many alone and under 13, had been crossing our border, creating a humanitarian crisis and a political circus.</p><p>In early July, the Gaza war began. Some saw it as a necessary response to an existential threat.  Some, including me, were heartbroken by its human cost and despondent about losing all hope of reaching a two-state solution.</p><p>The next week, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was downed by a surface-to-air missile fired from Ukrainian territory controlled by pro-Russian separatists. You did not need to be a conspiracy theorist to connect the dots from its 298 dead passengers and crew to Vladimir Putin.</p><p>Then, in early August, came a vertiginous four-day run of horribles.</p><p>On Aug. 8, we discovered we were living in a real-life zombie movie when the World Health Organization declared Ebola – <em>Ebola!</em> – an international public health emergency.  </p><p>On Aug. 9, an unarmed black teenager was shot dead by a policeman in Ferguson, Mo.  We barely had time to be outraged by injustice when, on Aug. 10, Ferguson’s police turned out to do crowd control looking like the U.S. Army in Fallujah, and the national conversation about race we had been urged to have just the day before was superseded by a call for a national conversation about the militarization of police.  </p><p>On Aug. 11, we learned Robin Williams had committed suicide, and along with our shock and grief came a call for a national conversation about depression and mental illness. </p><p>Last week saw the release of the video of James Foley’s decapitation, making it clear, if the plight of the Yazidis had not, that ISIS is even scarier than Ebola, and raising the specter of worse-than-9/11 terrorists who travel on U.S. and E.U. passports.</p><p>And then this weekend a 6.0 earthquake struck Napa, which was enough to rouse from denial, at least for a moment, anyone who lives near a geological fault. </p><p>(Speaking of denial and news from hell, did I mention climate change?  With every other miserable thing going on, droughts, record temperatures and the melting of the polar ice caps could barely muscle their way onto our summer radar screen.) </p><p>We who experience these events through the media are infinitely better off than people for whom they are life-or-death reality.  But even at our remove, it’s hard not to feel beaten up and helpless.  This feeling is amplified by the media’s economic self-interest in keeping us anxious and riveted, and by our addiction to our ubiquitous screens.  <a href="http://stevenpinker.com/publications/better-angels-our-nature">Steven Pinker’s argument</a> – that this is actually the least violent time in human history – may be factually accurate, and there are plenty of genocides within living memory to put today’s torrent of rotten news in perspective, but that’s cold comfort when all you want to do is pull the blanket over your head.</p><p>It’s stunning how steep a dive our optimism has take since the start of this century, when a Pew poll reported that an “overwhelming” 81 percent of Americans felt optimistic about the future.  But this month an <a href="http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/i/MSNBC/Sections/A_Politics/14643%20AUGUST%20NBC-WSJ%20POLL.pdf">NBC/Wall Street Journal</a> poll said that 71 percent of us think we’re on the wrong track, and <a href="http://www.pollingreport.com/right.htm">Gallup</a> reported that 76 percent of us are dissatisfied with the way things are going – and that comes on the heels of a Penn Schoen Berland poll, headlined “<a href="https://www.google.com/search?client=safari&amp;rls=en&amp;q=atlantic+americans+are+no+longer+optimistic&amp;ie=UTF-8&amp;oe=UTF-8">Americans Are No Longer Optimists</a>,” which found that two-thirds of us question whether we’ll be back on the right track even 10 years from now.</p><p>Optimism, long a topic of philosophy, is now also the province of scientists. (Check out Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings blog for an <a href="http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2011/07/04/7-essential-books-on-optimism/">overview</a>.)  Pessimists can train themselves to be optimists, says psychologist <a href="http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/06/28/learned-optimism-martin-seligman/">Martin Seligman</a>.  Neuroscientist <a href="http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/12/12/science-of-optimism-sharot/">Tali Sharot</a> says optimism – not realism – can lengthen your life.  “Although the belief in a better future is often an illusion,” she writes, “hope keeps our minds at ease, lowers stress and improves physical health.” If you believe the glass is half full, what it turns out to be half full of is serotonin, cortisol, dopamine and oxytocin – the feel-good neurotransmitters that get us through the nihilistic night.</p><p>The existence of evil – which is the subtext of the news this summer from hell – is corrosive of optimism.  But Helen Keller, in her book “<a href="http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2013/06/21/helen-keller-on-optimism/">Optimism</a>,” wrote that the struggle with evil is one of life’s greatest blessings: “It makes us strong, patient, helpful men and women.  It lets us into the soul of things and teaches us that although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.  My optimism, then, does not rest on the absence of evil, but on a glad belief in the preponderance of good and a willing effort always to cooperate with the good, that it may prevail.”   </p><p>I’d be glad to turn my attention to “the preponderance of good” in the world. But that will be damn near impossible until as much good news as bad news is Breaking News.</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2014 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1016910'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1016910" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 12:02:00 -0700 Marty Kaplan, AlterNet 1016910 at http://zwww.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics summer Robin Williams ferguson michael brown Ebola gaza James Foley ukraine Malaysia Airlines Having a Facebook Account Is to Beg to Be Manipulated http://zwww.alternet.org/media/having-facebook-account-beg-be-manipulated <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1011289'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1011289" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">You’re a guinea pig in research studies of how best to target, engage and monetize you.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://zwww.alternet.org/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_173594543-edited.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>What do you call it when media try to manipulate your feelings without first asking for informed consent?</p><p>Tuesday. </p><p>Example:  The average Facebook user sees only 20 percent of the 1,500 stories per day that could have shown up in their news feed.  The posts you receive are determined by algorithms whose bottom line is Facebook’s bottom line.  The company is constantly adjusting all kinds of dials, quietly looking for the optimal mix to make us spend more of our time and money on Facebook.  Of course the more we’re on Facebook, the more information they have about us to fine-tune their formulas for picking ads to show us.  That’s their business model: We create and give Facebook, for free, the content they use and the data they mine to hold our attention, which Facebook in turn sells to advertisers. </p><p>Those are the terms of service that everyone, without reading, clicks “I Agree to” – and not just for Facebook. We make comparable mindless contracts all the time with Gmail, Yahoo, Twitter, Amazon, Siri, Yelp, Pandora and tons of other apps, retailers and advertiser-supported news and entertainment.  If you’re online, if you use a smartphone, you’re an experimental subject in proprietary research studies of how best to target, engage and monetize you.  They’re always testing content, design, headlines, graphics, prices, promotions, profiling tools, you name it, and you’ve opted in whether you realize it or not.    </p><p>Many of these experiments hinge on our feelings, because much of what makes us come, stay, buy, like, share, comment and come back is emotional, not rational.  So it should surprise no one that Facebook wants to know what makes its users happier.  But when they acknowledged last month that they had tested – on 700,000 people, for one week – whether increasing the fraction of upbeat posts in their news feeds made them feel more upbeat (it did), a <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/30/facebook-sad-manipulating-emotions-socially-responsible-company" target="_blank">firestorm</a> broke out. </p><p>The charge:  People are being treated like guinea pigs without their consent. Unaccountable corporations are secretly manipulating our emotions.  This is the slippery slope to “Brave New World.”</p><p>So what else is new?  Neil Postman first warned us about “Amusing Ourselves to Death” – <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Amusing-Ourselves-Death-Discourse-Business/dp/014303653X" target="_blank">the name of his book</a> – in 1984, before the Web was spun. But that didn’t stop  entertainment, which is exquisitely attuned to the marketplace, from making its long march through our institutions.  Today, politics is all about unaccountable corporations manipulating our emotions; they're constantly testing and targeting their paid messages to voters, none of whom are asked for informed consent.  The news industry is all about the audience, and much of its content has long been driven by the primal power of danger, sex and novelty to trap our attention, but there's no clamor for shows and sites to warn us we're lab chimps.  </p><p>John Kenneth Galbraith called advertising "<a href="http://consumptionreadinggroup.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/galbraith-the-management-of-specific-demand.pdf" target="_blank">the management of specific demand</a>." Ads tell us stories, which are all variants of: If you buy this, you'll be happy. Their words and images were tested on audiences even before Don Draper was a boy, and now digital analytics gives marketers new attention management techniques to use on us.  Today, every tweet, every YouTube or blog post aspires to be viral, and when that happens, no one complains that some cat or cute kid or Kardashian has used Orwellian mind-control to manipulate our mood.  </p><p>I’ll give the Facebook freakout this:  University partners did the research using Facebook’s data, and the academic vetting process could have gone the other way and nixed the project.  But even if that had happened, Facebook could still have conducted this experiment, just as they and Google and plenty of other companies no doubt continue to adjust algorithms, run randomized trials of content and design (known as A/B tests) and discover the many economic, political and cultural micro-tribes we consumers belong to.  Academic committees called Institutional Review Boards rule on what professors can do to research subjects, but informed consent in Silicon Valley is basically what someone can get away with, which is what’s been true for commerce, politics and the content industries since at least the 1980s.</p><p>In fact, ever since people first gathered around the fire, storytellers have perfected their skills by studying the data in their audiences’ eyes. Today, we may think that our media savvy and B.S. detectors protect us from being played like piccolos, but people have always believed that thinking could reliably prevent their emotions from running away with them, and they’ve always been wrong.  <a href="http://us.macmillan.com/thinkingfastandslow/DanielKahneman" target="_blank">Neuroscience</a> now shows what happens: Our emotions are faster than our reason, which we then use to reverse engineer some rationalization for our actions.</p><p>Is there any way to protect people from the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/30/books/review/Greif-t.html?pagewanted=all&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">hidden persuaders</a>, as Vance Packard called an earlier era’s desire wizards?  After all, the arts and technologies of manipulation are only going to get more powerful.  Consumer protection is only going to grow weaker.  Mass education’s ability to turn out critical thinkers is hardly going to spike upward.  The best plan Plato could come up with to protect future leaders from being enslaved by their appetites was to exile the most powerful manipulators of his time – the poets, who whipped crowds into frenzies with their artifice and illusions. </p><p>But <a href="http://tannerlectures.utah.edu/_documents/a-to-z/b/Burnyeat99.pdf" target="_blank">banishment is an authoritarian solution</a>.  More speech, not less, is the democratic answer to assaults on freedom and agency.  Open-source <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jul/07/facebook-study-science-experiment-research" target="_blank">research</a>, with methods and tools freely available, can serve the public interest.  (We’re up to that at the Norman Lear Center’s <a href="http://www.mediaimpactproject.org/" target="_blank">Media Impact Project</a>.) And the place where countervailing speech really wants to get heard is in the media, whose industrial success, like Facebook’s, depends on monetizing our attention.  I’ve seen a lot of stories about Facebook fiddling with the happiness of our feeds.  The irony is that I encountered all of them on media whose owners are just as determined to push my buttons as Mark Zuckerberg.</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2014 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1011289'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1011289" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Mon, 14 Jul 2014 14:11:00 -0700 Marty Kaplan, AlterNet 1011289 at http://zwww.alternet.org Media Media facebook social media media manipulation feeds advertisers How to Organize Your Books http://zwww.alternet.org/culture/how-organize-your-books <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1008475'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1008475" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Even in our digital world, there is still something uniquely special about physical books. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://zwww.alternet.org/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_156451454-edited.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>It’s a sin to throw away a book.</p><p>I don’t mean e-books.  If they’re cluttering your e-reader, all you have to do is delete them, and you don’t even have to do that, since you can pretty much fit the Library of Congress on a thumb drive.</p><p>But physical books – the creepy retronym for the objects formerly known just as books – are different. They take up space. They demand shelves.  They can crowd us out and weigh us down. And though no divine injunction exempts them from a recovering hoarder’s triage, there’s something miraculous about books that stops me from tossing them in the garbage.</p><p>They may not have souls, but they’re not inanimate objects, either.  Ideas are alive in them, and they can contain characters more real than some people I know.  Writers spend years struggling to create them, to get them published, noticed, bought and read; how can they not embody some of an author’s spirit?  Plus they’re souvenirs of who we were when we acquired them, and where we read them, or how we felt about not reading them.  I realize that some books are already trash before we buy them, but most of the thousands I cohabit with don’t deserve to be buried alive. </p><p>Yes, I do give books away.  I’m always working on a box to drop off at the library.  I realize that many will go straight to the 50-cent table, and from there to the dump, but at least the ink’s on the hands of the Friends of the Library, not mine.  If I were being rational, I’d have dropped my 1959 World Book Encyclopedia into the blue recycling bin instead of loading it into the trunk of my car.  But I couldn’t bear the thought of junking books that truly opened the world to me, and whose pages I still remember copying – I mean, paraphrasing – into homework, and I didn’t want to acknowledge that the person who once did those things with those books is long gone.</p><p>Which means that I’ve kept enough books to stock a used bookstore. This presents the challenge of organizing them. When, from time to time, I’ve wanted to find a book I’m sure I own, it would be nice to actually be able to locate it, which is why I once tried the traditional categories – fiction and nonfiction, with biography, drama and poetry each getting sections of their own.  But entropy, laziness and numbers have defeated me.  Until the day I have the time and discipline to alphabetize them, simply knowing that “Absalom, Absalom!” or “Seven Types of Ambiguity” must be somewhere in the house is about as useful as knowing they’re on the planet.  </p><p>Some people arrange books by color, some by height.  I seem to organize them by my relationship with them.  My inspiration here is Italo Calvino’s “Sections in the bookstore” list in “Invisible Cities,” which begins with “Books You Haven’t Read,” which in my case is a lot of books. I’ve subdivided unread books – following Calvino – into “Books You’ve Been Planning to Read for Ages,” “Books You’ve Always Pretended to Have Read and Now it’s Time to Sit Down and Really Read Them” and “Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered.”</p><p>Books I read in college are in a clump; they were boxed together when I left my last dorm, and it’s always been easier to unbox them in proximity after each move than to integrate them among the later arrivals.  This puts “Crime and Punishment” next to “Molecular Biology of the Gene,” and “The Lonely Crowd” next to “Trout Fishing in America” – strange conjunctions on the face of it, but not if you’re up for doing a little boomer ethnography.</p><p>I think of another section as “Books You Should Read Now If You Don’t Want To Be Embarrassed.” These are books written by friends.  I am fortunate that many friends are authors.  I have bought their books at signings, and I’ve been sent them by their publishers.  Every single one of them I always intend to read right away, honest, especially because I know what it’s like to send someone something you’ve written, and then you wait and wait to hear what they think.  Within this group, I put on my night table books by friends I’m likely to see soon.  When that happens, and I’ve failed to read it, I use the pre-emptive cop out (“I’m really looking forward to reading it!”), but more often, as Calvino nailed me, I pretend I’ve read it. Once I say how terrific it is, there’s never a trick follow-up (“Did you think the part about the earned income tax credit was too long?”) to reveal my well-meaning perfidy.</p><p>Some day, which of course means never, I’d like to make a Self Portrait section.  This is where I’d put a couple of dozen books that – if you looked at their spines – you’d be able to, well, read me like a book.  Our tribal need for identity badges is why I think there’ll be physical books even when all the world’s content is stored in the digital cloud and downloadable by anyone any time anywhere.  Here, in no particular order, is some of what I’d put on that shelf:</p><p>“Jumpers” by Tom Stoppard</p><p>“A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” by James Joyce</p><p>“The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens”</p><p>“The Double Helix” by J.D. Watson</p><p>“One Hundred Years of Solitude" by Gabriel García Márquez</p><p>"Making It” by Norman Podhoretz</p><p>“Against Interpretation” by Susan Sontag</p><p>“The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” by Thomas Kuhn</p><p>The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell</p><p>“Rameau’s Nephew” by Denis Diderot</p><p>“Language and Silence” by George Steiner</p><p>“Hope Against Hope” by Nadezhda Mandelstam</p><p>“A Confederacy of Dunces” by John Kennedy Toole</p><p>“A Fan’s Notes” by Frederick Exley           </p><p>“The Sot-Weed Factor” by John Barth        </p><p>“American Pastoral" by Philip Roth</p><p>“Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Robert Pirsig</p><p>“Advise and Consent” by Allen Drury</p><p>Just starting that list gives me goosebumps. </p><p>Of course, for those spines to speak volumes in the e-future, the art inside will still need to belong to a common culture.  I may be confident that physical books won’t go away, but whether they’ll be read widely enough for their material presence to tell my story (or anyone else’s) – that, I’m less sure about.</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2014 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1008475'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1008475" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Tue, 01 Jul 2014 07:04:00 -0700 Marty Kaplan, AlterNet 1008475 at http://zwww.alternet.org Culture Culture books e-books It's a Little Creepy When Political Candidates Send You Mail Tailored to Your Religion http://zwww.alternet.org/belief/its-little-creepy-when-political-candidates-send-you-mail-tailored-your-religion <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '984024'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=984024" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">When we use campaigns to exaggerate differences among us, it becomes harder to use the time between them to bind us together.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://zwww.alternet.org/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2014-04-21_at_3.35.27_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>I wonder if Tavis Smiley got the same Happy Passover mailer from Amy Howorth that I did.</p><p>Mr. Smiley and I are neighbors in California's 26th State Senate District, which includes coastal Los Angeles County, Beverly Hills and Hollywood. Amy Howorth, the mayor of Manhattan Beach, is running in an eight-candidate field in the June 3 primary.</p><p>If Mayor Howorth sent the mailer to all registered voters in my district, precinct or ZIP code, then Mr. Smiley, a well-known African-American broadcaster, would, like me, have received a lovely photo of her family and dogs at the beach under a Chag Pesach Same'ach banner, and on the reverse a shot of their son Ari and his parents at his bar mitzvah.</p><p>But I have a hunch that this was instead a targeted mailer addressed just to Jewish voters.</p><p>I don't know which creeps me out more -- the easy commercial availability of Jewish voter mailing lists, or the tribal pitch for my support.</p><p>A few years ago, when Target <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/19/magazine/shopping-habits.html?pagewanted=all&amp;_r=0" target="_hplink">figured out</a> that it could determine which of their customers were pregnant from the prenatal vitamins and other baby supplies showing up on their loyalty cards, they mailed coupons to them for cribs, strollers and other items likely to be on their shopping lists. But there was a backlash. Moms-to-be didn't like the idea of a big company prying into their private lives. So the company, in an inspired marketing move, threw in some lawn mower coupons along with the onesie discounts in order to camouflage Target's targeting.</p><p>Mayor Howorth could have done something like that. Even if she'd used the same Jewish mailing list, adding a red herring -- throwing in an ecumenical Easter greeting, say, or some pictures from Ari's recent service trip to an orphanage in Ghana -- might have thrown me off the scent of the ethnic play. Instead, her warm Passover wishes left me wondering what list her campaign had bought, and what other information tied to me and my address is out there for purchase.</p><p>The ethnic appeal makes sense. In a field this large, candidates above all need name recognition. On June 3, when I see her name on the ballot, Mayor Howorth wants me to think, "Oh, yeah, the Jewish candidate," not "Who?" I have no doubt that Mayor Howorth holds thoughtful positions on many issues and has experience relevant to being a state senator, but what I know about her so far is, "Jew like you."</p><p>Why am I so ambivalent about that?</p><p>On one hand, candidates have always appealed to voters on the basis of what they have in common -- religion, race, sex, political party, union membership, you name it. These identity markers serve as proxies for values. If there's a tribe we both belong to, I can trust you to protect my interests. I may forget, or simply not know, where you stand on Governor Jerry Brown's plan to build a bullet train, but if I know that you're "one of us," I'll assume you're likely to think it's a cockamamie bazillion-dollar rathole, or a jobs-creating leap into the future, depending on which "us" you're one of.</p><p>On the other hand, I don't like my Jewishness being part of politics, and I don't like other people's religions being part of it, either. I realize that American politics is rife with dog whistling; there is plenty of code available to indicate which tribe is your enemy, and words like "urban" and "Christian" have long been acceptable ways to mobilize one side to put down another. But the American motto is e pluribus unum -- out of many, one. When we use campaigns to exaggerate differences among us, it becomes harder to use the time between them to bind us together.</p><p>Of course there isn't any time between campaigns any more. Perpetual polarization is the hallmark of public life. Our tribal affiliations are more than team memberships; they affect how we reason and what we think reality is. This is what research is now finding. Former Washington Post writer Ezra Klein launched his new website, <a href="http://www.vox.com/2014/4/6/5556462/brain-dead-how-politics-makes-us-stupid" target="_hplink">Vox</a>, with an account of Yale Law School professor Dan Kahan's disturbing empirical finding: People count something as evidence not based on its being factual, objective, scientific -- you know, true -- but on whether it's something that people in our tribe believe or not. The tribalization of facts, Kahan told Klein, is "terrifying.... That's what threatens the possibility of having democratic politics enlightened by evidence." Which leads Klein to add, "Washington is a bitter war between two well-funded, sharply defined tribes that have their own machines for generating evidence and their own enforces of orthodoxy. It's a perfect story for making smart people very stupid."</p><p>I have no reason to think that Mayor Howarth is anything but an ethical, public-spirited candidate. So, surely, are the other candidates on the ballot. (Disclosure: I know one of them, have met another and know a fair amount about a third, but I'm not giving money to anyone.) I just wish that my reaction to getting her mailer had been, "Happy Passover to you, too," and not wanting to hold my nose.</p><p><em>This is a cross-post of my column in the <a href="http://www.jewishjournal.com/about/author/3596" target="_hplink">Jewish Journal</a>. You can reach me there at<a href="mailto:martyk@jewishjournal.com" target="_hplink">martyk@jewishjournal.com</a></em></p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2014 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '984024'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=984024" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Mon, 21 Apr 2014 12:25:00 -0700 Marty Kaplan, AlterNet 984024 at http://zwww.alternet.org Belief Belief religious voting Why Is This Blog Post Different From All Other Blog Posts? http://zwww.alternet.org/culture/why-ancient-lesson-jewish-passover-vital-our-times <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '981224'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=981224" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Ma Nishtana -- Let&#039;s not fool ourselves again about the true situation humanity is in. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://zwww.alternet.org/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2014-04-13_at_7.12.32_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>There are two <em>ma nishtanas</em> -- one adorable, and one ironic.</p><p>They both mean the same thing in Hebrew: "What is different?" "What has changed?"</p><p>The adorable one gets its charm from being sung by the youngest child at the Passover seder. <em>Ma nishtana</em> starts the sentence setting up the Four Questions: "Why is this night different from all other nights?" They are the questions of an innocent puzzled by the changes at the evening meal, and even if the 8-year-old asking now also asked last year, and will ask again next year, and knows what the four answers are, everyone around the table is glad to play their roles in Pesach theater.</p><p>If you've been to a seder, you know that the Four Questions are about things like why do we eat matzah instead of bread, and what's up with this biting into a horseradish; they also prompt the telling of the Exodus story, which is the purpose of the holiday: to pass the once-we-were-slaves-in-Egypt legacy to the next generation.</p><p>The ironic <em>ma nishtana</em> is not part of Passover, though it could well be said while passing the seder brisket, in response to the report that Cousin Harold's new girlfriend is 15 years younger than him, or that Aunt Yetta blew her Social Security check at the slots. This one means, "So what else is new?" "Tell me something I don't know." "What a surprise."</p><p>This is the been-there-done-that <em>ma nishtana</em>, the wry, weary voice of experience about the way of the world. A non-Hebrew version of it is a rhetorical question and answer that goes something like this: Q: "What do you call it when a Wall Street banker who sells worthless junk to pension funds gets a bailout and a bonus instead of jail time?" A: "Tuesday." Another day, another garden-variety outrage. Welcome to normal. If you're surprised by sin, you haven't been paying attention.</p><p>Usually, when I encounter some appalling evidence of immorality or injustice, when I see some deception or ignorance flushed out by facts, my first instinct is optimism. Michael Lewis reveals the predatory practices of high-frequency traders in his new book, <a href="http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2014/03/31/fault-runs-deep-in-ultrafast-trading/" target="_blank"><em>Flash Boys</em>,</a>, and I imagine the reforms resulting from his exposé. Errol Morris lays bare the lies of Donald Rumsfeld in <em><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/02/movies/deciphering-donald-h-rumsfeld-in-the-unknown-known.html" target="_blank">The Unknown Known</a></em>, and I anticipate the accountability his documentary will inaugurate. General Motors, BP, Kerr-McGee and Massey Energy are caught red-handed, and I think, "Surely this will deter future corporate criminality." Jon Stewart shows videotape that nails politicians and journalists for their hypocrisy, Bill Moyers disinfects corruption with investigative sunlight, and I celebrate their speaking truth to power and the miracle of checks and balances.</p><p>But then I wake up and smell the <em>ma nishtana</em>. If it's plutocracy, this must be Tuesday. Nice nations finish last. The golden rule isn't "do unto others," it's "don't get caught." Hope isn't "the thing with feathers," as Emily Dickinson called it. It's the thing with denial.</p><p>When a magnitude 5.1 earthquake shook Southern California a couple of week ago, the Los Angeles Times ran a front page <a href="http://www.pressdisplay.com/pressdisplay/viewer.aspx" target="_blank">story</a> explaining that the Puente Hills thrust fault is especially dangerous because it can cause intense shaking over a densely populated 25-by-15 mile area, including downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood and everything in between, like, oh, my neighborhood. The U.S. Geological Survey<a href="http://www.nbcnews.com/science/environment/7-5-quake-california-fault-could-be-disastrous-n67791" target="_blank">estimates</a> that a 7.5 Puente Hills quake could kill as many as 18,000 people, cause up to $250 billion in damage and leave as many as three-quarters of a million households homeless.</p><p>The op-ed page of the same day's paper ran a <a href="http://www.latimes.com/opinion/commentary/la-oe-sapolsky-human-hope-20140330,0,2734250.story" target="_blank">piece</a> by Stanford neuroscientist Robert M. Sapolsky called "Hoping against hope: Humans are forever running up against the limits of optimism," pegged not to the earthquake, but to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and the persistence of the hope that its passengers survived. Depressed people, Dr. Sapolsky wrote, "are often more accurate in their assessment of the world" than healthy people. Depression is "a failure of the human capacity for denial and self-deception... For those counted among the affectively healthy, hope is sustaining. We are able to ignore the reality of death... We believe our love will be requited, our efforts rewarded and that nothing bad would ever happen to Bambi's mother in real life." And, I'd add, that justice and freedom will prevail, as it does in the Exodus story.</p><p>So <em>ma nishtana</em> is an auto-antonym. Like the word "sanction" -- which means both "to approve" and "to forbid" -- it contains its own opposite. It's the anthem of spring, hope and liberation, and it's also the story whose moral is "sadder but wiser," plus ça change, "meet the new boss, same as the old boss." We won't get fooled again? Denial isn't just a river in Egypt. Moses may have led us out of the land of Pharaoh. But that golden calf? <em>Ma nishtana</em>.</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2014 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '981224'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=981224" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Sun, 13 Apr 2014 16:11:00 -0700 Marty Kaplan, AlterNet 981224 at http://zwww.alternet.org Culture Culture seder The Weird Power of Criticism and Reviews in Our Society http://zwww.alternet.org/media/weird-power-criticism-and-reviews <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '951087'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=951087" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">They can take on the role of classy gossip, status markers, taste-mongering framed as analysis. They&#039;re also a bullshitter&#039;s best friend. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://zwww.alternet.org/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2014-01-24_at_11.30.36_am.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>What do you say to a friend whose work has been panned by a critic?</p><p>Until I actually read it, I was thrilled to see a review of the new book by an author I've known since college on the front page of the Arts section of <em>The New York Times</em>, written by the paper's top daily book critic, Michiko Kakutani. They even ran a picture of him. Over his career he's written novels, short stories and essays; other reviews have acclaimed his literary talent and ambition; he's won an award that many, including me, would kill for. But when I read this review, I was heartsick.</p><p>I won't quote it; I don't want to amplify her voice. It's not a hatchet job -- she doles out a few passive-aggressive words of approval along the way -- but it amounts to: Don't bother. It's (sigh) too uneven, too mawkish, to be worth your time or money.</p><p>This has happened over the years to a number of my friends who are writers, filmmakers, performers, artists. Sometimes I don't mention it, as though I never saw the review. Sometimes I talk smack about the reviewer. She's jealous! He's a hack! Sometimes I'm a contrarian. Wow! The front page! No one reads actually them. What counts is the big-gun treatment you got. And that picture -- you look marvelous!</p><p>What I want to say -- but I don't, because it risks seeming too abstract at such an emotionally fraught moment for them -- is that the whole enterprise of reviewing is so strange.</p><p>For a dozen years, I was an executive and then a writer-producer at Disney. Whenever a movie I was involved with was released, the marketing department would put me on the distribution list for reviews. Thick packets fastened by industrial-grade staples would hit my desk day after day -- hundreds and hundreds of reviews, from some sources I'd heard of and plenty more I never knew existed.</p><p>And whether the movie was commercially successful or a dud, there was one thing I could be sure of. Any aspect of any film that any critic had singled out for praise would also, inevitably, and just as confidently, be totally trashed by another reviewer. It didn't matter whether the films or the critics were highbrow or lowbrow, name brands or nobodies. The one thing I could count on was that for every critical reaction, there was always an equal and opposite reaction.</p><p>You can see that operate in microcosm at the <em>Times</em>, which not only runs daily book reviews, but also publishes a <em>Sunday Book Review</em>. Since daily and Sunday operate independently, it's not that rare to find the same book reviewed by both sections. Recently, for example, a new biography of Roger Ailes, Gabriel Sherman's The Loudest Voice in the Room, got a <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/20/books/the-loudest-voice-in-the-room-is-a-look-at-roger-ailes.html" target="_hplink">daily review</a> from Times book critic Janet Maslin and a <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/19/books/review/gabriel-shermans-loudest-voice-in-the-room.html?_r=0" target="_hplink">Sunday review</a> by Jacob Weisberg, editor-in-chief of the Washington Post's Slate Group. The two pieces are matter and anti-matter, though which is which is up for grabs.</p><p>Maslin's opening salvo -- her first line -- labels the book "disingenuous." Indignant at the number of Sherman's sources who wouldn't let their names be used, she bemoans "the untrustworthiness" of "this kind of journalism." The "frisson of menace" which the people around Ailes exude is "perhaps not enough to explain all those blind items," because though Ailes may be "very fond of making threats, [i]t's not clear how much he bothers with follow-through." She calls Sherman's 2011 profile of Ailes in New York Magazine "nasty"; "understandably," she says, Ailes refused to be interviewed for this "too unauthorized" book, which she writes off as not "thoughtful" enough, "tepid," "rote," "a great wasted opportunity."</p><p>Weisberg uses the word "disingenuous," too, but he applies it to Fox News' "manufactured indignation" and "victimhood pose," not to the book. Fox owner Rupert Murdoch "has always played the outrage game to drive circulation and ratings"; Ailes, "on the other hand, seems to be genuinely seething with resentment, often at his friends as much as his enemies." Weisberg says Sherman has produced an "actually fair and balanced, carefully documented biography," written, "it bears noting, without the cooperation of his subject, who set a new benchmark for biographical obstruction by working with the journalist Zev Chafets to rush a more sympathetic portrayal out first." It's no mystery why many of Sherman's sources refused to go on the record; Ailes is "a rage-a-holic who can't control himself."</p><p>Any two reviewers can cite the same evidence to make opposite points. This doesn't mean that neither is valuable; it means that criticism is a curious kind of discourse. We're long past believing that critics are objective voices articulating timeless truths. Whether they acknowledge it or not, they're enmeshed in the politics of their times, their class and their tribes. Every review is a kind of advocacy -- for a canon, a hierarchy, a particular system of distinguishing genius from mediocrity, a ranking of pleasures from base to sublime. Reviews throw a spotlight on work we might ignore, and they can embed that work in a context and tradition we might only dimly be aware of. They're gambits in a continuing cultural conversation, invitations to consider and reconsider, constructions of reality to embrace or dispute.</p><p>The problem is that reviews also function as commodities. They're monetized by their publishers. They drive attention and commerce. They can make or break reputations, open or close doors to distributors, spell the difference between a career and a hobby. They're classy gossip, status markers, taste-mongering framed as analysis. They're also a bullshitter's best friend. In an age of information overload, they're a way to cope; knowing-about may not be as good as knowing, but it's arguably a step up from being clueless.</p><p>Don't get me wrong: I enjoy reading reviews, and some of them dazzle me with their brilliance. I just wish they didn't turn me into a coward when they diss my posse.</p><p>While I was still dithering over what, if anything, to tell my writer friend about Michiko Kakutani, he mentioned her review to me in an email. So what did I say to him? Actually, you've just read it. Oh -- and you really do look fabulous in that picture.</p><p><em>This is a crosspost of my column in the <a href="http://www.jewishjournal.com/about/author/3596" target="_hplink">Jewish Journal of Los Angeles</a>, where you can <a href="mailto:martyk@jewishjournal.com" target="_hplink">email me</a> if you'd like.</em></p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2014 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '951087'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=951087" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Fri, 24 Jan 2014 08:07:00 -0800 Marty Kaplan, AlterNet 951087 at http://zwww.alternet.org Media Media libertarian Confessions of an Ex-Hoarder http://zwww.alternet.org/culture/confessions-ex-hoarder <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '942062'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=942062" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">&#039;There’s no mystery why I&#039;ve saved so much stuff: to prove that I’m alive, that I’m someone, that my trail on this earth is worth preserving.&#039;</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://zwww.alternet.org/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2013-12-31_at_12.21.38_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 11px;">I’ve run out of excuses for hanging on to stuff.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 11px;">No, I haven’t achieved Zen non-attachment to material things, but I’m no longer on the road to “Hoarding: Buried Alive.”</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 11px;">It was easiest to get rid of the piles of unread magazines.  Those now get the heave-ho every few months.  The fear that had made me their custodian, which I’d confused with the theoretical pleasure I’d have when I’d eventually read them, was the chance I’d miss something important.  The reality, it turns out, is that if I do overlook some essential, or just juicy, journalism, I’ll hear about it from a friend, or online, and saving a link to it for reading later, even if later never comes, requires no real estate from my non-virtual life.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 11px;">Clothes were harder to let go.  I didn’t really believe that wide ties would come back, or that someday I’d be glad I saved those tap shoes (don’t ask).  But it was easy for me to mistake my closet for a scrapbook, to treat old clothes like souvenirs of where, when and who I was when I got them. When that happens now, I remind myself that if I’m warehousing something I haven’t touched for years in order to keep alive the guy who once wore it, it’s less punishing to put a selfie of it on my hard drive than to be sentenced to a lifetime of curating my personal wardrobe museum. </p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 11px;">Book-hoarder has been an even tougher role to jailbreak.  It’s intellectually respectable to have your own library.  I love looking at all those spines on all those shelves; they map the cultural journey I’ve taken, and no Kindle can duplicate that experience.  But shelving books three-deep, which I’d been reduced to, was a labor of guilt, not love.  I still can’t throw books away; it feels sinful, even if I didn’t like them, even if I never have or will read them.  But I’ve learned that I can drop off cartons of books at the local public library with a perfectly clear conscience.  If they end up in a dumpster, my hands are clean.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 11px;">But these were all baby steps.  My big problem, the ball I’ve chained myself to for decades, is the stack of boxes, currently numbering 33, in my garage.  Every move I’ve made – from my parents’ home, to dorm rooms, to apartments and houses and homes of my own – has included the fiction that it’ll be easier to deal with those multiplying cardboard boxes at the other end, when I unpack.  Of course, I never do. </p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 11px;">In college, I couldn’t bear to throw away the spiral notebooks I had filled so carefully with notes, not to mention the course catalogues, term papers, student publications that ran what I wrote, calendars, address books, I.D. cards. Travel added new categories of ephemera to save – odd matchbooks, cool baggage tags, train schedules, hostel receipts, shells from Greek islands and sand from Israeli deserts.  I don’t think it was OCD; it was proof of my cosmopolitanism, and prophylaxis against amnesia.At first, it was just mail that I saved.  When I was a kid, getting a letter was as unusual, though for different reasons, as it is today.  I loved mail.  Corresponding with someone beyond the bounds of my family bunker was evidence of my growing autonomy, a validation of my nascent identity.  I could no more throw letters away than I could toss a Kodachrome in the trash.  Yes, I saved pictures, too.  And postcards.  And comic books, baseball cards, Mad magazines, geometry projects, ticket stubs, lists of books I’d read and places I wanted to go – anything that testified to my existence.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 11px;">Once in the work world, it was effortless to justify the files I kept amassing.  Those pieces of paper made up a personal archive, priceless material for the memoirs I’d one day write and the biographies that would doubtless be written about me.  Surely future historians would be grateful for the 18 drafts of Vice President Mondale’s acceptance speech at the 1980 Democratic convention, the relentless pre-production script notes I wrote on “Three Men and a Baby,” the letters I got from baffled friends and newfound fans when Time published a piece I wrote in praise of mysticism. </p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 11px;">It’s a wonder I was able confine this monument to me to 33 boxes. </p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 11px;">Today I’m on the road to recovery.  Marvels like document scanning and cloud storage are enabling my rehab, and though I suppose there’s still the risk that I might turn Dropbox into my digital garage, I’m now throwing away more stuff than I’m converting to PDFs.  But it isn’t technology that’s motivated my self-intervention, or the panic of seeing myself in the mirror of a Discovery Channel hoarding show.  It’s the freedom I’ve given myself to entertain some humbling thoughts.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 11px;">The truth is that pretty much no one is going to need this stuff I’ve saved, least of all me.  I’m not going to use the 1978 White House phone directory to recall the names that will trigger the anecdotes that will make Chapter 4 of my hypothetical memoir sing.  (Those 18 drafts, though, are going to the Minnesota Historical Society.)  Shakespeare’s tax records may be gold, and Ben Franklin’s juvenilia may inspire entire dissertations, but the list of dishes I ate on my first trip to Italy are biographically fascinating to no one.  The day when I finally have the time to savor the call sheets of the first movie I wrote will likely also be the day I’m evaluated for dementia.  Maybe, out of all the mail I’ve hoarded, there’s a way to reconstruct who I was then to the person who wrote it, but I’d rather give those packets of letters back to their authors – which I’ve actually begun doing – than disappear down the forensic rabbit hole of reading them.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 11px;">There’s no mystery why I’ve saved so much stuff: to prove that I’m alive, that I’m someone, that my trail on this earth is worth preserving.  My fear of letting go of those boxes is the fear of mortality, the fear of not having become worthy enough to investigate and document.  What’s taken me too long to recognize is that the present moment is more than enough time to manifest and appreciate that worth; that its measure is not what some stranger may someday find riveting; that its meaning and poignancy derive not from the fear of death, but the love of life. </p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2013 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '942062'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=942062" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Tue, 31 Dec 2013 09:19:00 -0800 Marty Kaplan, AlterNet 942062 at http://zwww.alternet.org Culture Culture Hoarding It's Important to Know How the Stories We Tell Ourselves -- True, or Not-- Shape our World... for Better or Worse http://zwww.alternet.org/media/its-important-know-how-stories-we-tell-ourselves-true-or-not-shape-our-world-better-or-worse <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '929511'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=929511" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">When no one knows what comes next, the political advantage goes to the most powerful narrators.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://zwww.alternet.org/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2013-11-26_at_4.56.53_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>So where are we in the Iran narrative?</p><p>I mean no disrespect to the victims of Iran’s terrorist clients, or the existential fears of Israelis and world Jewry, or U.S. security interests in the Middle East by calling it a narrative. Real events do happen in the real world, but people can’t help trying to fit them into larger stories.  We love to connect the dots.  Storytelling isn’t some atavistic remnant of our pre-scientific past; it’s how our brains are hardwired.</p><p>Today, with the advantage of hindsight, a reasonably explanatory Iran narrative would connect these dots:  In 1951, Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh nationalizes the British-owned oil industry.  In 1953, Mossadegh is ousted in a coup arranged by the CIA and MI6, and we put the Shah on the throne.  In 1979, he – and we – were thrown out by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and Shia revolutionaries, and it’s been ugly between us and them ever since.  Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad never denied his desire to see Israel annihilated, which made it especially scary that he was barreling toward a nuclear bomb.  But our sanctions hurt Iran.  He was thrown out, and Iran got a new president, Hassan Rouhani, who sent Jews Rosh Hashanah greetings.  He said he would come to the table, and now there’s a deal.</p><p>Good deal, or bad deal?  Here’s where hindsight fails us.  We don’t know the ending of the story yet.  So we have to figure out a way to tell the story going forward without knowing whether Geneva will be the coffin nail in Israel’s security, or if it will be more like the destruction of Syrian weapons, a sign that talk can sometimes be at least as effective as, and always less costly than, military action.</p><p>There’s no question facts will play a part in how we rate the deal, but there’s too much input bombarding us to process as data.  What will win the day isn’t the power of facts, but the power of one story or another to feel right – yes, an emotion; we will retroactively find the facts we need to make our path to that feeling seem rational.</p><p>The public sphere is where competing storylines slug their way out, it’s where politicians, journalists, experts and yakkers connect the dots, find patterns and fashion narratives.  We take all that in, spoiler-free, in a state of genre-blindness, not knowing whether we’re watching a tragedy or an adventure play out. </p><p>This process is often accused of being powered by political ideology, moral bias, religious dogma or personal psychology, and all that may be true to some degree, but I think the underestimated driver is our innate need for narrative.  Once upon a time isn’t kid stuff; it’s species stuff.</p><p>However, stories that feel right may be clueless about reality.  We are chronically required to revise the patterns we see in the past because we’re forced to absorb history’s hairpin turns.  At any given moment, there’s a fair chance that the stories we tell ourselves about the world are goofy.</p><p>My first job after graduate school was at the Aspen Institute, which was then deep into a relationship with the Shah of Iran and his wife, Empress Farah Dibah.  In September 1975, their Pahlavi Foundation’s generosity enabled Aspen to invite more than 100 guests to a week at the Aspen Institute/Persepolis Symposium, with trips to Isfahan, Shiraz and Tehran, during which the Shah showed off his reforms and the richness of Iranian cultural history.  The Institute reciprocated by inviting the Shabanou to Aspen, where she (and I, a peon) attended a trout fry on the Roaring Fork River under the eye of SAVAK sharpshooters.  Locals nicknamed her the Shah Bunny.</p><p>I can’t find the coffee table book about Iran that I scored during her visit, but I did turn up “Iran: Past, Present and Future,” which arose from the Persepolis Symposium.  Maybe it’s unfair to compare the book with what actually happened in reality, but as for Iran: Past, the name of Mohammad Mossadegh does not appear in the book, and as for Iran: Future, Islam is also MIA.</p><p>I forget that level of ignorance is normal.  That’s how untrustworthy our stories are.  That’s also what creates an opportunity to appeal to our passions.  President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry may say the Geneva agreement is a short easing of some sanctions in exchange for a delay in Iran’s nuclear program, during which more negotiations can occur.  But for the counter-narrative to that, there’s Texas Republican John Cornyn, who tweeted, “Amazing what WH will do to distract attention to O-care,” proving that the senator is himself something of an expert on distracting attention. </p><p>To other storyteller-critics of the accord, like Prime Minister Netanyahu, the dot that threatens to come next after Geneva is continuous with a narrative that began in Munich in 1938, with Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler; includes the story of Gush Etzion, where Jews living on land they purchased from Arabs in the early 1920s were massacred in 1948; and now threatens to conclude with Israel’s nuclear annihilation. </p><p>For Haaretz columnist Ari Shavit, too, “The Geneva mindset resembles a Munich mindset: It would create the illusion of peace-in-our-time while paving the way to a nuclear-Iran-in-our-time.”  Yet though <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/21/opinion/how-bush-let-iran-go-nuclear.html?partner=rss&amp;emc=rss&amp;_r=0">Shavit’s narrative about Geneva</a> ends where Nethyahu’s does, he gets there via plot points that Netanyahu never would include: the expulsion, torture and killing of Arabs in the 1940s, which <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/20/books/ari-shavits-my-promised-land.html">he call</a>s in his new book, “My Promised Land,” “the dark secret of Zionism”: “the nation I am born into has erased Palestine from the face of the earth.” </p><p>By contrast, a recent <a href="http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR310.html" target="_blank">RAND report</a> – “Iran After the Bomb: How Would a Nuclear-Armed Tehran Behave?” – thinks the unthinkable.  Even if Geneva fails, RAND’s story goes, “it is very unlikely that Iran would use nuclear weapons against Israel, given the latter’s overwhelming conventional and nuclear military superiority”; “a nuclear-armed Iran is unlikely to extend its nuclear deterrent to groups such as Hizballah or Hamas.”  If RAND’s story turns out to be wrong, perhaps those dual unlikelihoods will become plot points in a tale about think tank blindness.   But if RAND is right, then a pre-emptive military strike on Iran’s nuke-building capacity will turn out to be at best temporarily effective, and a nuclear-armed Iran will be as determinative of Israel’s existence as a nuclear-armed North Korea is to America’s survival. </p><p>When no one knows what comes next, the political advantage goes to the most powerful narrators.  When no one knows how things will end up, the same events can be construed as signposts toward tragedy or triumph.  The Geneva deal may turn out to advance America’s Middle East interests; it may be a historic blunder; it may make no difference.  But as we lay odds on those outcomes, it’s useful to recall that the lessons of history are more art than science, and the art is the skill of the storyteller.</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2013 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '929511'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=929511" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Tue, 26 Nov 2013 13:54:00 -0800 Marty Kaplan, AlterNet 929511 at http://zwww.alternet.org Media Media iran You Will Be Shocked at How Ignorant Americans Really Are http://zwww.alternet.org/media/americas-information-inequality-least-shocking-its-economic-inequality <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '917236'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=917236" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">What Americans don&#039;t know and don&#039;t understand is quite an obstacle to progress.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://zwww.alternet.org/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2013-10-30_at_3.30.20_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>If you think the widening chasm between the rich and the rest spells trouble for American democracy, have a look at the growing gulf between the information-rich and-poor.</p><p>Earlier this year, a Harvard economist’s jaw-dropping study of American’s beliefs about the distribution of American wealth became a <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPKKQnijnsM" style="color: rgb(78, 56, 126); text-decoration: none;">viral video</a>.  Now a <a href="http://www.journalism.org/2013/10/11/how-americans-get-tv-news-at-home/" style="color: rgb(78, 56, 126); text-decoration: none;">new Pew study</a> of the distribution of American news consumption is just as flabbergasting. </p><p>According to the Harvard study, most people believe that the top 20 percent of the country owns about half the nation’s wealth, and that the lower 60 percent combined, including the 20 percent in the middle, have only about 20 percent of the wealth.  A whopping 92 percent of Americans think this is out of whack; in the ideal distribution, they said, the lower 60 percent would have about half of the wealth, with the middle 20 percent of the people owning 20 percent of the wealth.<span style="font-size: 12px;">What’s astonishing about this is how wrong Americans are about reality.  In fact, the bottom 80 percent owns only 7 percent of the nation’s wealth, and the top 1 percent hold more of the country’s wealth – </span><a href="http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2011/10/03/334156/top-five-wealthiest-one-percent/" style="font-size: 12px; color: rgb(78, 56, 126); text-decoration: none;">40 percent</a><span style="font-size: 12px;"> – than 9 out of 10 people think the top 20 percent should have.  The top 10 percent of earners take home </span><a href="http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/09/10/the-rich-get-richer-through-the-recovery/?_r=0" style="font-size: 12px; color: rgb(78, 56, 126); text-decoration: none;">half the incom</a><span style="font-size: 12px;">e of the country; in 2012, the top 1 percent earned more than a fifth of U.S. income – the highest share since the government began collecting the data a century ago. </span></p><p>But America’s information inequality is at least as shocking as its economic inequality.</p><p>Pew sliced the TV news audience into thirds: heavy, medium and light.  In my Jeffersonian fantasy, that distribution would look like a bell curve; in fact, it looks like a cliff.  Heavy viewers watch a little over two hours of TV news a day, but medium viewers barely watch a quarter of an hour and light viewers average only two minutes a day.  The top third of the country does 88 percent of the day’s TV news viewing; the middle third watches only 10 percent of the total time; the bottom third sees just 2 percent of the minutes of news consumed.  Two-thirds of Americans live in an information underclass as journalistically impoverished as the minuscule bazillionaire class is triumphant.This month, the Pew Research Journalism Project reported how Americans get their news at home.  If you think it’s from the Internet, you’ll be surprised that the 38 percent of us who access news at home on a desktop or laptop spend an average of only 90 seconds a day getting news online.  America’s dominant news source is television, and the disparity between heavy viewers of TV news and everyone else is as startling as the gap between the plutocrats and the people.</p><p>As for those heavy news viewers, says Pew, “There is no news junkie like a cable junkie.”  A heavy local news viewer watches about 22 minutes of it a day at home, and a heavy network news viewer watches about 32 minutes a day.  But a heavy cable news consumer averages 72 minutes of it a day. The gap between heavy, medium and light cable news viewers is especially stark.  If you’re reading this, you’re probably in that 72-minutes-of-cable-news-a-day class.  But medium cable news viewers see barely more than three minutes of it a day, and light cable news viewers see about 12 seconds of it a day.  In other words, either you live in the country that watches more than an hour of Blitzer, O’Reilly, Maddow, et al, a day – or in the country that watches virtually none of them at all. </p><p>If you want to know where this is heading, consider <a href="http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/10/04/pew-surveys-of-audience-habits-suggest-perilous-future-for-news/" style="color: rgb(78, 56, 126); text-decoration: none;">another cheery piece of Pew research</a>.  Americans 67 to 84 years old spend 84 minutes a day watching, reading or listening to the news.  Boomers (48 to 66) are close behind, at 77 minutes a day.  But Gen Xers (33 to 47) spend 66 minutes, and Millennials (18 to 31) spend only 46 minutes a day.  The kids are tuning out.  I love it that 43 percent of “The Colbert Report” audience, and 39 percent of “The Daily Show” viewers, <a href="http://www.people-press.org/2012/09/27/section-4-demographics-and-political-views-of-news-audiences/" style="color: rgb(78, 56, 126); text-decoration: none;">are 18 to 29 years old</a>; the young audiences of those fake news shows get real news from them.  But fewer than a million and a half Americans under 50 are watching them.</p><p>Much has been made of the ideological news bubbles we live in, where we see the world exclusively through Fox-colored lenses, or filters manufactured only by MSNBC or CNN.  The Pew study upends this belief.  It’s true that about one-quarter of American adults watch only Fox News, another quarter watch only CNN and 15 percent watch only MSNBC.  But 28 percent of Fox News viewers also watch MSNBC, and 34 percent of MSNBC viewers watch Fox.  More than half of MSNBC viewers, and nearly half of Fox viewers, watch CNN, and of CNN’s viewers, about 4 out of 10 also watch Fox, and 4 out of 10 also watch MSNBC. </p><p>It’s encouraging that our self-segregation into polarized news ghettos is a bit of a myth.  But whatever joy there is in that finding is blunted by the disparity between people who watch a lot of news and people who watch almost none of it, and by the trend toward an even deeper division ahead.  The danger democracy faces isn’t so much that different segments of our country inhabit alternative realities constructed from different data delivered by different news sources.  It’s that a minority of the country watches a fair amount of news, and a majority may as well be living on the moon.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Marty Kaplan is the <a href="http://www.jewishjournal.com/marty_kaplan/article/learcenter.org">Norman Lear professor</a> of entertainment, media and society at the <a href="http://www.jewishjournal.com/marty_kaplan/article/annenberg.usc.edu">USC Annenberg School</a> for Communication and Journalism.  Reach him at <a href="mailto:martyk@jewishjournal.com">martyk@jewishjournal.com</a>.</p> </div></div></div> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2013 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '917236'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=917236" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Sat, 02 Nov 2013 11:29:00 -0700 Marty Kaplan, AlterNet 917236 at http://zwww.alternet.org Media Labor Media media The Deeply Disturbing Ways the Kochs Are Trying to Convince Us We Don't Want Better Healthcare http://zwww.alternet.org/media/trying-convince-americans-they-shouldnt-want-better-health-care-creepiness-only-kochs-could <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '903421'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=903421" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Are we going to fall for the PR sham that we shouldn&#039;t let &#039;Uncle Sam stick his finger up our butt?&#039;</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://zwww.alternet.org/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_1377276288431-1-0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><em>“You’re not going to let Uncle Sam put his finger up your butt, are you, dude?”</em></p><p>We’re at a bustling town fair, a few weeks from now.  Kids climb on the firetruck. Community groups sell cupcakes and give out flyers.  At the “Enroll America” booth, people are on healthcare.gov signing up for the health insurance marketplace.</p><p>But here’s a weird sight: an Uncle Sam character, someone dressed in a Fourth of July costume and a creepy mask (think of the King character in the <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&amp;v=x4_5qoy4oaQ">Burger King commercials</a>), is waving at fairgoers.  </p><p>Creepy Uncle Sam doesn’t speak, but he’s accompanied by a normal-looking guy in his 20s who’s trying to pitch to young people in the crowd. </p><p>“Hey, how’s it going, bro?” </p><p>“Cool, man,” replies a Millennial, not stopping.  “Have a good one.”</p><p>The Millennial pauses.  “Actually, I am.”“Say, you’re not headed over to that booth to opt into Obamacare, are you?”</p><p>That’s when Creepy Uncle Sam produces a blue latex doctor’s glove and proceeds to put it on, and when the normal-looking guy says, “You’re not going to let Uncle Sam put his finger up your butt, are you, dude?”</p><p>Uncle Sam got this gig on Craigslist, where <a href="http://washingtondc.craigslist.org/doc/tlg/4077434890.html">ads</a> now running seek actors to wear the costume for a weekend in exchange for $275 from Generation Opportunity, which is billionaires David and Charles Koch’s delivery system for this dirty bomb.</p><p>In case you haven’t seen the rollout of the Koch brothers’ latest disinformation campaign: Two Creepy Uncle Sam <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/09/creepy-anti-obamacare-ads-suggest-where-uncle-sam-wants-to-stick-it/279825/">ads</a> are now running on TV, “The Glove” and “The Exam.”  “The Glove” targets young men.  A twenty-something guy is in an exam room.  The doctor tells him to take his pants off, lie on his side and bend his knees to his chest.  It looks like he’s going to get a prostate exam.  But his doctor leaves, and out of nowhere Uncle Sam pops up by the young guy’s behind and pulls on a latex glove.  The patient is freaked.  I’m freaked.  Every man watching, except for the odd alien abduction fetishist, is involuntarily freaked.</p><p>“Don’t let government play doctor,” the ad ends.  “Opt out of Obamacare.” </p><p>The message of “The Glove”:  You’re young.  Don’t sign up for a health care exchange. Screw the individual mandate.  You’re a free man.  Act like it.</p><p>In “The Exam,” it’s a young woman in an exam room.  She’s wearing a hospital gown; her feet are in stirrups, the posture of maximum vulnerability. But when her gynecologist steps out, Creepy Uncle Sam rises between her legs.  In his hand, a speculum, which he clenches scarily.  If you don’t want the government invading your most private place, Millennial women, you’d better opt out of Obamacare.</p><p>The Kochs’ sabotage is shrewder than defunding Obamacare, because it goes to the whole basis for the Affordable Care Act’s plan to cover the uninsured: the creation of a risk pool that includes the young and healthy as well as the not young and not immortal.  If young people aren’t insured, the system will fail; the individual mandate is the compact that connects us across generations and conditions to protect the sick, the poor and the unemployed.  Kill the enrollment of the young in Obamacare, and you kill the program. </p><p>That’s the mission of <a href="http://generationopportunity.org/#axzz2gEnWKR22">Generation Opportunity</a>, which itself calls the ads “creepy.”  In tandem with the TV spots, this fall the Kochs are funding a <a href="http://news.yahoo.com/obamacare-battle-moves-to-college-campuses-200027191.html">propaganda blitz</a> at town fairs, tailgate parties and on 20 campuses, where pizza and lies will be handed out to young Americans.  I totally made up their in-person pitch, above; theirs will no doubt be way slicker.  If they succeed in sinking Obamacare, some 45,000 Americans will <a href="http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2009/09/new-study-finds-45000-deaths-annually-linked-to-lack-of-health-coverage/">die</a> each year from lack of coverage, and 2 million people a year will be<a href="http://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/health/2013/06/19/nerdwallet-health-study-estimates-56-million-americans-65-struggle-medical-bills-2013/">bankrupt</a> due to unpaid medical bills.  But at least the Kochs and our other whining oligarchs won’t be required to provide health insurance to their employees. </p><p>Gen Opp, as the astroturf campaign styles itself, is <a href="http://generationopportunity.org/who-we-are/#axzz2gEnWKR22">recruiting</a>.  “Want to join the team?” They say on their site that they’re looking for young artists to create “original, edgy” art – “videos, memes, images, graphics, digital design” – and young writers to produce “clear, compelling, succinct attractive writing,” in order to express “our love of freedom, our mistrust of government… In many cases, we can even pay you, and your art could be seen by a national audience.  Awesome, right?”</p><p>Right.  Awesome.  You can pretty much imagine the not-so-young lobbyist who wrote that copy at $900 an hour. </p><p>Gen Opp is just a symptom of our American dysfunction.  It’s what you get when an activist Supreme Court strikes down limits on the political corruption that big money can anonymously buy; when ideologues and dunderheads from gerrymandered districts face no electoral accountability for their demagoguery; when fearful news media misleadingly <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/09/your-false-equivalence-guide-to-the-days-ahead/280062/">frame</a> the story as two political parties equivalently guilty of bad behavior.  Welcome to plutocrat’s paradise. </p><p>If the Kochs really want to know what Creepy Uncle Sam looks like, the answer is only a mirror away.</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2013 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '903421'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=903421" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:26:00 -0700 Marty Kaplan, AlterNet 903421 at http://zwww.alternet.org Media Media Personal Health The Right Wing kochs The Most Depressing Discovery About the Brain, Ever http://zwww.alternet.org/media/most-depressing-discovery-about-brain-ever <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '897363'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=897363" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Say goodnight to the dream that education, journalism, scientific evidence, or reason can provide the tools that people need in order to make good decisions. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://zwww.alternet.org/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/psychedelicmind.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Yale law school professor Dan Kahan’s new research <a href="http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2319992">paper</a> is called “Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government,” but for me a better title is the headline on science writer Chris Mooney’s <a href="http://grist.org/politics/science-confirms-politics-wrecks-your-ability-to-do-math/">piece</a> about it in Grist:  “Science Confirms: Politics Wrecks Your Ability to Do Math.” </p><p>Kahan conducted some ingenious experiments about the impact of political passion on people’s ability to think clearly.  His conclusion, in Mooney’s words: partisanship “can even undermine our very basic reasoning skills…. [People] who are otherwise very good at math may totally flunk a problem that they would otherwise probably be able to solve, simply because giving the right answer goes against their political beliefs.” </p><p>In other words, say goodnight to the dream that education, journalism, scientific evidence, media literacy or reason can provide the tools and information that people need in order to make good decisions.  It turns out that in the public realm, a lack of information isn’t the real problem.  The hurdle is how our minds work, no matter how smart we think we are.  We want to believe we’re rational, but reason turns out to be the ex post facto way we rationalize what our emotions already want to believe.   </p><p>For years my go-to source for downer studies of how our hard-wiring makes democracy hopeless has been <a href="http://www.dartmouth.edu/~nyhan/">Brendan Nyhan</a>, an assistant professor of government at Dartmouth.</p><p>Nyan and his collaborators have been running experiments trying to answer this terrifying question about American voters: Do facts matter? </p><p><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marty-kaplan/the-best-of-all-possible_b_667566.html">The answer</a>, basically, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marty-kaplan/letting-animals-vote_b_969476.html">is no</a>.  When people are misinformed, giving them facts to correct those errors only makes them cling to their beliefs more tenaciously.</p><div><div><a href="http://www.dartmouth.edu/~nyhan/nyhan-reifler.pdf">Here’s</a> <a href="http://www.dartmouth.edu/~nyhan/opening-political-mind.pdf">some</a> of what Nyhan found:</div></div><ul><li>People who thought WMDs were found in Iraq believed that misinformation even more strongly when they were shown a news story correcting it.</li><li>People who thought George W. Bush banned all stem cell research kept thinking he did that even after they were shown an article saying that only some federally funded stem cell work was stopped.</li><li>People who said the economy was the most important issue to them, and who disapproved of Obama’s economic record, were shown a graph of nonfarm employment over the prior year – a rising line, adding about a million jobs.  They were asked whether the number of people with jobs had gone up, down or stayed about the same.  Many, looking straight at the graph, said down.</li><li>But if, before they were shown the graph, they were asked to write a few sentences about an experience that made them feel good about themselves, a significant number of them changed their minds about the economy.  If you spend a few minutes affirming your self-worth, you’re more likely to say that the number of jobs increased.   </li></ul><p>In Kahan’s experiment, some people were asked to interpret a table of numbers about whether a skin cream reduced rashes, and some people were asked to interpret a different table – containing the same numbers – about whether a law banning private citizens from carrying concealed handguns reduced crime.  Kahan found that when the numbers in the table conflicted with people’s positions on gun control, they couldn’t do the math right, though they could when the subject was skin cream.  The bleakest finding was that the more advanced that people’s math skills were, the more likely it was that their political views, whether liberal or conservative, made them less able to solve the math problem. </p><p>I hate what this implies – not only about gun control, but also about other contentious issues, like climate change.  I’m not completely ready to give up on the idea that disputes over facts can be resolved by evidence, but you have to admit that things aren’t looking so good for a reason.  I keep hoping that one more photo of an iceberg the size of Manhattan calving off of Greenland, one more stretch of record-breaking heat and drought and fires, one more graph of how atmospheric carbon dioxide has risen in the past century, will do the trick.  But what these studies of how our minds work suggest is that the political judgments we’ve already made are impervious to facts that contradict us. </p><p>Maybe climate change denial isn’t the right term; it implies a psychological disorder.  Denial is business-as-usual for our brains.  More and better facts don’t turn low-information voters into well-equipped citizens.  It just makes them more committed to their misperceptions.  In the entire history of the universe, no Fox News viewers ever changed their minds because some new data upended their thinking.  When there’s a conflict between partisan beliefs and plain evidence, it’s the beliefs that win.  The power of emotion over reason isn’t a bug in our human operating systems, it’s a feature. </p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Marty Kaplan, winner of the LA Press Club’s <a href="http://blog.learcenter.org/2013/06/marty_kaplan_wins_2013_socal_j.html">Best Columnist</a> award, is the <a href="http://www.jewishjournal.com/marty_kaplan/article/learcenter.org">Norman Lear professor</a> of entertainment, media and society at the <a href="http://www.jewishjournal.com/marty_kaplan/article/annenberg.usc.edu">USC Annenberg</a> School for Communication and Journalism.  Reach him at <a href="mailto:martyk@jewishjournal.com">martyk@jewishjournal.com</a>.</p> </div></div></div> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2013 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '897363'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=897363" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Mon, 16 Sep 2013 14:33:00 -0700 Marty Kaplan, AlterNet 897363 at http://zwww.alternet.org Media Media Personal Health The Right Wing media How Depraved Money Hungry Media Is Distorting What We See, and Messing with the Country http://zwww.alternet.org/media/jon-stewart-slayed-cnns-hack-filled-political-show-crossfire-and-now-its-coming-back-grave <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '887744'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=887744" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Three recent stories that drive home the sorry state of the media.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://zwww.alternet.org/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_1374603155230-1-0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Money, they say, is the mother’s milk of politics.  Also of news, sports and the rest of the entertainment industry.  Three recent stories drive that home. </p><p>When Reince Priebus pressured Comcast’s NBC to drop a miniseries starring Diane Lane as Hillary Clinton, the hostage that the RNC chairman threatened to snuff was the network’s access to the 2016 presidential primary debates.  When the NFL forced Disney’s ESPN to pull out of a documentary about concussions jointly produced with PBS’s Frontline, the league’s leverage was its deal with Disney’s ABC to air Monday Night Football.  And when Time Warner’s CNN hired Newt Gingrich for its exhumed edition of Crossfire, its motive wasn’t political journalism in service of democracy; it was stunt casting in service of ratings.</p><p>On the surface, the fight between the GOP and NBC is about the effects of media on audiences.  The party’s presumption – based on no evidence – is that the miniseries would put Clinton in a favorable light, and – also based on no evidence – that the halo would translate into votes.  But if a movie could do that, then John Glenn, heroically portrayed in the 1983 movie The Right Stuff, would have been the 1984 Democratic presidential nominee.  The real issue here isn’t the impact of entertainment on audiences, it’s the coup that took presidential debates out of the hands of citizens and handed them to party hacks. </p><p>Once upon a time, groups like the League of Women Voters sponsored the debates, and all cameras were welcome to cover them.  But starting in 1988, the Democratic and Republican parties <a href="http://www.lwv.org/press-releases/league-refuses-help-perpetrate-fraud">wrested control</a> of the process.  Since then, the general election debates have had an aura of patriotic respectability, but <a href="http://www.thenation.com/article/169635/open-presidential-debates">in reality</a> they’ve been run by <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/oct/16/presidential-debate-issues">the same folks</a> who’ve earned an eight percent approval rating for Congress.  The primary debates have become cash cows for the networks, interest groups and faux think tanks.  They’re spectacles that provide free media to candidates, attract eyeballs to sell to advertisers and offer co-branding opportunities to burnish the images of the evenings’ co-sponsors.  The right question isn’t whether NBC’s miniseries would put a finger on the scale.  It’s why the hell a political party should be permitted to use the money that can be milked from the democratic process as a bargaining chip.</p><p>When ESPN withdrew its logo and credit from Frontline’s “League of Denial,” a two-part investigation of the N.F.L.’s handling of head injuries, its explanation was that “the use of ESPN’s marks could incorrectly imply that we have editorial control.”  The N.F.L., of course, denies that it coerced ESPN, but as the New York Times <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/24/sports/football/nfl-pressure-said-to-prompt-espn-to-quit-film-project.html?pagewanted=all">has reported</a>, ESPN’s turnabout came a week after a heated lunch between Roger Goodell, commissioner of the N.F.L., and John Skipper, ESPN’s president.  For more than a year, the ground rules covering editorial authority had been working just fine; Frontline and ESPN each had control over what each aired.  PBS and ESPN executives had even <a href="http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/envelope/cotown/la-fi-ct-frontline-espn-20130824,0,4809421.story">appeared together</a>this summer at the Television Critics Assn. to promote the coming documentary.  But when the N.F.L. belatedly realized – hello? – that they were about to get slammed for their see-no-evil response to players’ brain traumas, they took ESPN to the woodshed.  Disney is paying $1.1 billion for the lucrative rights to broadcast Monday Night Football this season, and $2 billion next season.  “Nice deal you’ve got here.  Too bad if anything were to happen to it.”  Surely nothing like that got said over the salad. </p><p>What makes this especially grim is its impact on the ESPN newsroom.  Ever since CBS discovered that 60 Minutes could make a profit, the networks have treated news as a revenue center within their entertainment businesses.  For sports reporters operating within that corporate structure, there’s an inherent conflict between the network’s financial contracts with sports content rightsholders, and its journalistic contract with its viewers.  The fate of “League of Denial” is a case study of who wins that fight.</p><p>When Jon Stewart appeared on Crossfire in 2004, he was the guest from hell.  “Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America,” he told its then hosts, Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala.  “I’m here to confront you, because we need help from the media, and they’re hurting us…. I would love to see a debate show,” he said, but calling Crossfire a debate show was “like saying pro wrestling is a show about athletic competition…. You have a responsibility to the public discourse, and you fail miserably…. I watch your show every day.  And it kills me… It’s so – oh, it’s so painful to watch…. Please, I beg of you guys, please…. Please stop.”  <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFQFB5YpDZE&amp;feature=player_embedded">That clip</a> went viral. CNN, like NBC and ESPN, lives and dies by ratings.  Outside of the new morning show “New Day,” CNN president Jeff Zucker’s efforts to resuscitate the network have not much tested the possibility that actually covering the news, rather than filling time with blowhards, food fights and murderers, could be a winning strategy.  Anyone who’s watched CNN International while traveling abroad knows that CNN can, in fact, deliver solid, round-the-clock journalism, but apparently management thinks Americans are too ADD-addled, or maybe just too dim, to have a hearty appetite for real news.  So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that CNN is pulling Crossfire out of mothballs, or that it’s <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/23/business/media/gingrich-will-be-back-in-the-crossfire-on-cnn.html?pagewanted=all">giving</a> a certifiable demagogue like Newt Gingrich a regular seat at its table.</p><p>The story goes that King Canute had his throne carried to the shore, where he ordered the waves to stop.  When they didn’t stop, he said he’d done this to demonstrate that kings were powerless compared to God.  Three months after Stewart’s “stop hurting America” appearance, when CNN announced it was cancelling Crossfire, I thought he was a god.  Now, with Crossfire coming back, it looks like the god with the last laugh is Mammon.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><em style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 11px;">Marty Kaplan is the Norman Lear professor of entertainment, media and society at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.  Reach him at <a href="mailto:martyk@jewishjournal.com" style="color: rgb(78, 56, 126); text-decoration: none;">martyk@jewishjournal.com</a>.</em></p> </div></div></div> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2013 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '887744'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=887744" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Mon, 26 Aug 2013 13:47:00 -0700 Marty Kaplan, AlterNet 887744 at http://zwww.alternet.org Media Media media CBS is Trying to Get Us to Raise Our Own Cable Bills http://zwww.alternet.org/media/audacity-and-greed-cbs-trying-recruit-us-raise-our-own-cable-bills <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '872760'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=872760" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Big media companies now think Americans are as gullible as politicians do. The cable operators and networks take us for pigeons, too.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://zwww.alternet.org/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2013-07-23_at_11.41.42_am.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Here's progress: Big media companies now think Americans are as gullible as politicians do. It's not just candidates who assume we're nincompoops. The cable operators and networks take us for pigeons, too.</p><p>Exhibit A is the current <a href="http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/cbs-time-warner-cable-set-588595" target="_blank">battle</a> between behemoths Time Warner Cable and CBS. If you've been watching TV recently in New York, Dallas-Ft. Worth or Los Angeles, unless you have a gold medal in zapping, CBS's campaign against TWC has had you by the eyeballs.</p><p>"ATTENTION TIME WARNER CABLE SUBSCRIBERS" runs the crawl on one CBS ad, as urgent as an Amber alert. "Dexter. Gone. Ray Donovan. Gone. Homeland. Gone. Every great Showtime series, every hit movie, every big fight on Showtime may soon be gone. Why? Because Time Warner Cable is threatening to drop Showtime." <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/eliseackerman/2013/07/19/cbs-launches-fear-mongering-ad-campaign-as-internet-broadcasting-threatens-retransmission-fees/" target="_blank">Another CBS ad</a> -- showing clips of CBS Sports programming, The Big Bang Theory and Under the Dome playing on a TV set wrapped in chains -- warns that "Time Warner Cable is holding your favorite shows hostage."</p><p>Next thing you know, TWC will be taking away your guns.</p><p>You wouldn't realize from these campaign-style ads that what's really at stake is money. Your money. Both CBS and TWC want more of it. They're probably going to get it. The only issue -- which this battle is about -- is how they'll divvy up what they pick from our pockets.</p><p>The <a href="http://www.academia.edu/1107003/Retransmission_Consent_and_Broadcaster_Commitment_to_Localism" target="_blank">roots of this fight</a> go back to the Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992. (I love the names they give these laws.) Twenty years ago, with cable penetrating more and more households, usually via monopoly deals cut with local governments, the broadcast industry convinced Congress that local stations would lose so much advertising revenue to cable that it would damage their capacity to produce news and public affairs programming. So to ensure that licensed stations had enough resources to serve the information needs of their communities, Congress imposed "must carry" provisions on cable operators requiring them to retransmit all the local broadcast stations in the market. In return, the local stations could negotiate a fee for providing that content, and they would use that revenue to strengthen their local news programming.</p><p>How quaint all that seems now.</p><p>For starters, the national broadcast networks horned in on the local stations. Once upon a time, the big networks actually paid local affiliates for airing their programs. But today, turning things upside down, the networks routinely hold up stations for <a href="http://www.broadcastingcable.com/article/476031-Networks_Reverse_Comp_Take_to_Hit_1B_in_2014.php?rssid=20065" target="_blank">50 percent or more</a> of the retransmission fees they get from cable operators. Networks also have been gobbling up independent stations. The more money that CBS's six owned-and-operated stations in New York, Dallas-Ft. Worth and Los Angeles get from TWC in exchange for carrying their programming, the more money goes to CBS's corporate bottom line.</p><p>That's what's at stake in this intra-titan dispute. In those three markets, under a deal that's expiring, CBS stations have been getting between 75 cents and $1 a subscriber per month. In the new deal, according to <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323309404578616012415028642.html" target="_blank">one analyst</a>, CBS is demanding that this be upped within two or three years to as much as $2 a subscriber per month. TWC says that CBS is asking for a 600 percent increase over the price it pays for CBS in other markets.</p><p>Who will pay for that increase? We will. Our cable bills have been rising astronomically -- <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203479104577124494272500550.html?mod=e2tw" target="_blank">nearly tripling </a>between 2001 and 2011 -- because the cable companies have been passing along to consumers the cost of the vigorish that the broadcast networks are extracting from them, especially for sports. The result is that advertiser-supported networks like CBS have become de facto cable companies, concealing the subscription we pay to them within the subscription we pay for cable.</p><p>And now they want us to be their stooges! They want us to pressure TWC to give more money to CBS so that TWC can charge us more for the CBS programs we already get for "free."</p><p>Forgotten in all this is the original rationale for permitting local stations to charge cable companies for carriage: ensuring budgets adequate for producing quality local news and public affairs programming. But unless you consider scaring us witless with crime stories and medicating us silly with celebrity stories to be just the right ticket for good citizenship, if you actually watch local TV news you know how civically useless its content has turned out to be.</p><p>I run an awards program -- the <a href="http://www.cronkiteaward.org/" target="_blank">Walter Cronkite Awards</a> for Excellence in TV Political Journalism -- to honor and encourage the exceptions. But for decades, studies of local news have found time and again that it isn't particularly local and isn't particularly news. For example, a <a href="http://www.learcenter.org/pdf/LANews2010.pdf" target="_blank">study</a> that my colleague Matt Hale and I did of all stations in the Los Angeles media market found that in a typical half hour of local news, coverage of local government -- including budgets, layoffs, education, law enforcement, prisons, lawsuits, new ordinances, voting procedures, government personnel changes, government actions on health care, transportation, immigration and so on -- amounted to a grand total of 22 seconds out of 30 minutes.</p><p>I'm not surprised that the message of CBS's anti-TWC campaign isn't: They're going to take away the news you need to be a good citizen! But I am struck that CBS has the chutzpah to try to recruit us to raise our own cable bills. On the other hand, if the Karl Roves of the world can get people to vote against their own self-interest, I guess networks have a shot at conning us, too.</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2013 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '872760'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=872760" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Tue, 23 Jul 2013 08:30:00 -0700 Marty Kaplan, AlterNet 872760 at http://zwww.alternet.org Media Media greed Daddy's Been Arrested: The Arrogance of America's Financial Criminals on Full Display http://zwww.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/daddys-been-arrested-arrogance-americas-financial-criminals-full-display <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '819210'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=819210" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The crimes of a high-level player in an insider-trading ring starts with what he&#039;s done to his children.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://zwww.alternet.org/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_-__2013-04-03_at_11.23.41_am.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The final inch of the story turned me into an emotional puddle.</p><p>At 6 a.m. last Friday, the FBI arrested Michael S. Steinberg, a 41-year-old stock trader for New York hedge fund SAC Capital Advisors, at his $8 million Manhattan co-op.</p><p>This brings to nine the number of SAC employees indicted in the investigation of its founder, Steven A. Cohen, whose net worth is around $10 billion. Four of them have pleaded guilty. Apparently the FBI is trying to reel in and flip Cohen's conspirators in an alleged insider trading scheme, and Steinberg -- Cohen's golden boy -- is their latest catch.</p><p>The <em>New York Times</em> has been all over the SAC investigation, running front-page stories about how Cohen, even as the F.B.I. is now tightening its lasso on him, has gone on a shopping spree, buying a <a href="http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2013/03/27/hedge-fund-titan-buys-hamptons-property-for-60-million/" target="_hplink">$60 million oceanfront home</a> in East Hampton and <a href="http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2013/03/26/for-cohen-a-big-art-deal/" target="_hplink">paying $155 million </a>to casino magnate Steve Wynn for "Le Rêve," the Picasso that Wynn had accidentally put his elbow through in 2006. (Since Wynn reportedly had paid less than half of that to acquire the painting in 2001, Cohen seems to have gotten no discount for wear and tear.)</p><p><a href="http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2013/03/29/sac-capital-manager-arrested-on-insider-trading-charges/" target="_hplink">Saturday's <em>Times</em> story</a> includes a thumbnail photo of Steinberg on A1. You can imagine the admiration and envy his charmed life must have aroused. He's young, smart, good-looking and -- until now, anyway -- way successful. He has a wife and two kids, and with three other hedge fund managers he also started <a href="http://www.natan.org/" target="_hplink">Natan</a>, which "inspires young philanthropists to become actively engaged in Jewish giving by funding innovative projects that are shaping the Jewish future."</p><p>But to the FBI, Michael Steinberg was a high-level player in an insider-trading ring that illegally profited from secret financial data about technology stocks Dell and Nvidia.</p><p>Steinberg knew they were closing in on him. Here's the kicker to the <em>Times</em> story:</p><blockquote>Since his name surfaced in the investigation, Mr. Steinberg has occasionally spent evenings in New York hotels to avoid being handcuffed at home in front of his two children. Federal agents refused to let Mr. Steinberg surrender of his own volition at F.B.I. headquarters downtown, expressing the view that white-collar defendants should not be given special treatment.</blockquote><p>Last week, Steinberg and his wife and kids had been visiting relatives and taken a trip to Disney World. On Thursday, he returned to his Upper East Side place without them. At dawn on Friday, the feds came for him with the cuffs.</p><p>I can't get those kids out of my mind. They did nothing wrong, and they were spared what could have been a traumatizing moment. But I can't help thinking about what it was like to learn the news from their mother on Friday. It's almost unbearably poignant to imagine their family life last week, during the final days of what they will inevitably think of as Before: the kids having innocent fun on the rides, oblivious of what's to come, as their parents struggle to join the laughter and savor the last moments before After starts shadowing them forevermore.</p><p>Deterrence is one of our criminal justice system's goals. If Michael Steinberg pleads guilty or is convicted, his future punishment will also punish his family. And yes, he should have thought about that ahead of time, while rising at SAC and accumulating the rich life's rewards. A front page <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2013/mar/29/business/la-fi-sac-arrest-20130330" target="_hplink"><em>Los Angeles Times</em> story</a> calls Preet Bahara, Manhattan's top U.S. prosecutor, "the new sheriff of Wall Street" because of the 71 insider trading convictions he's racked up since he took office three years ago. During these last three years, those convictions had to have been on Michael Steinberg's radar, along with the domestic carnage they must have caused. But -- if Steinberg turns out to have done what he's been indicted for -- his belief that he wouldn't get caught must have kept any heart wrenching images of his kids' uncomprehending faces from stopping him.</p><p>Of course, I don't know that. As Michael Steinberg became Steven A. Cohen's most fortunate protégé, I don't know whether the true north of his moral compass pointed to Everybody Does It, or to You'll Be Sorry. Or maybe, as Cyndi Lauper sang, Money Changes Everything, and the fantastic wealth pumping up these privileged lives, mixed with the musk of the trading floor, turns people who ordinarily know the difference between right and wrong into barracudas who only know Kill or Be Killed -- a kind of temporary ethical insanity that somehow permits these predators also to be loving parents and generous citizens.</p><p>The day after Michael Steinberg was arrested, I was talking about his efforts not to be handcuffed in front of his kids with a friend of mine whose own father had gone to jail when he was a kid. My friend's childhood days are a long time ago, but what happened to his father may still be the most important contributor to who he is as a man. He still wrestles with the demons that his father's imprisonment unleashed. It's possible that his own considerable empathy and generosity were also conceived in that darkness. It's always a crapshoot how horrendous things like this will ultimately play out in kids' lives. But you'd think a father would think twice before rolling those dice.</p><p><em>This is my column from <a href="http://jewishjournal.com/">The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles</a>. You can read more of my columns <a href="http://www.jewishjournal.com/about/author/3596/">here</a>, and <a href="mailto:martyk@jewishjournal.com">email</a> me there if you'd like.</em></p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2013 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '819210'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=819210" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Sun, 07 Apr 2013 10:06:00 -0700 Marty Kaplan, AlterNet 819210 at http://zwww.alternet.org News & Politics Corporate Accountability and WorkPlace News & Politics white collar crime The Real Reason Scout Prouty Leaked the Famous Romney "47%" Video -- It Was Over Romney Profiting from Slave Labor http://zwww.alternet.org/media/real-reason-scout-prouty-leaked-famous-romney-47-video-it-was-over-romney-profiting-slave <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '811353'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=811353" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Scott Prouty was appalled at how Romney was callous to slave labor ... too bad we didn&#039;t have an national conversation about that.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://zwww.alternet.org/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_-__2013-03-18_at_4.57.58_pm.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p> </p><p>Scott Prouty buried his lede.</p><p>That's journalism jargon for not recognizing the most newsworthy part of a story -- for delaying the real attention-grabber for later. (Calling a story's first words the "lede" instead of the "lead" is a beloved fossil from the days when typesetters used lead -- the metal -- to put space between lines. No wonder newspapers' bottom lines are hurting.)</p><p>Prouty, we learned last week, is the 38-year old bartender who videotaped the $50,000-a-plate Boca Raton fundraiser where Mitt Romney wrote off 47 percent of the country as victims.</p><p>It's plausible that footage cost Romney the presidency. It validated his biggest perceived weakness -- his image as a cartoon plutocrat, Mr. Moneybags, the Bain guy who fired workers and saddled companies with debt, the country club Republican who called sports "sport" and didn't have a clue about how ordinary Americans were hurting. Romney tried to counter that image: he wore jeans, reminisced about shooting varmints and had country western stars in his corner. He wanted swing voters to believe that his sucking up to his party's resentful right was just an obligatory primary-season performance, and that as president he'd govern from the middle.</p><p>Scott Prouty's tape revealed that the regular-guy stuff was the real performance -- play-acting for the rubes. There he was in a roomful of millionaires, caught in the act, dissing half the country as dependents on the public teat. The contempt for working stiffs wasn't caricature; it was character.</p><p>Prouty didn't shoot the video because he wanted the goods on Romney. He was just making a souvenir, like his pictures of Bill Clinton shaking hands with the staff at another event. It was only when Romney talked about going to China to buy a factory "back in my private equity days" that he knew he had something explosive on his hands.</p><p>Romney told the room that the factory employed 20,000 young women in their teens and twenties, living 12 to a room in triple bunk beds, 10 rooms sharing one little bathroom, working long hours for a "pittance." The factory was surrounded by barbed wire and guard towers. "And we said gosh, I can't believe that you, you know, keep these girls in. And they said, no, no, no. This is to keep other people from coming in. Because people want so badly to work in this factory that we have to keep them out."</p><p>What galled Prouty was that Romney bought the lie. He told the story not to condemn slave labor, but to say how lucky American are to be born in a land of so much opportunity that we don't have to stop people from scaling walls to get work.</p><p>Looking around the room, Prouty saw that none of the guests were appalled. He thought it wrong that only people with $50k to shell out could see the real Romney. Afterward, searching online, he learned that the factory was Global-Tech in Donguan, and that <a href="http://tv.msnbc.com/2013/03/14/creator-of-the-47-tape-shines-a-little-bit-of-light-on-a-labor-rights-activist/" target="_hplink">Charles Kernaghan</a>, an international labor rights activist, had exposed Bain's interest in ventures built on outsourced American jobs and exploited workers. Two weeks later, when Prouty decided he'd be a coward if he kept what he'd seen to himself, it was this story alone that motivated him to go public. China, not the 47 percent, was his lede.</p><p>He posted the China clip on YouTube, under a pseudonym, and began using social media sites to link to it. His goal, as he later explained, was to have the China clip pop up whenever someone typed "Mitt Romney" into Google. He also contacted Mother Jones reporter David Corn, <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/07/bain-capital-mitt-romney-outsourcing-china-global-tech" target="_hplink">who'd written </a>about Bain's forays into China. Enterprising reporters from <a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/bensmith/the-long-strange-leak-of-mitt-romneys-47-video" target="_hplink">BuzzFeed </a>and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/13/scott-prouty-47-percent_n_2870837.html" target="_hplink">Huffington Post</a> managed to track Prouty down. But it was only at the end of August, when Prouty posted the clip of Romney saying that 47 percent of Americans were freeloaders, that the video began to catch fire. Corn was the first to get the <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/09/watch-full-secret-video-private-romney-fundraiser" target="_hplink">full 68-minute tape</a> from Prouty, and when he ran with excerpts on September 17, "47 percent," like the Occupy movement's "1 percent," became an indelible part of the American political lexicon, and arguably changed the course of the race. <br /><br />By remaining anonymous until he went on MSNBC's <a href="http://www.nbcnews.com/id/45755822/ns/msnbc-the_ed_show/vp/51187437" target="_hplink">Ed Show</a> last week, Prouty ensured that the story would be about Romney, not about the motives of the man who made the tape. What was striking about his media appearances was how important it was for him to keep talking about China and Kernaghan's work for the <a href="http://www.globallabourrights.org/" target="_hplink">Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights</a>. Prouty now faces right-wing derision, and he's worried about the legal defense costs he may incur. But his courage caught the attention of United Steelworkers president <a href="http://www.usw.org/media_center/news_articles?id=1333" target="_hplink">Leo Gerard</a>, who offered Prouty a job. His goal is to go to law school and fight on behalf of ordinary Americans like himself.</p><p>But it turns out that the Scott Prouty tending bar at that Boca fundraiser was not an ordinary American. Yes, he was struggling to make ends meet, and he had no health insurance and no car. But going public with the video was not, <a href="http://tv.msnbc.com/2013/03/13/incredibly-brave-or-incredibly-stupid-it-wouldnt-be-the-first-time/" target="_hplink">he said</a> on the Ed Show, the only "incredibly brave or incredibly stupid thing I did"; there was also the time in 2005 -- "one of the proudest moments of my life" -- when he saved a woman's life. She had driven off Florida's I-75 into an alligator-invested canal. Prouty, who was working in a nearby Honda dealership, ran to help. He dove into the water, and with a co-worker he called to bring a knife, he cut her seat belt and carried her to shore.</p><p>That moment, he recalled last week, was something that said, 'You know what? If you can jump in, jump in.' And I had a chance to jump in with this again, with the video, and so I said, 'You know what? I'm going to jump in one more time.'"</p><p>It's one -- amazing -- thing to try to rescue a woman drowning right in front your eyes. But to have empathy for enslaved workers on the other side of the world, and to try to rescue a country from a candidate who had no such empathy, is even more amazing. Even if he buried the lede.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>This is my column from <a href="http://jewishjournal.com/">The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles</a>. You can read more of my columns<a href="http://www.jewishjournal.com/about/author/3596/"> here</a>, and <a href="mailto:martyk@jewishjournal.com">email</a> me there if you'd like.</p> </div></div></div> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2013 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '811353'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=811353" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Mon, 18 Mar 2013 16:50:00 -0700 Marty Kaplan, AlterNet 811353 at http://zwww.alternet.org Media Election 2016 Labor Media World scott prouty Corporate Food Giants Have Reason to Worry -- Some Very Brave Supermarkets Are Sharing Nutritional Score Numbers with Customers http://zwww.alternet.org/food/corporate-food-giants-have-reason-worry-some-very-brave-supermarkets-are-sharing-nutritional <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '805261'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=805261" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Nuval food rankings go from 1-100; Mott&#039;s Original Applesauce gets a 4, Keebler Townhouse Bistro Multi-Grain Crackers get a 3. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://zwww.alternet.org/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_-__2013-03-06_at_1.11.09_pm.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p> </p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">I couldn't believe my eyes.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">I was in a Minneapolis branch of Byerly's, an upscale grocery chain in Minnesota. Scanning the aisles for a small extravagance for my dinner hosts, I noticed that the shelf labels included not just the price-per-unit, which I'm used to, but little blue and white linked hexagons marked on a scale of 1 to 100 -- a "NuVal" score.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;"><a href="http://www.nuval.com/" style="color: rgb(0, 0, 170); font-weight: 700; text-decoration: none;" target="_blank">NuVal</a> scores don't tip you off to a bargain. They tell you how good or bad a food is for your health.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">Yeah, right. The idea that a food store would admit -- would explicitly declare, on the spot, as your hand is reaching for it -- that a product it's selling is nutritionally crappy: that violates every principle of Marketing 101, not to mention Ayn Rand 101.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">This is different from the labels that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has required since 1990. Those are well-intentioned marvels of confusion, containing so much information (are you getting your minimum daily requirement of magnesium?), so much disinformation (calculating calories per serving, when a serving is half the amount a runway waif would eat), so much incomprehensible information (I forget -- is tripotassium phosphate good or bad for you?) that you can get an anxiety attack trying to figure out which granola will nourish you and which will kill you.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">But NuVal scores make that simple, and sometimes shocking.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">Cocoa Puffs, for example, gets a NuVal score of 26, but so does Life ("you don't have to be a grown-up to benefit from the whole grain inside"), and Kashi Strawberry Fields Cereal ("plenty of whole grain goodness") gets a 10, same as Cap'n Crunch.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">An apple gets a 96, which you might expect. But unsweetened applesauce gets a 29, apple juice gets a 15 and Mott's Original Applesauce ("a great tasting snack that's actually good for you") gets a 4.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">Nabisco Nilla Wafers ("simple goodness") get a 6, and Keebler Townhouse Bistro Multi-Grain Crackers (multi-grain! surely good for you, no?) get a 3 (no).</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">You'd expect fresh broccoli to get 100, as does Birds Eye Cooked Winter Squash. Grapefruits are 99, and sweet potatoes are 96. But Vlasic Old Fashioned Sauerkraut gets a 4.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">Skim milk comes in at 91, 1 percent milk at 91 and 2 percent at 55. Capri Sun gets a 1. So does Odwalla Pomegranate Limeade with 20 percent juice. Who would buy products like these if they actually knew what poison -- I mean, um, empty calories -- they amount to, and if they had manifestly better alternatives an arm's reach away?</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">The NuVal numbers are the brainchild of <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-katz-md/" style="color: rgb(0, 0, 170); font-weight: 700; text-decoration: none;" target="_blank">David L. Katz</a>, M.D., MPH, an adjunct associate professor at the Yale School of Medicine. A dozen doctors and nutritionists, funded by the nonprofit Griffin Hospital in Derby, Conn., developed the scoring system, based on 30 factors including vitamins, fiber, salt, sugar, fat quality, protein quality, glycemic load, energy density and calories. From the public health evidence about those factors, they constructed an algorithm that processes the data into a single number. As new food science research is published, and as products are reformulated by their manufacturers, the algorithm and the individual scores are updated. (If that's happened to any of the products I've mentioned, I'll be glad to revise the numbers online.)</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">It's a miracle that some 30 retail food chains are adopting the scores. You won't find them at Whole Foods or Trader Joe's, and from the <a href="http://www.nuval.com/Location" style="color: rgb(0, 0, 170); font-weight: 700; text-decoration: none;" target="_blank">locations</a> page of the NuVal website it looks like the only chain in my neck of the woods -- Kroger, which in Los Angeles owns Ralphs and Food4Less -- is running a "pilot program in select areas" (Kentucky, apparently). But Lunds and Byerley's, which use NuVal, are venerable markets in Minnesota, as is King Cullen on Long Island, N.Y.; grocers in the NuVal fold aren't just a bunch of crunchy hippies.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">As you might imagine, there's been <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/ConsumerNews/general-mills-ocean-spray-sara-lee-react-nuval/story?id=11301898" style="color: rgb(0, 0, 170); font-weight: 700; text-decoration: none;" target="_blank">pushback</a>. Ocean Spray, whose Light Cranberry Juice Cocktail gets a 2, says NuVal doesn't reflect their product's urinary tract health benefits. Sara Lee, whose Ball Park hotdogs get a 7, says other Ball Park products score higher. General Mills complains that details of the algorithm aren't public, as does the <a href="http://www.cspinet.org/integrity/nonprofits/national_consumers_league.html" style="color: rgb(0, 0, 170); font-weight: 700; text-decoration: none;" target="_blank">National Consumers League</a>, which turns out to be an astroturf front for the likes of Monsanto, Bristol Myers Squibb, the Chemical Specialties Manufacturers Association and the National Meat Association. And <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-katz-md/nuval_b_1508150.html" style="color: rgb(0, 0, 170); font-weight: 700; text-decoration: none;" target="_blank">according to</a> Dr. David Katz, the NuVal founder, the algorithm "has been described in detail in peer-reviewed publications accessible to all. It has been made available in its entirety to research groups throughout the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.; to federal agencies in the U.S.; to the Institute of Medicine; and to private entities that have requested such access."</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">I'm no food puritan. My culinary patrimony consists of <a href="http://theshiksa.com/2010/06/01/schmaltz-and-gribenes/" style="color: rgb(0, 0, 170); font-weight: 700; text-decoration: none;" target="_blank">shmaltz, gribines</a> and <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kishka_(food)" style="color: rgb(0, 0, 170); font-weight: 700; text-decoration: none;" target="_blank">kishka</a>. (Don't ask.) I believe that the joylessness caused by renouncing "bad" foods -- and the guilt that's caused by consuming them -- conceivably undoes the good that's done by substituting celery for Oreos. I know that adding eye-popping 1-to-100 scores to grocery price tags won't cut down on gargantuan portion sizes; or make meals more mindful occasions; or alert us to our complicity with corporate farming; or prevent the processed food industry from addicting us to salt, sugar and fat; or get our butts off the couch and start moving. But giving consumers a no-brainer tool while they're standing in the supermarket aisle is surely a more promising way to stop the slow-motion suicide we call the American way of eating than declaring March to be National Nutrition Month.</p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;"><em style="font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px;">This column first appeared at <a href="http://jewishjournal.com/" style="color: rgb(0, 0, 170); font-weight: 700; text-decoration: none;">The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles</a>. You can read more of Kaplan's columns<a href="http://www.jewishjournal.com/about/author/3596/" style="color: rgb(0, 0, 170); font-weight: 700; text-decoration: none;"> here</a>, and <a href="mailto:martyk@jewishjournal.com" style="color: rgb(0, 0, 170); font-weight: 700; text-decoration: none;">email</a> him there if you'd like.</em></p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><span style="color: rgb(102, 102, 102); font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 10px; font-weight: bold; line-height: 18px;">Martin Kaplan, research professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication, holds the Norman Lear Chair in Entertainment, Media and Society. He has been a White House speechwriter; a Washington journalist; a deputy presidential campaign manager; a Disney studio executive; a motion picture and television producer and screenwriter; and a radio host.</span></p> </div></div></div> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2013 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '805261'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=805261" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Wed, 06 Mar 2013 13:02:00 -0800 Marty Kaplan, AlterNet 805261 at http://zwww.alternet.org Food Food News & Politics nuval Being American Is Bad for Your Health http://zwww.alternet.org/personal-health/being-american-bad-your-health <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '791128'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=791128" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">We&#039;re not getting sicker by accident.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://zwww.alternet.org/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/us_healthcare.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>"Americans are sicker and die younger than people in other wealthy nations."</p><p>That stark sentence <a href="http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1556967" target="_blank">appears</a> in the January 2013 issue of the <em>Journal of the American Medical Association</em>, and it comes from the authors of a landmark <a href="http://http//sites.nationalacademies.org/DBASSE/CPOP/US_Health_in_International_Perspective/index.htm#.UQ86045OS-K" target="_blank">report</a> -- "Shorter Lives, Poorer Health" -- on differences among high-income countries.</p><p>You probably already know that America spends more on health care than any other country. That was one of the few facts to survive the political food fight pretending to be a serious national debate about the Affordable Care Act.</p><p>But the airwaves also thrummed with so many sound bites from so many jingoistic know-nothings claiming that America has the best health care system in the world that today, most people don't realize how shockingly damaging it is to your wellness and longevity to be born in the U.S.A.</p><p>This is made achingly clear in the study of the "U.S. health disadvantage" recently issued by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine, which was conducted over 18 months by experts in medicine and public health, demography, social science, political science, economics, behavioral science and epidemiology.</p><p>Compare the health of the American people with our peer nations -- with Britain, Canada and Australia; with Japan; with the Scandinavian countries; with France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Side by side with the world's wealthy democracies, America comes in last, and over the past several decades, it's only gotten worse.</p><p>With few exceptions -- like death rates from breast cancer -- we suck. Our newborns are less likely to reach their first birthday, or their fifth birthday. Our adolescents die at higher rates from car crashes and homicides, and they have the highest rates of sexually transmitted infections. Americans have the highest incidence of AIDS, the highest obesity rates, the highest diabetes rates among adults 20 and older, the highest rates of chronic lung disease and heart disease and drug-related deaths.</p><p>There is one bright spot. Americans who live past their 75th birthday have the longest life expectancy. But for everyone else -- from babies to baby boomers and beyond -- your chances of living a long life are the butt-ugly worst among all the 17 rich nations in our peer group.</p><p>In case you're tempted to blow off these bleak statistics about American longevity by deciding that they don't apply to someone like you -- before you attribute them to, how shall we put it, the special burdens that our racially and economically diverse and culturally heterogeneous nation has nobly chosen to bear -- chew on this: "Even non-Hispanic white adults or those with health insurance, a college education, high incomes, or healthy behaviors appear to be in worse health (e.g., higher infant mortality, higher rates of chronic diseases, lower life expectancy) in the United States than in other high-income countries." And by the way, "the nation's large population of recent immigrants is generally in better health than native-born Americans."</p><p>Why are we trailing so badly? Some of the causes catalogued by the report:</p><p>The U.S. public health and medical care systems: Our employer -- and private insurance-- based health care system has long set us apart from our peer nations, who provide universal access. The right loves to rail against "socialized medicine," but on health outcomes, the other guys win.</p><p><em>Individual behavior:</em> Tobacco, diet, physical inactivity, alcohol and other drug use and sexual practices play a part, but there's not a whole lot of evidence that uniquely nails Americans' behavior. The big exception is injurious behavior. We loves us our firearms, and we don't much like wearing seat belts or motorcycle helmets.</p><p><em>Social factors</em>: Stark income inequality and poverty separate us from other wealthy nations, who also have more generous safety nets and demonstrate greater social mobility than we do. In America, the best predictor of good or bad health is the income level of your zip code.</p><p><em>Physical and social environmental factors</em>: Toxins harm us, but our pollution isn't notably worse than in other rich nations. The culprit may be our "built environment": less public transportation, walking and cycling; more cars and car accidents; less access to fresh produce; more marketing and bigger portions of bad food.</p><p><em>Policies and social values</em>: To me, this is the richest, and riskiest, ground broken by the report, which asks whether there's a common denominator -- upstream, root causes -- that help explain why the United States has been losing ground in so many health domains since the 1970s:</p><blockquote><p>Certain character attributes of the quintessential American (e.g. dynamism, rugged individualism) are often invoked to explain the nation's great achievements and perseverance. Might these same characteristics also be associated with risk-taking and potentially unhealthy behaviors? Are there health implications to Americans' dislike of outside (e.g., government) interference in personal lives and in business and marketing practices?</p></blockquote><p>My answer is yes, but I'd plant the problem in recent history and politics, not in timeless quintessentials. Since the 1980s, in the sunny name of "free enterprise," there's been a ferocious, ideologically driven effort to demonize government, roll back regulations, privatize the safety net, stigmatize public assistance, gut public investment, weaken consumer protection, consolidate corporate power, delegitimize science, condemn anti-poverty efforts as "class warfare" and entrust public health to the tender mercies of the marketplace.</p><p>The epidemic of gun violence has been fueled by anti-government paranoia stoked by the gun manufacturers' lobby, the NRA. The spike in consumption of high-fructose corn syrup has been driven by the food industry's business decisions and its political (i.e., financial) clout. In the name of fiscal conservatism, plutocrats push for cuts in discretionary expenditures on maternal health, early childhood education, social services and public transportation. The same tactic that once prolonged tobacco's death grip -- the confection of a phony scientific "controversy" -- now undermines efforts to combat climate change, which is as big a danger to public health as any disease.</p><p>More accidents may be shortening our lifespans. But we're not getting sicker by accident.</p><p> </p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>This article first appeared in the<em> <a href="http://jewishjournal.com/">The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles</a></em>. You can read more of my columns<a href="http://www.jewishjournal.com/about/author/3596/"> here</a>, and <a href="mailto:martyk@jewishjournal.com">email</a> me there if you'd like.</p> </div></div></div> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2013 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '791128'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=791128" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Thu, 07 Feb 2013 15:50:00 -0800 Marty Kaplan, Smirking Chimp 791128 at http://zwww.alternet.org Personal Health News & Politics Personal Health united states health care Don't Look on the Bright Side: Pessimism, Not Magical Thinking, Is What Will Save Us http://zwww.alternet.org/story/151454/don%27t_look_on_the_bright_side%3A_pessimism%2C_not_magical_thinking%2C_is_what_will_save_us <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '666795'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=666795" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">It would take a miracle for our intractable problems to become tractable. Being in denial about that doesn&#039;t help anyone.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://zwww.alternet.org/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>It gets worse. If you pay attention to the news, the prospects for the future look grim. The new normal of high unemployment and stagnant wages will likely not turn out to be just a phase. The next generations may indeed do worse than the ones before them. Thanks to the Supreme Court, big money will keep tightening its stranglehold on elections and lawmaking. Financial reform and consumer protection will never survive the onslaught of lobbyists. Reckless bankers will go on making out like bandits, and the public will always be forced to rescue them. The Internet, along with cable and wireless, will be controlled by fewer and more-powerful companies. The world will keep staggering from one economic crisis to another. We will not have the leadership and citizenship we need to kick our dependence on oil. We will not even keep up with the Kardashians.</p> <p>Add your own items to the list. Whatever global threats scare you -- climate change, the Middle East, loose nukes, pandemics -- and whatever domestic issues haunt you -- failing schools, crumbling infrastructure, rising poverty, obesity -- the odds are that the honesty, discipline, resources and burden-sharing required for a happy ending will not, like Elijah, show up at our door.</p> <p>Sure, there's some good news around, and there are advances ahead. Gay marriage is legal in New York, and perhaps one day the resistance to it will seem as unfathomable as the opposition to women's suffrage. Technology is growing exponentially, and today's iGizmos will doubtlessly seem like steam engines tomorrow. We will some day actually be gone from Afghanistan. Justices Scalia and Thomas will eventually retire. French fries or salami will turn out to be good for us, at least for a while. Some Wall Street slimeballs will be nailed, some good guys will win elections and some little girl will be rescued from a well.</p> <p>But it would pretty much take a miracle for our intractable problems to become tractable. Without one, political polarization is not about to give way to kumbaya. Cultural coarsening is not going to reverse course. The middle class will not be resurgent; the gap between rich and poor will not start closing; the plutocrats calling the shots will not cede their power. No warning on its way to us -- no new BP, no next shooting, no future default -- will bring us to our senses about the environment, assault weapons or derivatives for any longer than it takes for the next Casey Anthony or Anthony Weiner comes along.</p> <p>Politicians, of course, can never say something like this. They're selling progress, greatness, can-do. The only place for pessimism in the public sphere is as a handy foil. "There are those who say that we can't solve our problems, that our best days are behind us, that China is the future. But I say...." It's a surefire applause line. But it's also a straw man. There aren't "those who say" that. Americans hate pessimism. We get discouraged, our hope flags, but predicting defeat is inconceivable. The comeback kids, the triumphant underdogs, the resilient fighters rising to the challenge: that's who we see in the mirror.</p> <p>We place fatalism beyond the pale. To give up on the possibility of change, to doubt that we're up to the task, is socially aberrant. You may fear that we are doomed to be a nation of big babies: we claim to want leaders who'll face tough choices, but we punish them for actually making them. You may despair that the rationality required to face up to reality will never overcome the fundamentalism, know-nothingism and magic thinking that has a hammerlock on our national psyche. You may believe that big money and big media have become so powerful that our sclerotic democratic institutions are inherently incapable of checking them.</p> <p>But you can't admit any of that. In public, we never let such darkness prevail. Instead, we work to improve things. We organize, rally, blog, join movements, work phone banks, ring doorbells, write checks, sign petitions.</p> <p>We are not a tragic nation. If a leader disappoints us, or breaks our hearts, we say it's just a setback, not a sign that the system itself manufactures impotence and capitulation. If a problem festers, we cling to the belief that money, know-how and perhaps some sobering wake-up call are all we need to solve it; we don't dare entertain the notion that there's something in human nature that's causing and protracting it. If social conflict splits us, we diagnose a communication problem, a semantic setback on the road to common ground, a gap that can be bridged by consensus on facts and deliberation on goals; it's just too painful to think that tribal values impervious to rationality and insusceptible to compromise are the ineluctable driver of our divisions.</p> <p>I wish I could declare my confidence in our ability to solve our problems without sounding like some candidate who just wants my vote. But ironic optimism won't do. I'm desperate for evidence that we're prepared to pay for the services we demand, or to subordinate our desires in order to meet our obligations to one another, or to reform our governance so that special interest money, filibusters and the other Washington diseases didn't sicken the system. I just wish it didn't take drinking the can-do Kool Aid to see the glass as half full.</p> <p> </p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> </div></div></div> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2011 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '666795'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=666795" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Tue, 28 Jun 2011 06:00:01 -0700 Marty Kaplan, Smirking Chimp 666795 at http://zwww.alternet.org World World war economy pessimism