Friday, March 11, 2016

SEN. JANE NELSON: PERSONALLY IRRESPONSIBLE

Personally Irresponsible
Texas State Senator Jane Nelson (R-District 12) has championed the virtue of personal responsibility - for others. But how does she fare when it comes to being personally responsible - and accountable - for legislation she's backed?  

I raised this question in 2013 when I testified against SB1, the infamous anti-women's health legislation now before the Supreme Court. I wondered about her claims that the anti-abortion legislation was going to improve women's health. 

What was she willing to pledge if these claims proved untrue? My question went unanswered.  

Well, it now seems that the medical profession is quantifying the results from earlier legislation championed by Sen. Nelson attacking Planned Parenthood in 2011. Sen. Nelson's response? Rather than accept what The New England Journal of Medicine has to say, she's gone after their study. What does she think - that this is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change? Check this take-down of her critique here.

In any case, this seems an apt opportunity to remind Sen. Nelson of the question I asked her - and what it means that she failed to take personal responsibility for her actions.  

***
July 8, 2013

Madam Chair Nelson, Vice Chair Deuell, members of the Senate committee on
Health & Human Services, my name is Carl Lindemann and I live here in Austin. 

Thank you for this opportunity to speak.

Last week marked 150 years since the battle of Gettysburg. Today we have our
own Civil War brewing. What I offer now is intended to keep things more civil
than war.

I am against SB 1 because there is no element of personal responsibility.

Legislators supporting this do so against the strong opposition of mainstream
medical professionals. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Texas Medical Association denounce it.

Proponents say the legislative intent is to improve health for women. Medical
professionals say this will harm them. The bill needs benchmarks built into it to
see which is true.

Legislators have professional responsibility. Harm the public and hopefully you
don't get reelected. But legislators need to take personal responsibility for a bill so important and so far out of the medical mainstream. This will reassure those on both sides that the stated legislative intent is, in fact, the true intent. How to take personal responsibility here?

Before voting to support the bill, show your commitment by pledging that:

If things do not turn out as you say, you will resign from this committee. Those
with a greater commitment to personal integrity will also pledge not to seek
reelection.

Those with the greatest personal integrity will pledge to resign from office altogether if women are harmed, not helped, by this bill.

And if you're not willing to take any personal responsibility? What does that say
about the true legislative intent of this bill - of the personal integrity of those that support it?

Again, thank you Madam Chair for this opportunity to speak.

###

Monday, January 19, 2015

NEW YEAR, NEW HORIZONS

New Horizons here, too.
Just a few loose ends to tie together here. I won't be posting regularly anymore in that I am about to pursue another project that will be consuming much of my time. 

What's left? 

Well, the long-awaited deep-dive into the Texas Tribune's ethics - that is long overdue. I've done significant, original research to fulfill my promise to numerous members of the community to get to the bottom here. I believe I've come to a comprehensive understanding that puts this in a context lacking in what I've seen elsewhere.

I'll also likely check in on occasion to chronicle the turn in the Texas economy. Is my thesis about the oil crash triggering a failure in the state's population-Ponzi scheme right? We will see.

Meanwhile, I've trimmed my archives here since the details of the past political season are like clouds passing in the sky. What's more substantive for me and my ongoing work is media criticism. I've kept those postings, as well as a few other chestnuts.

So, this isn't quite goodbye. Still, thanks to all that helped with this little project, and to the gentle readers that gleaned some small value from it.   

###

Tips? Suggestions? Ideas? Drop a line to carl (at) inanityofsanity (dot) com

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

BEN BRADLEE: FROM "ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN" TO "THE GODFATHER"

"All the Presidents Men": a pale imitation of Bradlee's reality
It's a sad day in the media world. We mark the passing of Ben Bradlee, the legendary editor of the Washington Post, and note the decrepitude that now defines the industry. 

Dave McKinney's resignation today from the Chicago Sun-Times shows how the mighty have fallen. Here in Texas, Greg Abbot's laughable endorsement by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram shows what happens when the Fourth Estate stops questioning the powerful and engages in wishful thinking instead. 

First, there's little for me to add about Bradlee that David Carr hasn't said in his beautiful tribute that puts the man in the context of the business.

...it is tough to imagine a newspaperman ever playing the kind of outsize role that he once did in Washington. Newspapers, and people’s regard for them, have shrunk since he ran The Post.

David Remick's recollections, too, are not to be missed. Others will likely be sharing their experiences. But what is his true legacy?


Remembering Bradlee takes us to a bygone era when his wielding of the First Amendment fulfilled the vision of the Founding Fathers. He and his intrepid reporters proved mightier than the corrupt and crazed Nixon White House. After, conservatives vowed NEVER to allow that to happen again. Since, they have successfully created an alternate media universe, essentially a Black Hole cut off from reality that encompasses much of talk radio, Fox News and the various "think tanks" and the like that feed them fodder for the faithful.

But what of the so-called "mainstream media"? The intense gravitation of the dark forces affect them, too. Worse, perhaps, are the financial travails that have trashed the business. The relentless need to placate a divided populace so as not to alienate audiences makes it difficult to say much of anything worth hearing. 


That was Then - and Now?

During my time in Illinois this summer, I watched the barrage of billionaire Bruce Rauner's advertising filling the airwaves in the hotly contested Gubernatorial race. Now, his campaign is in a statistical dead-heat with incumbent Pat Quinn. In such a situation, reputable and disreputable characters are scrambling to tip the balance by giving the undecided some reason to vote one way or another.
How Rauner would run Illinois?

Now, a detailed, well-researched piece unflattering to Rauner has hit the streets, a joint investigation by the Sun-Times and NBC5. All those sharing the byline, Dave McKinney, Carol Marin and Don Mosley are seasoned, reputable reporters.

What the investigative report did was offer the voters a window into Rauner's business practices. Apparently, threats and intimidation are tools of his trade as was alleged in a lawsuit filed against him.

...Rauner told another board member if Kirk sued over her firing, "I will bury her ... I will bankrupt her with legal fees. I don't know if she has a family or not but if she does she better think twice about this.

Wow - quite a get for these reporters, right?

McKinney's smile has soured
Well, not so much for Dave McKinney, the chief statehouse reporter for the Sun-Times. After threats and intimidation from Rauner's campaign, his paper pulled him from the beat. Oh, and the paper reversed its policy to not endorse candidates by endorsing...do I even have to say who?

What's McKinney's reply? He's quit the Sun-Times, but not without unleashing a broadside. He details what went on behind-the-scenes to arrive at this conclusion:

Readers of the Sun-Times need to be able to trust the paper. They need to know a wall exists between owners and the newsroom to preserve the integrity of what is published. A breach in that wall exists at the Sun-Times.

It’s had a chilling effect in the newsroom. While I don’t speak for my colleagues, I’m aware that many share my concern. I’m convinced this newspaper no longer has the backs of reporters like me.


Meanwhile, in Texas...

The Star-Telegram's editorial board's endorsement of Greg Abbott, too, is telling. Or, actually, shocking.

Ultimately, the race must hinge on leadership. The candidate best able to outline and articulate an inclusive vision for all Texans and then lead the state in that direction deserves to be governor. The Star-Telegram Editorial Board believes that candidate is Greg Abbott.

Hmmmm...the Texas GOP that has done everything it can to gerrymander and voter-suppress minorities has "an inclusive vision for all Texans and (will) lead the state in that direction"?

Er...

Next whopper:

It’s important to note that despite his close association with Gov. Rick Perry, Abbott would be a departure.

What evidence does the Star-Telegram muster to substantiate this claim?

...a careful look at his website reveals a series of thoughtful and thorough policy prescriptions...

Sorry, this fellow has a lengthy public record that should be considered more authoritative than campaign promises.
Like Duvall, Abbott has stood behind his Boss

As noted elsewhere, Abbott is properly deemed a "continuity candidate." If elected, he's essentially another term of the Perry regime. He's like Robert Duvall's character, Tom Hagen, in The Godfather. He's the mob attorney that's engineered the operation faithfully. So what happens if he gets to run the racket? 

Where the endorsement goes completely over-the-top is with this wishful thought:

The questions surrounding his lack of oversight of the Texas Enterprise Fund are troubling. He will have to reassure Texans that he is committed to leading an accountable and transparent government.

Sorry, but a Ben Bradlee wouldn't think that the proper "answer" to questions of Abbott's fundamental lack of integrity here - and possible criminality - isn't "reassurances" that he isn't a crook. And a newspaper's role isn't to swallow such self-serving pabulum whole then spew it out. Those questions demand REAL answers...and REAL newspapers do the hard work to get them.


###

Tips? Suggestions? Ideas? Drop a line to carl (at) inanityofsanity (dot) com

Sunday, June 22, 2014

OF MOBS & MILLENIALS: WENDY'S FILIBUSTER A YEAR ON

Now, a year on
This week marks a year since the fracas in Texas went into full-gear with Wendy Davis' celebrated filibuster. 

I happened into it almost inadvertently. I had been following the rumblings building up to it. I watched what happened with the "people's filibuster" that had gone on in the days before. Hundreds of activists poured in to testify against the Texas GOP's anti-abortion legislation. The idea was to go the distance with the Far Right legislators, force them into exhaustion with testimony around-the-clock. What got my attention was the anti-abortion zealot's response - axing the public's right to give testimony. 

Many women who had traveled great distances to share their heart-rending stories were sent away. What did the Texas GOP accomplish by this?  They put the lid on the pressure cooker and turned up the heat. I made my plans to attend the real-deal filibuster. I managed to finish my work early that afternoon and headed over with some camera gear at around 3pm.  

The outrageous conduct of the Republican senators stays in my mind. It was clear that they would stop at nothing to stop Wendy. Decorum? Tradition? Basic respect? Forget it. They showed themselves to be bullies intent on humiliating a political enemy. When things didn't quite turn out the way they expected, their bellyaching after about being bested by a breach of decorum was laughable.


AAS's Arnold Garcia's laconic style
In any case, I tried putting this experience into perspective in the Austin American Statesman. I submitted "Of Mobs & Millennials" and it was accepted immediately. Usually, I'd honor the publication by simply providing a link here. Unfortunately, my piece didn't survive the editing process whole. Through some editing error, the concluding paragraph somehow got axed in the print edition. Numerous kindred problems plagued the online version. Despite repeat requests to get these sorted out (they did manage to correct their misspelling of ""Legilslators" that had been in the title), it still sits mangled on their website. For example, instead of opening with my opening, a paragraph removed towards the end (at the request of the editor) somehow appears as the opening sentence!   

So, here's what they published under the headline "Legislators hear roar of Millennials" - as intended.  Does it hold up? 


***

Of Mobs & Millennials
                                                       - By Carl Lindemann

Who is behind the “unruly mob using Occupy Wall Street tactics” that shut down the Texas Senate? It isn’t Wendy Davis. The Republican Establishment has worse to fear. What they heard wasn't just a few young women rattling the rafters. It was a shout-out from the millennial generation.

Millennials are the more than 100 million Americans born from 1983 to 2003. They like to vote. With each passing election cycle, millions more of them can and do go to the polls. According to the Center for American Progress, millennials accounted for 20 percent of the ballots cast in 2008, some 25 million nationwide. In 2016, that should grow to 33 percent, 46 million ballots.

That millennials are ethnically diverse and politically progressive does not bode well for the status quo in Texas. In 1988, conservatives outnumbered progressives here by 14 percent among 18- to- 29-year-olds. In 2008, that shifted drastically, with progressives leading by 9 percent — a 23-point swing. Millennials are a lost generation to the GOP that has hitched its wagon to aging white tea party members.

The one ray of hope for conservatives is abortion. Millennials have the same mixed feelings about it that their parents do. But millennials have little interest in the Culture Wars that have divided us into red and blue states. Despite deep differences over abortion, they won’t let it split them.

Are millennials an unruly mob? Making noise inside the Capitol is nothing new to Austin’s contingent. Hundreds gather there regularly to “Om the Dome.” They sit in still silence meditating for the better part of an hour, then let out a joyful sound that reverberates throughout the building.

This isn’t just an Austin thing. It is an offshoot of MedMob, a quintessential millennial phenomenon that started here in 2011. Since, it has spread worldwide. Its mission? The “unification of our inner selves in public spaces.”

MedMob goes about this through “flash mobs,” albeit of a different sort than the carefully choreographed street theater often posted on YouTube. MedMobs are organized only to the extent that they synch-up over 300 cities on five continents. Maybe you’ve seen a horde of 20-somethings congregating calmly on the ground downtown. That’s it.

So millennials aren’t an unruly mob. This crew just operates by a different set of rules. That explains what happened in the Senate last week. The young women in the gallery held their breath and noses witnessing a brutal beat-down on Wendy Davis. In the end, it was a matter of conscience. They could not just stand by watching such injustice. So they shouted with a great shout and the wall came down.

And about the “Occupy Wall Street tactics”? That millennial signature shout comes from being close-knit. They are tribal at heart, communitarians. Their connection with Occupy, a protest organized by middle-aged anarchists? For most just a passing phase, a first few stumbling steps into politics. Now they are beginning to find their own feet.

While Republicans feel the heat in Texas, Democrats will soon have their turn. President Obama is not the man millennials hoped for when they took him over the top in 2008. Consider his penchant for punishing whistleblowers. Though Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden may be an anathema to the Washington establishment, they are millennials par excellence.

Politicians of all stripes should brace for the coming quarrel with millennials. The first clash will be over the crushing weight of student debt. They will revolt against backbreaking interest rates on these no-risk loans. Those holding the paper will get payback — but of a different kind than the windfall profits they expect.

More immediately, during the special session, Republicans might remember one thing while plotting revenge on the upstarts that upset their agenda. The issues alone didn’t send millennials into a frenzy over Occupy.

It was the cavalier way issues dear to them were cast aside. Being brusque now is the sure way to elect Wendy Davis Governor - if not in 2014, then in 2018.

###


Tips? Suggestions? Ideas? Drop a line to carl (at) inanityofsanity (dot) com

Friday, May 16, 2014

FRIDAY ROUNDUP: BABA WAWA & OUR AGE OF IRRELEVANCE

When life imitates art, we need Gilda most
Saying fare thee well to Baba Wawa

I'm tone-deaf to the fanfare for the end of Barbara Walter's run on television, from an era when news was of crucial importance to an age of irrelevance. I'd credit her with pioneering the irrelevance.

Did I miss something?

Walters never really did it for me. I don't think I was able to bring myself to sit through a complete interview she conducted. That's quite an accomplishment. Despite my personal distaste for Rush Limbaugh, I have spent afternoons listening to him, appreciating his talent as a broadcaster. But Barbara Walters? She seemed little more than a publicity gimmick, a tune-out. Maybe her early stuff on the Today Show was significant. By the time I knew of her, she was better known for spoof than substance. Gilda Radner played Baba better than she did.

Now, that being said, there is ONE thing I'd like to hear from Walters - her interviewed by the superb Terry Gross. Yes, a little "Fresh Air" - a clearing of the air - would be in order. How does this icon of the television industry explain the decline of her profession, how it coincides with her career? If at all possible, Gross has what it takes to bring us to such a momentous moment of truth. It would be quite something to see Walters pressed to the point where she'd come clean the way, say, Lee Atwater did.

Of course, that's all a fantasy. Once again paraphrasing Erich Segal, being Baba Wawa means never having to say you're sorry.

What if you threw a protest & no one showed?
Speaking of non-events in our Age of Irrelevance, today's "Operation American Spring" exposed the limited numbers and commitment of the Far Right crazies that should be little more than a sideshow in today's political theater. Of the tens of millions that were supposed to show in D.C. today, the actual number was, er, somewhat smaller.

This clip from this more hysteric than historic event is telling. How to explain the abject failure? Check the rap that starts at about a minute into it as this women tells of the flooding that trapped the multitudes nearby from making it. Raised on Fox News and the like, this person apparently thinks that any BS will suffice. Do you suppose it's odd that all those people, surrounded by rising waters, should go unnoticed elsewhere. It much be another conspiracy of the Mainstream Media to deceive the American People. 


Not an Amateur Hour contestant
Speaking of the failure of the mainstream media, I was shocked by the New York Times' Edward Wyatt's Judy Milleresque reporting on the FCC's giant step towards turning the Internet into a cable TV-like big media vehicle. 

James Hepburn beat me to the punch on Daily Kos with this, so let me simply affirm his observations. I had the same experience receiving the NY Times' summation the other day about the march towards Net Inequality, what will follow fast as Net Neutrality is abandoned at the request of the large media conglomerates. I read the Times' story and had this sense of cognitive dissonance. "Did FCC Chair Wheeler do an about-face?" I wondered, reading the lede. Wyatt first reported that

The Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 Thursday to move forward with a set of proposed rules aimed at guaranteeing an open Internet, prohibiting high-speed Internet service providers from blocking or discriminating against legal content flowing through their pipes.

Would it were so! Instead, his reporting is a grotesque misrepresentation of reality as easily debunked as the hordes of "patriots" trapped by phantom waters in our nation's Capitol.

Later, the Times apparently set out to sanitize this mess by rehashing the story into a tale about different ideas of "Net Neutrality:

Federal regulators appear to share one view about so-called net neutrality: It is a good thing. But defining net neutrality? That is where things get messy.

NOT SO FAST!

If there was confusion here, it seems to have been on the part of the reporter. What's incomprehensible is that Wyatt's no rookie. He has nearly TWENTY YEARS at the Times covering this beat. This isn't a new story, nor is it confusing. In fact, it's clearly defined - or should be to any competent reporter assigned to write about this.

Net Neutrality: not news to me
Looking back to an interview I had with Vinton Cerf back in 2001, the issues were already obvious:

CL: But the FCC does not have the same regulatory responsibilities over the Internet as it does radio and TV.

Cerf: That’s been a subject of some discussion and debate. (FCC Commissioner) Harold Furchtgott-Roth would agree with you. But others would say that it does and that, for now, they’ve just held off regulating to let the new medium grow.

We could have a good debate at NAB2001 (National Association of Broadcasters trade show) if we could get Michael Powell to come out. He’s going to be under pressure because of a kind of schizophrenia that strikes Republicans. They’re split between a desire for a hands-off regulatory attitude and a concern for content – an outrage over the fact that certain things are found on the Net.

CL: What about concerns about free, open access as media giants like AOL/Time Warner try to direct those online to its content?

Cerf: AOL/Time Warner will have to skirt that with some care. Otherwise, we’ll be moving back to the time when the movie studios owned the theaters and would only play what they had produced.


So I'm going to reach out to the ombudsman at the Times. Let's see what they have to say for themselves.

Finally, another suppressed story. Or is it repressed? The BIG news overlooked from Wikileaks is that, apparently we are NOT alone. That is to say, the space aliens have been a part of our lives for some time. Or, well, supposedly that's what the diplomatic cables are about, but maybe not.

Maybe Edward Wyatt should be reassigned to this beat to clarify the matter. Using the same talents that brought us the good news about the FCC, he could also make headlines the way Orson Wells once did in bringing The War of the Worlds to life.  
###


Tips? Suggestions? Ideas? Drop a line to carl (at) inanityofsanity (dot) com

Friday, April 18, 2014

REMEMBERING JOHN RICH, NEWSMAN

A regular guy with a glamorous life
John H. Rich, Jr. passed away last week. Who's he? 

You likely didn't see the obit, unless you happened to be reading the Portland (Maine) Press Herald. If you're of a certain age, the name might seem familiar if you watched NBC during the great days of TV news. He was a foreign correspondent for the network through the 50's to the 70's. He covered the war in Korea and Vietnam end-to-end, was part of the first delegation to China with Nixon and, late in his career, reported on the Gulf War in the early 90's. 

Rich was a remarkable figure in that everyday way that many of the "Greatest Generation" were. He lived an extraordinary life and made it seem like no big deal. There was a quality of amazement he had telling his own stories as I interviewed him nearly ten years ago to capture his personal history for his family and for posterity. In all, it took some twenty hours for him to take me from his upbringing in Maine to island-hopping with General MacArthur as a Marine translator to his career in broadcast news. For all that, I was only able to skim the surface. 

He had seen war both as a participant as an observer. I'll never forget what
Hammering out copy in Korea, circa 1951

he said was a common denominator between the soldiers he'd seen down through the years. "They're always so young," he said, something that became painfully obvious as he matured.

I also remember him talking of the camaraderie between fellow journalists/ veterans. For many years after WWII, those at the press club in Tokyo would inevitably share stories about their part in it. They had a custom for when the old soldiers drifted into these tales. They were only permitted to do so while donning the standard issue steel helmet they had on hand for this purpose.

Rich started as a newspaper reporter, then moved to radio. His greatest work was in pioneering the new media of his day, TV. With it, he was able to realize what NBC News chief Reuven Frank said was its unique quality to shape our world.

The highest power of television journalism is not in the transmission of information but in the transmission of experience. 
 


With his "Seoul Mate," D. Lee
John Rich's life's work was seeking out extraordinary experiences, then bringing them home to us. Of necessity, he brought his home with him whether as bureau chief for NBC in Tokyo or Paris. D. Lee, his wife for some 60 years, was along for most of it. She passed just weeks before he did. And with them, I feel a sadness at the passing of an era. They had taken up - and been taken up - by the call of journalism in a time of changing media. Suddenly, television offered the hope for transforming the world, perhaps creating a Global Village. Maybe we'd get to know each other a bit
better, hopefully for the better.

John Rich is gone, but this work continues. Perhaps our digital news will carry forward TV's power of transmitting experience by actualizing the New Media's ability to foster mutual understanding.

Here's a few select moments from a life well lived:
Oh, and last - here's a radio interview I did with him back in 1995 gathering his views on the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima.

###

Tips? Suggestions? Ideas? Drop a line to carl (at) inanityofsanity (dot) com