Corporate media pats itself on the back for ‘solidarity’ in White House press briefing yet ignores progressive question

THE ISSUE

The majority of the corporate media may well be ‘anti-Trump’ but they also take care to make sure progressive issues are at best, ignored or at worst, belittled.

THE MEDIA

Clip by Lawrence O’Donnell in YouTube on Wednesday, July 18, 2018

“…the most perfect of White House press corps teamwork unfolded…”

THE COMMENT

It’s hard to disagree with Lawrence O’Donnell and for the most part I enjoy his MSNBC show The Last Word, particularly in the Trump era.  But much like news coverage by the Irish national broadcaster RTÉ, you often have to ask yourself if they are always covering a given topic to its fullest and consider what is being left out.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ press briefings are always contentious occasions, but yesterday’s was always going to be even more so given all that happened surrounding Trump’s Monday meeting with Russian despot/president Vladimir Putin in Helsinki and its aftermath.

Of course Lawrence is right when he points out in the above clip that it was nice to see NBC’s Halle Jackson and The Hill’s Jordan Fabian working together to prevent ‘SHuckS’ (why isn’t everybody calling her that????) from dodging important questions, having seen the entire briefing I think it would have been prudent for him to also mention what happened regarding April Ryan from the American Urban Radio Network.

Ryan and SHuckS have had several heated exchanges in the past and on this occasion, I thought her question was not only relevant but also one that was unlikely to have been asked by her fellow journalists in this session.

In her defence of the president’s approach to election security, SHuckS listed a range of measures she claims has been taken by the Trump administration.  Ryan wanted to know if voter suppression, in other words actions taken by mostly Republican state legislatures around the country, was also on the list.

At first, her question was completely ignored.  To be fair, Ryan was eventually allowed to ask it, yet while SHuckS offered some words in reply, none of them could really be considered a ‘straight answer’.

But this post is not about SHuckS, rather O’Donnell and the corporate media for which he works.  If there really was a general sense of teamwork among the White House press corps, then Ryan would have received the same help from her colleagues that Jackson did.

Ryan’s experience wasn’t completely ignored by the wider media.  Josh Feldman of Mediaite wrote of it in his piece : “April Ryan Confronts Sarah Sanders For Not Calling on Her in Briefing: ‘I’ll Keep Asking the Question’” while a more conservative slant was put on it in “April Ryan keeps interrupting Sarah Sanders – Sarah finally loses it” by the Daily Caller’s Benny johnson.

But with Trump finding new creative ways to shoe horn himself into the headlines every day, I can’t see the very real issue of voter suppression coming even close to the mainstream again any time soon.  JLP

#IANWAE

 

Peter Strzok hearing has Republicans struggling to stick to party narrative away from Fox News safe haven

THE ISSUE

Republican lawmakers are determined to use cherry-picked private text messages by FBI agent Peter Strzok to ‘prove’ the Mueller investigation is biased, and after months and months of analysing the texts on Fox News, he finally had the chance to speak for himself in front of the American people yesterday.

THE MEDIA

Clip by CNN in YouTube on Thursday, July 12, 2018

GOP Congressman Chris Collins : “Peter Strzok and Lisa Page…are a stain on the FBI…”

[Cuomo goes to his whiteboard and demonstrated there is no evidence of Strzok ever acting on this perceived bias]

Collins : “…the bias speaks for itself, again, he and Lisa Page are a stain on the FBI’s reputation…”

 

THE COMMENT

Forget Love Island or the Kardashians…THIS was what I call ‘Reality Television” in that it was entertaining, it was actually happening and most importantly, it actually mattered.  

“In the Majority (Republican)’s view, the text messages exchanged between Mr. Strzok and Lisa Page are a higher priority for us than President Trump’s request that James Comey end the investigation into Michael Flynn, or his decision to fire Director Comey “because of that Russia thing with Trump and Russia,” or his repeated attempts to fire Special Counsel Mueller directly.”

Congressman Jerrod Nadler, ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, lays out his party’s position very well in his opening statement at yesterday’s hearing.  And while I don’t always agree with the Democrat position, in this matter. namely the witch hunt on Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, they are doing a great job of laying bare the blatant misinformation and bullying tactics being used by their political opponents.

I only got to see the first hour of the hearing as it happened but even then it was most enlightening, and what is so significant about the proceedings is that it is the first time the agent has actually been able to publicly put forward his own defence of his text messages.

Looking at this with a rational eye, the conclusion is simple.  He is entitled to his viewpoint, he was stupid to express it on an FBI device but even given that, there is no evidence that he was anything but impartial in carrying out his duty, though just to be absolutely sure, Mueller took him off the investigation the second he learned about the messages.  So why are we still here engaging in this political theatre months later?

There are a ton of clips from the actual hearing I could comment on but they are too numerous to mention.  From an entertainment standpoint, one of the best moments was when Democrat congresswomen Bonnie Watson from New Jersey asked Republican Louie Gohmert from Texas if he had “taken his medication” after he repeatedly called Strzok a liar and brought up the subject of the agent’s extra-marital affair [because as we all know, the president the GOP are so desperate to defend would never do such a thing].

Or from a misinformation standpoint, I could highlight Strzok’s response to ranking Republican Trey Gowdy who attacked him as if all the evidence of his mindset is contained in a specific series of tweets, which he proceeded to literally examine word for word.  The FBI’s agent answer (when the congressman finally stopped interrupting him) got a round of applause in the chamber, albeit from the Democrats.

But for me, the most telling soundbite comes from Congressman Chris Collins (R-New York) who appeared on Chris Cuomo’s Prime Time show on CNN.  Cuomo seems to want to make the whiteboard his trademark, and to be fair he uses it well in this clip, and as you can see from the quote chosen above, when he uses it to press Collins, all he can do is go back to the talking point he was obviously given when he plugged himself into the GOP/Fox News ‘Matrix’ prior to the interview.

Of course Trump supporters (the select few who don’t simply go by his tweets and rallies that is) won’t have been watching Cuomo’s show – instead gorging themselves on the Fox News spin like they always do.  Still, for those of us who crave as much real information as possible, yesterday’s hearing offered us plenty.  I’d even go as far to say it was more entertaining than the World Cup, and for me, that’s saying something.  JLP

#IANWAE

Fox News evalutates the opinions of all American students on SCOTUS pick by interviewing five of them

THE ISSUE

Fox News might as well be renamed TrumpTV.

THE MEDIA

Clip by Fox News in YouTube on July 8, 2018

“Every person I spoke to all assumed Trump was going to pick a man.”

THE COMMENT

This clip is Fox News at its best.  Well, I really should say ‘worst’ but since they get such good ratings I suppose you could spin it as a positive.

In what is quite possibly the most unscientific vox pop ever put on the airwaves, a young guy goes on the streets of New York (probably not far from Fox News studio) and clearly gets the answers he wants from random people, with the ‘Students hate the SCOTUS pick that Trump hasn’t made yet’ narrative more than likely determined before he ever set foot on the sidewalk.

The premise of the narrative, of course, is highly disingenuous.  It is widely known that the shortlist for Trump’s Supreme Court choice was taken from a longer list drawn up by the ultra conservative Federalist Society (think Iona Institute and you’re in the ballpark) so no matter which judge Trump goes for, anyone of a progressive or ‘liberal’ mindset would be inclined to oppose the nomination.  For example, there isn’t a single judge on that list which would fail the ‘I will help abolish Roe vs Wade’ litmus test.

But why ruin a good narrative with the facts?  The already-brainwashed Fox News viewership don’t need much of a push to support the stereotype they have already been fed of ‘students’.  Once the answers from the vox-pop are selectively chosen and they spend more time in the studio mansplaining the responses than actually airing them (assuming the overall sample was actually bigger than the one they put on air that is), it only takes a clip of less than three minutes to get the ‘job’ done.

As I always say about entities like Fox News, it’s not its existence that is downright scary, it’s the fact that so many people actually believe content that is so blatantly skewed towards the Republican agenda.  And it has only gotten more blatant under this president.  JLP

#IANWAE

Notes from Dáil Leaders’ Questions – Wed July 4, 2018

Dail LQ notes

Intro

Leaders’ Questions is arguably the most important weekly event in Irish politics, as the government must give answers on various topics to the opposition parties on live TV.  However, as it is held on a Wednesday just before lunchtime, its effects on the national political discourse is minimal. Unfortunately we’re far more prepared for discussions on sports, soaps and reality shows than we are political issues.

In this new series on FPP we’ll be taking notes throughout both the Dáil session and RTÉ’s coverage, with much paraphrasing of course…

Pre-game

Host – Sharon Ni Bheolain

Panel

John Brady SF
Elaine Loughlin – Irish Examiner
Michael Lehane – RTE pol corr

Varadkar went to US and put his foot in it

ML – “At very best it’s immature”

EL – difference between a ‘gaffe’ and remarks at closed door meeting

JB – Definitely not a gaffe, the spin that it was private doesnt wash, he’s in ‘serious trouble’ and needs to make a statement and we also need to know who was at the meeting

SNB – He claims the remarks were taken out of context

ML – This is a gift to his opposition

Leaders’ questions

Note – text is paraphrase not transcript

Micheal Martin – Govt said homelessness won’t develop.  Children’s Right Alliance has released report on homelessness in children, CEO Tanya Ward “Children who are homeless lose out on every aspect of their education…”  There should have been urgent response from govt but initiatives see targets missed. Housing schemes including so-called ‘Rapid Build’ taking too long. Why the lack of urgency and have these children been failed?

Leo Varadkar – I can assure you there is no denial of the challenge we face as a result of the housing crisis and family homelessness, we are very determined to do all we can to alleviate it.  Don’t forget 7 year period with no houses built because of no money and no private investment. (Blaming Fianna Fáil). There has been some success, like rent control, amount in emergency accommodation is levelling off, we’re moving away from hotels and B&Bs, rough sleeping is down, and underlying problem of low housing supply is seeing an uptick.  

MM – You’re wrong in terms of the backdrop that you’ve suggested.  There have been numerous announcements, but poor delivery of all that has been promised (has figures to back him up). Why the failure to deliver? We’ve too much spin over substance.

LV – Let’s leave aside announcements for the moment (laughter in chamber) I came off plane at 1:30am this morning (‘awwww’ from chamber) let’s talk about delivery and facts (has more figures to back up his argument)

Mary Lou McDonald – Failte ar ais.  I want to raise with you the comments you made in New York.  It was meant to be private event but it seems to have been paid for by the Irish taxpayer.  You say you are in sympathy with Trump saying media have no interest in the truth. You have attacked Irish investigative journalism, programmes that have exposed scandals, hospital waiting lists, failing to protect children in care, housing policy, etc.  Time and again citizens have had to use the media to get the ear of the govt. If you were genuinely interested in the media you might have been more concerned in media ownership like Denis O’Brien. Had you said that, you would have had broad agreement. But you’re not interested in that, you simply wanted to have a go.  Can you tell us who was at this lunch? Is there a record? What else was discussed? Did you comment on other aspects of Irish society?

LV : Thank you for giving me opportunity to clear this matter.  I believe in the free press, very important to democracy. (CC shouts down hecklers)  I always try to be as accessible as I can be. I profoundly regret if anyone thinks I don’t support the media, but it can’t be beyond reproach.  This was a private event, I wanted to sit down with young Irish people living in NY, I’d like to be able to respect the privacy, we discussed everything from Brexit to the UN to Russia.  There was no speech it was more of a discussion. I did say positive things about the media like the #MeToo movement. None of that positivity was reported. My only reference to RTE (Mission To Pray) was when someone challenged me and I alluded to one particular broadcast.

MLM – That account  directly contradicts reports from those at the events.  You accused media of trivialising matters, chasing tittle tattle instead of important issues.  Here’s the problem, it’s your word against theirs. What about the issue of media ownership? You chose not to address that.  Did you mention other aspects of Irish society?

LV – I was actually there so I know what transpired, you can believe any information you want. The issue of media ownership didn’t come up if it had Id have addressed it as I have several times here in the Dáil.

Thomas Pringle – Your cosy relationship with FF has caused ‘anti-rule’ that has impacted my constituency in Donegal.  I’m talking about local small businesses that are largely left outside govt support. Measuring the health of this sector is vital, I carried out a survey which confirmed my suspicion that govt doesnt care about rural economy.  I raised this with Minister for Small Business who said issue is addressed but it isn’t. Please don’t quote me unemployment figures, emigration has helped that, not growth. Your policies have ensured that depopulisation has become the trend.  Tell me how you

LV – I appreciate that unemployment falls for different reasons, but I disagree that emigration is the reason.  My government appreciates the importance of small business all over the country, especially in rural areas. We have reduced the VAT rate from 14.5 to 13% and that has helped.  Parties on the left want to increase that which would harm these businesses. There have been huge increases in tourism which has helped areas like Donegal. Project Ireland 2040 will mean huge investment in all areas, infrastructure, broadband, etc.

TP – You haven’t mentioned anything the people of Donegal have mentioned like closure of post offices etc.  The VAT rate has been lowered all through the time of this decline. People say they haven’t heard about initiative and response from government and none of them have been asked, maybe you don’t want to hear the answers

LV – I’m glad that you acknowledge that FG is the party of small business, our TDs spend a lot of time at local chamber of commerce meetings.  I have figures to show employment figures in Donegal on the rise. (to supposedly prove that emigration not a problem)

Noel Grealish (RIG) – as we head to summer and budget preparations, people of middle Ireland find life is a constant trouble, the ‘squeezed middle’ get the leaqst amount of help from the STate.  These are the people who go to work early, but they are getting nothing back, Rents, fuel, child care, medical, electricity costs going up. They get no grants, no state benefit. They are being ignored by the govt which has most of its focus on certain aspects of Irish society.  Once an Irish worker earns 34k they pay half of everything above that in taxes, it’s building a problem for the future. Some progress was made in last year’s budget I concede, how are you going to look after the people of middle Ireland in October that will make a difference?

[RTE cut to studio]

Post game

SNB and ML basically re-hash MM’s point

SNB puts LV’s facts to EL

EL : Taoiseach acknowledged slow down in house building (though he was actually blaming FF)

SNB to JB – What about argument that it wasnt this govt that caused the bank crash

JB – There’s a housing crisis and what we see now is that the govt is trying to pass the blame.  This is a squabble that is between two parties that are essentially in government together.

SNB – It’s easy to say that from the SF benches?  You had an opportunity to be involved in govt but you chose not to

JB – We’re constantly putting forward suggestions, this is thrown up time and time again…FF and FG have said they wont go into govt with us

ML – after last election, SF changed their position saying they would only go into govt as lead party meaning it wasnt at table

SNB – Mr Trump wasnt mentioned in SF comments?

EL – repeats LV’s answer to MLM (why do that?  Sure we all heard it?)

JB – LV is clearly trying to spin his way out of this, and he glossed over the ownership question.  We need more clarity on who was at that meeting.

ML – I think LV is sticking to his guns….his apology is more of a non-apology….there is clearly some niggle there.

SNB – I only have 30 seconds for Thomas Pringle

EL – FG mantra ‘keep the recovery going’ mantra not washing in rural areas

JB – Income tax cuts helping is a myth, a lot of issues for govt to address

FPP comment

My core issues with this broadcast remain, in that there’s no need for two from RTE in the studio, nor should there be someone from a party that is already asking a question in the Dáil.  The aim should be to spread the representation around the other points of view of the parties and technical groups IMO. Plus, even without the current heatwave, I don’t see the logic in having this session at midday on a Wednesday other than out of a motivation to make sure nobody is watching.

But here, there was an added problem.  Deputy Grealish went to great lengths to ask a valid question, and then they cut to studio?????  I mean, I know it’s called ‘Leader’s Questions’ but shouldn’t that also mean we get to hear the answers as well???

And it’s not like there weren’t alternatives for them…they have their RTÉ News Now and easily could have kept the coverage going over there.  Or, they could have informed viewers that the Dáil session was being covered on the Oireachtas TV channel.

On the substance, well, the Varadkar/Martin exchanges are tedious to say the least.  It’s like they are manufacturing topics on which they can argue back and forth endlessly to put viewers to sleep.  While Martin made it sound like he is extremely concerned about child homelessness, both he and the Taoiseach seemed more interested in scoring Civil War political points.  It was pretty pathetic.

I may not be a fan of Sinn Féin but I have to say MLM’s wording of her question was impressive, cleverly working the name Denis O’Brien into the discussion, though Varadkar danced around it in both of his responses.

You had to feel for Thomas Pringle – no doubt he works tirelessly for his constituents but when it comes to standing up and speaking in the Dáil he appeared extremely uncomfortable in the chamber.  He didn’t take long to post his reaction to the answers he received on his webpage it was up within a matter of hours

“The Taoiseach was unable to respond directly to my question because he knew he had no sufficient answer as to why support has been so lacking in this sector. Instead he talked about employment levels and other unrelated aspects of Fine Gael policy.

“His reply confirmed the deeply held suspicions of current Government policy, which is simply that Fine Gael don’t care about rural Ireland”

As for Deputy Grealish, nothing about his questions on social media at the time of posting I will update when something becomes available.

One final point…strange there was absolutely no mention of water shortages or the heatwave.  Maybe that more than anything else illustrates their assumption that nobody was watching.  JLP

#IANWAE

Ironic Trump typo illustrates how he has his base of supporters under his ‘spell’

THE ISSUE

Tweeting and slagging off the so-called ‘Fake News media’ are two of Trump’s favourite pastimes, or tactics depending on how you look at it.

THE MEDIA

Article by Judah Taylor in Politico on july 4, 2018

Pore or pour? Trump tweet corrects example of poor spelling.

“Star Wars” actor Mark Hamill added: “You misspelled ‘ghostwritten’. Also, ‘pore’ #PitifulPridefulPOTUS.”

THE COMMENT

How many times have we said about Trump ‘you couldn’t make it up’?  Thankfully for once this is one of those stoies we can actually laugh at because it doesn’t directly involved people’s lives being affected.

trump pore pour

Being Trump-obsessed as I am, I get a notification whenever he tweets, so I saw this one moments after it was sent from his tweetphone.  O how I laughed when I saw he could get through the sentence ‘the Fake News constantly likes to pour over my tweets looking for a mistake” without making a mistake!!!

As you can see from the article in Politico, many are also focusing on his glossing over of the fact that most of his books were ghostwritten, but I’d like to hone in on the irony of the mis-spelling.

Sure, we’re all having a laugh at pore not pour.  Especially in this context, it’s pretty funny.  But we must also remember that this laughter is fuel to the fire of the anger of his base.  Many of them don’t necessarily support him for his own views, they do because they love to piss off so-called ‘Liberal elites’.

As long as they think they are perceived as ‘stupid’ (and less face it Hillary’s ‘Basket of Deplorables’ certainly didn’t help that) it will be nigh on impossible to convince them that a Progressive approach to government is one that will benefit them way more than Trump’s.

Which means the louder we guffaw at his gaffes, the more solidified his base becomes.  And it’s really, really, REALLY hard not to laugh.  You feel like those Roman soldiers in the Life of Brian when Julius Caesar says ‘Biggus Dickus’.

Hopefully one day we’ll find a way to make them see the funny side and take our message seriously.  JLP

#IANWAE

Shortage of water but no shortage of blame in Irish discourse

THE ISSUE

As the Irish heat wave continues, arguably the most contentious ‘establishment v majority’ issues in recent memory is anything but water under the bridge.

THE MEDIA

Article by Sarah Burns, Vivienne Clarke in Irish Times on July 3, 2018

Irish Water warns ‘nightmare scenario’ if no big rainfall in autumn

“We need sustained rain. Unless there is torrential rain we’re looking at a very dry autumn,” Irish Water managing director Jerry Grant said on Tuesday.

Article by The Green Party in GreenParty.ie on June 30, 2018

Greens: Heat-wave exposes the short-sightedness of Water Charge abolition

“Government capitulated to populism and now communities are paying the price…The reality is that as our climate changes, these water shocks will continue and we don’t have a plan to conserve, harvest or levy for the use of our most precious resource.”

Article by The Workers Party in WorkersParty.ie on July 2, 2018

Dublin water restrictions show up failure of Irish Water to tackle infrastructure

“The government wanted to use water charges to squeeze yet more money out of the same group of people – low- and middle-income workers. Once it became clear that was not going to be possible, the issue of upgrading our water infrastructure was conveniently dropped from the table.”

THE COMMENT

We normally base these posts on one piece of content but this time we have three to compare and contrast, and it’s on that old chestnut of Water Charges which was bound to rear its head with the spell of hot weather we’ve been having.

Given the Irish establishment was committed to toeing the EU line of introducing water charges for regular citizens, you’d imagine a water shortage followed by a heatwave would be the perfect opportunity for them to point the finger at the #Right2Water campaign.

But why should the government and/or mainstream media do this when they’ve the Green Party to do it for them?

As you can see by the above quote in the IT, they chose to simply report on a statement from Irish Water.  No comment, no pushback, no challenging questions, just your basic stenography article.

Now in fairness, you can see why the Greens would be in favour of charges, though I’d suspect that if they were the ones setting up Irish Water it would look much different and would tend to levy more responsibility on business than private users.  That said, I can’t say I’m happy with their ‘giving in to populism’ angle.

The #Right2Water campaign, as far as I’m concerned anyway, was about way more than water.  It was a bridge (pun half-intended) too far in a continuing government policy of austerity, and in the end public pressure won the day.  For now.

If Irish Water wasn’t set up to benefit the people instead of simply being another corporation for the government to cash in on down the line, there would still have been opposition to it but I reckon it would have been much more difficult to get such widespread support.

Unfortunately it’s all too easy to spin the ‘well we tried to do something, and the lefty public said no’ narrative, but while I’m hardly a fervent follower of the Workers Party, their quote seems to be the most accurate depiction of the situation.

Yes we need better water infrastructure, yes it has to be paid for, but until it’s done in such a way that the majority of citizens pay the bare minimum while the tab is taken up by citizens and companies that waste this valuable resource, I’m afraid the stalemate will remain.  JLP

#IANWAE

Have the Republicans stolen another Supreme Court seat?

THE ISSUE

The resignation during the past week of SCOTUS justice Anthony Kennedy allows President Trump to appoint a young, healthy, cons replacement who could guarantee pro-corporate and anti-sivil rights rulings for decades to come.

THE MEDIA

Article by Adam Liptak and Maggie Haberman in New York Times on June 28, 2018

Inside the White House’s Quiet Campaign to Create a Supreme Court Opening

As he made his way out of the chamber, Mr. Trump paused to chat with the justice.

“Say hello to your boy,” Mr. Trump said. “Special guy.”

Mr. Trump was apparently referring to Justice Kennedy’s son, Justin.

THE COMMENT

A popular refrain whenever a new revelation emerges about ConManDon is : “What would he be saying if Obama did the same thing?”  This could be the most important one of all.

To my question in the title, ‘another’ refers to the fact that when Justice Scalia passed away in February 2016, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to hold a vote on confirming Obama’s pick as successor on the grounds that it was ‘too close to the election and the American people should decide’.  While this decision certainly did not break any laws, norms or protocols, it certainly established a new one.

Yet despite the fact that Kennedy has resigned much closer to a big election, namely the Midterms, it seems that Senator McConnell is suddenly much less concerned about whether or not the American people should weigh in.  Trump plans to have Kennedy’s successor nominated by the end of the week.

As you can see by the NYT article, there is much evidence that the Trump administration has gone to great lengths to prepare for Kennedy’s resignation, like rewarding all the justice’s clerks with appointments to district courts, and indeed two of his most favoured clerks are front runners to succeed him.

But of all the revelations in the article, the one that takes the biscuit is the fact that Kennedy’s son runs a division of the only bank that would loan money to Trump for property deals after he was turned down by other financial institutions due to his many failed business practices.

Oh and did I mention that Deutsche Bank is considered to be one of the ‘go-to’ banks for Russian oligarchs for money-laundering?

But of course it’s the ‘Failing New York Times’ after all, so I must be all ‘Fake News’.  To be fair though, the article itself doesn’t suggest that any seat has been ‘stolen’, those words are mine.  I still stand by them though.  JLP

#IANWAE