Quick Hits

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Photo courtesy: Los Angeles Times

News Media

Best post-election move so far:

While many in the news media are mea culpa-ing all over the place at how they badly blew the Trump story, kudos to the executive at CNN who did something to make things better.

The smartest news media move to come out of the election so far is CNN hiring Salena Zito.

Salena got the Trump phenomenon before many other journalists. She reported on the people who support Donald Trump with respect, with accuracy, and with humanity.

Not only is this is a great journalism move, it’s a potential audience builder considering the number of people who voted for the president elect. With FOX News in the middle of trying to find a way forward without Roger Ailes, CNN has a chance to take a piece of the FOX audience.

CNN is riding an election high, while FOX has shown some weakness in the key demographics.

When FOX News began, CNN’s biggest mistake was not taking the upstart network seriously. Let’s see how FOX responds.

One cautionary note to CNN: Let Salena be Salena.

One cautionary note for Ms. Zito: News is for people at home, not for the people in newsrooms. Don’t be co-opted into the groupthink of a large news operation.

Bad media move of the day:

The Trump team should allow a press pool to accompany him as soon as possible. The candidate who ran on the idea that government was not transparent and inaccessible to the people needs to put his money where his mouth is.

Mistrust of the news media by the Trump team is understandable, but things are different now that he’s going to be the leader of the free world.

Both sides must build trust. At least talks have begun.

 

The Riots

It feels like third world politics:

Not so long ago Hillary Clinton supporters were telling Donald Trump supporters that they must accept the results of the election.

Now that the Hillary has lost the election we’ve seen rioting in some of our major cities.

Instead of pointing out the hypocrisy of rioters, news media is playing to, and fueling their grievances.

Many in media are still litigating the election, causing more anxiety on the losing side. Others in the media are already fighting Trump in 2020.

I’m a big believer in the right to protest. I’m not a believer in destruction and violence.

The news media have an obligation to tell us who is organizing political violence.

So far, neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton have asked these rioters to cool it.

In Chicago, an argument over a fender bender went viral and political when bystanders starting shouting at the white man about “voting for Trump.”

This is the kind of political violence people who immigrate to the United States try to escape. It seems odd that those in favor of open borders would emulate the behavior they couldn’t wait to get away from.

The other bit of hypocrisy from the rioters.

Targeting white children as the villains. Video like this should make you angry.

Isn’t alleged racism what they’re upset about in the first place?

The effect of the violence will be to create more Republican voters from independents, and to unify the GOP for the first time in a long time.

While it may be difficult to explain the warts that come with Donald Trump to your kids, try explaining to them why a little girl was beaten for expressing her views.

Let me know how it goes.

 

Worst Business move of the day.

GrubHub:

Keep your politics to yourself.

In an e mail, GrubHub CEO Matt Maloney basically told employees that if they didn’t agree with his world view they should resign.

The backlash on social media was predictably insane. The calls for a boycott were immediate.

While Maloney has every right to express his political beliefs, he has no right to ask employees about theirs, or judge them.

As someone who’s hired many people, I know you’re not allowed to ask about a person’s political beliefs or affiliations.

Maloney later “explained” his comments.

GrubHub stock was of nearly five percent on the trading day, and continued to lose ground in after hours trading. Here’s a live stock market ticker.

Sorry Matt. Political loyalty tests are so Joseph McCarthy, and even more Third Reich.

 

© 2016 carlgottliebdotnet

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Barbarians at the Gate

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Donald Trump’s stunning defeat of Hillary Clinton will be sliced and diced in the news media for years. The political significance of what happened on Election Day 2016 can’t be understated.

By all accounts, this was a populist revolt against what many believe is a corrupt, business as usual government designed to benefit the wealthy and connected.

While you were watching a political revolution play out, you were also watching a concurrent revolution in the news media. The revolution in the news media may well have tipped the scales in the 2016 election.

People have been drifting from so called legacy media for years. Just ask print newspaper companies like the New York Times and Gannett.

The reasons range from technology to trust and beyond, but consider that the news media missed the political story of a lifetime when they failed to see the depth and breadth of the Trump phenomenon, or appreciate its significance.

The New York Times’ Jim Rutenberg’s navel gazing piece the morning after the election makes good points. But he scoffs at the idea of getting to know the people he never knew existed. The thing that made him, and other “elites,” miss the story in the first place.

In the end he can’t help but blame those ignorant barbarians who didn’t go with the press’ choice for president.

Smug much?

One CBS journalist thought so and put it in writing.

Enter stage right:

Organizations like Julian Assange’s Wikileaks, James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas, and Tom Fitton’s Judicial Watch are doing things people expect of journalists. Sort of. But, hang on sloopy and consider this.

Is it hard to believe that some disillusioned Bernie Sanders voters, angered by the Democratic National Committee’s collusion with the Clinton campaign to fix the primaries, just stayed home on Election Day?

That would be Wikileaks, which also exposed some of the nasty inner workings of the Clinton campaign. The daily drip of news that confirmed people’s mistrust of Hillary Clinton.

And before you say the Wikileaks saga was a big nothing-burger consider this Jeff Dunetz piece.

Some journalists have a problem with Assange’s method of obtaining his information. Hackers.

But today’s hackers are yesterday’s document thieves. See: The Pentagon Papers.

Troubling? Decide for yourself.

How about reporters going undercover?

Many in the journalism world are unhappy with James O’Keefe’s hidden camera stings. O’Keefe uses deception, such as phony ID’s and aliases. His tactics are frowned upon by many in the news media.

O’Keefe has had run-ins with the law, for trespassing. He’s been criticized for editing video to make his point. He reportedly settled out of court for $100,000 with an ACORN worker after he was accused of misrepresenting him in a video.

While some of his behavior is problematic, journalism is often messy and uncomfortable. It’s why every news operation I’ve ever worked for had lawyers on staff. Journalists make mistakes.

Could on camera admissions of voter fraud and organized political violence from Democratic party operatives have swayed some votes?

I hope so.

Is James O’Keefe an example of today’s gonzo journalist?

Read about the debate, and check out some of the horrible things brave undercover journalists have uncovered going back to the 19th century. Some cool stories.

Judicial Watch has spent years prying loose information for, ”we the people” from our government. Tom Fitton uses Freedom of Information laws and the courts.

Look at his work on Hillary’s State Department e-mails. By the way, note “Vice” as a player in the second paragraph. Fitton has long been a thorn in the Clinton’s side.

And there’s the hacktivist group Anonymous, who went after the KKK in Ferguson, Missouri.

What’s happening reminds me of the days of so called “underground newspapers’ like New York’s East Village Other or the early days of the Village Voice.

They were often counter-culture thorns in side of “polite” journalism and everyone else.

What’s more, technology has spawned “citizen journalism.”

Hacktivist Kim Dotcom Tweeted out this nugget in response to Wikileaks revelations about some reporters:

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Photo courtesy: Twitter/@aksana_6

Then there’s this from social media activist Cristina Laila:

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Technology has democratized information in ways we couldn’t imagine just a generation ago. It’s allowed everyone with access to the Internet and a computer to become their own journalists and editors. That’s both exhilarating and frightening at the same time.

Exhilarating because change keeps institutions alive and dynamic.

Frightening, because with all those voices, on all those platforms, who do you trust?

Not all of those voices are equal. We need to be more discerning about where get our facts.

Pro tip: Skip the sketchy web-sites that make insane sounding claims you’d like to believe.

This time the barbarians aren’t leveraged buy-out, junk bond traders who destroy companies and jobs like in the great book. They’re the people challenging the conventions of journalism.

Today’s media barbarians are carrying smart-phones and video cameras and tablets. They’re changing the paradigm at light speed.

It seems old media has two choices. Embrace some of those new voices that make you uncomfortable and challenge your beliefs, or face an uncertain fate.

One thing for certain is the barbarians aren’t going away.

 

© 2016 carlgottliebdotnet

The Winter of Our Discontent

I don’t see how the vitriol on either side of this election ends after the votes are counted. No matter who wins in November the schism in this nation will only grow and get nastier unless something is done to restore people’s faith in the institutions of politics and the press.

Recent Wikileaks disclosures about press bias, Project Veritas videos that show Democratic political operatives admit to voter fraud and political violence, added to President Barack Obama’s legacy of lies don’t make people confident.

The people already believe Hillary Clinton should have been indicted over her e-mail mess.

Of course, what the people believe isn’t necessarily the law, but now FBI agents are now talking to the press and are angry with FBI Director James Comey. They say he got in the way of their investigation. That’s a serious charge.

If you’re keeping score that’s the IRS, and the possibility of the Department of Justice colluding with the administration to break the law for political gain.

Those Podesta Wikileaks don’t do Hillary Clinton any favors. Seems Patrick Kennedy tried to make a deal with FBI investigators into declassifying some of Hillary Clinton’s documents.

Everyone’s denying it. Like that insurance commercial says, “that’s what we do.”

There are many other disturbing Wiki revelations if you can find them.

Which brings me to the news media.

I think the proffering of a quid pro quo (bribe) for changing a security classification is a serious thing. People get in trouble for stuff like that. Most people.

But it seems that Will Rogers had this situation covered.

“All I know is what I read in the papers, and that’s an alibi for my ignorance.”

I went looking for stories about the quid pro quo on the afternoon of 10/17. As of about 4:00 pm neither the NY Times or Washington Post had stories up.

It took the Washington Post print edition until Tuesday the 18th to report the story most other media had reported for days. Yesterday’s news tomorrow.

If you go through the print edition of the Post you’ll see article after article bashing Trump while ignoring Hillary’s problems. This has been going on for months.

The latest batch of Wikileaks show the NY Times’ Maggie Haberman as someone the campaign can count on to get out their message.

So far, I’ve seen no comment from the reporter or the NY Times. Other reporters at various news organizations are named throughout as “friendlies.”

Before I retired, a DC councilman used to refer to me as “Fucking Gottlieb.” My colleagues would laugh when they knew I had him on the phone. I guess I got under his skin. He wasn’t used to being pushed.

And no, despite what you might have heard, DC Council people are not read their rights as they’re sworn in as a time saver.

The people’s confidence in the press is at the lowest point it’s ever been. Who can blame them?

The frustration also comes from the obvious media bias displayed by what we call the mainstream media. As I’ve written in the past, more coverage is better than less coverage when it comes to anything.

But the news media doesn’t seem to agree.

While there’s been some good, if not hysterical, reporting on Donald Trump and his past, it’s as if Hillary Clinton were born yesterday.

If you’re in your twenties or thirties you probably don’t really know much detail about the Clinton administration and especially about Hillary’s past behavior.

Hillary’s first act as First Lady was the destruction of a man named Billy Dale. Dale ran the White House travel office for years before Clinton decided she wanted her cronies in there.

Yes, the president has a right to choose employees, but Hillary literally destroyed Dale by having him prosecuted for embezzlement. He was exonerated but broke from defending himself. His crime? Wanting to keep his job.

Of course, Hillary said she had nothing to do with Dale’s troubles. You’ll be shocked to know she lied. (Transparency note: I did business with Dale when I was a DC Bureau Chief.)

Or there was Hillary’s behavior during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Maybe Maureen Dowd put it best: Hillary killed feminism.

I’m not the only one who thinks the media have screwed the pooch. Here’s what the Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley A. Strassel wrote.

Hillary’s health? A big meh, and you better not report on it said the press, but here’s how the Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway took apart the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza.

Cillizza was torn to shreds on Twitter after this inexplicable Tweet:

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My response was simple, and perhaps not so eloquent. “Bullshit.” It was retweeted dozens of times over twenty four hours.

If you follow Cizzilla on Twitter you can see his open derision of Trump and his supporters. If you follow some of his colleagues at the Post and NY Times you’ll see the same thing.

It’s keyboard courage.

Now, Cillizza and others, are shocked angry citizens are fighting back and “yelling at them.” Grow a pair. At least no one is “grabbing your arm.”

But even “The Fix” sees the public’s love affair with the press is long over. So he writes piece defending journalism against Donald Trump’s criticism. The piece is worth reading for the statistics and for one unintentionally ironic line.

“If one group allowed itself to be attacked relentlessly for decades, what do you think people would think of it?” Cizzalla then shows a graph showing America’s disdain for the media.

Isn’t piling on what they just did to Trump?

Admittedly, some of the newspapers did decent reporting on the Clinton Foundation. Like the NY Times on Hillary’s uranium sell out to the Russians.

And the Washington Post story on buying access to then Secretary of State Clinton.

Good stories, but too few and much too far in between. It doesn’t matter how much you hate Donald Trump. You still have an obligation to report on Clinton.

Cable and network news have become a hot mess of anything negative about Trump, and as little as possible that can hurt Hillary. Even when Hillary’s troubles are reported by media they’re underplayed.

I used to watch MSNBC and CNN in the morning. I thought the talk was smarter on MSNBC, but Mika’s insane rantings became too toxic for me. Angered up the blood and threatened to give me skin failure or even worse: bonus eruptus. Not a good way to start the day.

Over on CNN, Chris Cuomo would occasionally do a decent political interview, but it’s obvious where his heart is. Cuomo also says stupid stuff. His latest tweet about who can and cannot see stolen Wikileaks material was bizarre if not uninformed for a lawyer and journalist.

Cuomo’s comments and the media’s initial reluctance to publish the Podesta and other Wikileaks (after some media – cough, cough the Washington Post, crowd sourced the Cairo leaks) made me wonder what Daniel Ellsberg would think about all this.

Daniel Ellsberg, a State Department analyst, leaked “The Pentagon Papers” to the New York Times in 1971. The Pentagon Papers showed that our government knew early on that we would not win the Vietnam War and grossly lied about casualty projections and more.

The Nixon administration blocked the Times from publishing, but the Supreme Court sided with the Times and the paper published the leaked info for two weeks.

Ellsberg was charged with espionage, conspiracy, and theft. Because of the government’s misconduct the case against Ellsberg was dismissed. Here’s what Ellsberg had to say about Wikileaks.

CNN even has its very own Hillary media apologist in Brian Stelter. His daily newsletter tries to set the agenda for Trump bashing, while ignoring Hillary’s bad news.  It’s also a thinly veiled house organ.

When I once asked Stelter on Twitter where all the news was about Hillary’s e-mails, his response was that “Trump is a media story.” OK, and Hillary’s not?

Stelter has been a big proponent of the “false equivalency” argument in covering Trump that was started by the NY Times’ Jim Rutenberg.  Simply stated, Trump is so horrible that media shouldn’t be objective in their reporting about him. Rutenberg is a good writer and journalist. His piece is worth reading even though I strongly disagree with him.

My problem is that Rutenberg and Stelter are giving the media cover for biased reporting.

Remember, Stelter is a former TV gossip site guy, who became a media reporter for the NY Times, who is now a media reporter/gossip guy for CNN. It’s tough to take him seriously sometimes given his track record. Apparently, some of his media reporting colleagues don’t either.

When Katie Couric was caught doing misleading edits to a gun documentary Stelter didn’t run the story on TV for a week. Naturally, stories popped up that Jeff Zucker, Stelter’s boss, spiked the story to help his old NBC friend Katie.

Stelter denied everything.

FTV’s Scott Jones was having none of it. For those of you not familiar with FTV, it’s a sometimes raw and derisive look at the TV and media business. Scott takes no prisoners.

It’s not often media critics attack each other, but Stelter drew fire from the Daily Caller’s Betsy Rothstein after his toadish reporting on Hillary’s health issues.

Most recently Stelter blamed Donald Trump’s rhetoric for the fire-bombing of a GOP headquarters in North Carolina. Basically, that’s the argument that “if I say something you don’t like enough, it’s OK to attack me.” I’ll let that just sit there.

As a news guy, I know to get my news from multiple sources. I now do so while sitting on my deck with a cup of coffee. With no multiple daily deadlines or producers to annoy me, I’m able to read a pretty good sample of news from the left and the right. Instead of news people braying teases into commercials for diseases I’ve yet to get, I hear birds singing. That eases the absurdity of the day’s news. There’s one cheeky squirrel who hangs out on the deck rail and eats nuts. While his impudence annoys me, he’s preferable to watching the same pundits make the same party talking points day in and day out. Think “Groundhog Day.”

The way things stand today it looks as if Hillary Clinton will win the election. While poll numbers are all over the place, most have her ahead.

Donald Trump has charged that the election is rigged. This freaks out journalists and political types to no end. While he has no proof this is the case, and that makes me nervous as a journalist, Trump’s charges would get no traction if people trusted the government.

And it’s troubling we’re seeing more and more stories like this.

Like him or not, James O’Keefe may have uncovered systemic fraud in the system. His latest videos should be taken seriously.

It’s unreasonable for people to ask:  How can I trust the government that just silenced its political opposition by using the IRS against them and no one went to prison. How can I trust the government after FBI agents say their boss impeded their investigation into their boss’ chosen successor?

Yes. Donald Trump is an asshole for making unsubstantiated charges and for many other things. But if the government is going to cheat in the ways described above, why is it impossible they would rig an election?

Is there “even a smidgeon” of rigging? I would ask Barack Obama, or Elizabeth Warren who’ve complained of a rigged system themselves.

As they say on social media: “where was the outrage?”

Should we consider information rigging a form of election rigging? Information is power, and without that information voters can’t make a wise decision on who to vote for. It’s the press’ job to show us all the warts, not just the warts they don’t like. When the press withholds information from the people, it’s the media making voting decisions for the people.

The Podesta Wikileaks show former CNN commentator and head of the DNC Donna Brazile leaked a question to the Clinton camp. Here’s what Jake Tapper had to say.

As Chris Cizzilla says, a constant pounding has an effect. Americans don’t like the pounding they’re getting from the press. They have an absolute right to be angry. The press won’t even buy lunch first.

Those opposed to the status quo have chosen Donald Trump as their instrument of destruction. While Trump, for some, is a big symbolic FUCK YOU to both the political and media establishments, most supporters are not the loudmouth louts the media portrays them to be. Salena Zito is one of the few reporters today that has a feel for the American people.

Zito also writes about American’s frustration with the news media. She’s spot on.

You may think I’m going to vote for Donald Trump. You’d be wrong. At this point in time I am not voting for president. I’ll vote in the other races, as if that matters. I live in the People’s Republic of Maryland, where Democrats tax the rain on your roof and gerrymander Republican districts out of existence. I reserve the right to change my mind based on events between now and election-day.

Our choices for president are down to Hillary Clinton, perhaps the most self-serving, dishonest politician who ever walked the earth. A woman that sold her office at the State Department. A woman that trashed her predatory husband’s victims while proclaiming all sex assault victims should be believed. A woman that continues to lie, in the face of reality, about classified e-mails.

Hillary is the business as usual candidate who represents everything we say we hate about politics. Clinton is the rotten intersection of politics, influence and money that we all despise. Yet she is the media’s darling. This is hard for me, and many others to understand. The Clintons simply have no moral or ethical center. What does that say about the press? And no, it is not a binary choice.

One writer called Hillary the most unfit and undeserving candidate to run for president.

Donald Trump has brought to light a number of issues that needed airing like illegal immigration and the real threat of Islamic terrorism. Say it Barack. Just say it.

At the same time, whenever I would start to hold my nose enough to vote against Hillary, Trump would say something ignorant and make unforced errors. Knowing the news media will jump down your throat if they found out you said “doody” when you were eight, why would you not be more careful? Because Trump is all over the place on many issues it doesn’t feel like he has a coherent vision for the nation. I don’t know who he is.

The who he is that I do know, I don’t like.

Donald Trump is American businesses Hillary Clinton. A bragadocious bullshitter stuck in a bad time warp. He’s the dark side of the retro days we love reminisce about. The bad old days of three martini lunches and what followed. Trump was that “international guy” girls would dread. The guy with “Roamin’ hands and Rushin’ fingers.”

As for the locker room tape, there’s no defending it. At that point in Trump’s life he should have been beyond that kind of talk. I say beyond that stuff because despite what anyone says, that kind of talk, and worse, did go on in some locker rooms. I don’t care what athletes say when interviewed by reporters. No one admits to behavior like that. “Sure, that shit goes on all the time over in our locker room. “

The same media that trashed Trump for his recorded comments about “grabbing pussy,” ignored a host of accusations against Bill Clinton, saying they were just accusations. While Trump shot off his mouth about vile acts, President Clinton committed those acts. See Paula Jones.

Here’s what Michelle Obama had to say about Hillary Clinton in 2008.

Now Michelle is out campaigning for Hillary? See why the people are frustrated?

The Trump accusers who sat quietly for years, then emerged followed the video that was buried until a month before the election are just that, accusers. It’s not like the media ever jumps to conclusions. If you believe Trump’s accusers why not believe Clinton’s accusers?

Compare media’s treatment of Trump to how they treat the Clintons.

Still, none of the above is an excuse. The standard can’t be “vote for me because I’m the same as Bill Clinton.” We have to do better, if we’re going to get better.

While Victor Davis Hanson makes a strong case that you have to vote for Trump to stop Hillary, at this point I can’t.

In fact, most Americans are voting against a candidate rather than for a candidate.

On November 9th, when we wake up and one of the two worst people in the world is our president elect, it’s hard to see us coming together. Whoever wins will do everything they can to hold onto and extend their power. The democrats have already signaled their move. They plan to use Obama and Eric Holder to gerrymander the GOP out of existence.

While I have little hope for the politicians, I want to have hope for the press. How does the news media regain the trust of the people it claims to serve? The first step is to admit there’s a problem. Right now defensive is what I see.

Here are a few things to think about to start the conversation.

Do we need an affirmative action program to recruit conservative journalists into media? We did it for women and minorities saying that their viewpoints should be represented in newsrooms. Why not conservatives? Only 7% of media identify as Republicans. That’s way below their representation in the population. Isn’t that how we look at diversity these days?

Since journalists have decided to drop impartiality it would only be fair to be transparent about who they are. Let’s develop on screen symbols for how people reporting, or opining, on elections have voted in the past. Has the journalist or pundit worked for a political party? Are they related to someone in politics or to a political operative? Like so many of the bloviators you see these days, do they work for an organization that promotes or supports a point of view, candidate, or party? You get the idea.

Should we vet the people who purport to vet our leaders?

How do we hold the media accountable?

What should the people’s reaction be to media they know isn’t telling the whole truth? Is the answer an economic boycott of media sponsors? That seems to work for some pressure groups. Why not a pressure group to fix journalism?

How about accuracy ratings? How often do they get it right?

I’d like this to be the start of a conversation. That’s what journalism is. Everyone is a stake-holder in a trustworthy and honest news media. I’m interested in what news consumers have to say. Sometimes journalists can’t see the forest for the trees.

Oh, and The Winter of Our Discontent?

For those of you who haven’t read John Steinbeck’s last book (1961) it may have some relevance to what we see in front of us these days. (Steinbeck took the title from the first line of William Shakespeare’s “Richard III.”)

It’s the story of a man who will do anything to regain the wealth and status his family enjoyed before his father lost their fortune.

He will cheat friends and take bribes.

He turns in an illegal immigrant who unwittingly trusts him, and signs over his store as he’s being deported because he thinks the man who screwed him is honest.

Can you guess the two people I’m thinking of?

I won’t tell you how the book ends. Read it and find out.

As for how this election ends, it won’t. I think we’ll be litigating it for a long time.

The mistrust is too deep. The wounds we’ve inflicted on each other are fierce.

Revelations that Hillary Clinton’s team is behind some of the violence at Trump rallies just turned the dial up to eleven. This seems like a violation of civil rights.

Reports of another GOP office vandalized, this time in Delaware, feel like attempts at intimidating voters.

What happens when victims of this violence and intimidation have had enough?

What do you think?

I don’t know how we bring out our better instincts. I don’t know if we have better instincts.

I’ve spent the better part of this piece blaming the politicians and news media for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. They deserve it.

But truth be told we’re responsible for the institutions we don’t trust. They couldn’t exist without our acquiescence.

Walt Kelly’s “Pogo” comes to mind:

“We have met the enemy and he is us.”

 

© 2016 carlgottliebdotnet

Life and Death at Midnight

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Photo courtesy: Brock Johansen/www.jobulls.com

Once off the blacktop you could hear the rocks on the dirt road bounce off the bottom of the Camaro. Sometimes it felt like they’d come through the floorboards. It was especially bad if the road hadn’t been graded and oiled for a while or there had been a hard rain.

The few lights that were on the paved road gave way to the complete darkness of a dirt road that led nearly nowhere else but home. It was the kind of road where you looked for the reflection of animal eyes in the upcoming ditches and got ready to hit the brakes.

Other than a ramshackle general store with a coal stove for heat, and an Assembly of God church across from that store, there wasn’t much on our road. Maybe a handful of houses spread over a couple of miles, and then nothing but soybean fields, pasture, and forest.

We liked to look up at the sky when we got home at night. The stars were like nothing we’d seen growing up in New York. When our porch light was off there was total darkness. The light show was always amazing.

Something caught my wife’s eye as we approached the house. There were what looked to be headlights in the field below the house. Really unusual for what was probably around 10:30pm.

We had been visiting Francis and “Ecey” (Emma Carolyn) Gwaltney. The Gwaltneys were English professors at Arkansas Tech who would occasionally invite students to their home for dinner, some beers, and conversation about anything and everything.

Francis Irby Gwaltney wrote “The Day the Century Ended” about his combat experiences in the Philippines during World War II. The book was made into a movie called “Between Heaven and Hell.” Francis served in the army with Norman Mailer, who met his last wife of six, Norris (Barbara Norris Church) at a party the Gwaltney’s threw for Norman.

Francis wrote a number of books in his time, mostly set in Arkansas. One was “Destiny’s Chickens.” I took the author’s photo for the book jacket and got a credit.

Gwaltney was also a friend of U.S. Senator Dale Bumpers who grew up with him in Charleston, Arkansas.

Francis used to joke that my wife’s New York accent reminded him of Judy Holiday.

If Gwaltney liked you he gave you his infamous chili in a coffee can. The trick was to eat it before it melted the can. I still have the recipe.

Francis died in 1981.

This looked like the life I wanted. It looked like the life I was headed for. Go to graduate school. Teach. Write stuff. Hang out with smart, cool people. Not have to dig ditches.

Or my favorite: Man makes plans, God laughs.

The phone seemed especially loud as we made our way into the house. It was Earl’s wife, Lola.

“Can you go down to the field and help Earl out? “ Lola’s tone was urgent.

“One of the cows is having trouble delivering. It’s a breech birth.” From the tone in Lola’s voice it didn’t sound good. While I’d heard of breech births, I wasn’t really sure of the implications. That was about to change.

I made my way toward the headlights to find Earl and another man, who turned out to be a veterinarian, looking down at one of the white face cows illuminated by a spotlight on the back of the pick-up. She was on her side, eyes wide open in that cow eye kind of way. I imagine I’d look that way if I were the cow too.

Around back I could see two small, slimy hooves emerging. The cow seemed like she was trying to give birth but nothing was happening.

“Come over here and help us tie her down.” I knew Earl was serious and hurried around to where he told me to go.

“We’re going to chain the cow’s front legs to the back of the pick-up and her hind legs to the fence post. We need to cut her open.” The vet sounded insistent.

I wasn’t sure what part of “we” in the “we need to cut her open” I was going to be.

The last time I had cut a cow it was medium rare and came with a baked potato.

Interesting night, so far.

Not an hour ago I was reading Norman Mailer’s personal letters from Bellevue Hospital to Francis. Mailer had been under observation after stabbing one of his earlier wives. Now I’m trying to pull a scared cow’s forelegs up to get chains around them.

It took all three of us to finally get cow the restrained. In the process, Earl got kicked in the hand. It wasn’t broken, but was bleeding pretty good and his hand swelled up quickly. The vet sprayed some antiseptic on the wound and wrapped it with gauze and tape.

“We need to get that calf out of there.” The vet was urgent. If the calf was going to make it we needed to do a Caesarian section on the animal. If not, both cow and calf could die.

The vet splashed some water from a jug on the cow’s side, handed me a can of shaving cream and told me where to spread it. In no time at all, the vet shaved a large patch of the cow’s side clean. He covered the bare cow skin with antiseptic. She clearly didn’t care for what was happening.

“You’re going to have to have to help get the calf out.” Earl held up his hand. There was a twinkle in his eye the darkest of nights couldn’t hide.

The scalpel glared in the spotlight. It was so small compared to everything else before me, but it was all I could see.

“Get down here and hold her,” the vet ordered more than asked.

Earl was near the cow’s head, I pushed down directly on the other side of the animal from the vet as he sliced into her skin. I could feel the sweat on my face, my long hair sticking to my neck. At the same time I felt cold.

“You gonna be alright?” Earl as much asked as reassured me.

There wasn’t as much blood as I thought there’d be, although there was enough.

I could see the layers of the cow’s anatomy and then some organs.

“Hold her open” was the next thing I heard.

Earl had one daughter and no sons. The daughter came to visit, but not real often.

The daughter had a little female dachshund-type dog named Sam that she no longer wanted. She left Sam with Earl and Lola to live on the farm.

Our dog Pepper loved Sam. In fact Sam was possibly the only dog he would tolerate.

What Earl and Lola wouldn’t tolerate was an animal in the house. Though ill-suited for it, and not used to cold nights outside that’s where Sam slept most of the time.

On the coldest nights we’d take her in.

When Sam became sick we took her to the vet.

Once, as we were getting ready to leave the house, we called Pepper to come in. Nothing.

Sam was around and my wife told her to go get Pepper. She did. It was pretty amazing.

He was covered in mud and burrs, but was fine.

Lola once told me Earl looked forward to our visits, and would sometimes call me to help him with repairs or chores he could have easily done himself. My guess is he could have done them better.

As it turned out, it’s not likely I’ll ever have to help with a cow Caesarian again, but I’m glad I did when I had the opportunity.

We learned to make and can preserves from fruit we picked ourselves. My wife got a sewing machine and made some of her own clothes.

We learned that if you hear an owl during the late afternoon it’ll probably storm that night. Same thing when you see the cattle lie down under trees. We learned that a sickly green cast to the sky was bad news as well.

I found myself liking the people we lived with more and more. Sometimes it takes years for life’s lessons to sink in.

The vet grabbed one side of the open wound and nodded at me to grab the other.

He worked his arm into the cow’s body and after some straining came up with bad news.

The umbilical cord had wrapped around the calf’s neck strangling it.

“Help me get the calf out.” The vet was having trouble. A newborn white-face (Hereford) can weigh up to 80 pounds. “The faster we can close this cow back up the better her chances.”

I don’t remember clearly what part of the dead calf I grabbed, it may have been a fore leg, but I remember being surprised at how heavy the poor beast was. Dead weight?

We pulled the calf out in increments careful not to do any more damage to the cow.

The dead calf was now on the ground. I stared at the animal and back at the vet already putting the cow back together with what seemed a pretty large needle and thread.

“Wanna try?” the vet laughed at me.

I had already lit up a Winston.

When I looked up at Earl he was smiling. He nodded at me with approval. He wasn’t given to emotional displays. Earl never high fived anyone.

There was cow placenta and blood all over me. A small play about life and death, and what you can do when you have to, just happened. It would take me years to realize what I had learned that night.

There was the education I was getting in class that would eventually lead me to a career in journalism.

Then there was the education I was getting in South New Hope that would eventually become part of who I am. I learned to love and see the humanity in people whose views were very different from mine.

When the vet finished sewing the cow back up, we freed her from her restraints.

We pushed at her to get up and after a few tries she was on her feet. Earl said he would put her in the pen near the barn until she healed.

“What are we going to do with the calf?” I wondered.

Earl and the vet glanced at each other and Earl said, “just leave it where it is.”

I don’t know what I expected to happen. Did I expect we’d bury the thing? Say a prayer?

When I got back to the house it was after midnight. With cow all over me, the dog couldn’t stop licking my pants. He was being a dog.

I soaked in the tub for a long time that night. There was nothing in life that could have prepared me for what I saw and did that night.

There are people I grew up with who have lived in the same borough of New York City for their entire lives. Each to their own, I always say, but how do you really grow when all you know and do, is all you’ve known and done? It would be like prison for me.

The next morning I opened the door to let Pepper out. Dog noses being what they are, he followed his to what smelled like food. Pepper was right.

The calf’s fate was to become food. Just not people food.

Other than matted down grass with some blood stains, and a few small bone fragments, last night’s drama in the pasture left few clues of even happening.

 

© 2016 carlgottliebdotnet

The Pigs, Part II

It rained the night before I was to help Earl get the pigs in his truck. The ground was muddy. The stench of the pig pen reached out to me long before I got near it. They say smell is the most evocative of our senses. I’m not sure what the smell of everything that composes the ground in a pig pen evokes, but I know I’ll never forget it.

The faded blue Chevy pick-up sat with its tailgate down, its back close to the pen. Earl, who had been looking at the pigs, turned to greet me.

The idea was simple. We had to get the pigs into truck and off to the butcher.

“Thanks for coming to help. Where’s Pepper?” Earl’s eyes smiled. He had always been amused by our dog.

“I thought he’d scare the pigs so I left him at the house.”

Pepper was a curious looking mongrel. His face was half black, half white. One ear up and one ear down. He had a broad, powerful chest. Where Pepper’s fur was white, it was silky. Where Pepper’s fur was black, well, there was almost no fur.

I think a veterinarian once told us one of Pepper’s testicles hadn’t descended, hence the weird furless, black patches.

When people asked what breed the dog was I’d sometimes say, “Australian Zweiback.”

And while Pepper was always up for going out, he was happy to stay home with my wife who brought him into the marriage.

“Good thinking, they’ll be nervous enough without him” – Earl nodded looking back at pen.

That may have been the last good good idea I had that day.

“How are we going to do this?” I asked.

Earl said we’d have to cut a portion of the fence out a little smaller than the width of the pick-up, and put some boards down as a ramp for the pigs.

“The only problem is getting the pigs up the ramp.” Earl’s eyes caught mine, “that’s where you come in.”

“I’m not as young as I used to be and it sometimes takes some doing to get the pigs to cooperate. Sometimes they need to be convinced.” Earl slow walked to the front of the truck and pulled out wire cutters.

With the fence cut, I hopped from the truck bed into the pen. My boots quickly sunk in the mud and waste. The smell got somehow got worse.

The pigs, not caring for my presence, moved away from me to the other side of the pen. I get that a lot.

Earl dropped the boards into the pen to form a ramp to the truck bed. “OK, you can get them in the truck now.” His drawl was reassuring.

I figured I’d try to shoo the pigs over to the truck using my body as a block. I’d  give them no choice but me or the the ramp.  It was me. With speed I never imagined a pig could achieve, the larger of the two ran at me and knocked me on my butt into the foul fecal morass.

“Be careful, they’re a little spooked.” Was that amusement in Earl’s voice?

I wiped my hands on my jeans as I got up. The pigs were making pig noises. I now believe they were mocking me in pig latin, or something.

By this time Earl had cut a fresh switch from a nearby tree.

“Try this” he said handing me the four foot limb. “It should get them moving.”

It did. It really got their attention. Pigs have sensitive skin and sensitive snouts. Needless to say they don’t like getting whacked on either.

For a minute it looked like one of the pigs might run up the ramp to escape me. No such luck.

“Don’t let them bite you.” Earl yelled as I tried to stay on my feet.

The irony of a Jewish kid from New York, who practiced Buddhism, being eaten by a pig after striking it with a stick.

Yes, Buddhism. My first wife and I practiced for a few years until we didn’t. Why? She said it was because I was looking for something. She was right.

Eastern religion and philosophy was a thing back then. While I couldn’t say I was much of a practicing Jew during my college days, the Buddhism we practiced didn’t ask for a renunciation of one’s faith.

Religious experimentation was part of the social revolution of the 60’s.

Today’s pundits like to talk about the collapse of trust in our institutions as if it’s something new. It’s about as new as each new generation that questions the last. Some generational revolutions are more jarring than others.

And as sure as the sun rises in the east, every revolution creates its own institutions. It’s the job of those institutions to perpetuate themselves. And so on.

And at the same time the fate of being devoured by angry swine flashed through my head. My feet came out from under me as if I’d been tackled by a linebacker. The best I can remember is that one pig knocked me over while the other trampled me.

They really didn’t want to become pork chops.

I scrambled from the nasty muck in which life could have started. Up the ramp, onto the bed of the pick-up and out of harm’s way. Past the point of dignity and filth, I wiped my hands on my shirt.

They say pigs are smarter than dogs, even smarter than chimpanzees. At this point they were smarter than a college sophomore. A low bar I concede, but a bar nonetheless.

“Should we just shoot them here?” I asked.

Earl didn’t think it was, “a good idea to have to lift all that dead weight into the back of the truck.”

I was beginning to understand why sophomores are called that.

Earl told me to wait in the bed of the pick-up while he went to the barn. I smoked a cigarette and pondered my education. I might be able to quote Shakespeare, but in a pinch I couldn’t keep myself alive if I had to kill, catch or grow my own food. That would change.

I wondered if someone who grew up in South New Hope would feel as lost in the world I came from.

The object in Earl’s hand puzzled me at first.

“You ever use a cattle prod?” He held the metal tube out for me to take.

It was a simple tool. When you pressed the two electrodes on the end into something the overlapping battery filled tubes collapsed, one into another, and completed the circuit. Result: a pretty jarring shock. Think malevolent shock absorber.

Earl smiled as I considered my next step. He studied me as I studied the pigs.

It was a smile I saw fairly often while I lived in Arkansas. It was a smile I didn’t understand until I grew up.

Back in the pig pen, with renewed purpose and armed with a better weapon I managed to zap one of the pigs with the prod.

The squeal was tremendous. The result was the same. Me in the crap. The pigs nowhere near the ramp. I’d been run over three times.

“You better get out of there,” Earl cautioned as both pigs stared me down.

A couple of hours had passed. I had accomplished nothing except for pissing off pigs, exhibiting my ineptitude and making a mess of myself.

Both of my parents were smart and even shrewd people. They built an incredibly successful business from nothing. It’s impossible to quantify what they taught me. But what you know has to fit where you are.

There was no calling the “super” out here.

And while I strained my brain to figure out how to get those pigs into that pick-up, I watched Earl go into the cab and come out with a paper bag (sack in the south).

Without a word to me he walked to the pen and called, “pig, pig, pig.”

They came quickly as he reached into the bag and started throwing kernels of feed corn on the ground. The pigs vacuumed the corn right up.

As they fed, Earl threw the corn closer and closer to the pick-up. It was as if the pigs were on a leash. They followed Earl’s corn trail up the ramp and into the back of the truck. He closed the tailgate and that was that.

It took about ten minutes. Maybe.

There’s no need to describe how the beasts became bacon and other tasty things. Not because I’m squeamish or because I’m afraid I’ll offend. Nature can defend the food chain. I’m just participate.

To this day, after dealing with screwing up, I ask myself the same question many people ask. “What have I learned from this?”

Sure, wear old clothes when you go rolling in pig crap. That’s easy.

Never underestimate your opponent. Your ego will make you lose every time.

I tried to overpower two animals that each weighed more than I did. Brains over brawn?

What Earl did was use the nature of those animals to win. Pigs gonna pig.

These weren’t the only things I learned in South New Hope.

Next: What I learned from taking part in a Caesarian section on a cow in the middle of the night.

 

© 2016 carlgottliebdotnet

Boycott Trump?

Trumpface
Photo courtesy: The Blaze
The Atlantic’s Ron Fournier made a not so modest proposal this week. He believes the media should boycott Donald Trump until he does the things Fournier says he should do.

Before I criticize his idea, let me note that I read most of his work and have admired him as a journalist and writer for a long time.

Sure, I want to see Trump’s tax returns. I’d like to see everything Ron would like to see, and more. As for the “Russian connection,” it takes more than a claim by a Democratic party operative and a piece in Slate to make something credible. As I’ve said in a prior piece, it took the FBI a year to determine they didn’t know who may have hit Hillary’s server. But we know in two days the Russians hacked into the DNC server because “experts.”

Fournier says political journalism has to change to meet the challenge Trump has presented. Change the rules because you can’t do your job? Now that sounds like journalism.

But boycotting The Donald isn’t enough. Fournier wants media to ban his “surrogates.” You know, those talking heads you see on TV that represent the candidates. It seems fitting Ron would link to a Media Matters “article.” Always a great Soros for news. I mean source.

More silence from a profession that professes more speech. Oh, and punish those whose speech you don’t like for good measure. Anyone else hear the Republic crashing?

Look, Fournier is a pundit. He’s there for his “learned” opinion. To be fair, I’ve seen him hit Hillary really hard too. And maybe to save his journalistic integrity just a tad, he finally gets to Hillary in the last paragraph of his piece. He’d like herself to give up the Wall Street transcripts (please…).

Yet the same Ron Fournier called Barack Obama “the least transparent president in the nation’s history,” but never called for a Barack boycott. Obama tried to prosecute reporters.

Given Hillary Clinton’s remarkable avoidance of the press, outside the most controlled of situations, and her campaign’s apparent go fuck yourself attitude. “We’ll have a press conference when we want to have a press conference” signals a continuation of Obama’s transparency plus Hillary’s epic secrecy.

Of course, being the Washington Post, the piece slams Trump throughout instead of Hillary’s controlling arrogance.

Politicians can only be this arrogant with the media’s acquiescence.

Plain and simple, it isn’t the job of journalists to try and silence speech. I can’t even believe I’m saying that. It’s dangerous and stupid.

While usually a writer who asks us to “do better,” Fournier’s suggestion does worse. It feels like the rant of a frustrated and bitter man.

Fournier says he doesn’t come to his boycott conclusion easily. So before you silence a presidential candidate, here’s a question for Ron and other journalists:

Why don’t voters have confidence in the press?

The elite media, on the left and the right, pound Donald Trump every hour of every day, yet he’s the GOP nominee and holding his own for now. Despite their best efforts over time they’ve gained little traction.

Does the media’s frustration and desire to silence a candidate come from the fact the voters have silenced the media?

 

© 2016 carlgottliebdotnet

Back in the USSR

People react to bad news in a number of ways. They freak about the message, or freak about the messenger. After it was revealed the Democratic National Committee screwed Bernie Sanders and his supporters, by favoring Hillary Clinton, media is angry at the possible messenger.

Yes, the more information profession is pissed off about more information. So, when in doubt, blame the Russians. It reminded me of this scene from “Dr. Strangelove.” Media jumped on that narrative faster than Slim Pickens on a nuke.

drstranglovebomb
Photo courtesy: Dr. Strangelove/Columbia Pictures

Never mind it took the FBI up to a year to determine they couldn’t figure out if the Russians, or others, hacked Hillary’s server of convenience and obstruction. Within days, we hear it’s likely the hackers were the Russians. From “experts.” As a former TV producer I can find an expert to tell you Guam is sinking. In Congress. But, that’s a story for another time.

And it’s not like the DNC wasn’t warned.

This morning, Donald Trump dared to go where Hillary hasn’t since December 4, 2015. The candidate for US president held an open press conference and took questions from reporters for about an hour.

Here’s what made the media crap themselves today.

While answering questions from reporters in Florida today, Trump looked directly into the cameras and said, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” (ABC News)

Clinton’s camp was in high dudgeon. The media followed.

Clinton’s senior policy adviser, Jake Sullivan, released a statement in response to Trump’s comments.

“This has to be the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent,” Sullivan said. “That’s not hyperbole. Those are just the facts. This has gone from being a matter of curiosity and a matter of politics to being a national security issue.” (ABC News)

Now, here’s the part of that exchange that isn’t getting a lot of play. It changes the context of Trump’s “Russia, if you’re listening…” remark.

“By the way, if they hacked, they probably have her 33,000 emails. I hope they do. They probably have her 33,000 emails that she lost and deleted.” (ABC News)

Trump mocked the press and they bit.

Now, to be clear, if the Russians are trying to influence our politics it’s a bad thing. But that bad thing has been going on forever. We do the same. Look at Barack Obama trying to oust Benjamin Netanyahu. Despite the administration’s earlier denials, look at what a Senate committee turned up.

And it’s not the first time a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent.

Think “Lion of the U.S. Senate” and, bad driver of Oldsmobiles, Ted Kennedy.

Kennedy (lost to Jimmy Carter in 1980 and had to withdraw because of the Oldsmobile in 1972) was so desperate to keep Ronald Reagan from being re-elected in 1984, he secretly went to the Soviet Union for help. This was made public in the early 90’s after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Never mind that the current administration and current Democratic candidate for president underestimated Russia and mocked Republicans about the Cold War.

But back to the media.

Not all WikiLeaks are equal. Or so it would seem.

The Washington Post was thrilled to invite its readers to find what they could in the so-called “Cairo cables.” They went as far as crowd-sourcing the database to turn up more information faster.

Just like the Cairo WikiLeaks, the DNC WikiLeaks are about information. Sure, the Russians may be a secondary story and a big one at that, but the screwing over of a candidate and his followers is really the story right now.

Bernie Sanders knows darn well what happened. When asked if he trusted Hillary to carry out the “left leaning platform” for the Democrats, Sanders balked.

“Sorry, I’m not going to get into the trusted or not,” he responded.

“Hillary Clinton, you know, as I just said a moment ago, [you asked me to] characterize somebody in a way I’m not going to. Hillary Clinton is a very, very intelligent person . . . I’ve known her for 25 years.” (NY Post)

Just as Ted Cruz didn’t endorse Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders wouldn’t, when he could, say he trusted Hillary Clinton.

And, if you believe for a second that Debbie Wasserman Shultz wasn’t in the tank for Hillary Clinton, look at it this way instead.

Who knows more than DWS about collusion between the DNC and Hillary camp against Sanders? Best way to silence people: hire them. Debbie also needs party backing in a potentially tough re-election to the House.

So yeah, go ahead and be outraged by Russian mischief. I’m into nostalgia.

It takes me back to the good old days of duck and cover.

DuckandCover

And given the Trump press conference took place near Miami Beach, I couldn’t help but think of the Beatles send-up of the Cold War.

Here’s Paul McCartney performing in Kiev in 2008.

No matter how you feel about the DNC leaks and who leaked them, it’s hard to see why the content rather than the alleged leaker is the main story. I expect our enemies to mess with us. But neither Obama’s “flexibility,” or Clinton’s “reset button,” look like good foreign policy right now.

Funny thing. When I was a TV news manager I took many calls from disgruntled (love that word) viewers who had issues with stories. Only a tiny percentage of those stories had factual problems.

I always touched base with the producer or reporter involved with the questioned piece. More often than not one of us uttered this phrase of frustration, “they always want to kill the messenger.”

 

 

© 2016 carlgottliebdotnet