Throwing journalists out of the White House is throwing the people out

The Esquire story about ending the decades-old presence of reporters in the White House will warm the hearts of those who enjoy denigrating “the press.”

the-white-house-1623005_1280It certainly isn’t a surprise that the new administration would consider taking the matter so far. They know that it pays to pander to the minority of voting citizens who helped them win the Electoral College vote. News organizations are an easy target.

The story quotes someone identified as a senior official as calling the press “the opposition party” and saying, “We are taking back the press room.” The new press secretary maintains that the move is about logistics, that having press conferences and briefings elsewhere will enable more “press” to attend. (Coincidentally or not, it would also enable the positioning of more paid staff to cheer and applaud.)

The words and the symbolism are important, so I think we need to clarify some terms.

Journalists (news reporters and editors) play an important role in our society. Unfortunately in some cases, so do the analysts, columnists, commentators, propagandists, and bloviators that some citizens mistake for journalists.

Journalists report on what is going on in the world and help readers and viewers understand what’s going on by providing valuable context. The others may or may not do that.

The former keep an eye on those in power on behalf of the citizens to whom the powerful are accountable. Some of the latter have the best interests of the public in mind; others have their own political or financial interests in mind. Some will lie if necessary or profitable.

Powerful people and others who see it to their advantage throw all of these purveyors of information and or lies* into the nebulous category of “the press,” or the more all-encompassing “the media.”

If moving the “press room” out of the White House makes it more difficult for journalists to do their work, that is cause for concern.

When the incoming administration labels journalists an “opposition party,” it puts itself in direct opposition to the American people and the U.S. Constitution.

It slaps all citizens in the face, whether they feel the sting yet or not.


* Lie: Fake news, misinformation, and disinformation are among the popular euphemisms for this straightforward and easily understood term. See the Merriam-Webster definition of the verb form that means making an untrue statement with intent to deceive.

Now Jeep-less after all these years

Back in the day, by which I mean since x number of years ago until a few hours ago, I had a Jeep. Not just any Jeep. I had a 1991 Wrangler Renegade, which I bought from my car-salesman brother-in-law. He got almost all of my business while he was in that business.

wrangler1The story went that the previous owner lived in Madison, Wisconsin, and drove the red
Renegade mostly to church on Sundays. She was the proverbial little old lady.

Stop laughing.

The Renegade had only 30,000 or so miles on it at the time, after 10+ years, so I was inclined to believe it.

That thing could handle snow. When I bought the Renegade, we lived in Iowa, halfway down the hill on a dead-end street, so 4WD was important. I drove it to work and back for years. I could go anywhere. I drove it from Iowa to Colorado twice, and all the way back to Iowa once.

We went fishing together. We drove some bad Colorado mountain roads that tested our nerves, and our wariness of heights, and our shocks. We flew down the highway topless, usually when it wasn’t raining and the sun was hot overhead.

Then came the day.

The choice: Sell the 2007 Prius, which faithfully takes us 50 miles on a gallon of gasoline, or the Renegade (17 mpg on a good day). Something had to give if we were to leap into the 2017 Escape we were eyeing.

What would you do?

Used to be it was easy to spot my ride in a huge, crowded parking lot. A boxy, rusting, red thing the likes of which I’ve never seen elsewhere. Now, to find my car at the park-n-ride or the parking lot at DIA, I will look for the teeny Iowa Hawkeyes sticker in the left-rear window of my little black Prius among a sea of little black Priuses. I have to hope no one else out here puts that same sticker anywhere near the same place.

Mrs. Smith Compound drives the sleek, white Escape. It looks great on her.

 

Furious and done being polite

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Midwestern sunset, via Pixabay

Most of you who are reading this don’t know me, but I want you to know I am furious that my daughter-in-law should be unwelcome or even feel unwelcome anywhere in this country.

I’ll extend that to her wonderful sisters and parents, and to my new granddaughter, who is too young to know about any of this, and to the rest of my diverse, extended family.

The discomfort, the fear described on her Brown Noise blog have heightened significantly since the victory of our new president-elect.

They are not entirely new feelings. I know this for a fact, because I heard about them long before the election, long before the latest campaign for president. They go back decades.

They don’t come out only in the rural Midwest, where the young family encountered the MAGA-themed McDonald’s ad described in that blog post. They can and do turn up anywhere.

The difference now is obvious and stark. Things are worse since the Republicans won. Bigots are out in the open, unashamed, and unafraid of the light.

I’m done being polite.

Damn the people who elected our soon to be pseudo-president, thereby emboldening his bigoted followers, and directly or indirectly contributing to this extra-toxic culture we now live in.

That is some harsh talk, coming from me. The people who elected him include some of my friends, acquaintances, and even family members.

They have disappointed me, and they need to know it.


First published on Medium, December 20, 2016

What y’all owe me, and I owe you

fake-1909821_1920

You don’t read much poetry.
That’s an assumption on my part,
and I can’t say that I blame you.

Poetry is for everybody but
it can be hard to understand
or appreciate, and
it doesn’t always rhyme
and what the hell is up with that?

So this isn’t poetry,
because I want you to read it.

It is my opinion.
It is about what I think
you owe me and
what I owe you
and what we both deserve
as human beings.

We owe each other our honesty.

We owe each other our
best efforts to understand
the differences between news
and disinformation,
between facts and what people
are calling “fake news,”
which is a tricky new term for lies.

I could go on about
what news is
from the perspective of a guy
who studied journalism
and who wrote and edited news
for newspaper readers.

I’ll spare you that
(you’re welcome)
because I think
you already know what news is.

About those best efforts
that we owe each other:

I’m going to trust that the words
and pictures and videos
that you share with me and
the rest of the world
are not lies.

I need to be able to trust
that you think hard about
what you share before you share it.

I will not lie to you.

Let’s not disappoint each other.
Deal?

Sling stones of hope

mask-469217-2

Motors drone far off,
closer, louder
with each heartbeat,
each breath that wheezes
in, then out.

What’s to come is clear
as the sky once was
before the crush of boot
and char of fire and oil
hid sun and moon and
morning from us.

We stand in place,
slinging stones of hope aloft
with shouts that echo
thru space and time.


Words in #writeoutloud are for warming up, stretching, keeping the writing muscles loose and flexible. Sometimes they are more.

The Blink of a Wolf’s Eye

The wolf was watching me from just outside the campsite, I told the boy. It took just 3 nanoseconds for a stream of photons to dart from my military-grade flashlight into the eyes of that wolf.

“That’s pretty fast,” the boy said. “How do you know?”

It’s simple math, I told him. Aren’t you curious about the wolf?

He shook his head. “The math sounds fishy.”

I explained. The speed of light divided by 20 feet–the wolf was that close–is 3 nanoseconds for the light to get from here to there.

“And back?”

What do you mean?

“Did it take 3 nanoseconds to get there and then 3 more to get back from his eyes to yours so you knew that the wolf was there?”

I allowed as how that must have been the case, but at that speed it might as well be an instantaneous transfer of light energy.

“I suppose you’re right. There isn’t much difference between 3 nanoseconds and 6 nanoseconds.”

Not to us, there isn’t. Nanoseconds are just constantly flying by, just zooming by so fast we don’t even notice them.

“I’m going to check your math later,” the boy said.

You go ahead and do that, I told him.

“So what did the wolf do?”

Well what else would a wolf do? It blinked, of course, then it ran away.


Words in #writeoutloud are for warming up, stretching, keeping the writing muscles loose and flexible.