PROTECTING FRIENDSHIP, NEIGHBORS AND KIDS

1. It’s Tuesday, February 20, 2018.

2. It’s the 226th anniversary of the establishment of the U.S. Postal Service. Celebrate by going to a post office and buying the stamp commemorating Mister Rogers, whose TV show started 50 years ago celebrated neighbors of all color, shape, size and mindset.

3. It’s the 56th anniversary of the flight of Friendship 7. John Glenn, a real-deal hero and man of integrity, became the first American to orbit the earth.

Talk about making America great. Who didn’t love Mister Rogers or John Glenn?

4. In 2018, someone wouldn’t.

Somewhere in St. Petersburg, formerly Leningrad, trolls would stop their promotion of Trump to make up trash about both of them. Stuff like: Mister Rogers wasn’t deferential enough to white men. John Glenn was a crybaby about the danger he faced or his flight was really just him acting in a Hollywood studio.

And then their fanboys, the Jack Posobiecs and Jim Hofts and other aggrieved brats who pollute social media, would try to make John Glenn and Fred Rogers into hoaxes and conspirators and whatever else they could.

That’s what 2018 is about. It’s about people with chips on their shoulder who can’t stand a happy, proud, united America. People still shuttering from the fact we let one of them become president for eight years. And that people who aren’t like them find success.

You’re seeing that now with the reaction to the kids who survived the Parkland high school shooting.

Most of the people in this country have every reason to look at these kids with pride. They’re smart and they speak their mind. They’re in pain – that’s what happens when 17 of your peers and the adults you admire are murdered in cold blood – and they’ve articulated that so well in the past six days that they’ve inspired anyone with a still-functioning heart or brain.

Alas, it was only a matter of time until the NRA got its message to its whores in media and Congress.

The message:

These kids have been coached. Yeah, that’s it. One of them has a father in the FBI who’s trying to cover his tracks about failing to stop the killer while investigating this phony Trump-Russia scandal. Yeah, that’s it.

(I refuse to link to the stories or tweets this scum has put online. I refuse to give them the traffic. They’re not hard to find if you want to see them.)

5. This is our crucible.

If we’re not willing to stand up for our children, if we cower when confronted with the people who spit out warped Constitutional interpretations and say gun violence isn’t a problem improved by legislation, if we let the trolls control the narrative, the NRA – a group complicit in more American deaths than ISIS, al-Qaeda and the Taliban combined – wins. Again.

And this nation, this supposed citadel of democracy and freedom, will have failed. We will be exposed as a banana republic, run by a schemer trying to repay his debt to his masters in Moscow with the help of their gun-loving henchmen.

We will have not proven ourselves worthy of Mister Rogers or John Glenn or the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

We have to do better.

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I’M NOT SO SURE THIS IS THE TIME, EITHER

1. It’s Sunday, February 18, 2018.

2. Four days later, we’re still talking about the murder of 17 students and teachers at a Florida high school.

That’s one sign we’re doing better this time. I was beginning to worry that the time span for completely forgetting about these mass killings was getting closer to a single news cycle.

And, thanks to CNN, we’ll hear more about this horror in Parkland this week. The network is hosting a town hall format with students and parents on Wednesday.

They’ll get the opportunity to again tell the horror story they’ve lived since Valentine’s Day, when a 19-year-old – fortified by his NRA-sponsored training – began shooting at will with legally purchased weapons.

Furthermore, they’ve been doing a pretty good job telling the world about what they experienced. Bravely, but with an intelligence and measure we haven’t seen much of in this country for a awhile, they are answering questions from reporters and demanding answers from this nation’s so-called leaders.

And they’re speaking out. One of the students, Emma Gonzalez, gave a speech at a rally yesterday that is among the greatest I’ve heard in my lifetime. Even Barack Obama had to be impressed.

Students across the country are talking about protests. A march on Washington. Walking out of their classrooms on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine tragedy, the first of the modern school shootings.

The NRA is in hiding. When the shooting took place, someone on Twitter remarked that it would be a long holiday weekend for the organization’s social media director.

Politicians complicit in the arming-to-the-teeth of this country have been getting slammed once they offer their “thoughts and prayers.” Those messages are so predictable manner that you have to think they’re on hold in some office computer for use when applicable. They just touch an iPhone app to launch it.

So this is it. The long-awaited push that starts to bring this nation out of its gun frenzy. Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

3. I’m not convinced.

I won’t be convinced until I actually see something happen. The reinstitution of the federal assault weapon ban. Background checks on people who buy weapons at gun shows or in private transactions. Gun licensing in all 50 states that is at least as strict, if not multiple times as strict, as getting a driver’s license.

Advocates of gun control – and I have proudly been one my whole life – have been trying for some form of reason to take hold since President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. It hasn’t happened.

And how many horrible, heartbreaking tragedies related to someone getting (mostly) his hands on a gun and firing away. The University of Texas in 1966. Assassinations of Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy and John Lennon. Attempted assassinations of Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. McDonald’s in San Ysidro. Luby’s in Killeen. Columbine. Virginia Tech.

And while there have been deadlier shootings since – the Orlando nightclub and the Las Vegas concert – no event, nothing, rivals the disgust, the obscenity, the sheer senselessness of Sandy Hook Elementary School.

I can’t think about Sandy Hook without tearing up and getting as angry as anything can possibly make me. I can’t think about how far below single-cell life someone has to fall to shoot up 6- and 7-year-olds.

And that there are people who will diminish the victims by saying it’s a hoax.

I know how angry I get thinking about this – I’ve just deleted a bunch of lines that were a little too much. And I didn’t know these kids or the adults who died with them. I don’t know their parents or friends.

So while I can only imagine how much the kids and parents and neighbors of Parkland feel, I think I understand that their anger and pain must be unbearable.

But the Congress of the United States sat on its hands after Sandy Hook.

The putz running the National Rifle Association brazenly stood there and said that more armed people, turning an elementary school into a shooting gallery, was what was needed.

Pickup trucks driven by breathing turnips in New York State sported “Fuck Cuomo” bumper stickers, some of the letters in the shape of assault weapons banned, because the governor and legislature took modest, reasonable action.

I would love to think that this country will do something after this shooting. I believe in the sincerity of all these young people speaking on the air and to rallies. I would love to be proven wrong.

I won’t be. Nothing happened after Sandy Hook. Or Orlando. Or Las Vegas – remember the so-called bipartisan push for bump stock bans? Or Sutherland Springs, because why should people worshipping be immune?

The NRA and the Republicans in Congress are waiting out the storm. This one might be a little stronger. But they’ll wait out this one like they’ve waited out the others. That’s what they are.

4. So, if you’ve read the first parts of this, you absolutely have the right to say this to me:

You are a cynical jackass.

Because what good is complaining about stuff if you’re involved in the solution. Or at least have an idea about how to solve it.

That would be a fair point. So here we go:

— First off, the problem with people on my side of the gun debate is that we’re wimps.

The NRA tries to intimidate those who don’t vote its straight line. A Dana Loesch puts a pretty face on gun craziness. The Mitch McConnells and Paul Ryans of Congress will sound oh-so-sincere about their prayers and condolences when there’s a shooting. An Alex Jones gets away with calling Sandy Hook a hoak aimed at taking away everyone’s guns.

These people will stop at nothing to demonize those who believe in sensible gun control. They scare people who own guns into thinking that we’re on a hunt that would only allow would-be terrorists and gang members to hold weapons.

Gun control advocates never fight dirty when they fight back.

It’s time to do so.

Mitch McConnell and others in Congress are complicit in mass murder. Say that every single goddamn day – especially about McConnell – until there some form of legislation. A day shouldn’t pass when someone doesn’t say that.

The NRA has killed more Americans than ISIS, al-Qaeda and the Taliban combined. It is as complicit in mass murder as Osama bin Laden and Muhammad Atta. Say that every time you hear something about the IRA.

Any Republican – or Democrat – who takes money from gunmakers or the NRA is a whore with blood on his or her hands.

And that includes, first and foremost, the Russian-loving fraud who occupies the White House.

Stop trying to be civil. Civility doesn’t work with these people. It hasn’t worked for 55 years and it’s not going to start now.

— Second, instead of saying “Do something,” be more specific about what the “do” entails.

Gun whores like to muddy the discussion by saying there’s nothing that would work to cut down on this kind of violence.

That’s crap.

From my point of view, the first step is a renewal of the assault weapon ban. There is no reason for anyone to have a semi-automatic weapon unless they’re in a war zone somewhere – and I’m not so sure about that.

A ban wouldn’t solve everything. But even if, at worst, only 10% of these shootings would go away, that’s an awful lot of lives saved.

Others have other ideas. I am ready to listen. I will accept steps as long as they’re steps and not ends.

I don’t believe one of those steps or ends is repealing the Second Amendment of the Constitution. I believe one of those steps is ending the NRA’s perversion of the Second Amendment that values gun holding over life. “A well-regulated militia” doesn’t translate to a bunch of fools shooting off automatic weapons.

— Third, and this applies to things besides the gun debate, stop trashing the younger generation.

I teach college students. I love them. They’re smart and thoughtful, and I don’t know how the generations that came before them managed to do this one thing right, but raising kids like my students and the high schoolers in Parkland is the best thing we’ve done. Far and away.

And yet, there are adults who don’t take these young people seriously. They’re dismissive and patronizing.

One of my students, for her homework, critique a New York Post op-ed, by some clown who went from a conservative think tank (see: oxymoron) to the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page. In this rant, he was telling Generation Xers that they need to do a better job informing millennials about life – that millennials needed a dose of reality.

I don’t believe a generation with five- and six-figure college debt, that actually does the fighting when we commit troops to Afghanistan, and that has spent school days participating in shelter-in-place drills needs any kind of a lecture about reality.

This generation might be glued to its phones. It might never have picked up a newspaper. But – in my experience – it consists of people who care about each other, who embrace change and accept others for who they are. And they have low BS tolerance.

Our generation – I’m a vaunted baby boomer – has totally, unequivocally, abysmally failed to stop Americans from shooting each other up.

I am fully prepared to follow a generation of kids that is willing to solve the problem.

Until they do, until someone does, I am not yet ready to believe that anything is going to result from the 17 deaths in Florida.

But, oh, how much I want to believe it will.

 

 

 

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SKIN IN THE GAME

1. It’s Tuesday, February 13, 2018.

2. On this day 67 years ago, Chinese forces launched a battle near the South Korean city of Jipyeong-ri.

It was during the second period of the Korean War that the forces opposing us – the People’s Republic of China and what we now call the North Koreans – held the upper hand.

That didn’t last. In this battle, in which the United Nations forces were outnumbered anywhere from 2-to-1 to 6-to-1, the Chinese were turned back. It was the high water mark of the Communists’ march against the South Koreans.

3. Jipyeong-ri is on my mind partly because of the Winter Olympics – it’s about halfway between Seoul and Pyeongchang.

It’s also on my mind because my 23-year-old son is headed to South Korea. He’s going to Incheon, scene of perhaps the most famous battle of the Korean War, where he’ll be teaching English to elementary school students.

(If you came to a full stop after that last sentence – wondering why the hell Korean 8-year-olds learn English when American 8-year-olds don’t seem to, much less learn to speak another language – let’s save the education discussion for another time.)

The Korean peninsula, while not always as heated as the Middle East, has remained among the world’s most troubled spots since the end of World War II. You’ve got the divided Korea; two huge nasty-tempered neighbors in China and Russia; the country all of them hate, Japan; and then us.

We sacrificed 37,000 of our soldiers during the three years of the most intense conflict in the early 1950s. Up until now, presidents of both parties have been inclined to avoid a repeat of that.

You would think the idea of the two Koreas, if not reconciling, easing tensions to keep people alive is a good thing for all concerned. As bad as the war was nearly 70 years ago, any conflict between Team North Korea – which probably includes China and Russia – and Team South Korea, with the U.S. and Japan on its side, will be horribly deadly pretty fast.

That might be why there was such a hubbub about the fact that North Korea joined the Winter Olympic festivities in Pyeongchang. That the two Olympic teams marched into the stadium as one. And that the sister of North Korea’s ruler sat in the VIP box, smiling and putting a benign face on a regime whose ruthlessness toward its own people ranks with the worst in history.

The world sees that, understandably, as a net good.

4. But there’s one complication.

While most Americans join the rest of the world in not wanting World War III, ’m not sure that includes Trump and his Stepford vice president Mike Pence.

The threats made by Trump earlier this year – it seems like the “much bigger” button tweet was a long time ago; it was last month – did nothing to ameliorate tensions in the region. Since then we’ve heard the term “bloody nose,” the absolutely preposterous notion that the United States could do some sort of masterfully strategic strike that wipes our North Korea’s nascent nuclear arsenal.

So if Trump and his boys wanted to move the peace process along, they wouldn’t have sent Mike Pence to the middle of this deceleration of Korean tension. This might have been a better job for one of the more inocuous Trump sycophants – what was John Stamos doing last weekend?

Pence is so bad at putting America’s best foot forward that even members of the Olympic team want nothing to do with him. He offends gay athletes. He offends women. And he’s not particularly sensitive to athletes of color.  Two strikes doesn’t begin to describe the hole he creates.

So Pence didn’t seem to acknowledge the presence of Kim’s sister. OK, if easing tensions of a nuclear doesn’t carry more weight than focusing on the Kim family’s horror show, maybe you can understand that.

But being a guest of the president of South Korea and not standing when his nation’s athletes walk into the stadium – even if they’re accompanied by athletes from North Korea – is stupid, petulant and counterproductive. It makes him and Trump look like idiots – OK, that’s not hard, but still.

5. So who looked better?

Folks, it’s no contest. The world doesn’t want the Korean peninsula incincerated. And, with one of the two greatest accomplishments of my life about to spend a year teaching 8-year-olds that there’s no such thing as 12 midnight, you shouldn’t trust anyone wearing a Yankee hat and the words to “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl),” that world most assuredly includes me.

On the way to the airport, we stopped at an otherwise wonderful diner in Bayside, Queens, that has humongous hamburgers. My son won’t be having anything like them for awhile.

Alas, on one of the TV screens was Fox News. And while I was blessed not to hear what Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity were saying, the lower thirds told the story – their take was the liberal media fawned over Kim’s sister.

But Trump and Pence handed the propaganda win to Kim and his sister. They get a gold medal for clueless.

Maybe the idea was to keep their base roused. Maybe they’re trying to build support for the day when they inevitably act against Kim and North Korea.

Here’s the thing: I’m not the only American parent with skin in this game. The parents of members of the U.S. 8th Army, about 37,000 strong, care about what happens there. Families of business people dealing with such economic powerhouses as Samsung, LG and Hyundai care.

I’m not ignorant or naive about Kim Jong Un. Or his sister. They both have a half-brother he arranged to have killed. They starve their own people. They want nuclear weapons.

It’s just those of us with loved ones on the Korean peninsula – in Seoul, Pyeongchang, Jipyeong-ri or Incheon – are not interested in seeing them become collateral damage.

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CREAM SODA TIME

1. It’s Tuesday, February 6, 2018.

2. It’s the birthday of Ronald Reagan, Babe Ruth and Aaron Burr. In 2018, it’s hard to believe which one is a main character in Broadway’s biggest hit musical.

3. My friends and former colleagues at CNNMoney are in the process of doing what they always do so well – cover the gyrations of a stock market gone askew.

I had my share of days like this. The adrenelin pumps and you watch all the screens for the latest trends. The market writers can’t take a breather because they’re on the phone and writing, trying to meet the need for why this is happening.

It’s amazing to me that people forget markets can go down. They watch gains – in the past year or two, gains that are pretty outsized – and get lulled into the idea that that’s the only direction stocks can head.

But as yesterday and this morning’s open proved, stocks can go down. Big. While yesterday’s drop in the Dow Jones industrial average doesn’t make the top 20 on a percentage basis, which is really how you’re supposed to judge these things, 1,175 points is still an impressive number.

And this morning, the first trades put the Dow more than 500 points in the red. And then, within 15 minutes, it turned higher for the day. How it ends is anyone’s guess.

Talk about your roller coasters!

It’s a little nerve wracking for people like me who are betting on a retirement fund to sustain them in their old age. Our existence has become so tied to the markets that these bumps and dumps could determine whether we can go to restaurants or eat canned stew when we’re 80.

But it’s stupid to think too much about it.

Trading to make money is a game. On days like this, the markets are just numbers and movement. Trying to understand what’s going on and commit your precious resources based on that understanding is foolish for people who aren’t professionals.

4. What you have to think about – both as markets rise and fall – is what you believe as an investor. What do you think is the best way to commit your resources to aiding in economic growth?

I use an investment adviser and tomorrow I have my annual consultation about what I want to do. Here’s what I’ll tell him:

I do not believe in Trump. I think he’s a freakin’ disaster. And while he and his yokel chorus point to the gains in the market as a sign of his economic genius, I’m really wary.

It’s hard for me to believe that giving a tax cut skewed to the wealthy as a time when the economy is chugging along is anything but inflationary. If anything, this was a time to tweak tax rates a little higher to adjust some of the income inequality in society and help pay down debt at a time when we can.

I don’t see how the economy gets helped by deporting undocumented immigrants. People who are paying the taxes that the people Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell suck up to don’t want to pay. People whose absence will disrupt commerce in the less-than-posh communities that need the support they’re not getting from the federal government.

Making health care more difficult to get and more expensive for those who need it doesn’t boost the economy. The assault on Obamacare might not have completely succeeded, but it’s gone far enough to do real damage to families in this country.

I don’t see how picking trade fights around the world helps the United States. Eventually, no one’s going to trust us as a partner. And the world will turn to our economic rivals – China and western Europe – as their allies for growth.

And, finally, I can’t see how war talk is good for economic growth. How suggesting confrontations with North Korea and Iran, and continuing to throw human lives and money at Afghanistan, does anything to help our economic place in the world.

So I’m not bullish on the United States. At least for 2018. As long as these idiot Republicans hold sway, this economy isn’t going to grow the way it should.

I’m going to pull back a little more. I eased the stock percentage to 50% last year, so I still some of the gains. But I’m going down more because I just don’t believe the U.S. is the growth engine it can and should be. Not as long as morons reign.

5. You can reasonably disagree with my conclusions. Unlike Trump, I don’t think people who disagree with me suffer some character flaw.

But here’s the part you shouldn’t disagree with: the fact that I’m thinking about the longer term and the bigger picture.

Nothing about the turmoil of the past few days influences my decisions. Nothing should.

Are people selling because they fear higher interest rates or higher wages? I don’t care. In fact, I’m pretty sure higher wages are a good thing.

Investing is not gambling. It is not fantasy baseball.

It is taking your money and saying this is how I want to participate in growing the economy of the nation and world where I live.

Yes, there’s risk. Realistically, I made money in 2017, but I would have made more if I’d forecast how Wall Street would swoon for Trump.

So what? I believe what I believe and there’s no mandatory cashing out point. I don’t win the game based on my standing as of Dec. 31, 2017. Or Dec. 31, 2018. Or Dec. 31, 2038, if I live to be 84.

When you see the markets gyrate, it might scare you. As a former colleague once said, relax and have a cream soda.

(I’m not sure why it’s cream soda, but it sounds good.)

Think about what you’re investing for and why. And let a good basketball game be your thrills for the day.

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BLOODY NOSE DISEASE

1. It’s Wednesday, January 31, 2018.

It’s still January. Mercifully, in 24 hours, I won’t be able to write that.

2. It’s the 50th anniversary of the Tet offensive, when Viet Cong forces attacked the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. The same embassy that had been spewing statements that the war in Vietnam was going our way.

Vietnam afflicted our national psyche. The problem is that some people got a different lesson from it than others.

There are those of us who believe that the recognition that American military might can’t solve all problems has helped increase this country’s influence around the world.

That influence might have reached its peak during the Obama years, with the United States gaining respect from its allies in western Europe, Asia and the Americas, and increasing its influence in developing nations.

3. But there was another takeaway from Vietnam. 

We held back. We failed to inflict the full military might of this nation on this swatch of jungle in Southeast Asia.

In one of the Rambo movies, Sylvester Stallone’s neo-Neanderthal character – scarred by his Vietnam experiences – asks a former officer “Do we get to win this time?” As if that wasn’t the intent when the war was actually fought.

Trump loves to listen to people who share that view. They seem to make up a good-sized chunk of the MAGAts at his unending series of rallies. He responds to their idea that you use as much force as possible to show who’s boss, and that’s how you get his tone toward North Korea.

He didn’t quite take that tone at last night’s State of the Union, where he was like the eight-year-old punk forced to behave himself at a formal family gathering. He couldn’t use terms like “Rocket Man” or “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

But his relatively restrained language on North Korea actually worries some folks a lot.

Writing for Vox last night, Zack Beauchamp said Trump’s tone toward Pyongyang was comparable to George W. Bush’s tone toward Saddam Hussein and Iraq a year before the war there.

With perhaps a lot of the same people advising him – why do I see the perpetually red face of John Bolton in my mimd’s eye? – Trump is trying to seem reasonable in pondering the unreasonable.

 

And then there’s the word that Trump’s choice to be ambassador to South Korea took himself out of the running by saying a quick strike against North Korea – what’s quaintly referred to by the Trumpistas as giving Kim Jong Un’s regime a “bloody nose” – is a danger to Americans.

The candidate was Victor Cha, a Georgetown University professor and adviser to a generally bipartisan D.C. think tank who has made a career about being hawkish on North Korea.

But in a Washington Post op-ed piece, Cha – while expressing no doubts that something must be done to stop Kim – says a pre-emptive strike against North Korea poses an escalation risk that could kill hundreds of thousands of Americans. And it wouldn’t solve the problem, since North Korea’s potential nuclear arsenal is so well hidden that there’s little chance all the weapons could be destroyed.

This is where I come in.

In 12 days, my 23-year-old son boards a plane for Seoul. He’ll be spending his second year teaching English to elementary school students – that’s right, elementary school students. He’ll be one of what Cha estimates is 230,000 Americans in South Korea.

4. And this line is what will keep me awake at night pretty much the rest of 2018:

“To be clear: The president would be putting at risk an American population the size of a medium-size U.S. city — Pittsburgh, say, or Cincinnati — on the assumption that a crazy and undeterrable dictator will be rationally cowed by a demonstration of U.S. kinetic power.”

Cha is no dove. He wants to ratchet the pressure on Kim with other forms of military might. While I haven’t made a career of studying Korea the way Cha has, I just have to think there are better ways of dealing with this.

All that said, no sane person wants nuclear war. Especially those of us with children on the Korean peninsula.

Unfortunately, that eliminates Trump and his sycophants. They’re Rambo looking for a war to win and using all the force they have to do it.

But force alone doesn’t win wars. Even if Trump accomplished his goal, the casualty count would be devastating. Millions of people.

And America’s moral force in the world, its power to influence other countries, would be eliminated for generations. We would be viewed as pariahs who used power without considering the consequences.

We would forever be tainted by bloody nose disease.

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THE IMPORTANT STUFF

1. It’s Thursday, January 25, 2018.

2. I love Roz Chost’s cover for this week’s New Yorker, which pretty much expresses how I feel about the month of January.

 

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3. You can’t say the Indianapolis Star is the pinnacle of courage in the U.S. gymnastics scandal.

That’s because that designation belongs to the more than 150 young women who went into a courtroom and relived their nightmare so that the former team doctor could be sent to rot in prison for up to 175 years.

The folks at the Star, who interviewed those women for a series of stories on the abuse, would agree.

In a video interview with the Poynter journalism site, Star reporter Marisa Kwiatkowski said the paper’s reaction to the sentencing was “appreciation for the women who trusted us to share their stories and who came forward and spoke about their experiences.”

Still, it requires more than a little wherewithal for a local paper to pursue a story this big. It takes time, it takes money and it takes commitment to the belief that what you’ve got is so important that it’s worth the time and money to tell.

So there’s lots of praise for the Star – even the Michigan prosecutor acknowledged that in her courtroom statement.

And for my former profession, the one I’m trying to prepare college students to enter, there is a lesson.

For the past few years, news organizations have focused on social engagement and being able to pick up on what’s trending out there. They have allowed that to color their news judgment – I was looking at job postings for editors and all of them mention the ability to assign stories based on the size of popularity bubbles on a screen.

That might be how an organization catches up. It’s not how it gets ahead.

Getting ahead means acting on tips about things that might or might not pan out. Getting ahead means looking into stories that are only on the radar of the people living – in this case, suffering – them.

The Indianapolis Star was out there by itself since the middle of 2016 on this horrific story of abuse among athletes. The reporters and their editors ran into obstacles from organizations and even a major university. And even though what they were reporting might not have cracked Twitter’s trending list or that box of stories at the top of Facebook, they kept going.

And now, other news organizations are trying to catch up with the Star. They’re inflating the big social media bubble.

That is journalism.

4. There’s no denying that there was a little bit of grandstanding in Bernie Sanders’ Internet town hall Tuesday night.

Sanders was promoting his idea of a single-payer health care plan, aka Medicare for All. The meeting wasn’t aired on a broadcast or cable network – instead, it was streamed to what I imagine would mostly be supporters of the idea.

I support the idea. But whether you do or not, here’s a point that Sanders and the opponents of such a plan should share.

Health care reform is an important issue and discussion of it is essential. It affects everyone and warrants serious consideration.

Cable news, at the same time of Sanders’ discussion, was focused like a laser beam on the sideshow. The Trump scandals. Fox News’ hellbent effort to discredit the evidence of the Trump scandals. What Trump tweeted today, dissected like the speeches of Cicero.

I’m not minimizing Trump’s hypocracy and the distinct possibility that he broke the law before and after getting his current job.

But the real scandal is what’s happening to our country because of what he’s doing. And the fact that serious attention to the problems of this country is not being paid by the executive branch of the American government.

Health care is a serious problem – and the only solution Trump and his tame Republicans have is to end Obamacare because of the Obama part of it. It’s not based on the concept that problems should be solved. It’s based solely on undoing what your opponent’s done to solve them.

That and making sure your donors get repaid.

This applies to everything else. Immigration, infrastructure, the environment, energy and so on.

Yesterday, we talked about how some senators want more bipartisanship. Talking about serious stuff in a serious way – as Sanders tried to do – is how that starts.

 

 

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THE COMPROMISE ROUTE

1. It’s Wednesday, January 24, 2018.

It’s the 1977th anniversary of the assassination of the Roman emperor Caligula by his guards. He was a nut case, even by Roman Empire standards.

Speaking of Trump, I was about a week off on how soon the “shithole countries” comment would be as much ancient history as Caligula’s demise.

2, I’m pretty solidly left of center. I support single-payer health care, strong gun control, higher taxes on those most able to pay, government regulation of banking and a foreign policy based on cooperation with our allies. Among lots of other things.

And because I have strong opinions, I very much want to see my agenda enacted. Preferably yesterday.

But here’s what else I understand. Not everyone agrees with me. And there might, in fact, be some people who don’t agree with me on anything.

And I also get that expecting my viewpoint – and only my viewpoint – to be how this country is run is not how a nation of 327,083,934 people – as of 3:29 p.m. ET – can function.

There are some liberal Democrats who would be frightened or bothered by the New York Times story this morning about how a group of senators wants there to be more bipartisanship.

Those senators believe the nation is lurching from crisis to crisis, with nothing being accomplished by its legislators.

The issue that appears to have crystallized this wish for bipartisanship is immigration – specifically, the threat to start deporting people who came here undocumented as children beginning in March.

To be fair, this is a threat inflicted by the party leader of 51 of the 100 senators. That would be Trump. It was unnecessary and meant to appeal to the small percentage of the populace that is terrified of anybody who’s not white.

But senators tend to be smart people. A huge chunk of them are lawyers, which meant they’ve been to college and grad school for at least six years.

And they know their history. For U.S. history, that includes such scars as the Chinese Exclusion Act, the refusal to admit Jews fleeing Nazi Germany, Japanese internment, the theft of Native American lands – and, of course, slavery and Jim Crow.

These senators understand that throwing young people out of the only home they’ve ever known would put them in the same hall of shame as predecessors who acquiesced in the other acts of infamy.

So they want to find a solution to save themselves from the judgment of history.

Immigration could be a starting point for our lawmakers accomplishing something. That’s certainly a worthy goal.

And, in a way, because of the polarization around us – polarization that, I admit, includes me – coming up with compromises is what this country has to do to get back on track for greatness.

3. The problem might be that damage has already been done. Its name is Trump.

The things this administration has done in the first 369 days of its existence have wiped out a lot of the progress this country has made in such areas as civil rights, the environment, health care and our relationship with the rest of the world.

Its list of horrible acts grows – yesterday’s was the imposition of tariffs on imported solar panels in a blatant effort to promote oil and coal production counter to reasonable energy policy.

I felt a little more optimistic reading this piece by Consumer Reports editor and former colleague Octavio Blanco that the drive to solar power might be unstoppable. Still, the effort to enrich dying fossil fuel industries is an out-and-out disgrace.

How does a bipartisan effort stop that? Would it be a bipartisan effort – are there any Republicans who actually see the move toward renewable energy as in our nation’s economic and strategic interests?

It’s the distrust that’s been fostered for generations by cynicism about our political system.

And some who lament the polarization need to look in the mirror. Where were the Republican voices seeking compromise when Barack Obama proposed reforming health care, basing it on a plan implemented by a Republican governor in Massachusetts?

Not a single Republican accepted Obama’s invitation to help craft a bipartisan measure.

So, yes, it really does seem as though the only way out of the mess our country finds it isn’t the my-way-or-the-highway approach. There needs to be compromise and cooperation. That there are people who still understand that is great – I wish them luck and success.

But I’ll believe it when I see it. And that it can only happen when Trump is safely out of the Oval Office.

 

 

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