Ginni Thomas Proves No Limit To Absurdity

Never think things can not be worse. More absurd. More delusional.

They most certainly can be far direr than we can imagine.

Enter Ginni Thomas.

Famed journalist Bob Woodward–a reporter I have admired since my teenage years–along with powerhouse Robert Costa made for lots of late-night reading Thursday. It was after midnight when James started to read me some news coverage from The New Yorker, but I stopped him to ask if this was a parody from Andy Borowitz. He assured me it certainly was not.

Virginia Thomas, a conservative activist married to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, repeatedly pressed White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to pursue unrelenting efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in a series of urgent text exchanges in the critical weeks after the vote, according to copies of the messages obtained by The Washington Post and CBS News.

The messages — 29 in all — reveal an extraordinary pipeline between Virginia Thomas, who goes by Ginni, and President Donald Trump’s top aide during a period when Trump and his allies were vowing to go to the Supreme Court in an effort to negate the election results.

On Nov. 10, after news organizations had projected Joe Biden the winner based on state vote totals, Thomas wrote to Meadows: “Help This Great President stand firm, Mark!!!…You are the leader, with him, who is standing for America’s constitutional governance at the precipice. The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest Heist of our History.”

Part of me wants to snicker at the best schooled and ‘brightest’ conservative minds in the nation wallowing in the slimy pits of voter conspiracy theories. After all, Ginni and Clarence Thomas willingly walked down a very slanted floor and surely now think it is the rest of us who are naive for not using the hose to slide the rest of the way down the drain with them.

The collision of logic and preposterousness can not be played out in more stark terms than to read the emails of Ginni Thomas. Leave aside, for the moment her lack of regard for the Constitution or laws of the nation.

Consider the fact there is no darker or more sinister aspect to this seemingly Shakespearean tragedy that is the life of Donald Trump, than the news from the past 24 hours. It is irrational to read of Thomas, a person who entered Trump’s orbit and trashed herself for someone who would spit on her should she but deviate one iota against him. Thomas is as expendable as everyone one else in Trump’s infantile world. That she was not able to discern this truth paints her as being addle-minded.

When it comes to craven ambitions and low standards of behavior Ginni Thomas has recorded a new record. Considering I truly felt we had seen and heard just about everything possible when it came to the 2020 election this news story did make me aware there is always a new basement being dug.

We just need time to learn which conservative Republican is holding the shovel.

We should be angry and demand full accountability for this dangerous and unreasonable behavior from Ginni and Clarence Thomas. In the newsrooms, one thing is not in doubt. This story was legs.

Promoting sedition and undermining a presidential election is not probably what Ginni’s parents wished for her as a legacy. But they probably did not imagine she would cozy up to a man who would be accused of a violation of the Code of Conduct while sitting on the Supreme Court, either.

And so it goes.

Fond Memory…CBS News’ George Herman

While reading today I came across a name too many young people do not know, and folks my age have long forgotten. But when George Herman was written about in David Brinkley’s Cronkite a genuine smile came over my face. (I am glad to have a space like this blog to highlight this newsman.)

Our home did not have a television until I was in the 6th grade, but one of the first faces I came to know each weekend was a rather serious sounding and low-key newsman who had the most important people in the nation stop by for a conversation. (Who would not want a job like that?) It did not take me long to get hooked on George Herman and CBS’ Face The Nation.

The sound of his broadcasting voice stood out to me. I just liked how he sounded. Having grown up with radio the voices of news reporters either connected or not, and the favorable ones I never forgot. In later years I would come to better understand it was the modulation of Herman’s even pacing when talking that connected with me. Today, I would phrase his television presence as unflappable, a solid journalist on air.

Here is what I mean, from a snippet of Herman from CBS. Herman died February 8, 2005, at age 85.

Local Newspapers Vs. Hedge Funds, Damaging Democracy

As a lifelong reader of newspapers, (starting as a boy with the Stevens Point Journal which came to our home via the mail) and with a firm understanding that reporters and journalism are a foundation of democracy comes this story from Sunday’s 60 Minutes.

I have been posting for years about the woes of the newspaper industry in the digital media age. I have written about the revenue from the industry being cut in half between 2008 and 2018 because of a ruinous decline in print advertising. And to the gut of the matter that means during that same time frame newsroom employment declined 25%. (Pew Research)

We are in fact going to suffer tremendously for the loss of accountability that the papers provide to insure our government has journalistic oversight, a loss of a daily record of events that makes for historical documentation, and a sense of commonality that allows us to have some overall reference point as a nation.

I say this because daily morning newspapers that ferret out corruption and investigate issues untouchable to the average citizen is an essential component for how we are made aware of the world.

Sunday evening this overall story was all brought home to the nation with a segment on the nation’s longest-running newsmagazine type television show.

Newspaper industry in state of decline: not exactly a stop-the-presses headline. For two decades now — owing largely to the loss of advertising revenue to Facebook and Google — fewer and fewer Americans get their news, comics and sports from all those gazettes and tribunes and journals. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. There’s an additional threat: hedge funds and other financial firms that now own nearly a third of the daily papers in America.

And these new owners are often committed not to headlines and deadlines, but to bottom lines. One fund, in particular, has been called by some in the industry a “vulture,” bleeding newspapers dry. It all prompts the question: as local newsrooms and local news coverage shrivel up, to what extent does democracy shrink with it?

Behind the marching band and baton twirlers, at the annual 4th of July parade in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, you’ll find a one-man band: reporter Evan Brandt, snapping photos, taking notes, and gathering quotes.

For the last 24 years, he’s chronicled this community of 23,000 for the local newspaper, the Mercury, which at one time had dozens of reporters. Now, Brandt is literally the last reporter standing in Pottstown.

New York City Mayor Blasts White Reporters For His Own Lack Of Effective Messaging

New York City Mayor Eric Adams has needlessly furthered a divide after only a few weeks in office. This topic gets attention on a Madison blog due to reporters being slammed by a charge of skewered press coverage because His Honor is Black. Creating such a mess of this kind before getting a solid footing in the job is a most remarkable mistake.

On Tuesday, Adams held a press conference and stated that he is not being treated fairly.

“I’m a Black man that’s the mayor but my story is being interpreted by people who don’t look like me. We got to be honest about that. How many Blacks are in the editorial boards? How many Blacks determine how these stories are being written?”

Well, let us slow down a moment and consider a fact that made social media twitter after that claim.

The almost all-white group of reporters he spoke in front of were hand-picked by the Mayor’s office and invited to cover the City Hall news conference.

He added, just in case the hole was not already deep enough, “If this is how this is going to be, I’m just going to come in and do my announcements and bounce. Why am I even answering these questions?”

Well, you are answering the questions because you threw your hat into the ring for office, and after running a good campaign, was elected. Furthermore, the reporters assembled are doing their job in holding the mayor accountable and asking questions on behalf of the public, that they too serve. Everyone, just expects Eric Adams to be an adult.

New York City politics has never been for the thin-skinned or the amateurs. So when Adams played the race card after about six weeks on the job it weakened his hand considerably. His opponents now know they can get to him and rattle him with hardly any effort.

Veteran Democratic political consultant Hank Sheinkopf also said that playing the race card wasn’t a wise move.

“Eric Adam’s mayoralty will rest entirely on crime control. He’s not getting the help he needs in Albany, he’s frustrated, he’s angry and he’s taking it out on the press,” Sheinkopf said. “And talk of race will not help him.”

Another Democratic strategist said of Adams, “Now that he’s been lightly dinged by the press, he’s finally learning what it’s like to be mayor of New York City.”

Former de Blasio press secretary Bill Neidhardt also said, “If this is what gets him upset, wait until it’s six times larger and smacked on the front of both tabs and he’ll start to understand.”

The fact is, from the vantage point here in the mid-west, Adams has not been able to mount his own messaging. He is playing and reacting to events that occur rather than getting in front of them and leading where he wishes others to follow. There is a crime wave in large urban centers, New York City is one of them. A tough-on-crime approach would do much more for the citizens than claiming white reporters just will not write stories from a Black mayor’s perspective.

And, then of course, perhaps the mayor can better explain how his brother landed a great paying appointment to the New York Police Department. How does one write about nepotism so as not to be wrongly interpreted by people who don’t look like me?

Yes, messaging is the key.

And so it goes.

Walter Cronkite As Radio Show Actor In WWII, Reporter Showing Journalism’s Push For Democracy

One of the joys of this blog is to divert off the front-page headlines of the morning newspaper into a topic that warms my heart.

From Chapter Seven of Cronkite, Douglas Brinkley’s perfectly-toned biography about ‘Uncle’ Walter comes this nugget.

Cronkite and legendary Edward Murrow remain heroes to me. The nostalgic history of radio and the role it made for itself with news reporting from Europe during World War II is among the best pages to be studied from the late 1930s and into the 1940s.

The role of radio broadcasters in the war zones was as much about giving the American public the facts of the military campaign, but also to bouy the mood of the public. Driving home the need to understand reporters were helping uphold democracy was also stressed.

That was the role Cronkite added when he played a part in the radio series Soldiers of the Press.

Here then is Program #27: United Press syndication, World lateral transcription. “Dry Martini”. U.P. correspondent Walter Cronkite’s story from a U.S. bomber base in England.

Journalistic Faves On The Move

Two of the solid class of what I term intrepid reporters are on the move. Both men are also what I know to be essential reads as they have the pulse of the political world and a growing institutional knowledge of the governing world they cover. They each are landing in solid journalistic territory–just as from where they came. The Washington Post has lost two heavyweights.

Robert Costa, the high-profile political reporter, is leaving his longtime home at The Washington Post to become a full-time television journalist at CBS News, where he will serve as the network’s chief election and campaign correspondent.

The move, announced on Thursday, is notable as much for Mr. Costa’s stature as a sought-after chronicler of national politics as it is for his decision to depart one of the more prominent roles in print journalism. Mr. Costa, 36, gained attention for his congressional coverage at the right-leaning National Review magazine before joining The Post in 2014.

He is also the second well-known correspondent to exit The Post in recent days. David Fahrenthold, a 21-year veteran of the paper and a Pulitzer Prize winner for his investigations into the Trump family’s charitable donations, joined The New York Times this month.

Defending Reporters In Hong Kong

The right of reporters to do their job and the fundamental importance of the work they do are guiding principles of Caffeinated Politics. It is not enough for anyone to pick up the newspaper off the front steps of their home and think they are doing enough to promote the work of journalists. We all need to be mindful that the trend of intimidation against journalists is gaining steam.

Today that fact is reported from Hong Kong.

Citizen News, a small online news site in Hong Kong known for its in-depth coverage of courts and local politics, said it would stop publishing on Monday night, deepening concerns about the collapse of the city’s once-robust media.

Just days earlier, another independent online media outlet, Stand News, closed after hundreds of police raided its offices and arrested seven people. Two former senior editors at Stand News and the publication itself were charged with conspiracy to publish seditious materials.

The latest closures are the final chapters in the demise of independent media in Hong Kong, a city that once had some of the freest and most aggressive news media in Asia. Now, as Beijing continues a sweeping crackdown on the city, the journalists who once covered the city’s protests and politics are increasingly either under arrest or out of work, without anywhere to publish.

“What’s happening is not just another closure of a media outlet,” said Lokman Tsui, a former journalism professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “This is part of a larger project by the government of dismantling all critical media, of all independent media in Hong Kong.”

Let us be clear about what is at stake. The reporters and press in Hong Kong are able to help maintain the city’s endowed civil liberties, including rule of law and free speech. That is in very sharp contrast to China’s tightly controlled press and lack of open and accessible reporting and distribution of information to the citizenry. 

That fight has been a losing one over the past year, but that does not mean the international resolve should cease at pressing China on their totalitarian actions and dismal record on press freedom.

And so it goes.

Madison Police Chief Shon Barnes Mixed Messages About Public’s Right To Know

Madison Police Chief Shon Barnes has placed himself into a position that no one can defend. Not conservatives, not liberals, not progressives. No one.

Usually, I find myself comfortably able to stand alongside our local police and give my support. Not this time.

Unlike past major episodes dealing with local police shootings, and actions taken (or perhaps more to the point not taken) by law enforcement to quell violent downtown rioting, there is no respectable ground for the police chief to stand on regarding Reginald Patterson. Or the way Matt Kenny was treated in 2021.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported that Barnes sent an internal message to officers that he would seek to fire anyone found to have leaked to the local media information about the resignation of a lieutenant who had been videotaped engaging in sexual activity with a woman in his squad car in a store parking lot.

But the desire by Barnes in promoting a self-serving message about another officer was even elevated to the office of the department’s spokesperson.

Matt Kenny, a police officer who shot and killed a 19-year-old who was highly combative and under the influence, was approached in 2021 by Barnes about voluntarily retiring.

Police Department spokesperson Stephanie Fryer said, “Since joining the Madison Police Department, the chief has heard from grieving family members and concerned citizens about the employment of Officer Kenny.”

There is a lot to unpack in those two stories.

First, there is a right of citizens to know what their public servants do while being paid for with tax dollars. That is not a new concept. When a 15-year employee of the department, no less, the West Police District’s head of the patrol, is caught in a sex act in a police car in broad daylight it does merit public scrutiny. Such lack of regard for sound judgment from someone who works for a department that does concern itself with public relations deserves public attention. But transparency was not the route our police chief chose to follow.

Police had refused to provide Patterson’s name until announcing his resignation, but the State Journal reported it on Oct. 14 after one current and one former department employee confirmed his identity. Six days later, in response to public records request by the State Journal, the department identified Patterson as the only department employee then on paid leave.

The fact is journalists, who report on the work of government and public officials, do rely on souces and tips so to fulfill their responsibility in a democracy. Such input from a wide array of sources, as proven in this case, ensures the public has a better understanding of what is happening with the departments and agencies they fund. As such, it was not proper to then have Barnes make the threat of firing anyone about a matter that did merit public notice.

From a public relations perspective, it appears that the desire to keep tight reins on information was more an issue for the police chief than the preposterous action taken by an officer on duty.

Regarding Officer Kenny, meanwhile, there was a true effort made to publicize an attempt to remove him from his job. For the record, I am glad that the story was reported. It, too, needs to be known by the public, as it shines a light on Chief Barnes. Sadly, his action in this matter demonstrates how he too plays to the anti-police sentiments held by some of the louder voices in this city.

Following the Tony Robinson shooting those who opposed the police attempted to frame our force as akin to other departments nationwide which have landed in the headlines.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  We might recall that then Madison Police Chief Mike Koval, in a number of national interviews, proved his communications skills while outlining why Madison is a department that is head and shoulders above others.  Statistics also make the case why Madison police can not be summed up in pointless rhetoric from the anti-police crowd.

Matt Kenney was not found to be in any way negligent in the performance of his duties as a law enforcement officer.

So to have Barnes then seek the retirement of Kenny, an officer who acted professionally in the line of duty, is more than mystifying. It is infuriating. For Barnes to take that action is a back-handed slap to the entire police force.

It is difficult to have professionals akin to former Police Chief Koval continually serve in our city. But it sure would be nice if that were possible. When they are absent it is most noticeable.

And so it goes.