Man-Child

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We know the slurs and slams all too well from Donald Trump towards the Fourth Estate.  I have commented about them often on this blog.

Trump has called members of the press “enemies of the people,” deemed critical coverage “fake,” accused news organizations of treason and uttered the phrases just as Joesph Stalin did.

But not until this week had Mr. Trump turned to the ultimate recourse of the unhappy reader: He canceled his subscription.  This should surprise no one as Trump has often stated his disdain for reading.   His illiterate nature is the outcome of such a way of life.

Officials in the West Wing on Thursday announced that copies of The Washington Post and The New York Times would no longer be delivered to the White House. The administration is moving to force other federal agencies to end their subscriptions to the papers, as well.

Trump can not stand the heat that is building under him.  Republicans are coming to realize that the creepy guy they crawled into bed with is seriously ill and wonder how sick the entire party will become.  If all this were to be placed into one quote–from The Washington Post--today it would be the following one from a Trump insider.

“We are getting crushed right now.”

That’s from a Trump adviser who has been regularly speaking with the orange-skinned man, describing to Post reporters the view that Trump and his allies are increasingly struggling to defend him from growing evidence he attempted to bolster his own political future by pressuring Ukraine.

Instead of planning for the end of his term in office the White House is just stopping the messenger from having access to alert them as to when the moving boxes should arrive for Trump’s hairspray bottles.

Tick, tock, tick……

Gregory Humphrey Makes The New York Times!

That headline sums up the energy today which flows from the desk of Caffeinated Politics.

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CreditDiana Walker, via The LIFE Images Collection, via Getty Images

I made The New York Times‘ Daily Newsletter regarding the campaign rally of President Bush (41) on Oct 31, 1992 in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. They had asked for campaign memories of special rallies and I sent them a summation of the day.  I took my family to see an old-fashioned mode of travel for a presidential campaign.  While what I sent was many paragraphs long, and truly allowed for a reader to feel the event in words, only a snippet was used by the paper.   I am glad, however, the sentence they used contains the mood of why that rally remains my favorite of the many I have been fortunate enough to have observed.

I was elated when the Times asked July 3rd for permission to quote me. My best friend made the NYT over two decades ago for running the New York City marathon, and now I have made it to the ‘Gray Lady’ too!! We now have checked those items off our bucket lists.

It is a very good day as the NYT has been my favorite daily newspaper since arriving in Sturgeon Bay in 1982 for work at WDOR.

For the record—and for my readers–this was the whole summation of what was submitted to the NYT.

October 31, 1992, was a cold and blustery day across Wisconsin. Light snow flurries swirled through the air as many thousands stood for hours at the old train depot in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. The presidential campaign that year was winding down, and even though President Bush was campaigning with David McCullough’s latest book “Truman ” in his hand while reminding voters that he too could win the election as Harry did in 1948, the polls were all indicating the opposite. In spite of that there were still campaign stops to be made, as Bush was traveling Wisconsin by train, while working over-time at trying to making his Truman moment come true.

I had secured tickets for my mom and dad along with most of my immediate family, including nieces and nephews who wished to attend what turned out to be the most incredible campaign rally I have ever witnessed. My Mom and Dad surely had doubts about standing in line for several hours to see the event, but I also know they loved it. They talked about that day for the rest of their lives.  It was that same train station in 1944 where my mom’s family had arrived from Ozone, Arkansas.  

We had arrived very early which allowed us to stand in the very front near the podium allowing the young ones in my family to have a moment they will never forget. I have been lucky to be up front at many of these election moments over the years, but nothing compares to the sights and sounds of President Bush (41) arriving on the train to greet the people. Being a lover of history this was a moment that made time seem to move backwards as the loud engine and sharp whistle brought a President to that little depot. I had at times wondered if my folks thought my involvement in politics was worth the time and energy which I had put into it. But that day as I watched their faces I had my answer. This had impressed them!

At about 5:00 P.M. off in the distance the lonesome sound of the train was heard and the crowd exploded with cheers. As the big locomotive brought the long line of train cars into the depot the President and his family were waving and ready to embrace the folks who were friendly in spite of the national mood. The crowd was highly partisan, as it should be, for such an occasion. I was mesmerized by the historical and grand moment that this old-fashioned campaign rally had generated. Nothing will ever surpass that event.

Political Cartoons About Absence Of NYT Editorial Cartoons

A month and a half after The New York Times errantly published an anti-Semitic cartoon in its international edition, the newspaper has decided to do away with editorial cartoons altogether.  I think that a very bad decision.

Long time readers know my respect for political cartoonists who can portray an issue succinctly, and in ways that a very long news column never could.   I grew up with Herblock (Herbert Block) making the point often about the sinister side of Richard Nixon.  There is much to appreciate from the work of these professionals with a flair at making a point with a drawing.

While I wish for more people to read the long news articles and gather more information, I am also well aware that many have short attention spans and appreciate the spiciness of cartoonists.  With the absence of editorial cartoons in the NYT’s comes the narrowing of perspectives which readers have come to appreciate.

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Voters In Colfax, Wisconsin Talk About Economy

Who doesn’t like to see their state featured with a front page story in the Sunday edition of The New York Times?  From Colfax, Wisconsin reporter Jeremy Peters made clear the race for president in 2020 will be hard fought in a number of counties along the Mississippi River.  With the economy being a focal point for many voters who cast ballots for President Obama, but then in 2016 voted for Donald Trump, means the way economic data is presented to them in the campaign will be key for the eventual victor.

Peters found a perfect type of Wisconsin voter to talk with when interviewing Bubba Benson.  Voting across party lines, and seeming to base a final decision on personality and style rather than partisan underpinnings, Benson sums up many citizens in our state.

They are the rare places where the highly tribal nature of today’s politics is less entrenched and where a voter like Mr. Benson can hold seemingly contradictory opinions on candidates. In 2016, he said his first choice for president was Senator Bernie Sanders. He could not bring himself to vote for Mrs. Clinton — “not after what she did to Bernie” — so he voted for Mr. Trump.

With a few more dollars from a tax cut which passed in 2017, along with his current job, Benson is pleased with the state of the economy.   The psychological lift from a paycheck is a very real determining factor in elections.

But how do Democrats present a larger economic picture for the Benson type voters–who live as he stated “paycheck to paycheck”?  How do candidates engage voters about the deeper currents  of the economy?  After all, while Benson was pleased to have received a tax cut data proves the law was designed to benefit the very rich in the nation, along with corporations.  The price tag for the tax cut has been estimated to be as high as $1.9 trillion over 10 years.

Not only were the tax cuts applied unevenly, but also came with a most lop-sided win for corporations.

By 2026, changes to individual tax rules expire, while corporate changes are permanent. Unless Congress acts, 53 percent of all taxpayers will see a modest tax hike by 2027, the Tax Policy Center says, including almost 70 percent of middle-income families.

The average voter in the counties on the western edge of our state are not engaging in stock buy-backs, as large corporations did following enactment of the law.  Nor will those voters see a raft of new jobs being created by businesses which received tax cuts.  Instead what those voters, and their children, will be facing are higher and higher piles of red ink due to the growing federal deficit.  And we know what comes next.

To curb those deficits some elected officials, as surely as the sun rises in the east, will argue spending decreases will need to occur with program cuts.  The people living ‘paycheck to paycheck’ will be the first to feel the impact of such actions.

This spring the impact of the tax cut was felt in another way as individual tax refunds were slightly smaller than last year.  At the end of March the amount of money the government refunded was $6 billion below that time last year.   Numbers underscore the point.  The average refund this spring is $2,873, about $20 less than last year.  But nearly 1.6 million fewer people are getting refunds. Data over the many years have shown that those refunds are often the largest check a person may receive in a given year.  Those refunds are used for the new large-ticket items which then also adds revenue for local businesses.

We all should feel good for Benson as he has a job, a sense of pride, and seems optimistic about the future.  But candidates also must find ways to connect and better communicate with independent-minded voters about the long-term, and more complex arrangements of our economy.   Because when the economy slows it will be the men and women in places like Colfax who will feel the impact and wonder what happened.

They will ask themselves what they did wrong.

But the answer will be what we did wrong as a nation regarding creation of economic policy.

Trump Says “I’m Sort Of Entitled…” WRONG!

The role of the press is a topic which gets many inches of postings on my blog.  The reason is obvious.  Journalists and reporters are key to a healthy republic.   Which is why the dialogue yesterday in the White House between Donald Trump and publisher of The New York Times, A. G. Sulzberger, along with two of the paper’s White House correspondents, was truly interesting. I thought it notable the publisher took the lead in questioning Trump about his attacks on the press.

One should not have been surprised that Trump was contradictory in his remarks about the news media.  He said they were “important” and “beautiful,” but also “so bad” and “unfair”.  To sum up the interview it would need to be noted Trump called himself “a victim” of unfair coverage and declined to accept responsibility for a rise in threats against journalists since he took office.

At this point in Trump’s term in office, a person well-read with current events, could correctly connect the dots about how Trump played the questions.   It was not the way one would have hoped for a serious president to have acted regarding the free press.

What I find disturbing is that too many of Trump’s supporters are not able to see with clarity the role the press has in our nation.  A reporter’s job is to ferret out facts and make them known.  When Trump lies, conducts himself counter to the norms of the nation, or afoul of the Constitution it is the duty of reporters to call him out.  Report to the nation what is happening.  Trump and his shrinking fan base may not know it, or even care, but the reporters have a constitutionally protected mandate to do their job.

Close staff to Trump might point out that if he did not continue to act in such blatantly unethical, or illegal ways there would be fewer stories which he would find troubling.  Acting like an adult is always a choice that Trump can make.

At the end of the interview Trump talked about where he grew up and how the New York Times was, based on his home, “my newspaper”.

“I ran, I won, and I’m really doing a good job. I came from Jamaica, Queens, Jamaica Estates, and I became president of the United States. I’m sort of entitled to a great story — just one — from my newspaper.”

The final paragraph seems to sum things up quite well when it comes to the mindset of Trump. “I’m sort of entitled…”

NO.  That is not how it works.

No one in this country is entitled to anything.  Trump is an elected official, but nothing more.  His role in New York, or that in Washington, gives him no more rights or privileges than anyone else enjoys.   If he wants pleasing ink (that word tells you how old I am!) in the newspaper then he needs to do something which merits coverage of that kind.

In the meantime reporters will report, and Trump can just sit and squirm.

Russell Baker, Times Columnist, Delight To Readers, Dies at 93

A writer who could make a newspaper page come alive.

Mr. Baker in 1951 at The Baltimore Sun, where his newspaper career began

Russell Baker, the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author whose whimsical, irreverent “Observer” column appeared in The New York Times and hundreds of other newspapers for 36 years and turned a backwoods-born Virginian into one of America’s most celebrated writers, died on Monday at his home in Leesburg, Va. He was 93.

But it was as a columnist that Mr. Baker made his name. Based at first in Washington, he recalled that he had to feel his way in the new genre of spoof and jape. “Nobody knew what the column was going to be,” he told the writer Nora Ephron. “I didn’t. The Times didn’t.”

But soon he was doing what he called his “ballet in a telephone booth,” creating in the confined space of 750 words satirical dialogues, parodies and burlesques of politicians and the whirling capital circus — then stoking the fires of the antiwar and civil rights struggles of the 1960s and the Watergate scandal that forced President Richard M. Nixon from office in 1974.

That year, Mr. Baker moved from Washington to New York, and his column changed. His topics grew more varied, less tied to news events and more to the trappings of ordinary life. His writing, admirers said, matured into literature: an owlish wit, sometimes surreal, often absurdist, usually scouring dark corridors of paradox, always carried off with a subtext of good sense.

He wrote of Francisco Franco’s dying and going straight to the New York Department of Motor Vehicles. In another column, a pseudonymous Sykes tells of awakening one day to find that he has someone else’s feet. Sykes conceals the shame from his wife and colleagues. Doctors are no help. Finally he confides to an editor, who signs him to a three-book contract. The feet become television celebrities. Hollywood wants Sykes’s life story for a Robert Redford movie.

In 1975, after The Times’s food editor and restaurant critic Craig Claiborne reported in gastronomic detail on a $4,000 31-course epicurean repast for two, with wines, in Paris, Mr. Baker wrote “Francs and Beans,” describing his own culinary triumph after coming home to find a note in the kitchen saying his wife had gone out.

“The meal opened with a 1975 Diet Pepsi served in a disposable bottle,” he wrote. “Although its bouquet was negligible, its distinct metallic aftertaste evoked memories of tin cans one had licked experimentally in the first flush of childhood’s curiosity.” And on to a “pâté de fruites de nuts of Georgia”: “A half-inch layer of creamy-style peanut butter is troweled onto a graham cracker, then half a banana is crudely diced and pressed firmly into the peanut butter and cemented in place as it were by a second graham cracker.”

Two years later, he conceived “A Taxpayer’s Prayer”:

“O mighty Internal Revenue, who turneth the labor of man to ashes, we thank thee for the multitude of thy forms which thou has set before us and for the infinite confusion of thy commandments which multiplieth the fortunes of lawyer and accountant alike. …”

His targets were legion: the Super Bowl, Miss America, unreadable menus, everything on television, trips with children, the jogging craze, the perils of buying a suit, loneliness and book-of-the-month clubs. He struck poses of despair that resonated with harried readers: of his endless effort to read Proust, of lacking the gene for resisting salesmen, of boredom with dull dirty books.

Ask A Republican If President Should Have Authority To Close The New York Times?

You can not make this stuff up.

A new Daily Beast/Ipsos poll finds that 43% of self-identified Republicans said that they believed “the president should have the authority to close news outlets engaged in bad behavior.”  Only 36% disagreed with that statement.

When asked if Trump should close down specific outlets, including CNN, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, 23% of Republicans agreed and 49% disagreed. I think we know who failed civics and never took history courses.

And they wonder why we know them to be deploreables!

In one of the poll’s few silver linings for the press, 57 percent of all respondents said that they believed news and reporters were “necessary to keep the Trump administration honest” including a plurality of Republicans (39 percent agreeing with that statement compared to 35 percent disagreeing). A slightly less robust 46 percent of respondents said they agreed that “most news outlets try their best to produce honest reporting” (compared to 35 percent who disagreed). And virtually everyone (85 percent of respondents) believed that “freedom of the press is essential for American democracy” (compared to 4 percent opposed to that statement).

Today Is World Press Freedom Day

It’s not every day you see news outlets running ads encouraging people to read or watch its rivals!  This is the full-page ad in today’s edition of The New York Times.

On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, dozens of news organizations are joining forces to promote high-quality journalism,

The point behind the ad campaign?  Strength in numbers. The ads encourage readers to check out a wide variety of news outlets, not just one.

The day celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom and pays tribute to journalists who have died on the job. This year is particularly poignant because newsrooms are mourning the deaths of 10 journalists in Afghanistan earlier this week.

The most recent count includes 36 participating news outlets, ranging from the The New York Times to The Economist to National Review to CNN to NPR. Most are based in the United States, but some, like Rappler, are in other countries.

The tagline is “Read more. Listen more. Understand more.”