We'll be on hiatus a few more days!

FRIDAY, AUGUST 26, 2016

But first, these observations:
We'll be on hiatus a few more days as we resolve our post-thunderclap connectivity and equipment replacement problems. But first:

Yesterday, we spent three hours in a workshop with an array of federal managers. This led us to move about the parlous partisan state into which the nation has fallen.

To what extent has our basic functioning broken down? Let's run through the three branches of government:

Due to our current dysfunctional state, the Supreme Court is operating with only eight members. There is no way to break a tie in the event of a 4-4 vote. Nor is there any assurance that there will ever be a ninth member.

It's a very peculiar state of affairs. That said, consider the current state of the Congress, the body which is failing to act on the nomination of a possible ninth Justice:

The Congress is in such a divided partisan state that it's virtually impossible to pass any legislation. This didn't start in the Obama years. It dates at least to the government shutdowns of the first Clinton term and to the subsequent stream of temporary "continuing resolutions" which were need to keep the government functioning.

Presumably, someone will be elected president in November. That said, will that person be able to pass any legislation next year? Evidence suggests that our current state of partisan breakdown makes that an unlikely prospect.

Finally, consider the status of that new president. Alas! The current state of our partisan breakdown means that the two major party nominees carry the highest "unfavorable" ratings of any nominees in modern history.

Whoever ends up in the White House, that person will be widely loathed. For better or worse, all parts of our federal government seem to be in highly unusual states of breakdown.

What explains this state of affairs? Yesterday, we suggested two basic ways in which the press corps has helped fuel this breakdown.

First, the rise of partisan news orgs of the left and the right has flooded the discourse with disinformation and misinformation. Also, with steady streams of messaging designed to make liberals and conservatives fully loathe each other.

If we might borrow from CSNY: Loathe the others well!

This sort of behavior from partisan orgs has fueled the types of division mentioned above. Meanwhile, our big mainstream legacy news orgs have persistently failed to challenge the conduct of such partisan players and orgs. Misinformation and deliberate confusion are routinely ignored—ignored and permitted to stand.

For the last ten years, we've been begging our big mainstream orgs to accept a basic principle: When major players mislead or misinform millions of people, that is in itself a news event, a news event which should be addressed in front page news reporting.

Over the past several decades, our big news orgs have largely ducked this role. In just this past week, the New York Times has finally begun to break out of this mold, challenging some misinformation being sold by Sean Hannity.

Such action is long overdue. That said, we don't expect to see such work done on a regular basis. Meanwhile, the skill level of our big mainstream orgs is often extremely low.

More and more, we resemble a failing banana republic. Players of the left and the right have happily driven this downward cycle. When will big news orgs, and us the people, finally say that the joy of loathing The Other must be subjected to a full frontal challenge?

We offer those thoughts as we start to address our post-thunderclap issues. As a nation, we've managed to achieve a clownishly dysfunctional state of affairs. Gloomily, we offer these thoughts:

Our skills at addressing this problem are few. Beyond that, the spirit seems weak.

Our mainstreamers tend to play along with disinformation and confusion pretty much as they find it. They tend to avoid rocking powerful boats. If you doubt that, listen to any mainstream pundit discussion.

Go ahead! Start with discussions on NPR, as we just (depressingly) did. Then branch out from there!

One final point: We liberals may instinctively claim it's all being done by Them, Over There. In that instinctive claim, we'll be counterproductive and wrong.

Example: We think Paul Krugman is right today. After that, we think he goes wrong!

UPDATE: Miraculous landlord files!

MONDAY, AUGUST 22, 2016

Hard to believe, but (at least temporarily) true:
Miraculous landlord does it again!

(Important key and essential note: This was not posted at Kinko's.)

To whom it may concern!

MONDAY, AUGUST 22, 2016

All others may disregard:
As part of our connectivity circus, we're forced to resort to this communication regarding Thursday's top-secret Charlottesville event.

For those who have a need to know, these URLs will be involved:

The Washington Post: Kranish and Fisher, August 14

The New York Times: Chozick, August 11

The New York Times: Rich, April 26

No other URLs need apply. Eventually, this post will disappear.

Revenge of the powerful thunderclap!

MONDAY, AUGUST 22, 2016

It looks like we'll be on hiatus:
It looks like the thunder-clap which killed our TV has also killed our computer.

On Thursday night, our landlord solved our connectivity mess. On Saturday, it looks like the whole machine died.

The gods of powerful thunder-claps take their revenge in such ways. Meanwhile:

We have an event this Thursday on which the future functioning the federal work-force may well depend. The event will be held at an undisclosed location in Charlottesville, Virginia. We plan to spend the week preparing for that and avoiding more wrath from the gods.

It looks like we'll be on hiatus this week. That said, we think Jim Rutenberg has begun to do something in today's New York Times which we've been suggesting for years.

Bogus information strikes at the very heart of our culture. The presence of mis- and disinformation needs to be widely discussed.

At any rate, it looks like we'll be on hiatus this week. Stay away from the thunder-clap gods!

Rachel Maddow mugs and clowns!

SATURDAY, AUGUST 20, 2016

We think you ought to see this:
Here at THE HOWLER, we're still recovering from this week's loss of connectivity.

We're also working on our posts about Amy Chozick's recent attempt at campaign bio.

Chozick's example of campaign bio concerned certain episodes in the life of Candidate Clinton. The piece ran 2600 words. It stretched through 58 paragraphs.

In our view, the piece was riddled with journalistic problems, shortcomings and errors. It illustrates some basic problems with the highly fraught, widely abused genre of campaign bio.

For these reasons, we want to review and refine our posts before we publish them. We'll proceed with part 2 in our series on Monday morning. For part 1, just click here.

For today, we really think that you should consider some recent mugging and clowning. We start with this short post by Caitlin MacNeal at TPM.

On Friday morning, MacNeal posted the video of a short segment on Thursday night's Rachel Maddow Show. The segment concerned a trivial point about the doctor who wrote a letter last December discussing Donald Trump's health.

The strangeness of the doctor's letter was widely discussed back in December, when the letter appeared. On Thursday, Maddow discussed a minor additional point, but her mugging and clowning were so extreme that we think you should give it a look.

Maddow's segment ran three minutes and 24 seconds. Video of the segment can be found at MacNeal's post.

The most remarkable mugging and clowning start at the 2:30 mark. Chuckling by the enablers can be heard in the background.

Increasingly, the nation's discourse lies in a heap. This mugging and clowning is part of the problem, which only continues to grow.

Thursday's segment grew from Maddow's discussion of fake medical claims about Caniddate Clinton, a topic she discussed Wednesday night. The spread of bogus information is a very important topic, a topic Maddow never pursues to the end.

Maddow touched on this topic on Wednesday night. By Thursday night, the mugging had won. (Maddow had teased the segment as her "Catch of the Day.")

One more point. MacNeal, a youngish TPM reporter, didn't seem to see anything strange about the video she posted. We think that's a very bad sign. Here's why:

When conservative sites spread bogus factual claims, they help destroy conservative brain cells. Rachel Maddow's mugging and clowning can have a similar effect Over Here. MacNeal saw nothing strange in that videotape. We think that's a very bad sign.

We really think you should watch that tape. What you see may be inevitable when corporate "news orgs" make stars like Maddow extremely wealthy and tribally famous, revered.

Under current arrangements, there may be no way to avoid such corporate-sponsored mugging and clowning. But mugging and clowning can kill brain cells, and the death of our American brain cells has tremendously harmful effects.

The spread of bogus information is extremely harmful. In the end, so is our own tribe's mugging and clowning, with chortling from the hacks.

We think you ought to watch that tape. In our view, that embarrassing tape ought to be cause for concern.