Hypocrisy at Media Matters

Media Matters for AmericaMedia Matters for America is a great resource. They listen to Rush Limbaugh so we don’t have to. They’re kind of like Christ in that way: suffering for the sins of the right wing echo chamber. But I’ve always been a little bit skeptical of them, because let’s face it: David Brock has a questionable past. He is, after all, the totally unprincipled writer of The Real Anita Hill. And even after his liberal awakening, he used the same disreputable conservative tactics to push his book Blinded by the Right. I’ve always felt that Brock wasn’t so much a liberal as a New Democrat. And regular readers should know that I believe that the New Democrats have been responsible for destroying both the Democratic and Republican parties. (See for just one example, Robert Rubin and the Villainy of the New Democrats.)

So I was not surprised on Monday when Huffington Post published, Media Matters Employees Feel “Betrayed” By Management’s Opposition to Their Union. According to the article, “Media Matters management recently declined to recognize the union through the ‘card check’ process, instead exercising its right to force a union election under National Labor Relations Board oversight.” Card check is where a union can collect employees’ identification cards and present them to the management to indicate that the employees want to join the union. Businesses hate this because it doesn’t allow them to run their usual little campaign of fear and intimidation to change the vote. And because we don’t live in a democracy, companies are not required to accept card check.

But Media Matters is a liberal organization. Being liberal is a big part of their brand. Surely they would accept card check! But of course not. Because when you get right down to it, Media Matters is still a company, even if it is a nonprofit. The managers still make more money than the workers. And the more money the workers make, the less will be available for management salaries. And those salaries, while hardly excessive are certainly not bad. According to Poynter back in 2011:

David Brock (chairman/CEO): $286,804
Eric Burns (president): $240,579
Tate Williams (chief of staff): $162,812
Eric Boehlert (senior fellow): $115,000
Ari Rabin-Havt (VP-communications and strategy): $134,484

I could be all wrong about Media Matters, of course. And I thought I was when I a saw a Politico headline today, Media Matters “Not Opposed” to Unionizing. But all the article did was reinforce my original suspicion. Vice President Angelo Carusone said, “People have that right, so yea, of course they do. It’s a choice. What’s guided us the entire time is making sure the process is really clean.” If I had not yet made it out of preschool, I might accept that. But I have and so what I see is that Media Matters is doing what all companies do when faced with unionization: stall. They want time to organize themselves so they can kill the unionization effort.

It is possible that this move will be bad for the bottom line at Media Matters. But I doubt it. I suspect the rich people who give money to organizations like Media Matters are the same kind of New Democratic “liberals” who believe in individual rights and equity—as long as it doesn’t cost them any money.


Actually, the issue with unions isn’t usually about money. It is about power. Management does not want to give up any of the power that it has. Of course, when forced to, management quickly gets used to it. I suspect the managers at Media Matters are fighting this because it is an affront to their feelings of self-worth. I hope the workers don’t back down. But if they do, I understand. It is not a good time to be a worker in America—a fact of which I’m sure all the managers at Media Matters are aware.

Literally Crazy Commenter

Conspiracy TheoryI continue to find myself facing ethical questions I do not really feel comfortable dealing with. About a year ago, I created a YouTube video, These are not very bright guys – All the President’s Men. It is just a clip from that movie where Deep Throat tells Woodward that that he shouldn’t believe everything that the media said about the Nixon administration being brilliant, “The truth is, these are not very bright guys.” I put it up because I come back to it again and again in life. We are fooling ourselves if we think we have things under control. And that’s especially true in politics. I used it as an illustration of the potential dangers of the Republican Debt Ceiling hostage taking. That could have gone very wrong and it still could.

The video is only 15 seconds long and half of that is titles:

The video has never gotten many views, which is not surprising; I think I’m one of the few people on the planet for whom the line has any special meaning. And I had never received any comments on it. Until today.

I got a comment by a guy I’ll call WM. I’m not giving you his name because I don’t want him coming around here for reasons that will be obvious in a moment. And also, I think the nicest thing we can do for him is to leave him alone. In addition to what is most obviously offensive, the whole structure of the comment strikes me as being very much like what I’m familiar with of marginal schizophrenics. I don’t know, of course. But I feel very sorry for this guy.

What I don’t think most people understand about schizophrenia is how the person suffering from it has the experience of not being quite sure what reality is. This tends to make them very frightened. We see it as paranoia, of course. But from their perspective, this is rational. They can’t know that the conspiracy is not “out there” but rather “in here.” So I really do feel bad for anyone suffering from such a thing.

Here is a slightly formatted version of what he wrote:

The real story is not the whos and the whys and the hows of the break in of the Democrats but why the jews wanted Nixon out of the Oval Office. And, as we all know, only a PhD who studies meticulously about our jew society and how the jews manipulate people into situations to destroy them. Why did the jews want Nixon out of the Oval Office. That is the story behind the story. Of course, the second question is why was Alan J. Pakula murdered on the NY LIE after I met with him and gave him and Harrison Ford copies of my Federal Civil Right lawsuit that exposed the NASA and DoD jews plan on attacking America in order to ramp up the DoD spending__and why I was thrown out of NASA for laughing at them for insinuating that this was not legal and not good thing for the country. Of course, Harrison Ford was not in the car with Alan Pakula! Makes you wonder__the LIE? And, the Sussex County Detective at the scene of the crime? Det Frank Stallone? Go Figure!

In 2014 the DoD budget including the NSA, CIA, NASA, FBI, and MTV is at about 500 Billion or 1/2 the National Budget! The 911 attack was very effective since the jews own the Intelligence Agencies and the MIC in jewish America.

Just to clarify a few things. Pakula directed All the President’s Men. Harrison Ford starred in Pakula’s last film, The Devil’s Own. LIE is Interstate 495 in New York. Pakula was killed in a gruesome car accident but I’ve never heard anything to suggest that it was anything else. I think he is implying some kind of conspiracy that must involve Ford, since he still walks the earth. Frank Stallone is the name of both a Suffolk County detective who was involved in the case and Sylvester Stallone’s musician brother. Is he suggesting a Hollywood connection there? I can’t say. Nor can I say if he actually worked at NASA, but given all the guy knows, he is clearly smart.

Of course, what most people will notice is that this comment is about as antisemitic as you can be in writing. But based upon other things the guy has said and done, he seems to be one of those people who think the world is controlled by reptiles mascaraing as humans. I guess they are who he thinks the “jews” really are, which is an inventive take on an old bit of hatred about Jews not being human.

Mental Illness Is Not ContagiousMy guess is that he was a smart and creative young man and the disease came upon him in his twenties, as it usually does (late teens, early twenties). And maybe he was working at NASA until he became unstable and they got rid of him. The society is particularly bad about helping the marginal cases. And think about it from his perspective: the world starts to come unglued, he loses his job, and largely becomes isolated. You’d want to find answers and I think he can be forgiven for coming up with reptilian jews who rule the world.

But my ethical problem is much simpler than trying to fix all the problems of the world or at least our nation. Should I allow the comment to stand? After all, I’m kind of a free speech absolutist. What he wrote was vile, but he does have a right to say it. Just the same, it doesn’t lead anywhere good. For one thing, it has nothing to do with what my video was about. And at best it would be ignored. But it might start a flame war. And it would certainly make anyone even marginally Jewish feel at least somewhat bad.

The more I thought about it, the more I began to see the moral imperative to be about him and not the rest of society. For his own good, I canned it. (YouTube had already flagged it as spam.) If I can’t get the guy help, the least I can do is to not give him any exposure. I looked at his comment thread on YouTube and it was filled with very understandable reactions to him that certainly don’t help. So the less attention the better. But it’s sad.

A Brief Look at Doodle 4 Google Winners

GoogleAs you may be aware, there is a contest for school children, Doodle 4 Google. The Google Doodles are, of course, the special Google displays that commemorate things like South Africa Freedom Day. And sometimes they are animations, like the one they did for Claude Debussy’s 151st Birthday. And sometimes they are even games like my all time favorite Google Doodle celebrating Roswell’s 66th Anniversary. (I have written a thorough analysis of it.) But mostly they are just pretty images that act to spice up the usual boring Google home page.

The idea of the competition is not just artistic. The students are supposed to visualize the future. According to Google, “Since the beginning of time, ideas big and small, practical and playful, have started out as doodles.” So I was keen to see what the kids came up with. And yesterday, the winners from each state were announced. They are divided into five sets of ten winners in the grades K-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9, and 10-12. You can vote for the one that you think is the best. I don’t think I could pick just one myself. I figured that they would be great and they did not disappoint. So I thought I would share the ones that I liked most in each group.

I’m especially impressed with the K-3 group, because I don’t remember even being able to talk when I was that old. I can’t imagine coming up with anything as zany and cool as Jason Rosado’s Time Extender, which he explains as, “If I could invent one thing to make the world a better place, I would invent a machine to slow down time so we can have longer days. It would float in space and put a force field around Earth to slow down Earth’s rotation.” Rylie Cottrill wants to cure cancer, but I was especially charmed by the equations she used in her entry: C-4÷7=Z=C12-B. I have no idea what it means, so it very well may be the cure for cancer. But I was blown away by Annaliese Tester’s Clean our World with Litterbot:

Litterbot - Annaliese Tester

The 4-5 group is even better than some of the later groups. Connor Heagy created a beautiful image for his wonderfully fanciful The Trashformer that “turns trash into clean water and flowers.” Inga Zimba did a really cool thing with “Google” and Honeycombs as well as highlighting a really important issue, “I would invent robotic bees that could follow living bees to their hives to gather and record data in hopes of discovering what bees need humans to do to reverse the effects of Colony Collaspe Disorder, otherwise known as the mass disappearance of honey bees. Bees are vital to life!” But Shashi Arnold’s flying cardboard box is just irresistible:

Imagination Transportation - Shashi Arnold

The 6-7 group really ups the the artistic level. But I’m also impressed with the intelligence and wit. Josie Psimer offers us a language translator for dogs called the “Howl Ya Doing 3000.” Christine Anna Jeong offers the Galactic Express, which she visualizes as a railway in space. But since I am an old softy, I present to you Esther Park’s vision of a truly utopian future, Freindship:

Friendship - Esther Park

With the 8-9 group, some cynicism starts to creep into our worldviews. This is especially true of Aaliya Jaleel’s The Heart Reader, of which she says, “Some people tell us that what they are doing is for our benefit when it’s not. The heart reader ‘reads’ a person’s heart and reveals their personality and true intention.” The image is also great with muted pastels. But even Renaise Kim wants to create binoculars that make people see the world more optimistically. Of course, they aren’t all in this category. Lucy Zhu wants to wipe out tornadoes and Ansley Grider wants to cure cancer. But my favorite certainly implies a jaundiced eye on our world: Yanming Wen’s Looking through another’s eyes. It involves eye glasses that allow one to see the world through another’s eyes:

Another's Eyes - Yanming Wen

The graphic designs of the 10-12 group are astounding. Yet they haven’t lost their innocence. Isabel Waller, like Connor Heagy above, wants to turn garbage into flowers. But her image makes me think she may be the next Bill Watterson. Justin Whitehead wants to cure obesity by making broccoli taste like Oreo cookies. And Bronte Mock wants to create biodegradable plastic. But I was especially moved by Amy Carlson’s Ideatriever. How she is not already a star illustrator in the children’s book publishing industry, I do not know.

Ideatriever - Amy Carlson

All these kids make me wonder what I did with my life. It’s all wonderful, fun, smart stuff. This is the best I’ve felt about the future in a long time. (But it will pass.)

Update (9 June 2014 7:57 pm)

The overall winners were announced. To some extent, I think it is wrong to try to pick a single one even in one age group. They were all great. But it is interesting that only one that I highlighted—Amy Carlson’s Ideatriever—won an age category. And only one that I mentioned—Renaise Kim’s Brighter World through Binoculars—won an age category. My tastes are clearly rather different than most people’s. Or—and I think this is much more likely the case—some parents were much better boosters for their children’s work. Which makes the whole idea of winners even more silly. But again: congratulations to all of the kids. They are the best of what we are.

Conservatives as Bullies

Malcolm NanceWhenever I think of conservatives in the general sense, I think of a quote by Malcolm Nance. According to Wikipedia, he is “a former US Navy Senior Chief, SERE instructor, and expert in prisoners of war and terrorist hostage survival techniques.” So he’s a serious guy in the arts of war. But after 9/11, he was forced to work with the Bush administration chicken hawks. He derisively referred to them as practicing “Tom Clancy Combat Concepts.” He characterized their attitude, “We’re going to be hard, we’re going to do these things, we’re going to go out and start popping people on the streets and we’re going to start renditioning people.”

Other than racism (which is related), this is the conservative mentality. Liberals have “bleeding hearts” but conservatives think they see the world clearly because of their hearts of stone. This is why every lower class white guy I run into is a Republican. They want to be “tough,” so they vote for the Republicans. But really, the Republicans are not tough in any sense of the word I know. They are simply bellicose. And it isn’t even a real willingness to fight. It is just the rhetoric of strength. Real men don’t feel the need to threaten violence.

Chris ChristieThat brings us to Chris Christie. He is just the governor of New Jersey. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t really care about him. But he is the ultimate example of the brutish behavior that undergirds the rhetorical appeal of conservatism. You see it throughout the movement. It is evident in Ted Cruz And Allen West. But Christie illustrates what is most important about conservatism: he is a bully.

So it was with some glee that I saw Andrew Prokop’s article in Vox yesterday, If You Dispute Chris Christie’s Budget Estimates, He’ll Go After You—Even if You’re Right. It tells the story of a two year bullying campaign that Christie was engaged in against the highly respected head of the New Jersey Office of Legislative Services (OLS), David Rosen. In 2012, Christie came out with a ridiculous budget that assumed the state would see a totally ridiculous growth rate of 7.4%. Rosen, as part of his job, analyzed the numbers and found that Christie’s budget would be out of balance by many hundreds of millions of dollars.

Christie fired back, going so far as to make a 20 minute long tirade against the OLS chief. He said, “Why would anybody with a functioning brain believe this guy? … How often do you have to be wrong to finally be dismissed?” That is typical Christie rhetoric, which should be familiar to anyone who has ever heard him talk to a teacher. And the attacks continued. Rosen is not a partisan guy; he’s respected by both sides of the isle in New Jersey. But Christie just knows that no one should listen to anyone who disagrees with him.

Well, it is two years later and it turns out that Rosen was completely right about the budget. But don’t expect Christie to apologize. For one thing: that isn’t who Christie is. What’s more, Christie didn’t listen to facts then; why would he listen to them now? And finally, he has Hurricane Sandy to hide behind. He’ll just say that New Jersey didn’t grow at 7.4% because they aren’t stronger than the storm.

What’s interesting is to see how this is typical of the conservative movement: resistant to facts, never admitting wrong, being mean to show how tough you are. It’s all in what Malcolm Nance said above. Most telling of all, it is what our torture program was all about. The FBI was extremely good at interrogation. They knew that torture didn’t work and was generally of negative value. But the conservatives in charge of the government wanted to be “tough” and “hard.” That’s what torture was all about: looking like you were strong with no concern at all about actually being strong. It is the mentality of a bully. That’s half of American politics.

The Ballad of Johnny Horton

Johnny HortonOver the weekend, I was at the graduation party for my niece. Actually, she is the daughter of the sister of my sister’s husband. And I have to say, they put on a good party. The father is a constant builder and one thing he has built on their vast property is a bar. Admittedly, the beer on tap was marginal and most of the beer in bottles sucked. But since the demand for good beer was low, I managed to spend the day drinking little else but Lagunitas.

At one point, I got into a conversation with the mother about Johnny Horton who was born on this day in 1925. It turned out that she is a big fan of his music and I had to maneuver to avoid borrowing a CD of his music. It wasn’t that I don’t like his music, it is just that it would have been a hassle to get it back to her. I was raised on the music because my own mother was a fan.

Horton was best known for “saga songs,” which I always associate with folk music, but apparently he was considered rockabilly. His best known song is Jimmy Driftwood’s The Battle of New Orleans. I like the song, but I’ve always thought the production was silly with the drums and the “Hup, two, three, four!” part. In fact, Driftwood’s version is far superior.

But I do love Horton’s voice. He has just enough of that bluegrass hollering thing going on to make what is essentially a pop voice interesting. He also has great variety in the timbre of his voice. And for all the silliness of the production of his songs, they have a gusty appeal. Here is “North to Alaska”:

While on tour in Texas, Horton’s was killed at the age of 35 in a car accident when a drunk college student hit the band’s car while crossing a bridge. The other two survived, although guitarist Tommy Tomlinson lost one of his legs. The drunk kid, of course, suffered only minor injuries.

Happy birthday John Horton!