Bob Schwartz

Category: Media

Bob Woodward and Seth Meyers have criticized CNN for suing the White House over the pulling of Jim Acosta’s press credentials. With all due respect to Woodward, you’re wrong.

Noted legal scholar Seth Meyers

The White House pulled the press credentials of CNN journalist Jim Acosta because Trump doesn’t like his questions, his attitude or him. The First Amendment does not allow this. CNN has sued.

Bob Woodward, an extraordinary and legendary journalist who has made his indelible mark on American history, has criticized CNN for feeding Trump’s appetite for lawsuits. So has Seth Meyers, an amusing entertainer legendary for nothing.

Lawyers are not that special. But lawyers are a bit more sensitive than some others to how unopposed government assaults on constitutional rights tend to gather momentum, sliding down a slippery slope. Waiting only makes things worse.

So to Bob Woodward, who deserves infinite respect for all he has done and continues to do, in this case you are wrong. And to Seth Meyers, who is well rewarded for working within the protection of the First Amendment, please remember that the First Amendment needs protection too. It is the First Amendment that allows those who are funny and sometimes ill-informed to express themselves without government interference.

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China Should Inspire More American Media Eye-Rolling

More media eye-rolling is needed in America. China, another country with cult of personality leadership and canned party-line presentations, shows us the way.

New York Times:

SHANGHAI — It was the eye roll seen across China.

As the annual meeting of the country’s legislature stretched into its second week, the event’s canned political pageantry and obsequious (and often scripted) media questions seemingly proved too much for one journalist on Tuesday.

With a fellow reporter’s fawning question to a Chinese official pushing past the 30-second mark, Liang Xiangyi, of the financial news site Yicai, began scoffing to herself. Then she turned to scrutinize the questioner in disbelief.

Looking her up and down, Ms. Liang rolled her eyes with such concentrated disgust, it seemed only natural that her entire head followed her eyes backward as she looked away in revulsion.

Captured by China’s national news broadcaster, CCTV, the moment spread quickly across Chinese social media….

On Chinese social media, GIFs and other online riffs inspired by Ms. Liang’s epic eye roll quickly proliferated, and by evening they were being deleted by government censors. Ms. Liang’s name became the most-censored term on Weibo, the microblogging platform. On Taobao, the freewheeling online marketplace, vendors began selling T-shirts and cellphone cases bearing her image.

What College Rankings Miss: The Teachers Who Hand You a Key

The 2018 U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges rankings are out, just one of many annual higher education lists that have flourished like flowers—or weeds.

Knowing where a college program ranks can be merely interesting or practically important, depending on why you’re looking.

If you’re a student you want to know where to get the best education. And if you’re looking to get a job or improve the one you have, where you got your degree can be important to prospective employers who may read these rankings too.

Regarding professional programs, I admit to a superficial interest in these rankings when I choose a professional, particularly in medicine, and particularly in specialties. But I also admit that the best general practitioner I’ve ever known came from a reputable but not top-tier medical school. Which is maybe what made him so great, because his education and years of practice never made him full of himself. It just made him full of good medicine and full of his patients, one by one, one to one.

As for law, every lawyer will admit, even if he or she went to one of “those” law schools, that there is far from a consistent correlation between attending one of “those” schools and being a good or great lawyer (or a good or great person). Which is not to say that every law school can do the job well, or at all. But the best lawyers, like the best doctors, don’t have to come from the top of these rankings.

Business may be the best case of this. Check out the educational background of the most successful CEOs and entrepreneurs. Sure there are your Harvard MBAs and the like among them. But there are also all kinds of undergraduate degrees from all kinds of colleges, not all of those even in business. (Some college dropouts too.)

More than ever, where resumes and CVs are first vetted by overburdened reviewers and even by machine “intelligence”, the right school apparently equals the right stuff—hiring-wise if not life-wise.

Experience says otherwise. Looking back on education, not just college or law school, but even back to high school and further, it was the teachers. And not just all of them, but the singular ones (the rare ones) who generously gave me a key. The possibilities are so many, as are the obstructions—educational, professional, personal—that the teachers who really and deeply help are the ones who make the difference. No matter what the school.

If you’re looking for that in the rankings, you may be looking in the wrong place.

Twilight Zone America: Characters in Search of an Exit

The strange and uninformed version of history that Sean Spicer recounted today is just one more episode in what increasingly seems like Twilight Zone America. The Washington Post:

Spicer brought up Hitler unprompted during Tuesday’s White House briefing while emphasizing how seriously the United States takes Assad’s use of chemical weapons.

“We didn’t use chemical weapons in World War II. You know, you had a, you know, someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” Spicer said. “So you have to if you’re Russia, ask yourself: Is this a country that you, and a regime, that you want to align yourself with? You have previously signed onto international agreements, rightfully acknowledging that the use of chemical weapons should be out of bounds by every country.”

Later in the briefing, a reporter read Spicer’s comments back to him and gave him the opportunity to clarify. Spicer’s answer only added more confusion.

“I think when you come to sarin gas, there was no — he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing,” Spicer said, mispronouncing Assad’s name. “I mean, there was clearly, I understand your point, thank you. Thank you, I appreciate that. There was not in the, he brought them into the Holocaust center, I understand that. What I am saying in the way that Assad used them, where he went into towns, dropped them down to innocent, into the middle of towns, it was brought — so the use of it. And I appreciate the clarification there. That was not the intent.”

Twilight Zone America. Consider the episode Five Characters in Search of an Exit (see image above), in which an Army major finds himself in a room with an odd assortment of four other people. Rod Serling explains at the opening:

“Clown, hobo, ballet dancer, bagpiper, and an Army Major—a collection of question marks. Five improbable entities stuck together into a pit of darkness. No logic, no reason, no explanation; just a prolonged nightmare in which fear, loneliness, and the unexplainable walk hand in hand through the shadows. In a moment, we’ll start collecting clues as to the whys, the whats, and the wheres. We will not end the nightmare, we’ll only explain it—because this is the Twilight Zone.”

And closes with this:

“Just a barrel, a dark depository where are kept the counterfeit, make-believe pieces of plaster and cloth, wrought in a distorted image of human life. But this added, hopeful note: perhaps they are unloved only for the moment. In the arms of children, there can be nothing but love. A clown, a tramp, a bagpipe player, a ballet dancer, and a Major. Tonight’s cast of players on the odd stage—known as—the Twilight Zone.”

Clown, hobo, ballet dancer, bagpiper, Army major. And Sean Spicer. Yep, that’s Twilight Zone America.

Media and trump: The Reverse Cry Wolf Effect

The media are suffering from the Reverse Cry Wolf Effect. That is, not shouting out a warning when a real danger approaches.

Instead of pointing out what might actually be a serious danger, when trump raised the preposterous and unsupported issue of Obama’s birth, the media treated it as interesting, reportable and sort of funny. And then kept it alive, forever.

Since then, trump has continued to make preposterous allegations and statements. To put it less politely, to chronically lie about matters big and small. The media, having already decided that everything he said and did was interesting, reportable and sort of funny, kept right on treating it as normal, if a bit quirky.

The latest interesting, reportable, quirky, sort of funny thing that trump claimed without any evidence is that Obama (“Bad (or sick) guy!”) wiretapped trump tower. You can tell that the media is on the verge of saying what plenty of respectable commentators are saying: objectively, trump is trying to distract us from his incompetence and real problems, he has always had an irrational hatred of Obama, and he may also be a little bit unstable.

But the media isn’t sure whether anybody will believe them. Why should we?

More New York Hate Attacks—On a Muslim Cop and a Subway Worker

aml-elsokary

Just as you probably didn’t see any national coverage of the assault on a Muslim college student riding the New York subway, you also probably didn’t see stories about more attacks in the last few days—including one on a New York City cop.

Sunday

‘I will cut your throat!’: Man attacks Muslim cop and her son

A suspect was arrested Sunday in the Brooklyn attack on an off-duty Muslim cop wearing a hijab.

“Go back to your country,” the man yelled at NYPD Officer Aml Elsokary during the incident Saturday.

He also targeted the cop’s 16-year-old son — shoving him and shouting a slur that referenced ISIS — before telling them both, “I will cut your throat! Go back to your country!” sources said.

The incident is being probed as a hate crime.

The suspect, whose name was not released, lives near the scene of the attack, on Ridge Boulevard and 67th Street in Bay Ridge.

Elsokary made headlines in 2014 when she helped rescue an old man and a baby from a burning building.

Monday

Muslim MTA worker in hijab pushed down stairs, called ‘terrorist’

A Muslim New York City Transit employee who was wearing a hijab with her uniform was injured when she was pushed down the stairs at Grand Central Terminal Monday morning by a man who called her a “terrorist,” officials said.

The 45-year-old woman was on her way to work at 6:20 a.m. when the man confronted her on the 7 Train.

“You’re a terrorist and you shouldn’t be working for the city,” the hate-monger spewed at her while the two were on the train, as he jabbed at her MTA patch.

He followed her off the train and pushed her down the stairs. Her ankle and knee were injured and she was taken to NYU Langone Hospital.

We have to start facing a few realities, though strategies to deal with them are still to be determined. One is not just the presence of hate and intolerance—an age-old problem—but the growing aggressive expression of that hate, possibly in light of the current political climate. Another is a certain willingness to stand by while that happens—also long-standing—because we will always have such people and that’s just the way things are. A final reality is much of the news media, which, with all due respect, spent the presidential campaign focused on all kinds of nonsense and missing all kinds of truth, sometimes in the name of being “objective” and not judging or having opinions.

These latest examples of necessary truths are not matters of opinion. What’s wrong is wrong, and if the media is uncomfortable reporting or analyzing it, maybe they have outlived their usefulness and relevance.

Making America Crazy Again: How to Survive and Thrive After the Election

make-america-crazy-again

You don’t want to hear this, but things may get crazier after the election.

If Hillary Clinton wins, she will be the least liked, least trusted President to ever take office. All the assumptions and suppositions about how the Clintons’ good intentions have been mixed with and compromised by expedient centrism, ambition, greed, secrecy and overall ugliness have been confirmed.

Progressives who tried an insurgency within the Democratic Party will learn that if they have a place at the table, it will be set with modest meals, if not mere crumbs.

Republicans will be gleeful at the prospect of obstructing everything and unwinding anything, without much of a plan of their own. Their glee is misplaced, since there is no Republican Party left, not one recognizable as such. Instead, it is merely the shaky platform for another set of would-be Presidents to start jockeying for position as the candidate in 2020.

And then of course there’s Donald Trump, whose hat should have first read Make The GOP Crazy, then Make The Election Crazy, and finally Make America Crazy Again. He is good at each of these. There is no doubt, whatever form his public pathology takes, he will help make 2017 a year we will not forget, just as 2016 is an election we will not forget, no matter how we try.

And so, some suggestions for getting on with our lives, not just surviving, but thriving, after the election.

  1. Religion, spirituality, philosophy, or something like them. Principled views of reality and the world can be very helpful. There is nothing inherently wrong with making stuff up as we go along. Except that when the wind blows, which it does pretty much all the time, and sometimes with hurricane force, we might want to have something to keep us steady.
  1. Media diet. When I see the ad for that cheeseburger with six strips of crisp bacon on top, something in me wants one. Except I don’t eat cheeseburgers any more, don’t eat bacon anymore, and if I did, I don’t think it would be in that particular configuration, since I plan to live a long and healthy life. The news media, even the supposedly respectable ones, are mostly offering us the equivalent of 1-pound burgers with an entire package of bacon on top, hour after hour. If you don’t want to be crazy unhealthy, please watch what you eat.
  1. Learning. You don’t have to learn about anything or anyone. You can learn exactly as much as you need to get on with your life and through the day. If you do choose to be interested in something, including public affairs, do try to learn and discern. We have spent the past year in a storm of misinformation and disinformation, lies and nonsense. That is not going to stop after the election. In fact, it could get worse, hard as that is to believe.
  1. Silence.

Donald Trump Stays Up All Night Tweeting About National Security (Just Kidding)

Twitter Bird

The Twitter bluebird never sleeps. Neither does Donald Trump.

Last night, his tirade of overnight tweets wasn’t actually about national security, the economy, or anything else significant. Instead, he couldn’t sleep because of, among many other topics, a comment Hillary Clinton made in the Monday debate about the possibility that Trump is rudely disrespectful toward women/human beings. Specifically, toward Alicia Machado, a past winner of his Miss Universe pageant, who Trump mercilessly criticized for gaining weight during her royal reign. (Note the times of the tweetstorm, which began around 3:00am, and here resumes after 5:00am.)

Trump Tweets

Millions of people stay up all night tweeting nonsense. It’s a free country and a free social medium, and God bless those who have the time for this or don’t need the sleep. But Donald Trump, as has become apparent, is not one of the millions. He is one in a million, maybe one in a billion. And he is running for President.

It might be interesting to learn what he would be tweeting in the middle of the night if he becomes President. But not nearly interesting enough to have anything to do with helping to make that happen.

TFZ (Trump-Free Zone)?

I intend and promise to make this blog a TFZ (Trump-Free Zone). Very soon. Maybe. For a while. I run away from my favorite news channels, sometimes for hours, while he is showcased. So I understand not to contribute to the overexposure.

But to torture the famous words of St. Augustine:

Lord make this blog a Trump-Free Zone. But not yet.

Thanks for your patience.

The Eulogy

Obama Charleston Eulogy

Almost always, the great speech is also the right speech.

President Obama’s eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney and the eight other victims in Charleston was great and right.

We are accustomed these days to speeches from leaders and wannabe leaders that are mediocre and content-free, and if there is content it is calculated, self-serving, and passion-free. Welcome to this or mostly any other presidential contest.

Of course, Barack Obama is the exception to the run of the political mill. In fact his sometimes supernatural rhetoric ended up being a burden, as some wondered whether he was all talk and no action. Without getting into the measure of his still unfinished presidency, which this week looks pretty good, remember that under the right circumstances talk is also action, when action means talking about the thing that needs doing.

One remarkable aspect of the eulogy was the President’s use of pronouns. We and our, he repeated, and he did not mean we Americans. He meant we black Americans. In a situation that called for the highest leader and a black man, it so happens that the highest leader is a black man.

I’ve written before about my beloved Barbara Jordan, maybe the greatest American orator of the late 20th century, with multiple entries on the list of all time speeches. Before the eulogy, it may not have been clear where and if Obama belonged in that pantheon. If it wasn’t before, that has now been settled.

The eulogy was everything it could and should have been. It was a painting of a significant scene by a skilled and inspired artist. Like a great painting, it is more than even the greatest photograph can show us. Look here, he said, think about this, remember this, all the while appealing to the heart and soul of his audience and of the nation. We have watched hours of news coverage of the events in Charleston, reviewed and analyzed and opined upon. But the magic of a speech or a painting is that by adding words and pictures, the obstacles to our really seeing are removed, the scales fall away, and we look as if for the first time. And with that vision, maybe move on to act wisely and appropriately.