One Month of Christmas, Day 5

Good day, today is Thursday, November 29th, 2018. It’s really windy out. Despite my rant yesterday about the Stones’ prices, my dad bought up a few seats for us today. My hypocrisy with things I want knows no end, I guess. On to today’s thoughts…

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Where the Action Will be, 2019 Governing

What will happen the next two years in government? The most common answer is nothing. Congress is divided, the nation is divided, the states are divided. Yet, in the past two days, I’ve sung a different tune to two PA State Reps I’ve advised in the past.

One is a newer representative (not a freshman), who asked me what committees she should ask for. I told her almost instantly “transportation.” I told her the only thing coming out of Washington the next two years is an infrastructure bill. When that money hits state capitols, you’ll want to be helping craft the state’s bill.

The other is a more senior state rep, who will be Democratic Chairman at Agriculture. My advice? Stay there. Trump will desperately want to help farmers across the Rust Belt heading into his re-election. The U.S. House Agriculture chairman represents probably the reddest Democratic seat in the country, and makes his political bones by being very engaged with the agriculture community. I think they may be sending some money to the states.

Just a hunch, though.

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The 30 for 30 Bobby Knight Special was Wow

I just watched the “30 for 30” on Bobby Knight and was absolutely stuck on it. It was incredibly well done, and paints a picture of an unlikable Bobby Knight. What an awful guy.

It was also a super sad story. Neil Reed was tortured by his experience at Indiana. He finally had escaped the shadow of his time with the Hoosiers, had happiness, and then he died. There was no happy ending.

The business of college sports was once again on trial. Like Ohio State and Michigan State’s recent problems, or Penn State and Baylor’s past problems, it’s clear that money causes questionable decision making. The NCAA never looks good when we view these sagas.

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Cohen Blows the Lid on Trump-Russia Connection

There is no question if Russia tried to help Donald Trump in the 2016 Election, only whether or not he and his associates knew. I’ve long since believed they did, but I had mostly assumed Donald Trump himself was largely shielded from that. I never thought he himself would get hit.

Today I’m not sure. Now we’re getting into connecting not only Trump’s campaign to Russia, we’re also connecting Trump’s company and finances to Russia. This is new territory for this case. Perhaps this was more than just an operation by Russia to influence an election, but also to control a foreign asset. If that is so, this is a new chapter, and not a good one.

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Back at it tomorrow…

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One Month of Christmas, Day 3

Good day, today is Tuesday, November 27th, 2018. Christmas is now 28 days away. Here’s today’s random thoughts…

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Paul Manafort? #LockHimUp

Paul Manafort is going to prison. That was true when he was found guilty in his first trial. That was more true when he plead guilty before his second trial. Now that he lied to prosecutors? Lock.Him.Up.

There seems to be a convergence of events that is entirely circumstantial, but you can’t turn away from. First, the revelations that Manafort both violated his plea deal, AND that he had a secret meeting with Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, before the Wikileaks attacks on the Clinton Campaign. Second, Jerome Corsi’s bizarre rantings about rejecting a plea deal for perjury- which both seems to be the least of his crimes, and not the crime he’s describing. Third, Donald Trump just submitted his written answers to Mueller’s questions.

The only thing that makes clear sense to me is that Bob Mueller is trying to establish a back channel between the Trump campaign, Wikileaks, and Russia. Manafort probably wasn’t totally forthcoming about something related, Mueller had the goods on it, and the deal fell apart. Manafort is pretty much screwed. This isn’t great for Mueller either, as he loses a star witness. Things are at least beginning to become clear though.

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Goliath is Back, and Goliath is the Phillies?

As I write this, Twitter is buzzing with news that Patrick Corbin is at Citizens Bank Park. The elite left-handed pitcher on the market seems to be high on the Phillies wish list, along with Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, every major free agent, and every major trade candidate.

The Phillies are a big market team, with a big market TV deal. In fact, they’re the biggest market with just one team. They have a low payroll and young team. While 80-82 isn’t a great season, it’s good enough to now buy your way back into the playoffs. They have plenty of prospects to work with, one of the richest owners in sports (John Middleton), and a fan base that can fill the seats in a hurry.

The expectations for the Phillies this off-season are high, but not beyond their abilities as a franchise. I’m obviously most interested in getting Bryce Harper, but Machado, Corbin, Kimbrel, and major trade targets are all fine too. I’m just ready to watch a major superstar hit upper deck homers to right again, like the good ole’ days. The possibilities seem endless, and so does John Middleton’s desire to win. Goliath is back in the NL East.

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Make Gritty the new Flyers GM

Here’s some real talk- the Flyers have been a directionless, “good enough” to make a profit franchise for a long time. Here’s some other tough talk- over that long time, the Flyers keep putting ex-players in charge of the team. They haven’t done so hot though. It’s been 40 years since the team won a Stanley Cup. It’s been almost a decade since they blew up a team that lost in the Stanley Cup finals. The team is perpetually disappointing. The most successful thing they’ve done is make Gritty their mascot.

So, I put in the title here “Make Gritty the new Flyers GM.” I’m not really suggesting that, but I guess I am if they’re really going to let Paul Holmgren call the shots in the organization. Holmgren, the ex-GM that failed in his previous role, was rewarded for losing by being promoted to the Team President. If this is the kind of decision making the Flyers do here again, why not let an orange mascot run the operation?

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Democrats Should Stop Fearing White Voters

Over the weekend, I was watching Roland Martin on MSNBC, and he said something profound- Democrats need to stop fearing white voters. His point wasn’t to ignore them, it was to actually campaign at them. His point was pretty simple- what are they getting for voting for their guns, or against immigrants, or any other social issues? Campaign to them on health care, on education, on wages- because these issues apply to them. Will Democrats win white voters? I don’t know, but it’s unlikely. Will they do better? Most likely. This doesn’t mean stop campaigning to the Democratic base, or stop talking about civil rights. It means walk and chew gum.

I do know this- this will work far faster than waiting for demographic changes to get us to victory.

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My Favorite Christmas Specials?

  1. Rudolph
  2. The Grinch
  3. California Raisin
  4. Frosty

I basically make my picks based on the music. You can’t hate.

5 Hours Out…

We’re six hours from polls closing here in North Carolina, not that I’m counting or anything. Here’s what we know/are hearing…

  • At 7:33am in my home precinct of Palmer Middle-1, Northampton County, PA, turnout was already 54. That’s a swing voting district, in a swing township, of a swing Congressional District, in a swing state. That’s also 33 minutes in.
  • The Department of Justice has election monitors in PA-7.
  • Phone bankers in Florida’s 26th Congressional District are finding “90% of voters on our list say they voted.”
  • Rain has stopped here in the Charlotte area, but it’s still cloudy.
  • A person was killed back home in Northampton County after voting. They were hit by a car after voting.
  • “Inactive voter” status is an issue around Charlotte.
  • Somerset County, NJ reports record vote-by-mail ballots requested and returned, with Democrats enjoying a 2,000 person registration advantage.
  • 36 million voted early.

Go vote.

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People asking me if I’m gonna give my chain back, that’ll be the same day I give the game back, and ya know the next question, yo, yo where Dame at? Let’s start the Indian dance to bring our reign back. What’s up with you and Jay man, are y’all okay man?

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Today’s GOTV playlist:

  1. Diamonds from Sierra-Leone- Kanye West
  2. Crazy- Aerosmith
  3. It’s Good to be King- Tom Petty
  4. PSA- Jay Z
  5. Victory- Puff Daddy

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Tonight’s candidate of the night is Donna Shalala. The former HHS Secretary in the Clinton Administration served over a decade as President of the University of Miami. Now she is running for Congress in FL-27.

If Donna doesn’t win, our majority is in doubt. So is winning the White House in 2020. Donate to Donna here. Volunteer here.

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I’ve seen a lot of disgusting negative attacks in my day, and I’m not against negative campaigning, but State Rep. Joe Emrick went to a new low back home. He basically accused Amy Cozze of being a domestic terrorist for putting glitter in a parking ticket envelope. No, seriously. This is so far and away over the top that he should be ashamed.

Donate to Amy here.

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Tonight’s GOTV past story? The 2014 Bonnie Watson Coleman/Cory Booker Central Jersey operation. I’m one of the worst cycles for Democrats in recent memory, we elected the first African-American Congresswoman in New Jersey history, with 61% of the vote. We did so in the whitest district of any member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

The memories about this race are numerous and kind of awesome. I remember staying in a hotel room as a team on route 1. I remember figuring out that local committee people liked to hang out in the office at night after we left (we found the beer cans- good choice guys). I loved going between the four counties in the district and feeling like I was in a different world.

I really enjoyed the winning though.

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I love the Sixers young talent, but nothing in the first few games suggests they’ve made the leap from very good to title contender. Tonight’s loss to Toronto is the latest evidence. I’m not saying I’d trade four firsts for Jimmy Butler, but I’m not saying I wouldn’t either.

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We apparently have an O’Keefe style right-wing infiltrator in Mecklenburg County trying to get Democratic operatives, candidates, and activists to say crazy things.

One week. 🙃

Dear @MLB: Impeach Rob Manfred for his “Pace of Play” Initiatives

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I don’t go to baseball games to see how fast they can be finished. No one does, really. I spend thousands of dollars going to 40 some professional games a year, and I do so because I enjoy it. I enjoy being outside. I enjoy the thinking aspect of the game. I enjoy the game itself. Yes, a game lasts three hours. It’s not a game that lends itself to instant gratification. It’s a game that takes time, requires thought, and generally lends itself to the strategically inclined. It’s a game of inches, adjustments, and patience. Baseball fans like all of this stuff. They also enjoy kicking back in their seat, with a cold beer in their hand, and watching the game. It’s what we pay for.

Apparently Commissioner Rob Manfred doesn’t think that’s the case, or more likely, takes us for granted. In his efforts to bring more marginal fans into the stadiums and watching the TV’s, Manfred is hellbent of making baseball more timely. He thinks baseball needs to improve it’s pace of play to be more interesting. He thinks that baseball can somehow emulate the pace of play in other sports, sports like the NBA that are basically built for constant action. What he thinks is basically incorrect.

Manfred’s latest brilliant idea, limiting the number of mound visits a catcher can make, is idiotic. He has floated equally silly ideas about how many pitching changes a team can make in an inning, and putting a base-runner at second base to start innings during extra-inning games. The goal? Less stoppages. More action. A faster game. He thinks this will bring more fans to the sport in 2018. He essentially is saying society is too ADHD for baseball.

The NFL would serve as a good model for why Manfred’s plans are doomed from the start. The NFL’s best efforts to appeal to the casual fan in recent years have left them with egg on their face. From their attempts to have it both ways on national anthem kneeling, to their attempts to “get tough” on off field behavior, to their feeble attempts at addressing head injuries, to their completely inept inability to define what a catch is, the NFL’s attempts at change have left them actually with lower ratings than ever before. Is this because their efforts to protect their players and combat domestic violence were wrong? Of course not. It’s because these attempts at doing the right thing, at changing a league’s identity, are not going to bring new people into the game, by and large. You do that through enhancing the experience for fans in attendance, and creating more compelling television for the fan watching at home. One could simply look at the NBA’s recent success with these things and see that.

People who don’t watch baseball now are not likely to start watching baseball because you speed up the game. People who find baseball boring aren’t going to come over because of rule changes. They’re going to come over because the game is compelling TV. You have a game that is going global, who has compelling stars like Jose Altuve, Clayton Kershaw, and Giancarlo Stanton, and an in-game experience for the fans at the game that is enjoyable and relaxing. Changing the identity of the game to chase people who don’t like baseball now is going to leave Rob Manfred every bit as unpopular with the fans as Roger Goodell is with NFL fans. It’s also not going to work- kind of like the NFL’s recent decisions haven’t. Market what we love, don’t chase people who don’t. That’s the formula for success, and Manfred should understand that or get lost.

My Top Ten Phillies Prospects List

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At the end of each January, good news rings in my head- “Spring Training is coming!” There’s nothing better than the return of baseball to me, but sadly I’ve only once been to Clearwater for the Grapefruit League season (2011). This year, Spring Training fever has been delayed a little bit, in favor of Super Bowl fever, but baseball is my main love, in the end.

The 2018 Phillies should be a better team than the 2017 version. Some of the top young prospects in the organization have now arrived. Some are about to. Even so, the main intrigue in the Phillies universe, at least for one more Spring, is in the prospect world. Last year I went to 42 professional baseball games, and approximately half of them were minor league games. I expect that to be the case again. I spent a lot of time watching minor league games on TV too. With all that baseball, I was bound to have a top ten prospects list. Here is my version of that Phillies list:

  1. J.P. Crawford-SS- Philadelphia- A tough first half of 2017 dropped Crawford from being nearly the top prospect in baseball to the 30’s in most rankings. I think they’re all getting it wrong. Crawford actually impressed me, even in his struggles, holding up his fine defense and gifted plate discipline. The Phillies probably moved Crawford along a little fast, but his second half in AAA was so good that he got a September call-up, and played well enough that he is the likely Opening Day Shortstop of the big league club now. I still a first division starter, if not better, in Crawford.
  2. Sixto Sanchez-SP- Clearwater- So this guy is basically the consensus arm to watch. He’s one of the few prospects I haven’t seen live, but I’ve watched plenty of him to see the talent. He has a legitimate power fastball, with movement. He’s got breaking stuff that is electric. He’s got stuff, lots of stuff. This Summer could be a lot of fun to watch.
  3. Franklyn Kilome-SP- Reading- So Kilome’s control and command might not be finished products. Even so, I see this Summer as the Summer he leaps forward. Kilome can throw a baseball very fast. He’s lanky, and deceptive. His breaking stuff is capable of being MLB stuff. At the least, I see a back end of the bullpen arm. At the most? He could arrive for 2019.
  4. Scott Kingery-2B- Lehigh Valley- So, Kingery is the top rated second baseman on MLB Pipeline. The guy I saw is a really, really good player. He’s a plus hitter, has a good glove, and has plus speed. Even so, I think some have jumped ahead of themselves in over-rating Kingery. Yes, he hit a bunch of home runs, in Reading, where everyone seems to hit a lot of home runs. His power numbers came back to Earth in AAA. Does this mean he isn’t the future at second base? Of course not. I just am not as completely convinced he’s a dramatic upgrade on Cesar Hernandez, let alone worthy of comparisons to 2008 Chase Utley. He’s absolutely a future MLB starter type, and maybe even a star, but I want to see how 2018 gets started before we crown him. Even so, be excited.
  5. Mickey Moniak-CF- Lakewood- So people were rating the 2016 #1 overall pick as the top guy in the system, in some corners. He got off to a good start in Lakewood, but then tailed off badly as the season went on. I haven’t given up on his sweet swing though. Moniak was playing his first full season of professional baseball. He was playing against mostly older players, players with college experience. Growing pains were to be expected. Expect Moniak to bounce back fine.
  6. Jorge Alfaro-C- Philadelphia- Alfaro tailed off after a fast start in AAA. He had some concerning splits in his slash line, especially in his OBP. Even with his plate discipline issues, Alfaro’s ability keeps him on this list. He has plus power and a great arm, the kinds of tools that could make him an elite starting catcher. Still though, since he’s out of options, he will have to improve his shortcomings in Philadelphia. If things work out though, he’s got elite talent.
  7. Adonis Medina-SP- Clearwater- He doesn’t throw 100 mph, and he’s not the kind of big frame you expect in a top of the rotation guy, but Medina has three pitches and guys don’t hit him hard. He probably projects in the mid-to-back-end rotation range, but he continues to defy expectations at each level.
  8. Adam Haseley-CF- Clearwater- Last year’s top pick out of Virginia could move fast this Summer. He went from Rookie League to Williamsport, and from Williamsport to Lakewood in his first partial year in pro ball. Like Kingery, he’s a top talent from an elite college program, so we may see very quickly if he is going to work out. His first year suggests he will hit his way to the majors in short order.
  9. Jhailyn Ortiz-OF- Lakewood- Ortiz was expected to hit for power when the Phillies signed him at age 16. He hit .302 this past Summer though at Williamsport, and the 19 year old seems ready to make the jump to full season. His talent still suggests special capabilities ahead.
  10. Jojo Romero-SP- Clearwater- The lefty throws four pitches for strikes, and he’s had solid success early. This is a big year for him to prove that his early success was real.

CLOSE BUT NOT QUITE- Enyel De Los Santos- SP- Reading, Thomas Eshelman-SP- Lehigh Valley, Cornelius Randolph-OF- Clearwater.

The GOP on DACA- The Japanese Internment Camps of Our Time

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The Republicans in Congress are about to shut down the government because they don’t want to pass DACA. To be clear, that is the only real way to read this situation. Republicans control both houses of Congress and the White House, and between them, they can’t bring themselves to pass DACA into law. They have a solid majority in the House, but they have only 51 Senators, meaning they need 9 more Democrats to get this government funding bill. Democrats demanded CHIP funding (children’s health care) and DACA (Differed Action for Childhood Arrivals) in exchange for help getting to 218 House votes and 60 Senate votes. Republicans are incapable of making the deal, basically at this point because of DACA.

What DACA does and doesn’t do is critical to understanding this issue. DACA deals with 800,000 undocumented immigrants out of the estimated 11-12 million undocumented immigrants in this country. The key terms of being eligible for DACA:

  1. You arrived here as a child, essentially saying you were too young to make your own decision to come here, or act as your own agent.
  2. You’ve been here more than 5 years as of the dates set in the programs. You’ve been here long enough to be a part of our society.
  3. You have no felony convictions, no “major” misdemeanors, or any combination of three misdemeanor convictions. In other words, you’re not a criminal element making trouble in our society.
  4. You’re working or going to school here. You’re a productive member of society.
  5. Program eligibility was set as of 2012, so you couldn’t have come here since then thinking you’ll get DACA protections.

In other words, these people came here as children, they’ve lived here for years, they’re law-abiding citizens, they’re productive, and they didn’t come here since the program started, looking for amnesty protections (in fact, this means they’ve been here considerably longer than 5 years at a minimum, at this point). These are basically people who had no criminal intent, and are productive in our society.

Here’s the worst part- these DACA program members stepped out of the shadows and handed over their personal information when they applied for the protections. So now that we’re going back on the promise of protection, we’re using the information they handed over in trust to our government to deport them.

Why are we doing something so inhumane? Basically because Tom Cotton and David Perdue seem to have won out over Lindsey Graham in the battle to influence the President on this subject, and the President then killed a bi-partisan deal to handle DACA. They did this because they want to pass some white nationalist immigration bill that stops a lot of legal immigration from non-European nations, because their base of support wants to keep America “white.” Of course, Donald Trump who promised to build a wall along our Mexican border is eager to stand with them.

We are going to kick Americans out of their home country and send them to countries they have never really known to appease a bunch of white nationalists. We’re going to do so despite the fact that these people are productive members of our society. We’re going to do so using the information they willingly provided to our government. It will take generations to regain the trust of people in immigrant communities. It will ruin lives. It will break up families. It will please people who still believe in a “dominant race” theory of nationalism.

Now I know how decent people felt about the Japanese Internment camps in World War II.

Donald Trump, Vanity Fair, and Our Broken Media

The New York Times got themselves quite a scoop- our vacationer-in-chief President gave them his one interview from Mar-a-Lago. The reporter doing the interview made a decision- to not really press Donald Trump, and instead to mostly let him talk. It was a smart decision from the standpoint that it got Trump to essentially babble and ramble, and not go back into his shell. It was a terrible decision for a reporter though- follow-up questions and clarifications on things that a reporter knows to be false are part of their job, not just an option to consider. Basically Trump was given an open microphone to spew what he wanted, and while he made some mistakes, the bigger danger is in letting his words reach the public without a challenge.

In essence, this is part of why we have Trump- our media allowed him to be an option. His rallies were shown in full, rarely were his lies challenged on their way to the American public. While Hillary Clinton was pressed for details on her plans, and forced to defend herself on trumped up scandal after scandal, Donald Trump never gave us details on his plans, from building his wall to taxes, to health care, and so on. The press is so afraid of both losing access, and being viewed as unfair, even if those they’re being “unfair” to are lying and lost. They did not press him for details enough during the election, or now, and they did not challenge his lying enough, then or now. Their job is to challenge those who lie or have weak ideas. They didn’t. In fact, they didn’t with several candidates in 2016.

The Trump interview showed us that, at least as 2017 ends, this is still a problem. The behavior of writers from the New York Times, especially Maggie Haberman, shows that we shouldn’t expect change any time soon.

I could go on all day, but I won’t. Maggie Haberman spent the whole day circling the wagons to defend her paper, her colleagues, and her view of journalism. She literally trolled and sub-tweeted people over the criticisms. This is one of the top reporters at the New York Times, not some random nobody. This is also a reporter who has a reputation for being fairly rough on Hillary Clinton, the woman Trump beat for the White House, despite losing the popular vote by almost 3 million votes.

Speaking of people who are pretty tough on Hillary Clinton, Vanity Fair is having quite a tough week. They published a list of “New Year’s Resolutions” for Hillary Clinton that included getting new hobbies, “like knitting.” They also told her to keep wandering the woods, not run for President ever again, and basically to just go away. They got hammered on the internet for it, and were forced to apologize. The video was purely sexist, and that was plain to see, even if you don’t like Hillary Clinton. Those who made it should be reprimanded or fired by Vanity Fair, to save their credibility. Bad journalistic work, like bad work in any other professional field, should have consequences. I guess not everyone though…

Yeah, that’s what this is about- not liking the opinion. It’s not about the sexism and ageism that is thinly, if at all, veiled in the Vanity Fair product. It’s not about the insult to an accomplished and successful woman, it’s about how it makes us *feel* to Elizabeth. But wait, there’s more:

This is just… WOW! According to Elizabeth Bruenig, if someone is bad at their job, they shouldn’t face consequences. Of course, she doesn’t afford Hillary Clinton nearly as much leniency, bringing up her “low approval ratings” in her defense of her colleagues. I guess Hillary should pay for her sins, but the writers of VFHive should not. Much like Maggie Haberman, she is running to the aid of her colleagues to defend them- circling the wagons.

Could there be a reason why Mrs. Bruenig is doing this? Well, her husband Matt Bruenig was fired from his blogging job at Demos for calling Neera Tanden a “scumbag” for one thing. He had a track record of this kind of behavior, and his “side-employer” canned him for it finally. He then created a “go fund me” page and asked people to finance his health care- which is funny for a guy who’s a lawyer, and who’s wife writes for the Washington Post. To say the Elizabeth Bruenig has a bias that should have prevented her from writing this piece is the least of it. It seems to me that she actually agrees with this behavior that has been directed at Hillary Clinton, Neera Tanden, and many, many other people on the internet. Or, at least she agrees with it when it’s people who espouse her socialist views, directing it at members of the Democratic Party.

Why does the Washington Post employ someone so compromised? Why does Vanity Fair think sexism is okay against politicians they don’t like? Why does the New York Times think it’s above reproach? Listen, I love the media, and generally agree with a lot of the things the people I’ve mentioned here write. I don’t know what I’d do in my business of choice without them. This isn’t about killing all journalism. It’s about fixing it.

The media has had several great failings in the 21st Century, with the Iraq War and 2016 Election standing out, but one could also include the run-up to the 2008 Market Crash. In each of their cases, they failed to pressure the main actors nearly enough, and ultimately the public didn’t even see the negative outcome coming. The words of Elizabeth and Maggie suggest that accountability is still something they’d rather avoid. The problem is that journalism is a really, really important field. The only way to have an “informed” public is for them to read the whole story. That might mean sacrificing some objectivity between “both sides,” or making a subject uncomfortable, or even losing some “access” that the powerful grant them.

The most revealing thing in Donald Trump’s New York Times interview this week was his statements saying the media needs him to win again. He probably believes that, and to be honest, I’m not sure he’s wrong, from the media’s perspective. His nonsensical babbling will continue to be treated as coherent and of some value, he won’t be pushed for the details on his vague policy and harmful statements, and his lies will be debated, as though they are not objectively lies. Why? Because it gets reads. When some of us challenge their unfair treatment of Hillary Clinton and other, actually competent politicians, they will circle the wagons around their colleagues and defend their poor performance. They will not look themselves in the mirror, and accept accountability. At least not the voices at the top echelon of the media. This is one part of why we’re in this mess. This is one really important thing that we have to push back on in 2018.