The More Perfect Union podcast

The “Fair & Balanced” Fallacy

by Kevin Kelton

A lot of Republicans complain that the news media is “out to get Donald Trump.” I agree with them, I think a lot of the media is aligning against President Trump and the scandals that permeate his administration.

And they are right to do it.

The idea that news coverage should be totally “objective” and neutral in reporting the news is a misconception about the duty of journalism and a free press. It is not the job of the press to give artificial balance to an imbalanced story. Indeed, FOX News itself
dropped it’s silly “Fair & Balanced” slogan in 2017. Apparently, the FOX News overlords finally realized that even the slogan itself reeked of hypocrisy.

For instance, when a war is unjust, or a government policy is clearly hurting people or unfairly rewarding others, or a politician has committed crimes or ethical lapses,it’s incumbent upon the news media to report it in clear, unambiguous terms that their viewers can understand. There is no responsibility of the press to be “friendly” or “balanced” in its reporting. To the contrary, its primary responsibility is to be adversarial and tough, to push back and question, and to report when the claims of government officials do not match the facts they uncover.

Let’s look at sports journalism as an example. If the New England Patriots are caught cheating by illegally inflating game balls, should the sports press fail to report that? Should they continue to say “allegedly” when clear testimony has shown the allegations to be true? Should they cover the football game as if the cheating episode never happened? If they discover evidence that a boxing match may have been fixed and a fighter took a dive, should they report that and condemn it? Or should they say, “Maybe the other guy would’ve won anyway, we’ll never know. So it’s speculative as to whether the fix affected the outcome of the fight or not.” Clearly their responsibility is to report the true facts as they unearth and understand them. And while they are reporting the unfolding story, they have every right (and obligation) to let their audience know that these questions are out there and the players are acting awfully suspicious.

I pay for newspapers not to get an artificially “balanced” reporting of the news. That’s what a ticker tape is for. I want context, perspective and analysis, and when it’s appropriate, I want them to help shame the offending parties into correcting their behavior. Consumer ombudsmen reporters often do some of the best investigative journalism out there precisely because they don’t treat their subjects with kit gloves.
 

A democratic free press isn’t simply a mirror. It’s a painting…it’s art. It should communicate and inform. It should move its audience. It should affect positive change.

Walter Cronkite was great because he showed human emotion when reporting JFK had died, and when showing cynicism and doubt when covering the government’s false narrative of the Vietnam War. Edward R. Murrow’s greatest moment was helping to unmask and end McCarthyism. Woodward and Bernstein didn’t give President Nixon the benefit of the doubt; they doubted and dug.
 

That is the mark of great journalists. Not to protect, but to unmask. Not to defend, but to offend.

Journalism isn’t a tool of the powerful. It’s a tool of the people they seek to govern. I’m glad the press is being tough on an immoral, unethical, and profoundly unqualified president. The only person who is responsible for their negative coverage is the man himself. He’s more than earned it.

Kevin Kelton is a cohost of The More Perfect Union podcast and founder of Open Fire Politics on Facebook.

 

Bank Robber Cornered By Police, Claims Robbery Is ‘Fake News’

by Kevin Kelton

Like most people, I turn on cable news every morning and am endlessly bemused to hear the same story reported the same way time after time after time, all the while reporting it like it’s some great mystery what’s going on. Here’s what the news sounds like to me every day:

Good morning. Breaking News overnight… a bank robber just sent a Tweet claiming that there was no robbery. The bank robber says that news reports of a bank robbery having happened are “fake news.” Breaking: The bank robber just hired a new criminal defense attorney who says there was no bank robbery and his client is 100% innocent of being involved in the bank robbery, and yet he refuses to let the police talk to the bank robber. I wonder why?

Whoops… more Breaking News… the bank robber just rubbed out two people who witnessed the bank heist and could testify about it. I can’t figure out why he did that. Hmm. And it’s now being reported that the bank robber is telling everyone there was no robbery and no bank and no money was stolen and that the FBI made up the whole bank robbery because they hate him. I wonder why he said that? Do you think the FBI is out to get the bank robber? Why would they do that? My, the bank robber sure seems to be acting a little suspicious, don’t you think? Or maybe he’s just tired of hearing about the “fake” bank robbery, and he’s fed up with it distracting from his getaway. Yeah, I can see how that would be very annoying to the bank robber. 

Channel Flip…

Breaking News… the bank robber just said the FBI is the one that robbed the bank. And that ‘Crooked Hillary’ was the real bank robber. But he still claims there was no bank robbery. Wow, I can’t figure out why the bank robber would say all that. Do you think somebody really robbed the bank? We know there is bank money missing, and we found lots of evidence pointing to the bank robber at the crime scene. And he announced on TV two years ago that he’d like some help robbing a bank… right before a big bank robbery. But he says he was just joking. Do you think he was?

Channel Flip…

Here’s video of the bank robber congratulating Vladimir Dillinger on his rigged re-election victory and saying how much he admires him for being a strong bank robber. Dillinger was caught by the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, and 14 other law enforcement agencies planning the bank robbery. But the bank robber still says he doesn’t believe it happened. I wonder why.

Channel Flip…

Breaking news… the bank robber just fired his new criminal defense lawyer and hired a *new* new criminal defense lawyer. And the new new criminal defense lawyer swears his client didn’t do it and insists the police stop investigating the bank robbery or else the bank robber may have to fire the police chief. And all the bank robbers’ friends are saying don’t fire the police chief or we may not believe you didn’t rob the bank.

Channel Flip…

Have you ever noticed that the bank robber never says anything bad about Vladimir Dillinger, the guy who helped him rob the bank and almost certainly has proof of that the bank robber is guilty… evidence that could get the bank robber in a lot of trouble. I wonder why the bank robber won’t say anything bad about him. And won’t condemn him for robbing the bank they both robbed. Isn’t that strange? I don’t get it.

Channel Flip…

Why don’t the police stop investigating this fake bank robbery? The bank robber said he didn’t do it. And I believe him over the police, the bank manager, all the tellers, and the bank video. Don’t you? Plus Vladimir Dillinger just said there was no bank robbery, and that corroborates what the bank robber said, so it must be true! Why does the FBI hate the bank robber so darn much?

Channel Flip…

Whoops… more Breaking News… the bank robber just bought something with the marked stolen money. So, was there a bank robbery or not? I’m so confused.

 

Kevin Kelton is a co-host of The More Perfect Union podcast and founder of the Facebook debate group, Open Fire Politics.

A National Boycott for Gun Safety

by Kevin Kelton

Dozens of high school students in Florida went to their state capitol this week demanding action on sensible gun safety legislation. Nothing happened. Dozens more have been camped out at the White House. Nothing happened. Students and parents met with the President of the United States. And nothing will happen.

Just like nothing happened after mass shootings in Columbine, Virginia Tech, Omaha, Geneva County, Binghamton, Fort Hood, Manchester, Tucson, Seal Beach, Oakland, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Herkimer, Navy Yard, Alturas, Marysville, Lafayette, Charleston, San Bernardino, Roseburg, Colorado Springs, Hesston, Orlando, Sutherland Springs, and Las Vegas. (I bet you don’t even recognize several of those!)

Because until we start limiting what types of weapons can be sold and who can get them, the shootings will continue. And like has happened in Europe, they won’t just be confined to our schools and churches.

I hope that high school students stage an ongoing national protest until some sensible gun controls laws are enacted. I encourage them to stay out of school until it happens. Yes, boycott high school… even if it means delaying your graduation for a year.

Let colleges sweat over the lack of incoming freshmen (and their tuitions). Let the school boards debate what to do. Let the nation’s teachers and professors be mobilized. Then watch the churches join in, and businesses and companies. Let the state legislators feel the heat from the nation’s student population and their parents. Let parents feel the pain of their children, who must walk into what now amount to caged human target ranges every morning.

If parents won’t lead, their children must.

Because if we don’t stop this now, soon it won’t just be schools and movie theaters and churches. It will be malls (as in Nairobi and Omaha). It will be restaurants (as in Paris and Killeen). It will be hotels (as in Mumbai and Kabul). It will be theme parks. It will be Little League games. It will be Main Street.

Politicians will not yield until the national pressure is so great that they cannot NOT act.

Just like it took sit-ins and walk-outs at colleges in the 1960s and ’70s to end the seemingly never-ending Vietnam War, we once again need to look to our student population to lead us out of the never-ending gun war on our streets and in our schools.

I urge the students of Parkland to continue to lead on this issue, and other students across the nation to follow their lead. Stay home. Do not walk into another killing field like Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School again until something is done to protect you. You will not be hurting your future if you push back your first year of college. You will be making your college years safer and your future brighter.

Adulthood will still be there for you. But you need to be there for it.

Many will call this column radical and hysterical. They are wrong. Inaction demands action. Change demands sacrifice. Courage demands leadership. Even if it comes from 16 and 17 year-olds.

It’s time to end this madness. If it means a few weeks or months of missed classes, so be it.

I want my high school-age child alive. I’ll worry about college later.

Kevin Kelton is a writer and co-host of The More Perfect Union podcast. He is also the founder of Open Fire Politics.

13 Reasons Why (Ep. 141)

Episode 141 of The More Perfect Union podcast looks at the aftermath of the Parkland High School shooting, the indictment of 13 Russian nationals in the special counsel probe, the failed DACA negotiations, and Laura Ingraham’s diss of LeBron James. Then the gang takes a look at other political podcasts and talk about why they do the show and what they think sets it apart from other podcasts.

Wave Goodbye to the Wave Election

by Kevin Kelton    

Though the makings of a democratic wave election in the midterms seem apparent – enthusiasm, leading indicators, a highly divisive president – one key component is missing… and it could be the fatal flaw.

It’s the “why.”

Every wave election has an overriding theme or movement behind it. Today’s Democratic party lacks either.

In the last half century, there have been six wave elections.* Two were presidential election cycles, the other four were midterms.

The 1980 Reagan wave was powered by a weak economy and the Iran hostage crisis, but mostly by a charismatic presidential candidate who gave a face and voice to the movement. Similarly, the 2008 Obama wave was driven by a war-weary nation and a financial crash, and a charismatic candidate. But let’s put those aside and look at midterms, where there is no presidential candidate to embody the movement.

In every midterm wave, there were clear economic and foreign policy crises that turbo-charged the national mood:

1974 – the Vietnam war and Watergate

1994 – a faltering economy, healthcare, and the GOP’s “Contract with America”

2006 – a war-weary nation, Hurricane Katrina, and GOP scandals (Jack Abramoff; Tom DeLay)

2010 – Obamacare, a stagnant economy, high unemployment, the national debt, illegal immigration

Now let’s look at the prospects for 2018. Other than an historically unpopular first-term president, what issues do the Democrats have to run on? Even with the current stock market correction, it’s unlikely the economy will tank before November. (It takes six months of negative GDP to classify a recession, and right now GDP is strong.) Unemployment is historically low. There is no new military conflict. By November DACA will likely be resolved and the only immigration issues will be the border wall and the lingering Muslim ban court cases. Trump is riding high on the tax cuts and the recent long-term budget deals. Even the #MeToo movement is too fractured to break solidly Democratic. The party can’t own the issue with Bill Clinton, John Conyers, Harvey Weinstein, Al Franken, and Anthony Weiner as its poster boys.

Plus the Democrats are still a splintered party with no national leader to rally the troops. So they will be left to a series of local races with no unifying issue or theme to power them past heavily financed incumbents.

Unless the anti-Trump movement itself is enough to power the wave, what should be a tsunami may turn into a small storm. Democrats are likely to pick up seats in the House, but unless they net 24, the GOP will still own both chambers and the Executive branch.

The party’s leaders better settle on a set of core issues now, issues that will resonate with middle-class voters and power midterm turnout. And they better be bumper sticker stances, not nuanced wonky ones that take two minutes to explain.

So what can you do? Find the issue you are passionate about and post about it tirelessly on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Join Facebook political groups to magnify your voice. Share posts on the issue and send them to your senate and congressional candidates. Be your own campaign manager and campaign spokesperson. Then pick five races with five candidates you are excited about and donate. If every Democrat becomes a one-man SuperPac, we win.

Unless we’re all in the campaign, Trump and company will be campaigning on tax cuts, jobs and prosperity, while Democrats be running on Russia and Robert Mueller.

I respect Robert Mueller. But I don’t think he’s a wave.

Kevin Kelton is a writer and co-host of The More Perfect Union podcast and founder of the Facebook groups Open Fire Politics, Open Fire Food & Spirits, and Open Fire Sex.

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* An argument an be made that 2014 was also a wave election, but since the House was already heavily GOP, movement of congress further right isn’t being counted here as a “wave.”

 

Perjury Trap (Ep. 138)

Episode 138 of The More Perfect Union podcast looks at Trump’s overseas trip to Davos, his upcoming State of the Union address, and whether Trump’s possible testimony in the Russia probe could be a perjury trap. Or is it a bear trap? Is it all leading to a constitutional crisis? Listen and find out.

Trump Takes USA Chapter 11 (Ep. 137)

Episode 137 of The More Perfect Union podcast looks at the government shutdown, the “Release the Memo” movement, Kremlin Twitter bots, Russian Facebook trolls, the latest Trump mistress rumor, and the Aziz Ansari bad date broohah.

And we introduce new theme music by our #OpenFire friend, Alan Kuehne.

Diagnosing Trump (Ep. 136)


Episode 136 of The More Perfect Union podcast looks at the Hawaii nuclear alert scare, President Trump’s sh*t hole comment, Medicaid work requirements, The Donald’s star problem, the Oprah’s presidential chatter, and whether it’s appropriate to psychologically diagnose the president.

Fire and Fury: The Movie (Ep. 135)

Episode 135 of The More Perfect Union podcast discusses the new book about Steve Bannon and the Trump White House, “Fire and Fury,” and muses about who might be cast in the movie.

The Russia Show

by Kevin Kelton

The other day on MSNBC’s “The Beat with Ari Melber,” HuffPost Editorial Director Howard Fineman said that he doesn’t think Special Counsel Robert Mueller will be able to make a case for obstruction of justice against the president, but he does think Mueller has a strong case for collusion. One hour later on the same network, former RNC Chairman Michael Steele told Chris Matthews that he doesn’t think Mueller can make a case for collusion, but does have strong one for obstruction.

Two knowledgeable political experts, two opposite opinions.

The truth is that when it comes to the Trump-Russia investigation, no one but Mueller and his top deputies knows anything. Not you, not me, not the TV experts. Yet Facebookers on both sides of the partisan seesaw keep spouting nonsense about it with absolute certainty.

One of my favorite silly talking points is, “Collusion is not a crime.” This comment is laughable for its utter lack of legal context. It’s true, if you and I collude to get the best price on a used car, that is not a crime. But if we collude to steal the car, it is. Collusion to commit a crime is called “conspiracy,” and yes, it’s very much against the law. Don’t believe me? See here and here.

Another ludicrous argument is, “There isn’t one shred of evidence supporting collusion.” Actually, there’s a whole bunch. First, you have the Don Jr. June 9 Trump Tower meeting, which was shown in texts to be about meeting with Russian nationals to get and use stolen Hillary Clinton emails with the express goal of changing the outcome of a U.S. presidential election. Second, you have the candidate himself asking Russia on national television to hack (i.e., steal) and publish private citizens’ emails with the express intent of affecting the outcome of the election. He even promised a quid pro quo by saying, “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

Think of it this way: a man involved in a contentious divorce goes into a crowded restaurant and says for everyone to hear, “I’m urging someone to break my ex-wife’s legs. I think you’ll be rewarded mightily for it.” A few days later his wife turns up beaten with a broken leg and broken arm. Don’t you think that is evidence of his complicity in the act? It may not be enough to convict him by itself, but along with other evidence it creates a powerful argument for his guilt.

On the liberal side, my favorite gibberish is that Trump’s cabinet may soon invoke the 25th Amendment. Think about it. Let’s just say for a moment that someone, say Rex Tillerson, was secretly considering it. Who would he whisper it to? Ben Carson? Betsy DeVos? Steve Mnuchin? Sonny Perdue? Wilber Ross? Every one of them would run to the Oval Office to report the traitor in a heartbeat. Go find me four Trump Cabinet appointees you think would support this kind of unprecedented American coup d’état, let alone eight. It’s preposterous. Trump is ready to jail Hillary Clinton for her purported crimes against America. What do you think he’d do to a handful of treasonous ex-Cabinet plotters?

But I think my favorite argument is, “Who cares if Russia stole the DNC emails? Isn’t the content of what’s in them more important?” The simple answer is, no.

Because an election campaign should be based on relatively equal transparency, especially where private material is concerned. If I can see and review one candidate’s tax returns, I should be able to see and review the others’. If I can get my hands on one candidate’s medical records, I should get them for both. If I can view one candidate’s criminal conviction record, it’s only fair to make the other’s public as well. Judging one candidate on personal information that the other one doesn’t have to release is fundamentally unfair.

So to have the DNC emails purloined and published without releasing the RNC’s emails as well was an inequitable prejudice against Clinton. Had the RNC emails also been leaked, we most likely would have seen just as much dirt and ugliness in the Republican primary race as we saw in the Democrats’. (Which, frankly, wasn’t really all that bad.)

And by the way, for those who don’t know history, the Watergate break-in was about stealing the DNC’s private files. It doesn’t matter what’s in them; if you steal private campaign information and use it you are breaking the law. In the electronic age, it’s called Data Theft and it’s prohibited by several state and federal statues.

But maybe the most delicious irony of The Russia Show is that everyone who used to detest James Comey now adore him, and everyone who used to adore him now thinks he’s a conniving, lying enemy of the state.

What is true is that the Trump-Russia investigation has become catnip Facebook groups like Open Fire. Like any good TV soap opera, everyone has their favorite villain and plenty of theories as to how it will all end.

What’s your favorite talking point about Trump, Mueller, Comey, and Russia?

The Gender Equation (Ep. 133)

The Christmas episode of the MPU podcast looks at the evolution of teenage gender identity and transgender issues, and then turns light as the hosts discuss their unusual political gifts and tattoo preferences.

Like what you heard? Subscribe on iTunes and don’t miss a podcast. 

And if you like talking politics, join us in our Facebook political debate group, OPEN FIRE, where you can discuss news and politics with Kevin, D.J., Greg, Rebekah, and lots of other smart, fun people. 

Find us on Twitter at @MPUpodcast

How The Trump Stole Christmas (Ep. 132)

This week’s “More Perfect Union” podcast covers the post-script on the Alabama senate race, the imminent passage of the Trump tax reform (“tax deform”) bill, the net neutrality debate, the latest in the Russia investigation, government revelations about UFO sightings, and Greg’s very strange “Dayton Conspiracy.” Plus lots of holiday cheer from your friends at The More Perfect Union.