Turmoil in the Newpaper Business At the Los Angeles Times, bitter complaints against its owner (Tronc) led to the sale of the LAT to billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong. Conflict intensified when the New York Times ran major stories on April 7, 12, and 22 about troubles at the Denver Post. The editorial board of the Denver Post, sick of all the firings in the newsroom, lambasted their own Wall Street hedge fund owner, Alden Global Capital which they called “vulture capitalists.” As people turn more and more to electronic media, venture capitalists have been gobbling up newspapers at bargain prices and then slashing their budgets to squeeze out as much profit as possible.
Alden is also the majority owner of Digital First Media which in turn is the owner of eleven Southern California newspapers including guess what, the Orange County Register. Alden and Digital First are raking in profits by squeezing the life out of newspapers. Frank Pine, the Executive Editor of the OCR joined the fight with an unusual front page editorial about the risk to democracy as newspapers are forced into decline. Many have criticized the OCR for not keeping up with demographics in Orange County where Democrats and Independents now outnumber Republican conservatives (and libertarians are way down the list). Meanwhile, the OCR has moderated its tone, particularly in the news division. But according to Mr. Pine, the OCR is getting bombarded with criticism not from the left but from right wingers who complain bitterly whenever the OCR runs anything which is not ultra-conservative. They now have a new opinion editor, Scott Kaufman, who replaced Brian Calle.
So what is going on? Are liberals and progressives shy about expressing opinions, unwilling to speak out? When was the last time you wrote a LTE? Sure, it is unlikely to get published but they carefully count what people are writing about and you can be certain that this influences what gets covered and with what slant. Sharpen your pencils and write in before there are no newspapers left. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
How Would San Clemente Spend $24 Million? Guess what, there is a bill in Congress (HR 3929) which would award San Clemente over $24 million to spend as it sees fit. It is called the Stranded Nuclear Waste Accountability Act of 2017 sponsored by Congressman Joe Courtney (D-CT) whose town of Haadam, CT was devastated when Connecticut Yankee NPP was decommissioned. There are 12 such stranded nuclear waste sites in the country, and guess what city has more nuclear waste than any in the entire country? We get the prize. San Clemente, CA has by far the most nuclear waste (1773 tons of uranium and plutonium, 4 times as much as Connecticut Yankee). If you think that the deadly radioactive waste is somewhere else, far off in another county, think again. The NRC specifies San Clemente as the home of the new nuclear waste dump. We are the nearest town (1.6 miles away), we share the same zip code, and we share nuclear waste which has the potential to become 100 Chernobyls. HR 3929 is an attempt to mitigate all the harmful effects of having to live near a nuclear waste dump.
Unfortunately, the bill is not going anywhere. When they asked Darrell Issa to co-sponsor it, he said NO, just like he said NO to the petition to get funding for the National Academy of Sciences study of cancer streaks in the 31 mile radius around San Onofre. The city of San Clemente is aware of HR 3929 and will probably discuss whether to support it at the next city council meeting. If such a bill is dead until the next session of Congress, discussion of it might generate some public awareness that we have a serious problem here. Did anyone notice that the mayor’s “State of the City” address? Mayor Brown did not even mention radioactive waste as an issue. No wonder there is so much apathy (and lack of awareness). Time to make a little noise?
The Rich and Greedy Immense prosperity is returning to America (but only if you focus on the rich). CBS CEO Leslie Moonves now gets $69.6 million a year in compensation. And look what is happening at Amazon: The CEO Jeff Bezos is the world’s riches man but his employees median pay is $28,446. Joseph Zubretsky, CEO of Molina Healthcare makes 450 times more than the median income of workers in his healthcare insurance company. Wells Fargo, caught after opening 3.5 fraudulent accounts, has agreed to pay $480 million back to shareholders (but only $12.5 million back to harmed customers). So what did the bank also do? It awarded CEO Tim Sloan a 36% raise. The CEO of Uline (a package supply company) is so rich that he gave $20 million to support hard-line right wing candidates. How do the rich conceal their wealth and hide what they are doing? They take lessons from Trump and his relatives who have been doing this for decades. Ask his pal Sean Hannity who shares Trump’s sleazy lawyer Michael Cohen. Over the last decade, Hannity has secretly built a multimillion dollar real estate empire in four states by specializing in renting to low-income tenants. Then he uses them to obtain mortgages insured by the U.S. Dept of Housing and Urban Development essentially exploiting taxpayer money to help build his wealth. He conceals his activities through anonymous shell corporations registered to the address of Henssler Financial. Here is another good one: Stephen Schwarzman, Wall Street billionaire and big supporter of Donald Trump, offered to donate $25 million to Abington High School in PA. But Mr. Schwarzman wanted gratitude (remind you of anyone else?) in which the school had to be renamed after him. He wanted prominent portraits of himself featured in the school and wanted spaces named after his brothers. He wanted to approve the construction contractors, etc. The school board agreed to the deal in secret, but 1,500 residents were outraged and signed a petition opposing it. Columnist David Brooks asked if the school board was brazen, sneaky, stupid or all three? “What else is for sale” he asked.
Privacy for Sale Remember those FB friends you deleted? FB remembers every click you ever did. Reporter Brian Chen opened his own file and found that FB had sold all his personal and contact information to 500 advertisers. Meanwhile, the FB scandal which may have thrown the election to Trump compromised the privacy of 87 million users. What else is Mark Zuckerberg up to? In Illinois, FB is working behind the scenes to block a strong privacy law. Zuckerberg does not want the state to require consent when FB wants to use facial recognition to track you and sell your privacy. Here is another hi-tech attack on privacy: if you have done a DNA ancestry search, your genetic makeup is for sale. That’s how they found the Golden State Killer. Companies can search DNA databases, discover all your relatives and ancestors, and sell the information to anyone interested. Like insurance companies, for example, who might screen your genes and use the information to charge you more or deny coverage all together. Big brother is watching you.
The Psychology of Lie Acceptance Here is a scary statistic: 89% of Republicans think highly of Donald Trump. Why isn’t the Party of Trump (formerly the Republican Party) bothered by his behavior and why are they now making the defense of Trump the center piece of Republican strategy? Are his lies so frequent and so blatant that they are now normative and acceptable? Do Republicans actually think that Trump lies are truth, or is there something else going on? A London psychology professor is busy conducting research on how people tolerate lies. It is not so much that people deny the lies, but they are unwilling to condemn lies as long as they can convince themselves that they might have been true in which case falsehoods are not considered unethical. Now that the idea of fake news and alternative facts has inspired the gullible, people of different political leanings use different standards to make moral judgments. By using a little “truthiness,” spin doctors and demagogues can lower ethical standards and persuade people to accept lies. So lies that are outrageous to you are ho-hum to Trump supporters.
Women and Teachers on the March Many are now thinking that the emergence of women power (together with youth power) may save American democracy. Massive teacher strikes in Arizona, Colorado, and other states are catching on like wildfire. Teachers in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Kentucky have done the same. They are creating a serious challenge to Republican lawmakers who like to slash funding for education. In Arizona, a stay at home mom Melinda Merkel started a movement called Save Our Schools. She collected 100,000 signatures and forced the reluctant governor to accept a 20% pay hike. This lead to a NYT headline: Year of the Women. More recently, the toxic work environment of the stogy and chauvinist Nike Corporation led women in Beaverton, Oregon to the forced outing of six top Nike executives. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/28/business/nike-women.html And here at home we hail the persistence of Ellen Montanari (a speaker at a previous SOCP meeting) whose protests in front of Issa’s office for months helped persuade him to quit.
Christian Soldiers on the March Remember when Republican evangelicals trumpeted “family values?” Today they openly embrace the moral failings of Donald Trump and his alliances with crooks and porn stars . Amy Sullivan says that most white evangelicals today would vote against Jesus Christ if he were a Democrat. Read on, and see a photo of Donald Trump praying.
Fascism Advances, America Declines It was shocking to learn that a YouGov survey of 6,000 Europeans in seven countries discovered that only half of young people there believe that democracy is the best form of government. Apparently democracy (especially in America) is easily gamed. For some European counties, Donald Trump’s election has translated into turning democracy from being an ideal into being the enemy. Read “How Democracy Became the Enemy.” In another Op-Ed, Christopher Preble writes “Adapting to American Decline”
And Madelein Albright has a new book out, Fascism: A Warning.” For the NYT, she writes “Fascism on the March.” Is American democracy about to crumble?
Ten Characteristics of a Dictator Bill Mayer made a sick joke by asking how many of the following characteristics of dictators apply lyin’ Don: 1. Very narcissistic – likes to put his own name on buildings; 2. appoints family members to official government positions; 3. holds scary rallies; 4. hates the press and considers the press as enemies of the people; 5. likes to hold military parades; 6. uses his office for personal financial gain; 7. loves other dictators; 8. asserts that minorities are the cause of the country’s problems; 9. lies freely; 10. likes to wear military uniforms. Looks like the president gets a grade of A- (90 percent correct). But since he is a draft dodger we can be relieved that he will never get a perfect score of 100.
Reconciliation A woman in Georgia discovered that her relatives years ago were part of a mob that lynched four black people. Recently she linked up with and formed an unlikely friendship with a black woman whose ancestors were among those lynched.
The News in Brief Sinclair Broadcasting Group, the largest owner of TV stations in the country, was caught ordering news anchors at its TV stations to support Trump claims that other media outlets offer only fake news that cannot be trusted. Many anchors protested this “forced read” and the heavy hand of Sinclair’s right wing agenda (itself fake news) while Sinclair seeks to curry favor with Trump to expand its TV holdings….One would think that the Consumer Protection Bureau would champion consumer protection, right? Unfortunately it is run by Mick Mulvaney, billionaire crony appointed by Trump who now heads of the Office of Management and Budget. He is championing SB 2155 which claims to enhance consumer protection but in fact harms consumers and helps corporations. Over 85 consumer advocacy groups are protesting but so far to no avail as it passed the Senate. Another example of Trump filling the swamp with zillionaires whose job is to dismantle the department they are supposed to defend (EPA, State, Education, you name it) White House-backed bill purports to strengthen consumer protection. It does the opposite.
….Scott Pruitt, a Trump favorite but complete embarrassment to the country, has proposed that restrictions should be placed on scientific research used to develop environmental policy….Did you know that Nancy and Ronald Reagan watched 363 movies at Camp David? His favorite: “Top Gun.”
Letter of the Month
To the Editor NYT:
Your April 11 editorial “The Law Is Coming, Mr. Trump” was brilliant. The problem is nobody cares. Nobody cares how he does business and the kinds of people he surrounds himself with. Nobody cares about his prevarications, his hypocrisy, his misogyny, his illiteracy, his rants and, most of all, his lack of a moral compass.
Nobody cares. Not Congress, not the evangelicals who are eager to give him all the mulligans he needs, and certainly not his 40 percent base.
The results of the Mueller investigation won’t matter. President Trump will never be impeached, and all of his minions currently under investigation will be pardoned.
The only way to contain Mr. Trump until 2020 is to elect a veto-proof Democratic Congress in 2018. Until we can find a new set of leaders equipped with a backbone and a conscience who understand and support the word “compromise,” “fake” government will continue.
William M. Doyle, Lakewood, NJ