Category Archives: Journalism/Media

Trump a “Whistleblower”? Gwynne Dyer on Those Secret Papers

[NOTE: Gwynne Dyer makes important points here, e. g.: too much is Classified; many “secrets” conceal mostly the spooks’ plentiful failures & evil deeds rather than actually dangerous stuff; and many others who took & disclosed secrets at heavy personal risk have served justice, truth, the nation & humanity. But if 45’s super-stash does any public good, it will be more by accident and the labor of others.]

In Defense of Whistleblowers — (and Donald Trump) — how harmful are those secret documents?

Gwynne Dyer

Sept. 8, 2022

I never thought I’d be writing a column in defence of Donald Trump, but a journalist has to go where the evidence leads.

Over the years, I have written columns in defence of Daniel Ellsberg, Mordechai Vanunu, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, so how could I abandon Donald Trump in his time of need?

Admittedly, Trump is not your traditional whistle-blower, driven by high motives and a need to speak truth to power. He’s more of a pack-rat, whose motives for stealing government documents may be obscure even to himself. (I use the word ‘stealing’ because that’s the word that was used for all the honourable men in whose footsteps he has followed.)

Maybe Trump was taking the documents — and clinging to them fiercely, despite insistent demands for their return from the National Archives, the Justice Department and the FBI — with some vague notion that they might prove useful one day. But for what? Blackmail? Selling them to the Russians? Writing his memoirs? Continue reading Trump a “Whistleblower”? Gwynne Dyer on Those Secret Papers

Russell Moore on Current U. S. Church splits, and their wider implications

An Excerpt From, “What Church Splits Can Teach Us About a Dividing America,”

Russell Moore, in Christianity Today:

“I asked a pastor of a large Methodist congregation what took the churches in the denomination so long to figure out that they must go in different directions.

He responded, “You are looking at this wrong, and a lot of people do. People think there are conservative churches and progressive churches and we just put the one group in one denomination and the other in another and then we’re all happy. You’re wrong.”

“Most congregations are not ‘blue’ or ‘red,’ if you want to use the partisan political analogy,” he said. “Most of the conservative congregations are 30 percent progressive, and most of the progressive congregations are 30 percent conservative. We’re not talking about a dividing line going down the middle of a denomination but a dividing line going down the middle of almost every individual church.”

After that conversation, I started asking different questions of my Methodist friends. I asked one group of pastors, “When the Methodist Church splits, where is your congregation going?” One answered, “Thirty percent of my church wants to stay put, 30 percent wants to leave, and 30 percent just want everybody to get along. [And] Ten percent don’t know that anything’s going on.” Many others nodded.

I then asked, “So what are y’all going to do?” One of the pastors quipped, “Take early retirement,” and the others laughed and said “Amen!” I’m not sure they were joking.

Yet their situation tracks with the state of the country—perhaps not in the reason for the division but in how it is playing out. “ . . .

Russell Moore leads the Public Theology Project at Christianity Today. He previously served as president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the public-policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), and at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, as dean of the School of Theology, senior vice president for academic administration, and as professor of theology and ethics. In August 2022 he was appointed as incoming Editor-in-Chief of Christianity Today.

More illuminating (& sobering) background on the earlier church splits are in these two resources:

1) Broken Churches, Broken Nation, by the late scholar C. C. Goen, recounts the major schisms over slavery in three large American denominations prior to the Civil War. (More on that here.)

2) A wave of similar Quaker schisms, over newer social issues but older theological ones, fractured five U. S. Yearly Meetings (thus far) in the 21st century. These are recounted and analyzed in the three-volume study, The Separation Generation.

Tom Ricks thinks we can avoid a civil war. That could be huge.

[NOTE: I respect Tom Ricks. When it comes to war, he knows his stuff. His Wikipedia entry explains that he

is an American journalist and author who specializes in the military and national security issues. He is a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting as part of teams from the Wall Street Journal (2000) and Washington Post (2002). He has reported on military activities in Somalia, Haiti, Korea, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Kuwait, Turkey, Afghanistan, and Iraq. He previously wrote a blog for Foreign Policy[6][7] and is a member of the Center for a New American Security,[8] a defense policy think tank.

He’s retired now, with a big shelf of trophies, beyond the temptations of ambition. Ricks also seems level-headed, and not in anybody’s ideological pocket.

Tom Ricks, with his 2007 book that told it like it was about the U. S. Invasion of Iraq.

Of course, he doesn’t know the future, any more than you, me or the rest of us; and Ricks readily admits that. But if his experience, his studies —and his gut — tell him to be guardedly, not-out-of-the-woods-yet — a-hard-slog-is-still-ahead — hopeful, I’m listening. There’s still plenty of tough work to do. But I’m listening.

Washington Post:  Why I’ve stopped fearing America is headed for civil war

Opinion by Thomas E. Ricks

September 5, 2022

Thomas E. Ricks’s latest book, “Waging a Good War: A Military History of the Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1968,” will be published in October.

Five years ago, I began to worry about a new American civil war breaking out. Despite a recent spate of books and columns that warn such a conflict may be approaching, I am less concerned by that prospect now.

Back then, I wrote in a series of articles and online discussions for Foreign Policy that I expected to see widespread political violence accompanied by efforts in some states to undermine the authority and abilities of the federal government. At an annual lunch of national security experts in Austin, I posed the question of possible civil war and got a consensus of about a one-third chance of such a situation breaking.

Specifically, I worried that there would be a spate of assassination attempts against politicians and judges. I thought we might see courthouses and other federal buildings bombed. I also expected that in some states, right-wing organizations, heavily influenced by white nationalism, would hold conventions to discuss how to defy enforcement of federal laws they disliked, such as those dealing with voting rights.

Some governors might vow to fire any state employee complying with unwanted federal orders. And I thought it likely that “nullification juries” would start cropping up, refusing to convict right-wingers committing mayhem, such as attacking election officials, no matter what evidence there was.
 Continue reading Tom Ricks thinks we can avoid a civil war. That could be huge.

The Washington Post Is In Trouble

Frustrations Mount at Washington Post as Its Business Struggles

New York Times — August 30, 2022

In the years after Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post in 2013, business boomed. Droves of readers bought digital subscriptions, and the newsroom roughly doubled in size, adding hundreds more journalists.

But The Post’s business has stalled in the past year. As the breakneck news pace of the Trump administration faded away, readers have turned elsewhere, and the paper’s push to expand beyond Beltway coverage hasn’t compensated for the loss.

The organization is on track to lose money in 2022, after years of profitability, according to two people with knowledge of the company’s finances. The Post now has fewer than the three million paying digital subscribers that it had hailed internally near the end of 2020, according to several people at the organization. Digital ad revenue generated by The Post fell to roughly $70 million during the first half of the year, about 15 percent lower than in the first half of 2021, according to a recent internal financial document reviewed by The New York Times.

Fred Ryan, the chief executive and publisher, in recent weeks has floated with newsroom leaders the possibility of cutting 100 positions, according to several people with knowledge of the discussions. The cuts, if they happen, could come through hiring freezes for open jobs or other ways. The newsroom now has about 1,000 people.

A spokeswoman for The Post said the organization was not reducing head count, and instead would be adding steadily to the newsroom and “exploring positions that should be repurposed to serve a larger, national and global audience.” She said the document showing ad revenue declines depicted an incomplete picture of The Post’s business but declined to detail how.

More than 20 people with knowledge of the The Post’s business operations spoke for this article. Most of them would do so only on the condition of anonymity, to protect their relationships inside the organization.

The Post’s newsroom remains one of the most formidable in the country. This year, it won the coveted Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for reporting on the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. The publication has also, in recent years, opened international hubs in Seoul and London to enable round-the-clock editing, and it has invested in coverage of topics such as personal technology, climate, and health and wellness.

Many news outlets, in addition to The Post, have experienced declining readership since former President Donald J. Trump left office. But two of The Post’s top competitors — The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal — have added subscriptions since Mr. Trump left office.

The downturn at The Post has set off frustration internally. Some top executives are concerned that Mr. Ryan, picked by Mr. Bezos to be the publication’s top business executive, hasn’t moved decisively enough to expand coverage. Some have also become irritated by the company’s halting marketing efforts, which are guided by Mr. Ryan, and inconclusive talks about acquiring another large news organization. . . .

Many of the publication’s top leaders, including its top editor, Sally Buzbee, are urging patience. They say that the company’s efforts to broaden coverage will eventually attract new readers and lead to financial success.

Ms. Buzbee said that the newsroom was in the process of adding 150 positions. Mr. Ryan and Ms. Buzbee, who joined in 2021, are overseeing a new initiative called “5 by 25,” an effort to reach five million total digital subscribers by 2025.

“There’s no question that we need to diversify what people come to us for,” Ms. Buzbee said in an interview. “That’s our whole strategy.”. . .

“These investments are aligned with our strategic road map, and we expect to see returns, both in consumer and advertising revenue, on this work in the coming year,” the [Post] spokeswoman said.

Mr. Bezos, one of the world’s richest people, has said that an independent newsroom should be self-sustaining. He was a regular presence at The Washington Post for the first few years after he purchased the company, but receded somewhat from the newspaper’s operations during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a person with knowledge of his interactions. Zoom and phone meetings with Mr. Bezos, once held every other week, have become less frequent, as have trips by Post executives to Seattle, where Mr. Bezos lives, to solicit his input.

Mr. Bezos is still engaged, however, weighing in during budgeting season and participating in calls. He declined to comment for this article, but The Post spokeswoman said any suggestion that Mr. Bezos had become less interested in The Post was “absolutely false.”

Much of the decision making, though, falls on Mr. Ryan, 67. A former official in the Reagan administration and chief executive of Politico, he came to The Post in 2014. He replaced Katharine Weymouth, a scion of the Graham family, who were the Post’s longtime owners. When Mr. Bezos selected him in 2014, he thanked him for taking the job, adding that Mr. Ryan was “excited to roll up his sleeves.”

The Post’s efforts to diversify its journalism beyond political coverage extends back until at least the summer of 2016. At that time, senior editors considered a plan that would expand the newspaper’s coverage to temper a decline in readership during what they thought would be the presidential administration of Hillary Clinton, according to two people with knowledge of the proposal.

The plan, code-named Operation Skyfall, was set aside after Mr. Trump won the presidential election.

As the importance of moving beyond Washington coverage became more urgent over the past year, Mr. Ryan has given some mixed signals about how ambitiously he wanted to move.

Late last year, as part of a monthslong review of the company done by an internal group called the Strategic Review Team, Mr. Ryan told executives that The Post could be the definitive source of news and information for the English-speaking world, according to people with knowledge of the meeting. At a subsequent gathering of the executives, he said The Post should be an essential source of news, which at least one person interpreted as a less ambitious goal. Others in attendance, including Ms. Buzbee, said they did not see his comments that way.

The Post’s executives have had extensive internal talks about whether to buy other major news organizations, according to five people familiar with the matter. The outlets discussed have included The Associated Press, The Economist and The Guardian, some of the people said. The Strategic Review Team noted in a multipage memo that an acquisition might make sense to expand The Post’s audience internationally, where it is not as well known.

So far, Mr. Ryan has focused on building The Post’s capacity for covering new areas rather than acquiring rivals.

Mr. Ryan’s decision to scrap some of the newspaper’s brand marketing campaigns has been another source of tension among executives at The Post, according to two people with knowledge of the paper’s branding strategy. . . .

One person familiar with The Post’s marketing strategy said that the company was planning a major brand marketing push to promote its new coverage areas, including climate. Last year, The Post aired a campaign on “Jeopardy!” around the Afghanistan Papers, its investigation into the secret history of the war in Afghanistan.

The discussions about budget reductions come as Mr. Ryan has expressed annoyance with senior newsroom leaders at what he sees as a lack of productivity by some journalists at the paper. Last fall, he asked for the company’s chief information officer to pull records on which days employees held videoconference meetings, as a way to judge production levels, and found that fewer meetings occurred on Fridays, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

He has also grown increasingly frustrated that some Post staff members are still not in the office at least three days a week, the company’s policy.

In recent weeks, Mr. Ryan asked for disciplinary letters to be drafted and sent to employees who had not made any appearance in the office this year, according to three people with knowledge of the discussions. He ultimately decided that the letters should not be sent, and that the people should be called instead. The Post spokeswoman said that Mr. Ryan welcomed employee input on the return-to-office policy.

Some employees have taken their frustrations directly to Mr. Ryan. A letter addressed to Post management and sent to Mr. Ryan this month from journalists who covered the Covid-19 pandemic cited “grave concerns” about the policy.

“Such decisions are extremely personal and consequential,” the letter said, “and we urge management to allow employees to make these decisions without fear of punishment from their employer.”

Science Strikes Back: Is Mark Robinson Learning?

Who says blog posts don’t have impact?

Yesterday, August 24, we shared a post:  Our Work Cut Out For Us – A Preview of 2024 Governor’s Race in NC.”

It got close to 40 “hits,” small stuff on the big web, but not bad for a “local” news item.

The book.

The post concerned a new book that will be out next month, by NC Lt. Governor Mark Robinson, a very conservative Republican who is preparing a likely run for governor in 2024.

In the book, We Are the Majority, Robinson declares that, as part of his efforts to clean up public education in the state, he would drop studies of science and social studies from curricula through fifth grade:

“In those grades,” Robinson wrote, “we don’t need to be teaching social studies. We don’t need to be teaching science. We surely don’t need to talk about equity and social justice.” 

There’s more, much more, in the text and the post (as a local paper said, Robinson “has a reputation for making incendiary and controversial comments.”)

But that particular declaration seemed to raise eyebrows and hackles. Less than 24 hours after our post was up, and a longer report was on WRAL TV, — well, Robinson was singing something of a different tune.

As noted in the August 25  Raleigh NC News & Observer:

NC’s Mark Robinson backs off his call to stop teaching science  in elementary school


When North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson spoke on education at a round-table event Tuesday night in downtown Durham, he didn’t publicly broach a topic likely to have been on many attendees’ minds: a call in his upcoming book for eliminating science and history from the first through fifth-grade curriculum and shuttering the State Board of Education.

Duke’s clinical Research Institute, Durham NC. There’s no skimping on science here.

In the book, set to be published on Sept. 13, Robinson writes that schools should “demand proficiency in reading, writing, and math in grades one through five. In those grades, we don’t need to be teaching social studies. We don’t need to be teaching science. We surely don’t need to talk about equity and social justice.”

Following the public panel, The News & Observer asked him about that stance.

Robinson said he didn’t want to discuss the book at the event and that he or his representatives would talk separately.

Science March, Raleigh 2017.

But shortly afterward, in comments to CBS-17 at the event, he appeared to backtrack from at least one statement in the book. He told the station he was not saying that science, at least, should be eliminated from the curriculum, but instead that proficiency in reading and mathematics should be the priority.

“We’re not talking about not teaching science to elementary school children,” he said Tuesday. “What we’re talking about is putting reading, writing and arithmetic – making that paramount in elementary school.”

Robinson, who is the top Republican in North Carolina’s executive branch, has a reputation for making incendiary and controversial comments. A viral 2018 speech on gun rights started his political career, and just two years later he was elected by voters as the state’s first Black lieutenant governor.

RTP’s bird logo, symbolizing the flocks of thousands of scientific researchers gathered there every day.

It’s apt that Robinson, er, adjusted his statement in Durham. He was speaking just a stone’s throw from science-intensive Research Triangle Park, which modestly claims to be “the largest research park in the U.S.,” and only a block or two from the mammoth high-rise Duke Clinical Research Institute; to mention only a couple the city’s science-related landmarks. One could also mention that “social studies” are the focus of several other local institutions, such as the art museum with its striking civil rights mural.

For that matter, in Raleigh, the town Robinson hopes to take over in the 2024 election, science also seems to be, you know, a thing. In 2017, when science, especially government science, was under assault from a know-nothing White House occupant, Raleigh hosted a stunning and inventive pro-science march.

It begins to look as if Robinson might be making some last-minute revisions to his book text; lucky for him, science has made it possible to do such things even as the presses are getting ready to roll.

So science in Carolina may save Robinson’s bacon this time. And science in Carolina is something the next governor better not ignore or slight, from kindergarten up. I’m pretty sure some would-be candidates already understand that.

Science march, Raleigh 2017.




An Icon of Occupy Wall Street Remembered

AP News: Dorli Rainey, symbol of Occupy movement, dies at 95

SEATTLE (AP) — Dorli Rainey, a selfdescribed “old lady in combat boots” who became a symbol of the Occupy protest movement when she was photographed after being peppersprayed by Seattle police, has died. She was 95.

Dorli Rainey, in the days of Occupy Wall Street, in Seattle

The longtime political activist died on Aug. 12, the Seattle Times reported. Her daughter, Gabriele Rainey, told the newspaper her mom was “so active because she loved this country, and she wanted to make sure that the country was good to its people.” Continue reading An Icon of Occupy Wall Street Remembered

Cartoons for the Weekend

Don’t Sweat Georgia, Rudy, You’re Not Gonna Dye . . .Oh, Wait!








Look! He signed the the “Inflation (of Dark Brandon’s Reputation)” Act. What Do We Do Now???









Quick — Change the Subject! It’s all the fault of Hillary—err, I Mean the FBI!

Maybe some other Credit Is (Over)Due Here . . .







Still Some Big decisions to Make . . .

And There Are Still Bad Guys Waiting to Claim Victory . . .






CNN’s Top Experts Unpack the Secrets in Trump Boxes: “Stunning,””Egregious” & “Flagrant”

CNN Rush Transcript [text may not  be in its final corrected form] from August 12 on the content and the significance of the retrieved TOP SECRET documents (emphasis added):

Erin Burnett (CNN-OutFront): In all, 11 sets of classified documents, four of them, according to this receipt, marked top secret. Four of them marked top secret, and one with that special designation of the highest classification were taken from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago. All in, the FBI collected more than 20 boxes.

Evan Perez is OUTFRONT in Washington.

Burnett: Evan, it’s pretty incredible, right? It’s been a year and a half of negotiations. They sent back 15 boxes. Oh, you got everything. It turns out no. Oh, no, now you’ve got everything. And now another 15 boxes with all of this list.

What more are you learning about what the FBI took and why?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: No, Erin, the timeline that you just laid out is exactly the importance of why the FBI went to do this. They listed on this document their 33 entries. And, of course, the most important one is the set of documents that are labeled as TS/SCI. This is — this means top secret — I’m sorry. Top secret compartmented information. Continue reading CNN’s Top Experts Unpack the Secrets in Trump Boxes: “Stunning,””Egregious” & “Flagrant”

The Long Read: Fox News and the Billion Dollar Lawsuit

New York Times: Defamation Suit About Election Falsehoods Puts Fox on Its Heels

The suit, filed by Dominion Voting Systems, could be one of the most consequential First Amendment cases in a generation.

The Fox News studio in Manhattan on election night in 2020. A defamation suit by Dominion Voting Systems threatens a huge financial and reputational blow to Fox.

In the weeks after President Donald J. Trump lost the 2020 election, the Fox Business host Lou Dobbs claimed to have “tremendous evidence” that voter fraud was to blame. That evidence never emerged but a new culprit in a supposed scheme to rig the election did: Dominion Voting Systems, a maker of election technology whose algorithms, Mr. Dobbs said, “were designed to be inaccurate.”

Maria Bartiromo, another host on the network, falsely stated that “Nancy Pelosi has an interest in this company.” Jeanine Pirro, a Fox News personality, speculated that “technical glitches” in Dominion’s software “could have affected thousands of absentee mail-in ballots.”

Those unfounded accusations are now among the dozens cited in Dominion’s defamation lawsuit against the Fox Corporation, which alleges that Fox repeatedly aired false, far-fetched and exaggerated allegations about Dominion and its purported role in a plot to steal votes from Mr. Trump.

Those bogus assertions — made day after day, including allegations that Dominion was a front for the communist government in Venezuela and that its voting machines could switch votes from one candidate to another — are at the center of the libel suit, one of the most extraordinary brought against an American media company in more than a generation.

Continue reading The Long Read: Fox News and the Billion Dollar Lawsuit