Mooch, we hardly knew ye

Anthony Scaramucci is out as White House Communications Director, as we all know by now. The hiring of the Mooch to replace Reince Preibus, who had lost the confidence of his boss, resulted in the resignation of Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, who refused to work for the Mooch.

Spicer reportedly said that Mr. Scaramucci’s hiring “would add to the confusion and uncertainty already engulfing the White House.” What he actually said was closer to “this guy is a low-life scumbag from Queens and we’ve already got enough of those around here”.

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The Mooch was recommended by that dynamic duo of king-makers and Tweety-whisperers, Jared and Ivanka, and had the “full support” of the President. For about a week. Given Tweety’s attention span, a week isn’t actually all that bad.

The Mooch became immediately famous for his profanity-laced descriptions of other White House notables, like Priebus (“a fucking paranoid schizophrenic”), and Bannon (“trying to suck his own cock”). But this isn’t really what Tweety objected to, as it’s basically the same language and attitude that he’s always been comfortable with. And anyway, none of his “base” was offended by the vulgarity because FoxNews didn’t report it, so they never knew about it.

It’s more likely that the Mooch’s knack for self-promotion and love of the limelight was what alienated Tweety, who doesn’t want anyone’s name in the news but his own.

The Mooch lost more than his job. He lost his family as well. His 38-year-old wife of three years, who was nine months pregnant, filed for divorce. She gave birth to a son while the Mooch was with the President at the now-infamous Boy Scout Jamboree speech, where Tweety bragged to an audience of kids about wild parties on yachts owned by rich friends of his.

The Mooch, on hearing of the birth, texted his wife, “Congratulations, I’ll pray for our child.”  Texted? Wow. That says it all. Everyone knows you don’t text your wife when she gives birth! What a moron. Everyone knows giving birth calls for a tweet, not a text! No wonder she divorced him.

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The main contribution the Mooch was supposed to make to the White House was to stop all the “leaking” that’s been going on. But the leaking became worse. Everything was “leaked”. It just makes you wonder why everything is such a big secret to begin with. What was so awful that got “leaked” that sent the Mooch over the edge?

Welp, the big thing they wanted to keep secret was that  Scaramucci was having dinner at the White House with Tweety, Melania, Sean Hannity, and the former Fox News executive Bill Shine. This was “leaked” to Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker, who tweeted (of course) about it.

The Mooch just about had a stroke when he saw that. He called Lizza in a rage and threatened to fire everyone in the communications office unless Lizza revealed who “leaked” it (as if Lizza would give a shit if he did). The Mooch said,

 “You’re an American citizen, this is a major catastrophe for the American country. So I’m asking you as an American patriot to give me a sense of who leaked it.”

Wow. OK. Slow down, Mooch. If you think that citizens finding out that the President is conspiring with Sean Hannity is a “major catastrophe”, you’re the one who needs to brush up on patriotism.

The catastrophe is that they’re conspiring in the first place – the rest of us finding out about it is actually what the press is supposed to do. The press is supposed to be independent, remember? As Communications Director, that would be something you should be aware of, no?

Anyway, the Mooch is history now. It was fun while it lasted.

 

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Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

This Wapo timeline sheds a lot of light on the bogus Seth Rich story. You can find out everything you need to know about it elsewhere, e.g. this CNN piece, but basically FoxNews made up a story which they later “retracted” that a DNC worker named Seth Rich was actually the one to give Wikileaks stolen DNC emails, not the Russians, and that he was murdered in retribution for this. Maybe Hillary ordered the hit? Who knows.

Sean Hannity, arguably the most influential “newsman” in the country and regular dinner guest at the White House, was beating this drum for a long time.

The latest and most discouraging revelation about the whole thing is that Fox coordinated with the Trump White House and with Trump personally to put this lie out there.

Here the main points GOML takes away from it:

1. FoxNews is not “news” at all. Not even a little. The idea that they are either “fair” or “balanced” is and always has been quite absurd.

2. FoxNews is the propaganda arm of the Republican party in general, and an extension of the White House Communications Office in particular. It performs these functions in a way that even its most “biased” liberal counterpart would never even aspire to. In this particular instance, it made up a hurtful and completely false narrative in order to obscure some actual, true news that would have reflected poorly on their partner/client/boss/benefactor/whatever. It worked directly with the POTUS, whose approval they sought for the story and who coordinated its release.

3. Cries of “fake news” from your president are not just damaging to the journalistic profession (such as it is these days), a misdirection away from actual made-up news, and a cynical de-valuing of both “truth” and “facts”.

In this particular case, charges of “fake news” against others are accompanied by the actual creation of lies which purposely, recklessly and unscrupulously defame an innocent man who was tragically murdered, and assure that justice will be harder for his survivors to obtain. Those survivors must now concern themselves not only with justice, but also vindication.

4. The leader of the free world is happy to randomly accuse, without any reason or evidence, a completely innocent person of releasing stolen DNC emails to Wikileaks, so that he can deflect attention away from the actual perpetrators, a foreign regime historically hostile to our interests and values that he admires and cultivates, apparently for personal gain.

5. A “news” outlet which is trusted by millions of people, and which is the primary influence on the way they exercise their franchise, is not simply “biased”, but hateful, anti-democratic, and yes, evil.

Better wait for the internet to decide

Internet outrage is the fire that starts itself and can never be extinguished.

I’m not sure why I need to know this, but United Airlines screwed up again and had to apologize for something, and now the whole non-story has risen to the top of my news-feed. Again.

I’m sure you’ve already seen it, but here’s the summary anyway: a woman was flying on United with her two-year-old to Boston from Hawaii with a layover in Houston. She was required to buy a separate seat for the kid, which she did at a cost of almost $1000. Boarding for the Houston-Boston leg, a stand-by passenger was accidentally assigned the toddler’s seat, and the woman was told she’d just have to keep the kid on her lap for three and a half hours, because the flight was full and there was no other choice.

The gate agent screws up and everybody loses. The passenger mom had to have the kid on her lap (don’t worry, of course she’ll get her money back and more), and ZOMG, her left arm got numb! Lawsuit time. The standby passenger, who was going to be miserable in a tiny middle seat for hours no matter what, now has a squirmy kid on his neighbor’s lap the whole time. United Airlines loses because, once again, they have been shown to be the devil incarnate.

And the uncaring and rude flight attendant who had to give the complaining passenger the bad news (and who is almost certainly a serial killer on her off days), will have to be shamed and sanctioned. Forever.

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Of course, the whole sordid episode was immediately available on Whatever-Gram, so the entire world could rush to judgement, because it is absolutely essential that our hunger for outrage be fed several times a day.

And because the internet knew about it, well, that means it’s got to be front page news for the Washington Post and everyone else. That’s kind of the definition of “news” these days, especially if there’s video!

And because it’s United, a catalog of all their former transgressions has to be part of the story, complete with links and video of that guy who was dragged off and lost some teeth. Without that one, this new incident probably goes nowhere. Even the non-story of leggings-gate had to be dredged up.

Worst of all, United took five whole days to apologize. Five days! Monsters!

The reason they took so long was that they were waiting to find out what the Internet Justice League thought. Maybe it would come down on the mom for not making the best of a bad situation? Who knows – if they found something to dislike about her or her video, maybe she’d be the one to take the heat. All it would have taken was for her to mention the flight attendant’s weight, or maybe the stand-by guy’s, in her moment of frustration. Could have gone either way.

Like this one from a couple of days ago which was “trending”. A guy is unhappy about being in the exit row with a “plus-sized” person, who he thinks maybe couldn’t help others get out in an emergency, and therefore shouldn’t be there. He texts someone about it, believing the message to be private. She sees him doing it (and videos the whole thing, otherwise it’s not news), and the rest is history.

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She wins, he loses. Fat-shaming in private communication is way, way worse than eavesdropping. It’s way worse than anything, actually. That’s what the internet decided.

 

News and drugs

The other day Scott Pelley got fired from his job as the anchor of the CBS Evening News. CBS has traditionally been thought of as the best and most important of the network news operations, the home of Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite, and the news anchor position has been the most prestigious in the business for decades.  A shake-up at that spot has always been huge news in and of itself, and there was a lot of hand-wringing and speculation this time as well, although almost entirely within the industry.

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But CBS Nightly News ratings trailed ABC and NBC, and news, like everything now, is a profit center. Pelley is out. His presentation of the day’s events wasn’t selling as well as the competitors’, even though the content was virtually identical.

There are two reasons why this doesn’t matter to me at all. The first is just my own taste, I suppose, and I probably shouldn’t even mention it, as it will surely anger those who disagree and it’s really not that important. But, as I’ve said before, that’s why Stewie is Generis, so here goes: Scott Pelley and Ted Baxter are virtually indistinguishable to me. They both simply read what’s put in front of them, quite obviously without any real understanding of it. And they both cultivate the silver-haired, square-jawed, steely look of authority and competence which masks any sign of who they might really be off-camera, as well as that phony “newsman’s voice”, meant to instill confidence in the truth and gravity of whatever they’re reading, however silly it may be.

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The second reason Pelley’s firing doesn’t matter to me, and shouldn’t matter to anyone else either, is that network news itself no longer matters. It’s nothing but a re-hash of stuff that you already knew from the internet. It’s stale by the time they serve it to you. It might be 24 hours old or older and you’ve already determined whether you care about it.

There is no “journalism” involved – CBS is not “breaking” any stories with a network of far-flung correspondents and investigators. They are simply repeating what’s been on Twitter all day long, or even what CNN ran 10-12 hours earlier. And their standard is that if there are no spectacular images to go with the story, well, it’s just not news as far as they’re concerned.

And the really pathetic thing is they try to “tease” their stale stories to keep you tuned in through 3-4 minutes of ads: “You’ll be shocked at what President Trump tweeted last night at midnight – we’ll tell you after this…” No, I won’t be shocked. I saw it when he tweeted it 18 hours ago, and it didn’t shock me then. It wasn’t newsworthy at the time and it’s already been covered to death by everyone else all day long, including by the crack reporting staff at Get Off My Lawn.

So who’s watching these network “news” programs? Only people who don’t have the internet. In other words, only old people. And the proof is right there before your eyes. Those ads they want you to watch are virtually all drug advertisements and all for ailments that affect older people primarily.

There are a zillion new drugs you never heard of a couple of years ago that you are now bombarded with ads about during the newscast.   The drug companies know exactly who’s watching.

drug graph

I’d never heard of any of these drugs before, and now I can’t avoid them: Latuda (depression), Harvoni (hepatitis C), Rexulti (depression), Lyrica (nerve and muscle pain), Eliquis (stroke prevention), Xeljanz (rheumatoid arthritis), Viberzi (irritable bowel syndrome), Invokana (Type 2 Diabetes), Humira (arthritis), Jublia (toe fungus),  Xarelto (stroke prevention).

Maybe you’re taking one or more of these, or maybe you’re a medical professional who has known all about them for years, but that’s not my point. My point is that I have as many ailments as the next guy and the only way I’m aware of these drugs is from direct-to-consumer advertising.  My thesis is that most people have had the same experience.

Over $5 Billion dollars in drug ads were purchased last year and it’s been trending up for some time.

Following graph from this site:

drug spending

The A.M.A. has called for a ban on direct-to-consumer ad spending. The only two countries that allow direct-to-consumer drug advertising are the U.S. and New Zealand.

 

most advertised

16 drugs accounted for more than $100 million in advertising last year.

This report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (obviously created pre-Trump) says prescription drugs accounted for nearly 17 percent of total health care spending in 2015, up from about 7 percent in the 1990s, due in large part to rising prices for brand-name treatments.

Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) introduced a bill to eliminate the tax breaks that drug makers can take to offset their spending on ad campaigns. He said it was a “common sense measure to help cut down health care costs.”

On the other side of this fight is the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. It’s the industry trade group and has rejected efforts to limit ads saying the ads are useful for informing patients about their treatment options and help them avoid health emergencies.

I’m tempted to agree that there is probably more new information transmitted in these ads than in the alleged “news” that surrounds them, but that would be ignoring the difference between information and advocacy.

Nine out of ten of the biggest pharmaceutical companies actually spend more on advertising than on R&D, which should tell you something about the whole process. Note that Jublia, the toe-fungus treatment, costs about $600 a bottle but is proven to work in fewer than 20 percent of users, according to Consumer Reports.

Which side do you think the Trump administration will support? I don’t know but I can guess – as with all crime stories, you’ll find the bad guys if you  “follow the money”.

#FireKushner

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As I write this, the hashtag #FireKushner is trending on Twitter. I have no idea what this actually means – for all I know,  the marketing department at Twitter has figured out that I want to hear this and they’re showing it only to me, because somehow someone will make some money if I see it.  The internet works in mysterious ways.

But something does seem to be happening out there. I’ve said many times that Trump has nothing to fear from the fact-based world as long as his “No Regerts” legions remain in their bizarre self-imposed hypnotic trance. And nothing will change for them until their beloved FoxNews changes something.

Every time I get a hopeful text or email from someone exclaiming that some incriminating piece of evidence has been uncovered that will finally sink the toxic tiny-handed man-baby, I tell them to wake me up when they see it on FoxNews.

But Roger Ailes died last week, and I can still hear someone singing “Ding dong the witch is dead” from the direction of Harvard Square every time I open a window. And Bill O’Reilly is gone, a casualty not so much of his horrible behavior, or of management’s desire to bring their organizational culture in line with the accepted norms of the rest of the world, but rather of the decline in advertising revenue he was bringing in.

And now Sean Hannity, the craziest of them all and the last of those who were there from the beginning,  has been given a “time out” for his reckless non-stop hawking of yet another fake Democrats-are-murderers conspiracy story, oblivious to the damage he was doing to the family of Seth Rich.

Those of us who pretend to understand how this works realized right away that the reason for this particular horror-show was to allow Hannity to avoid mentioning the unfolding Trump/Russia story for days at a time. That’s on page one of the Fox/Hannity play book. But, amazingly, FoxNews actually retracted the story, something they never do.

And as I mentioned yesterday, a FoxNews reporter was among the first to debunk Greg Gianforte’s slanderous fabrication that he strangled a Guardian Reporter because the guy had been aggressive with him. That’s a version that, in the past, FoxNews might have put out there and hammered on for a few days until the “Who can ever know the real truth” smoke-screen descended over it and neutralized the assault. But they didn’t.

And when I click on foxnews.com this morning, I’m surprised to see them featuring two stories that , on the surface, seem anti-Trump. The first was about John Boehner saying Trump’s administration has been a “complete disaster”, and the second is about how Jared Kushner tried to get a secret communications channel with Russia.

Mind you, I haven’t actually read either of these stories, or turned my TV to FoxNews – I’m a little afraid of what I’ll find out if I do. Maybe that Hillary Clinton impersonated Kushner and is the real culprit? Maybe that Boehner was actually quoting some “extreme left-wing” critic of Trump’s and went on to rebut the whole thing? Don’t know and don’t care.

The point is that something does seem to be happening out there. Maybe you can wake me up now.

“Not in our minds!”

Yesterday, Montana elected multimillionaire businessman Greg Gianforte to its one seat in the House of Representatives in a closely watched special election. Gianforte was hand-picked by the Republican party to run against Democrat Rob Quist, a folk-singer and musician, for the seat vacated by Ryan Zinke, who became President Donald Trump’s Secretary of the Interior.

Assault charges had been filed against Gianforte earlier for throwing a reporter from The Guardian to the ground and strangling him after the reporter asked him about the new Congressional Budget Office scoring of the latest Republican health care bill, which, if passed, would mean 23 million people would ultimately lose health care coverage.

As he grabbed the reporter, Ben Jacobs, by the throat, Gianforte screamed that he was “sick and tired of you guys … get the hell out of here.”

Gianforte has often been compared with Trump. “Greg thinks he’s Donald Trump,”one observer in Monatana said.  “He thinks he could shoot a guy on Fifth Avenue and get away with it.” Nancy Pelosi called him a wannabe Trump.

In true Trump style, Gianforte first made up some nonsense about how Jacobs had been aggressive with him, but that story was quickly debunked by witnesses. FoxNews, remarkably, was among the first news organizations to set the record straight. Their reporter, Alicia Acuna, was there and said,

To be clear, at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte, who left the area after giving statements to local sheriff’s deputies.

Three of the largest newspapers in Montana had endorsed Gianforte, but retracted their endorsements after the incident. None endorsed Quist, however. Gianforte has a history of Trump-like interactions with the press. The Independent Record said in an editorial,

We are also sick and tired – of Gianforte’s incessant attacks on the free press. In the past, he has encouraged his supporters to boycott certain newspapers, singled out a reporter in a room to point out that he was outnumbered, and even made a joke out of the notion of choking a news writer, and these are not things we can continue to brush off.

They also said,

We do not want this to be construed as an endorsement for any of Gianforte’s opponents, however. And we encourage all voters to review the information available, listen to their conscience, and vote for the best candidate for Montana at the polls today.

This is what passes, in Republican circles, for “taking the high road”. Paul Ryan, always a leader on Republican expeditions up the high road, also suggested Gianforte should apologize. Of course, a large percentage of the votes had already been cast before the assault took place, and Ryan was well aware that the House seat in question would remain under his control.

So courageous, Paul!  And we just love that serious expression of moral authority and disdain for indecorous behavior that you cultivate just for occasions like this.

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Some people, by which I mean yours truly, Stewie Generis, figured all this would just help Gianforte solidify his base and prove his bona fides as a warrior against America’s greatest enemy, the media, and also validate his ticket on the Trump-Train from Montana. If a Jew reporter from some liberal rag gets his hair a little mussed up, well, what can we say – ya gotta break some eggs if ya wanna make an omelette.

Anyway, with the win in hand, Gianforte was ready to move on from all this. At his victory rally, he said to a laughing crowd,  “I shouldn’t have treated that reporter that way. I made a mistake.”

“Not in our minds,” someone shouted back.

minds

 

 

 

“Not a big media press access person”

That’s how Rex Tillerson, your Secretary of State, describes himself.  He was explaining his decision not to allow a pool reporter to travel with him on his trip to Asia in March.

Tillerson claimed the decision not to allow more reporters had to do with a desire to save money, saying the plane “flies faster, allows me to be more efficient” with fewer people on it.

That’s just science – everyone knows that planes fly faster with fewer reporters on them.

True to form, Tillerson yesterday held a press conference in Riyadh that excluded the U.S. press. No worries, though – he later provided a transcript of  the questions and answers given to the Saudi press.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir, oversaw the process and stood alongside Tillerson throughout. He wanted to make sure that the free and independent press that Saudi Arabia is famous for had, you know, total discretion to ask and print what they want. I think that’s in the First Amendment to the Saudi Constitution, but I’ll have to double-check that.

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Transparency. That’s what the Trump administration is all about.

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