Anti-Trump conservative pundits come to terms with Trump’s ‘American carnage’

Photo via WhiteHouse.gov.
Photo via WhiteHouse.gov

In assessing the dawn of the Trump era, there are plots. There are subplots. And there are sub-subplots. Among the more intriguing of those sub-subplots is the fate of the conservative commentariat under a Republican president who is not conservative and whom most right-leaning pundits fulminated against during the past year and a half.

President Trump has the Fox News Channel, of course. I caught just enough Friday night to see Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson smirking and backslapping over their guy’s rise to power. Some post-Roger Ailes chaos aside, the enduring popularity of Fox may prove to be more than enough to offset the influence of conservatives who are appalled at the prospect of a president who exudes demagoguery as well as several varieties of nationalism, including economic and white.

Other than Fox, though, Trump has received little support from conservatives.

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The daily Trump: Katie Kingsbury on the Globe’s interactive transition graphic

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The Boston Globe has published a striking interactive graphic of the Trump transition. Titled “A transition like no other,” there’s an entry for every day since Donald Trump’s election. Each box has a thumbnail of the day’s major news and a link to the longer story. Most are accompanied by a tweet from Trump himself.

The graphic also appears in today’s print edition. But the digital version is more fully realized, and is worth checking out by anyone interested in digital storytelling. I emailed a few questions to Katie Kingsbury, the Globe’s managing editor for digital. Her responses are below.

Q: Who is the intended audience?

A: The past few months have been a whirlwind of news — this project was spawned out of a desire to capture the details amid that flood. Trump and his team made Cabinet decisions that will fundamentally change major geopolitical power structures that nations have relied on since World War II. He moved markets through Twitter. He took steps that will fundamentally undo Obama’s legacy over the next several months. Meanwhile, Obama was sanctioning a foreign nation for intervening in our presidential election.

Q: Studies show that people spend very little time on news websites compared to print. One way to counteract that is to produce journalism that invites return visits. Are you hoping this is the sort of feature that people will keep returning to?

A: I do hope people keep returning to it. For one, it is meant to be a good way to showcase our archives for the past three months. For another, there is so much there — you need to spend some serious time with it to realize the breadth of all that has happened since November. My guess is this will become one of those projects that people return to as well months from now, when the details aren’t as fresh.

Q: Do you plan to keep updating it? For how long?

A: We haven’t actually discussed that. It was no small investment by a lot of folks — [political editor] Felice Belman did an amazing job of sorting through 70-plus days of news and finding the best nuggets. [Digital design director] Michael Workman and [design director] Heather Hopp-Bruce spearheaded this gorgeous design for both online and the two-page spread in print. We have designers from across the building — Tonia Cowan, Ryan Huddle, Kelsey Kronmiller, and Brendan Lynch — who contributed illustrations. [Director of audience engagement] Matt Karolian and [deputy managing editor for audience engagement] Jason Tuohey have an ambitious social plan for today and tomorrow. Matt Ellis, our product manager, pulled together all these moving parts.

With that infrastructure in place, we would be able to keep it going without a ton of effort. Now I plan to explore that today. Thanks for the idea!

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Yes, Sen. Grassley, there are plenty of reasons to worry about the fate of Medicare

Keep your eyes open, journalists. Connect the dots. Sometimes it’s as easy as reading two stories in the same day’s newspaper — in this case, The Washington Post. A story on Republican efforts to come up with a repeal-and-replace plan for the Affordable Care Act includes this:

Some congressional Republicans have been more vocal in recent days about concerns that they are hearing from constituents on what comes after the law is repealed. Several also suggested that Democrats are deliberately spreading misinformation.

“I think you hear from two categories,” said Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa). “One are people that think Medicare is going to be affected, and obviously we haven’t made very clear that there’s absolutely no connection with Medicare. And the other one is dealing with the people they think are going to lose their insurance as soon as we … repeal.”

Those dastardly lying Democrats! But wait. Elsewhere in the Post, we learn that Tom Price, who is Donald Trump’s choice to be the next secretary of health and human services, is in fact a sworn enemy of Medicare:

Starting early in his tenure on Capitol Hill, Price wrote a series of commentaries lambasting the popular Medicare program and exhorting changes along more conservative lines. “Its flawed structure increasingly fails our seniors on all counts — responsiveness, innovation, access, cost and quality,” he wrote in 2008 in the Washington Times. He has repeatedly introduced legislation that would have converted Medicare from the entitlement program it has been since its origins in the 1960s to a system of “defined contribution,” with the government giving older Americans fixed sums to help them purchase private health plans.

For what it’s worth, the bylines of Post reporters Julie Eilperin and Amy Goldstein appear on both stories.

And let’s not forget that House Speaker Paul Ryan spends most of his waking hours dreaming about doing away with Medicare.

I guess the most logical explanation for letting Grassley’s words stand without challenge  is that destroying Obamacare will not destroy Medicare. Instead, it will require a separate vote.

Northeastern students’ multimedia projects are published by WGBH News

Flooding at Long Wharf during the King Tides in mid-November gave Bostonians a preview of climate change. Photo by Gwendolyn Schanker; filter by BeFunky.
Flooding at Long Wharf during the King Tides in mid-November gave Bostonians a preview of climate change. Photo by Gwendolyn Schanker; filter by BeFunky.

WGBH News, the online arm of Boston’s largest public media organization, published nine multimedia projects from my Digital Storytelling and Social Media class this past fall. From oyster farming in Wellfleet to activism aimed at assisting immigrants in Greater Boston, Northeastern journalism students hit the streets and back roads to report, write stories, take photos, and shoot and edit videos.

Here is what you will find by our students at WGBHNews.org:

  • Janine Eduljee: “Despite Long Lines, Early Voting Proved To Be A Hit In Massachusetts”
  • Timothy Foley: “Poetic Justice: How Boston Pulse Is Helping Students Find Their Voice”
  • Mayeesha Galiba: “Mass. Coalition Fights To Promote The Rights Of Immigrants And Refugees”
  • Elise Harmon: “New England Activists Rally For Victims Of Violence In Syria”
  • Christie Macomber: “Standing Up For Standing Rock: The Harsh Realities Of Environmental Racism”
  • Alexandra Malloy: “In Wellfleet, An Oyster Farmer’s Life Is Dictated By The Tides”
  • Gwendolyn Schanker: “Seeing Is Believing: Using Multimedia To Tell The Climate Change Story”
  • Rowan Walrath: “Fossil-Fuel Divestment Campaigns Hit Boston’s College Campuses”
  • Elle Williams: “Standing Up For Black Lives: How Asian Americans Are Showing Their Solidarity”

Many thanks to Peter Kadzis, who edits the WGBH News site, as well as to the web folks who made it happen: Brendan Lynch, Paris Alston, and Joshua Eaton.

From the archives: How the Affordable Care Act will help people with disabilities

President Obama signs the Affordable Care Act. Photo is in the public domain.
President Obama signs the Affordable Care Act. Photo is in the public domain.

Now that congressional Republicans are shamefully dismantling the Affordable Care Act, I thought I would reprise this 2010 piece that I wrote for The Guardian shortly after President Obama signed the bill into law. (I have left the Britishisms intact.) The death of Obamacare is going to have a huge, negative effect on millions, including people with disabilities.

Previously published by The Guardian.

It was some years ago that my wife and I learned a crucial fact about living in America with a disability.

Our daughter, Rebecca, now 17, had been diagnosed at birth with achondroplasia, a genetic condition that is the most common form of dwarfism. At five months she ran into dwarfism-related breathing complications that required a tracheostomy, oxygen and home nurses for a good part of the day and night. It was a harrowing time in our lives — not to mention hers. But by the time she was three years old she was fully recovered.

One day when Becky was still a baby we found ourselves at a gathering of Little People of America, an organisation akin to Britain’s Restricted Growth Association. We were looking down — way, way down — at our soon-to-be-friend Ruth, the local LPA director. Ruth told us that Becky should focus on a career at either a large corporation or the federal government. That way, she said, Becky would never have to worry about having health insurance.

We were appalled. It’s not that working for a big company or a government agency is such a terrible fate. Ruth herself is a federal bureaucrat, and a good one. So, for that matter, was my father. But the idea that our daughter should shy away from launching a business or joining a small start-up company lest she lose her health coverage was offensive to us.

Those days are now behind us — and her. After Sunday night’s historic vote in the House of Representatives, we count Becky among the tens of millions of Americans who have been liberated. It’s long overdue.

Much of the attention over the past few days has rightly focused on the 32 million uninsured Americans who will be covered, and on new regulations that will prohibit insurance companies from denying benefits to people with pre-existing conditions.

What hasn’t been emphasised enough is that many of those folks with pre-existing conditions, like Ruth, have good jobs and great coverage — but that some of them might like to do something else with their lives. Maybe an accountant who’s recovered from cancer wants to try his hand at consulting. Maybe a mother with an autistic child has a killer idea for a restaurant. Maybe a wheelchair-using lawyer at a large firm would like to hang out her own shingle. Now there’s nothing to stop them.

It is the release of this pent-up entrepreneurialism that is among the most exciting aspects of healthcare reform. When Barack Obama has spoken about healthcare in the context of the economy, he has stressed the high cost of insuring employees. For instance, in the president’s address to a joint session of Congress last September, he described cost as the reason that “so many aspiring entrepreneurs cannot afford to open a business in the first place”. Obama was right, but he overlooked what happens when entrepreneurs themselves have medical conditions that prevent them from taking risks that could benefit society as a whole.

There are other reasons, of course, to get excited about healthcare reform, even if you’re a middle-class family with good coverage and no health issues. For many families, the ability to insure your adult children under your own plan until they are 26 is a change of enormous importance. Sticking with the personal theme of this commentary, our 19-year-old son, Tim, plans to spend the next several years establishing himself as a commercial photographer. Now he – and we – have one less thing to worry about.

We are hardly unusual. Across the country, in red states and blue, in households that voted for Obama and those who think he’s a “socialist”, folks are going to discover their lives have been made better in measurable ways. The idea that Republicans will repeal the healthcare law is laughable. Instead, as Republican strategist David Frum, a speechwriter for the second president Bush, wrote on Sunday, the GOP’s just-say-no strategy has led to a “disaster” for the party’s prospects.

What happened on Sunday restored some faith that our political leaders can work on behalf of the people who elected them. It was a great moment for Obama and House speaker Nancy Pelosi, who overcame odds that seemed insurmountable following Republican Scott Brown’s surprise election to the US Senate in January.

It was also a great moment for all of us.

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Obama’s farewell address runs afoul of the first rule of Trump

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Carl Bernstein on CNN Tuesday.

The first rule of Trump: It’s always about Trump.

Thus it was that even on the night of President Barack Obama’s farewell address, the big story was CNN’s report — co-bylined by Watergate legend Carl Bernstein, no less — about compromising (and unverified) personal and financial information gathered by the Russians that could be used to blackmail the president-elect.

On our screens, a popular, largely successful, and thoroughly reassuring president was preparing to leave the White House. Behind the scenes, all was trouble and turmoil.

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My 1996 interview with the late Nat Hentoff about his years at Down Beat magazine

Nat Hentoff. Photo (cc) 2004 by K.G. Schneider.
Nat Hentoff. Photo (cc) 2004 by K.G. Schneider.

The great journalist and civil libertarian Nat Hentoff died on Saturday at the age of 91. In 1996 I had the privilege of interviewing Hentoff and his former colleague Dom Cerulli for Northeastern University’s alumni magazine. Hentoff and Cerulli, who died in 2013, were both Northeastern alumni, and both served as the editor of the jazz magazine Down Beat in the 1950s. I can’t find the clip, but I did manage to dig up my last rewrite before I turned the article in to my editor. I cannot defend the way the piece opens; all I can say is that I’m glad I’ve continued to improve as a writer. Hentoff was a giant. His death creates a deep void, especially at this moment of crisis.

It was the 1950s, Manhattan, 52nd Street. And it seemed like the whole world was in a groove.

Check it out—over there, at the Five Spot. It’s Thelonious Monk, plunking out the chords to “ ’Round Midnight” on the house piano.

Charlie Parker’s seen better days. You know how it is: sometimes he shows up, sometimes he doesn’t. But he’s still Bird, and if he can borrow an alto sax he’s supposed to be playing tonight at Birdland, the club they named after him.

Dizzy Gillespie’s around, of course, only now he’s not playing much bop. He’s got himself this new trumpet that’s bent up toward the ceiling, and he’s doing some Afro-Cuban thing.

Like the old guys? Well, they’re still holding forth. Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, you name it.

Miles Davis, that skinny kid trumpet player who used to be in Bird’s band, is starting to turn heads. And Charles Mingus has a band that’s making the biggest, wildest noise you’ve ever heard.

“It was magical. It was incredible,” says Barry Kernfeld, editor of “The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz” (St. Martin’s, 1994).

It was also a hell of a lot to keep track of.

And from 1952 to ’59, two of the most important witnesses to this musical revolution were a couple of Northeastern guys, Nat Hentoff (Class of 1944) and Dom Cerulli (Class of 1951). They were the New York eyes and ears of Down Beat, a Chicago-based magazine that was—and still is—the most authoritative publication covering jazz.

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