Showboater attorney Michael Avenatti is hinting to the media of a possible run for president in 2020. And yes, he means President of the United States, not the National Bar Association – for which he would be equally unqualified.
The news report had me breaking out in mocking guffaws because I was sure this was just that latest audacious effort to get his mug and moniker in the media spotlight. Even a man as arrogant and audacious as Avenatti could not possibly think of himself as a viable candidate or a qualified president. No person not already restrained by a straightjacket could be that delusional.
Of course, there are those who will make a strained comparison to Donald Trump based on the fact that they are both celebrity camera grabbers. But, that is where the comparison ends. Trump was a successful billionaire with a long history in running major businesses as diverse as real estate and entertainment. Though technically an outsider, Trump has been deeply involved in the political process – at least as deeply as his deep pockets would allow. He has been speaking out on public policy for more than thirty years.
Avenatti is a hotshot lawyer who has ridden into the limelight on the back of a woman whose own fame is based on performing fellatio on film and offering her body to the rich and famous for fun and profit. Avenatti now has the fame if not yet the fortune.
Maybe that will change with a rush on the Avenatti for President t-shirts. Yep! The one shown at the head of this commentary is not the result of photoshopping. It is the “women’s relaxed fit” model and goes for $28.27. But, you can get the “unisex” style for only $19.07. If they were clever, they would charge $20.20. Don’t ya think?
Avenatti’s presidential ambition is up the ladder a few rungs from his previous scheme. According to earlier reports, when he was not out there pumping Stormy Daniels – meaning the story, not the lady, but then who knows? – he was looking to score a talk show contract. That might not be a bad move since his abilities in the court-of-public-opinion appear to be far superior to his abilities in an actual court of law.
I fully expected that the general response of the media – as much as they love Avenatti – would have been as dismissive as my mocking guffaws. But nooo. A foursome of MSNBC’s parroting panelists jumped right in with their analyses as if the guy was serious – and a lot of the discussion had to do with his impact in defeating Trump. It makes one believe that these folks would analyze a fart if they could put some anti-Trump spin on it.
Most of the panel saw good news in the highly unlikely Avanatti campaign. He would be a much-needed fighter. That makes sense. You can hardly expect a bevy of candidates well north of the retirement age to be putting up a good fight. There was, however, one “we don’t need him, and we don’t want him” dissent among the panel. The fear was that he would savage the other fine candidates – whoever they may be – and help Trump win.
By the next day, the Avenatti presidential garbage was at the top of the news on both CNN and MSNBC. More panels were impaneled to analyze, hypothesize, conjecture and opine over what will be a non-story in a few days. These folks just cannot focus on real news whenever another bright and shiny object appears before their eyes.
Once the Klieg lights on Avenatti begin to dim, you can rest assured that he will have some new meaningless announcement – and the obsessing press will again grant him the coverage he craves. Maybe he will propose Stormy Daniels as his running mate. Or maybe propose marriage. The publicity of a Daniels-Avenatti coupling would rival the nuptials of Prince Harry and Meghan Markel — and upon seeing the bride in her breast-bearing wedding dress, MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle could reprise her royal wedding embarrassing imitation of a pre-pubescent teenager at a Justin Bieber concert. For Avenatti, such attention-grabbing possibilities are endless – especially when the media is so willing to be grabbed.
You have to give Avenatti credit, however. He manages to get more media attention with less justification than anyone on the scene today.
In pondering the various controversies in America, I started to think about those public restrooms. Why that issue would come to mind, God only knows. But, I shall pursue it regardless.
In this day of self-identification, multiple genders, transvestites, transsexuals and even ungendered people, it appears that the greatest social and political controversies center on those public facilities that were launched in merry ole England by Thomas Crapper, who euphemistically marketed his invention as the “Thom Crapper patented waterfall No. 1” — although it is also used for number two. The official title was much too long for common reference, so it became known more simply as “the crapper.” Of course, we are talking about the toilet – and for the purpose of this commentary, the public toilet.
The gay lifestyle, in most of its manifestation, has become a relatively normal part of the American culture. The almost universal negative depictions of homosexuals in movies has been replaced by positive characterizations. Once having to live in the dark closets of society, they now live openly, displaying their lifestyle with flags, bumper stickers and parades in which leading politicians and government officials proudly participate. And of course, they can now be married and raise children.
Holding hands in public is no longer shocking. In my son’s Catholic high school there were two gay-couple parents and my daughter’s Catholic university promoted a number of gay clubs on its bulletin board.
But, then there is still the battle of the bathrooms. We Americans tend to be very private about the privy. That is why we sometimes call it a “privy.” Those men’s and women’s rooms are fitted with stalls and panels to protect our private parts from the peering eyes of peers – even of our own gender.
The idea of responding to nature’s call, with all its sounds and olfactory side effects, in the presence of the opposite sex is beyond our heritage. Many other cultures are not so modest.
Gender separation in public lavatories has been such a mandate that most states have laws against people of the opposite sex pooping in … ooops … I mean popping in. But those were times when we had a more basic understanding of the opposite sex. We were once culturally a bisexual society – meaning that in the sense of two genders. Bathroom separation was not a problem. It was a requirement.
So, how do we solve the potty problem when two facilities do not seem to serve the needs of more than two ascribed genders? Most Americans would still prefer that everyone use the facility that is associated with their genitalia. This still leave an uneasy situation for male transvestites.
A fellow I knew in Chicago was a very non-passable transvestite. When dressed in male clothes, he used the men’s room. When in drag, he dragged himself to the ladies’ room. Since he was still obviously a man in ladies’ garments, I am not sure how that all worked out. I never asked.
There was a recent case that involved the men’s locker room at an LA Fitness gym – and locker rooms are a form of public lavatory. Seems like a young lady entered the ladies’ locker room and came face-to-face – well sort of – with a totally naked male. When she complained, the management told her that LA Fitness had a “non-judgmental policy,” and that other person considers himself … ah … herself to be a woman. The life-long woman did not agree, so she filed a law suit and the court agreed to disagree with LA Fitness and awarded the verdict to the party of the first part.
These kinds of situations and legal actions – in both directions – are happening all over America. The solution, however, may be found in China – even though the Middle Kingdom does not recognize any middle ground between the two sexes. Public toilets in China often have a uni-sex facility in which the sinks are an open common area. The stalls are enclosed from floor to ceiling and available to be used by either gender when not otherwise occupied, of course.
Such a solution would require an enormous amount of money to retrofit all the current public potties, but that is a small price to solve America’s crapper crisis. Don’t ya think?
Former President Barack Obama recently visited Johannesburg in South Africa to deliver a speech in honor of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Nelson Mandela.
The speech included thinly-veiled criticisms of his own party, which has taken a hard turn towards socialism since his departure from the White House, and some surprising comments on border security.
“It’s not wrong to insist that national borders matter, [that] whether you’re a citizen or not is going to matter to a government, that laws need to be followed,” said Obama, adding that “newcomers should make an effort to adapt to the language and customs of their new home.”
Like it or not, the Obama Administration actually broke records on deportation. As of 2015, more than 2.5 million illegals had been sent home since Obama took office in 2009. To compare, just over 2 million people were deported during the two terms of President George W. Bush.
Obama’s advice on immigration comes amid an intense debate over border security and sanctuary cities. On one side you have a president calling to build a wall between the US and Mexico; on the other side you have Democratic Socialists calling to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The real solution lies somewhere in between, but to get there we have to work together.
Democracy only works when both sides are willing to “engage with people not only who look different but who hold different views,” said Obama. This has been a major problem during the Trump era, when people regularly end friendships over political differences.
We should attempt to “get inside the reality of people who are different than us,” continued Obama, “and you can’t do this if you just out of hand disregard what your opponents have to say from the start. And you can’t do it if you insist that those who aren’t like you – because they’re white or because they’re male – that somehow there’s no way they can understand what I’m feeling, that somehow they lack standing to speak on certain matters.”
These words might seem strange coming from a president who made overt racial appeals during his campaigns and embraced radical movements like Black Lives Matter, but you know what they say about hindsight. Obama seems to understand better than most Democrats that simply calling President Trump a racist pig isn’t the best strategy for winning control of Congress in the fall.
Before he ran for president, Obama urged Americans not to think in terms of “red or blue,” “left or right,” or “conservative or liberal.” Obama campaigned as a unifier and then ruled as a leftist ideologue. And while his presidency certainly contributed to the racial and ideological schisms we see today, there is still a place for that original call for unification.
Another thing Obama understands better than most is that his party needs to win back the blue-collar whites who voted for him twice and then hopped the fence to vote for Trump in 2016. And they aren’t going to do that by embracing extreme policy ideas like single-payer healthcare, universal basic income, free college tuition, and drug legalization.
Democracy is crafted on the expectation of compromise, and without that, we get a war between two sides that solves nothing.
As Obama himself explained in 2016 to the graduating class at Howard University:
“You need allies in a democracy. That’s just the way it is. It can be frustrating and it can be slow. But history teaches us that the alternative to democracy is always worse. That’s not just true in this country. It’s not a black or white thing. Go to any country where the give and take of democracy has been repealed by one-party rule, and I will show you a country that does not work,” said Obama.
“And democracy requires compromise, even when you are 100 percent right. This is hard to explain sometimes. You can be completely right, and you still are going to have to engage folks who disagree with you. If you think that the only way forward is to be as uncompromising as possible, you will feel good about yourself, you will enjoy a certain moral purity, but you’re not going to get what you want. And if you don’t get what you want long enough, you will eventually think the whole system is rigged. And that will lead to more cynicism, and less participation, and a downward spiral of more injustice and more anger and more despair. And that’s never been the source of our progress. That’s how we cheat ourselves of progress.”
Those who love the New York Times – you know, the folks who put strong emphasis on “THE” when referring to the publication by name — often refer to it as “the newspaper of record.” It is one of those descriptives that sounds very impressive until you ponder what it exactly means. I have asked a few friends who are subscribers and even though they have often heard the term, they could not explain what it exactly means. That came as great relief to me since I, too, have no idea what it means.
Have you ever noticed that those who read the Times regularly seem to believe it is a prima facie bestowment of sophistication and intelligence? Perhaps when the Tin-man in the Wizard of Oz lamented not having a brain, the Wizard, instead of presenting a diploma as a testimonial of intelligence, could have just as easily handed the oversized beer can a subscription to the Times.
As long as I can recall – and unfortunately (or fortunately), that is more than a half-century – I have always thought of the New York Times as just another local hometown newspaper. So, I can appreciate the fact that my New York friends read it and like it – just as I keep up with the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times.
If the Times is not the most important newspaper in the country … world … universe … as so many seem to believe, it has always been a decent local publication. That was until lately. The Times is now part of the incestuous New York/Washington bubble. Reporters and editors of the Times make multiple appearances on MSNBC and CNN on a daily basis and in return, the newspaper prints opinion columns by MSNBC and CNN personalities – who, in turn, read their own writings from the Times on air. It is a very small world inside that bubble.
Sadly, the Times has dropped out of the “decent local publication” category. They recently added Sarah Jeong to their August editorial board and when there was a public outcry over the appointment, the Times doubled down to defend the hiring.
But, I shall explain.
According to the official resume, Jeong is a lawyer-journalist who specializes in “law, technology and the internet culture.” Before joining the Times, she was senior writer for The Verge and contributor to Vice’s Motherboard. She has also written a book, “Internet of Garbage” about cyber harassment. There is a great irony in that subject matter which will be revealed below.
She got her undergraduate degree from the University of California at Berkley (now you know where this is heading) and her law degree from Harvard University, where she was editor of the Harvard Journal of Law & Gender.
With a resume like that, she is an ideal person to serve on the editorial board of the New York Times, but then there is her dark side. She is a hate-filled rabid racist of the first order. Here is a sampling of some of her tweets.
Jeong is not guilty of a thoughtless or indiscreet comment which can be overcome with an apology. She is a serial racist. She is the low-life cyber harasser that she condemns in her book. (I told you we would get to the irony).
In defense of her hiring, the Times claims that her tweets were simply retaliatory – as if that justifies them. Of course, you are not going to come up with a good response if you have to defend the indefensible.
According to the Times defense, Jeong now understands that such responses “only served to feed the vitriol that we too often see on social media” – and she “deeply regrets them.” If she did not understand that her vicious and racist responses were part of the problem, she may be too stupid to work for any serious news publication. She may officially “regret” those tweets but considering the volume and the targets of her cyber-attacks, it is likely that they represented her demented opinion. She was not responding to specific tweets, as the Times suggests, but attacking all white people – and especially men.
The Times is confident that Jeong will be an important voice for the editorial board moving forward. Methinks not. She will have no credibility, and the fact that the Times will allow her to shape its editorial views is a disgrace to journalism. As long as she is employed by the Times, their editorials – and the publication in general — will have diminished credibility.
Maybe for balance, the Times might consider hiring David Duke. It could not damage its reputation any more than hiring Jeong.
Everyone should be able to agree that an independent press is a critical component of a free society. In many ways, it is the institutional means by which we express our individual freedom of speech. For the press to live up to that responsibility, however, it must truly be free – free of government control AND free of its own self-assumed biases.
Because of its importance, we grant members of the Fourth Estate extraordinary privilege – even exemptions from the rule-of-law. We allow them to trespass on private property. In what are known as “ambush interviews,” or when operating like paparazzi, we allow them to harass and even assault individuals – the engendering of fear or anxiety. It was one such pursuit that led to the death of England’s Princess Diana. They can conceal the identities of witnesses to crimes without being charged with aiding and abetting. They can use deception and lies to gain a story.
The press also has great power because they are the filter of information to the public. They can literally operate as censors – and they do so with increasing frequency. If the media is not fair and balanced, the public is deceived and misled. A self-biased media is as much an instrument of propaganda as one controlled under the rule of an authoritarian.
As with any powerful institution a culture of responsibility and self-restraint is essential. In a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887, Lord Acton correctly observed that “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Today, we see evidence of the corruptive influence of power in the field of journalism. There is a growing lack of that sense of responsibility and self-restraint – a decreasing dedication to fairness and balance.
Given his propensity to exaggerate, President Trump flips off the media reports as “fake news.” Though he does his own view a disservice by such broad-brush indictments, he is not entirely wrong. We have seen longstanding liberal biases in the press advance into prosecutorial political partisanship. The Big Seven (ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times and the Washington Post) have led much of the profession down the path of political advocacy. They are less guilty of creating fake news as they are of skillfully and maliciously creating false impressions. They use their power to build and support narratives based on preconceived viewpoints. They advance narrow opinions more than a range of facts.
The arrogance of power has also influenced behavior. While they are entitled to ask questions, they are not entitled to demand answers. The behavioral issue has come to the fore in recent weeks as the Trump administration pushes back on what it deems – and with which many observers would agree – bad behavior.
Despite his overt contempt for the press, Trump has been one of the most open, available and tolerant presidents. He speaks to reporters at almost every opportunity. He indulges reporters in an unprecedented number of on-the-run press conferences. He brings them into meetings as a matter of course – something none of his predecessors did.
One can only wonder whether he provides so much access as a means of communicating to the world or as a way of putting reporters’ bad behavior on public display – or maybe a bit of both.
Ironically, the profession is so inbred in its own culture that acolytes do not even see their own arrogance and rudeness.
CNN’s Jim Acosta has an attention-grabbing habit of screaming out leading and inappropriate questions when Trump is on stage with other heads-of-state. Acosta’s colleagues praise him as an aggressive reporter – a guy doing whatever it takes to get that story. The general public is more likely to see a jerk.
Acosta takes the attitude that HIS questions must be answered. He must be called upon. In fact, when he is not, he pouts, whines and complains for all the world to see. It may make him popular back in the studio but not so much with the viewing audience. In fact, it is his own bad behavior that causes him to be passed over regularly, intentionally and deservedly.
Recently, CNN White House reporter Kaitlan Collins was made to figuratively stand in the corner – being denied access to a social reception – because of her bad behavior in screaming out questions and refusing to leave the room after the press was told the inquisition – I mean interview – was over.
Of course, she and her CNN colleagues falsely reported that it was because of the nature of the question she asked. Au contraire. It was her behavior.
CNN proudly played the video of Collin’s efforts with great pride – oblivious to the fact that she did not look good on camera. Apparently, they did not observe what many Americans saw – a reporter being arrogant, obnoxious and rude. Making Collins miss the canapés was a slap on the wrist – and a well-deserved one.
Long before the current kerfuffle between the White House and the Fourth Estate, it has been this writer’s belief that the press corps needed a bit of discipline in the form of guidelines. If I were president, the first new rule would be that when the president was hosting press availability with a head-of-state or other dignitary, only questions germane to that subject would be allowed. I would limit questions in other subject specific press conference to that subject at hand. There can be other times for open ended questioning.
Drawing on my days in Catholic elementary school, I would follow the rule of Sister Amanda. If you have a question, you raise your hand and wait to be recognized. That is sort of the protocol during the official White House briefings – although there are ample examples of media discourtesy in that setting, too. There is no reason – at least not a good one — not to have Sister Amanda’s rule apply to all those other occasions when reporters assemble as a gaggle.
In the greatest days of American journalism, the media operated with specific standards and ethical requirements. These included the obligation to report on all sides of issues and to separate factual reporting from editorial opinions. Reporters were required to set aside their own opinions when covering the news. They were required to be polite and definitely not confrontational. That lost civility is one of the reasons that the modern news media is held in low esteem by most Americans.